Cyclocross events are some of the most social of the racing calendar and present the ideal opportunity to retain fitness in the off season if you can't face being a slave to the turbo trainer. While pared down tourers and mountain bikes are equally welcome at most events, 'cross specific machines are lighter and have the competitive edge. Given the season is comparatively short, 'cross bikes are often regarded as second mounts that need to be very adaptable, frequently doubling as winter trainers, commuters and/or light tourers.
The Pinnacle retails in the magic £1,000 category.
Frame: the carbon and alu route
Pinnacle has gone the carbon wishbone seatstay route bonded to an A7 aluminium main triangle. The distinctive top-tube - triangular to round - has the practical advantage of allowing the use of lighter tubing without need for gusseting. It wasn't the most comfortable for shouldering, though, if carried for any period. There's obvious gusseting where the head-tube and down-tube join, and the absence of a chainstay bridge provides more mud clearance through testing conditions. There's ample space to accommodate full length mudguards but you'll need to go the P-clip route. Two sets of bottle mounts extend horizons beyond cyclocross, and a spare replaceable gear hanger supplied at the time of purchase is a welcome touch.
The Pinnacle employs the standard mountain bike 'guitar string' cable configuration across the top-tube, and has a 'wheel' at the bottom of the seat-tube to enable the use of a road 'bottom pull' front mech.
Carbon forks barely raise an eyebrow these days and coupled with alloy steerers strike a good balance between weight and reliability. They have the annoying but obligatory 'lawyers' tabs as well which, though they'll stop your front wheel falling out if your skewer isn't done up properly, can prove frustrating and cost valuable seconds in the event of a mid-race puncture. The integrated headset has additional sealing which can only be a good thing.
Equipment: dependable and durable
Benchmark Shimano 105 transmission offers predictably reliable shifting, especially under load - a mis-timed shift can mean the difference between winning and losing. However, while 105 provides 10-speed gearing, 9-speed offers better mud clearance and so it could be argued that Tiagra is actually preferable when it comes to cyclocross.
Isis two-piece cranks seem comparatively stiffer than the old fashioned but worthy enough three-piece FSA set-up. The venerable M505 pedals, though not the lightest nor the most efficient at shedding mud, are a nice touch that should give a few seasons' reliable service.
We'd upgrade the Pinnacle's P-fit stem, which is a re-badged Kalloy, for something a little more rigid. On the plus side, it uses a conical sleeve in place of spacers, meaning achieving the right handlebar position is less of a faff than it can be and, in my view, this should be universally embraced. Similarly, the water-resistant bar wrap offers excellent grip come rain or shine and is easy to clean. The Jagwire cable tops which guard against unsightly and damaging cable rub - mud spatter mixed with silt and other trail debris makes an alarmingly proficient abrasive - look at an old mountain bike top-tube for further evidence.
Wheels: an attractive alternative choice
The Pinnacle's handbuilt Alex A Cross wheelset makes a reliable alternative to those on competitor bikes. Attractive black eyeleted rims are laced to unbranded hubs via black DT stainless spokes. Machined sidewalls provide reliable braking in all conditions and the black sealed hubs have stood up to more adventurous river crossings without cause for concern. A radially spoked front keeps the weight down and acceleration brisk and 32mm WTB CrossWolf tyres complete the competitive feel. Having the narrowest profile on test, they power through mud, though adding wet leaves into the equation had a negative effect on traction.
Ride: smooth and supple
You can sum up the Pinnacle in one word - compliant. From the first few pedal strokes it delivers a magic carpet ride attributable in no small part to its carbon stays. It'll dance up the climbs, and the handling is just the right side of neutral for new riders or for long hours in the saddle. Through streams and rocky sections, the steering is stable enough to inspire confidence while agile enough to allow changes of course in a heartbeat. A pedal grounded while cornering, removing a small section of topsoil, suggests its 175mm cranks might not be ideal for cyclocross.
Riding around town and it's a real hoot, soaking up surface imperfections with impunity while being lively and certainly light enough to bunny-hop holes and broken bottles, and cope with split second changes in direction to avoid pedestrians.
With the Expede 1.0 it's clear Pinnacle has done its homework. Carbon wishbone stays aren't everyone's cup of tea but they make for a superbly compliant ride equally at home in audax or similar events.