It might not be the first brand that springs to mind when it comes to cyclocross, but Fuji bikes has quite a pedigree in the sport. For starters, its top of the range Altamira CX is the choice steed of four-time US national 'cross champion Jonathan Page.
While the Cross 1.3 Disc is no premium racing thoroughbred, for the price it offers a great entry into the sport. Add mounts for fenders and racks and it makes for a great all-rounder too.
Ride and handling: Hungry for mud
If you're new to cyclocross, fear not – the handling on offer from many CX machines isn't so different to that of a sporty endurance style road bike. It's got to be said though that the Cross 1.3 Disc is most in its element when things turn muddy.
The geometry offers an upright position, but the 72-degree head angle and 73-degree seat angle of our medium sample kept things quick and nimble. The upright position also moves your centre of gravity back and makes the front wheel lighter for popping over barriers and or tree roots. Only light input is needed to guide the bike over the top or around obstacles, while also holding a solid line through high speed corners.
The Cross 1.3 is designed around race ready geometry
On the Cross 1.3 Disc, we see 430mm chainstays – quite long for a ‘cross bike. The added length in the wheelbase provides for some stability and confidence on the trail, but doesn’t negatively affect the quick handling characteristics. Long chainstays also add some heel clearance if you've got panniers mounted to the rear.
Despite having quite a solid frame, the Cross 1.3 provides for a sprightly pedalling platform – apply some pressure and it responds quickly.
Challenge tyres on an entry level 'crosser? Nice!
The added girth of UCI-compliant 32c Challenge Grifo tyres adds some resistance on the tarmac, but also allows the Fuji to handle sticks, cracks, kerbs and uneven road surfaces without breaking a sweat. Taking things off-road, the 60tpi tyres eat up rocks and washboard dirt, while offering plentiful traction through sandy corners and over wet rocks. The tall open tread is a generous all-rounder, made all the more confident by wide rims.
At the front, a tapered alloy steerer and carbon fork blades make for a stiff front end. The absence of thru-axles is pretty standard at this price point, and we had no issues with wheel or brake alignment at either end.
With mostly traditional round tube construction, larger bumps on the trail are met with a bit of jarring to the body. Thankfully, smaller fatiguing hits are handled well by the beefy Challenge rubber, while the generously padded saddle on top of the skinny seatpost further masks frame vibrations.
Given that it weighs in at 9.65kg, shouldering the bike to clear barriers or run a set of stairs did become a struggle at max heart rate using my spaghetti-thin cyclist's arms. While there is no hiding that weight, the flat-bottom top tube does at least disperse the load on your shoulder.
With seven sizes on offer, ranging from XS/S (51 effective top tube) to XL (59 effective top tube), riders big and small are most likely to find a bike in their size.
Frame and equipment: budget-friendly spec and DoubleTap shifting
To keep the Cross 1.3 Disc to its fairly lowly price point, a few sacrifices have been made in the form of those simple tube shapes and frame construction, external cables, and an alloy steerer tube.
When we look at some similarly priced competitors like the Merida Cross 500, Specialized Crux and the Giant TCX SL2; they all have optimized tube shapes that mirror their carbon counterparts, and some level of integrated internal cabling. Still, the Cross 1.3 Disc does feature a tapered head tube as well as a BB86 press-fit bottom bracket.
For off road use, we are big fans of the DoubleTap shifting offered by SRAM
In a market dominated by Shimano, it makes a pleasant change to find the Cross 1.3 Disc equipped with SRAM gearing. Although the DoubleTap shifting will take newer users some time to adjust, the Rival 22 11-speed drivetrain didn't miss a shift despite being packed full of mud and plenty of the local greenery. The textured rubber hoods are also easier to hang onto when wet or covered in mud.
As we have previously mentioned, the Oval forged cranks in combination with Praxis cold forged rings are a winning combination. Usually an aftermarket upgrade, the 46/36t Praxis rings proved quick-shifting and quiet. An 11-28t cluster at the back gave the necessary oomph to make it up steep climbs. While I didn’t need it, the SRAM chain-catcher is a nice finishing touch and one that many people would otherwise add as an upgrade later on.
Avid's BB5 road mechanical disc brakes are a great option for the price
Keeping your speed in check are a set of Avid BB5 mechanical disc brakes and a 160mm front and 140mm back rotor combo. The BB5’s have earned their longevity, with simple tool-free pad adjustment, loads of stopping power and reasonable modulation. Being a SRAM product, they mesh perfectly with the SRAM Rival levers, too.
While the Oval 327 CX wheels are not lightweight, they’re bulletproof, standing up to all the abuse we could throw their way, including a few bone rattling rim shots. With a 22mm internal width, the 327 CX wheels spread the tyre casing nicely, and feature sealed bearing hubs, furthering their durability and easy servicing.
As already mentioned, the 32c Challenge Grifo clinchers open up the bike’s off-road ability. It’s worth reiterating that these are a proper ‘cross tread, and Fuji has made the bike’s intentions clear with this spec choice.
Aesthetically the Cross 1.3’s ultra simplistic design was a hit among the BikeRadar team, looking just as good clean as with a healthy smattering of mud. The matt paint job is also a good option as it will hide small scratches better than its glossy counterparts.
Rack and fender mounts increase the utility of the Cross 1.3 Disc
Some more expensive ‘cross bikes can – naturally – be very race focused, forgoing rack, fender, and even water bottle mounts. 'Cross bikes, especially at the cheaper end of the spectrum make fantastic commuters though, and the Cross 1.3 Disc is no exception. The Fuji has fender mounts front and rear, as well as rack mounts on the rear triangle.
When things get a bit sloppy the Cross 1.3 Disc has plenty clearance around the stock tyres, although 35c may be the limit of this frame.
With the cables running on top of the top tube, a pulley guide is needed for the front derailleur
Unsurprisingly for an entry level option, external cabling runs on top of the top tube. While this exposes the cables and housing to the elements, it also makes for simple maintenance – which can be a godsend in today's environment of often complex and annoying internal cabling. A full length compressionless brake housing is a nice touch.
If you're looking to get into racing cyclocross, bear in mind that there are plenty of great budget options available. The Cross 1.3 Disc is a pretty basic steed in many ways, but this doesn’t stop it from being a reliable and confident ride that's worthy of inspection. Although the component list and frame features aren’t exactly brimming with glamour, Fuji continues its knack for thrifty, yet reliable build kits with the Cross 1.3 Disc.