A couple of years ago we bumped into Chris Boardman at the opening of a local bike shop. He got really excited about a super-light Frankenstein single-ring conversion one of our test team had done – using his alloy-framed Boardman CX bike and the contents of our mountain bike spare parts bin.
Whether that was the spark that led to this latest version of the CX Team we don’t know. But whatever the inspiration this is a brilliant example of the new breed of ultra-versatile, category-blurring ‘road and more’ bikes.
The Team’s chassis has only changed slightly for 2016 but the wishbone rear stays are slimmer for more vertical compliance, there’s a flush-fitting rear brake mount and the new top tube has shed a bit of weight.
Welds are visible around the bottom bracket but are super-smooth elsewhere
The triple-butted X7 frame’s seamlessly smoothed tube joints still not only look like carbon, they also ride with a carbon-like forgiveness that surprised us every time we swapped across from the other bikes we were testing. The fork is surprisingly smooth too and while you don’t get thru-axles, the fact that it complies with the ISO safety standards for mountain bikes shows that it’s a sufficiently tough customer.
The frame clearances are adequate if not amazing, but the CX does have full mudguard and four-point rear rack mounts and a BB30 press-fit bottom bracket with matching fat-axle cranks for levering you and your luggage up the hill. The super-wide-ratio 10-42t cassette combines with a big 44-tooth chainring to cover you for everything from off-road climbs that would require a winch to high-speed road descents.
Serious stopping power
But where the CX Team really stands out for a sub-£1000 bike is that it comes with SRAM’s hydraulic Rival brakes. Not only are their tall lever hoods more secure when bouncing down rough track descents than Shimano’s new 105 hoods; there are no potentially palm-bruising lumps under them either.
SRAM's Rival hydraulic brakes offer a secure handhold and are a great choice for a multi-terrain bike
The level of finely modulated control, precise feedback and consistent power is in a totally different league to that offered by any cable-driven disc brake and they self-adjust for worn pads too.
Schwalbe’s toothy Rapid Rob tyres provide enough grip to let the brakes show the power of their 160mm discs, and provide enough traction on muddy park surfaces if you take the CX for a spot of real cyclocross racing. The long wheelbase, low bottom bracket and 71.5-degree head angle make it stable over slippery surfaces and you can flip its relatively short stem from aggressively heads down to a more casual cruising mode.
Mounts and mudguard clearance maximise versatility
Considering the weight of the tough Mavic-rimmed wheels, the CX isn’t bad accelerating out of corners or counting off contours uphill. The fact that it’s much cheaper than the other test bikes means you can potentially upgrade it without overstretching your wallet. Even just swapping the tyres for something smoother will boost both speed and comfort on tarmac.
Our own Frankenbike and our other experiments show that lightweight tubeless wheels from Maxlight or Hunt could make the ride smoother still and radically improve responsiveness – and you’d still have spent less than on most of the CX Team's competitors.