What To Look For In a Cyclocross Bike: Buying Guide
Cyclocross Bike Geometry
There are two major design decisions that make a bike fit for cyclocross. The first is the angle of the headtube and the second is the height of the bottom bracket. The headtube is set at an angle that provides riders with the ability to have better control when descending even while at lower speeds. The typical circuit for cyclocross is shorter, more technical, and offers more obstacles than road racing, so speeds are lower and controlling the bike at lower speeds is crucial.
As for the bottom bracket, it is raised higher than most bikes in order to make avoiding obstacles simpler. However, it also offers another benefit, in that it makes pedaling through corners less difficult. The tradeoff here is that by raising your center of gravity, sometimes handling the bike can be more challenging. Thankfully, lowering the seat height by a tiny amount will usually take care of this issue.
Click here to learn more about what is cyclocross.
The most common options for frame materials on cyclocross bikes are carbon fiber, titanium, aluminum, steel, or a combination of some of these materials. Every choice has pros and cons related to comfort, strength, weight, cost, durability, and feel of riding on the bike. Usually, you’ll want to give a few bikes a chance to get a feel for which material best fits your riding style.
Bike Weight Options
The lighter, the better is the general consensus when it comes to cyclocross bikes. When the bike is low weight, it’s easier to carry around, accelerate out of corners, and clear any obstacles. That said, the material you choose will have an enormous effect on the weight of the bike so there may be a need to compromise depending on what is more important to you.
When you’re involved in cyclocross, part of the game is getting off the bike and carrying it over obstacles that are too large to ride over. A standard tube shape makes this awkward at best, so most cyclocross bikes are built a bit different. The top tube’s bottom will be flatter, so it sits on your shoulder more comfortably. If you intend to race cyclocross, you’ll definitely have to get used to this skill.
Elevated Tire Clearance
You’ll notice that cyclocross bikes have larger tires than a traditional road bike does. The tires range from knobby tires of 32 or 33 mm all the way up to 40 mm. The larger they are, the more grip and traction you can expect for a more stable ride. However, with the larger tires comes a need for more clearance to fit them. This also adds another benefit in that the clearance makes it harder for mud to build up and screw up your ride in a race.
Which Bike is Right for Me?
Everyone is unique and will appreciate a different bike, but in general, versatility is a perk. Some bikes prioritize being perfect for racing while others put effort into being pretty good at all types of riding. There are some bikes that allow massive tires, which while not legal at races, can be a lot of fun when riding for fun off-road. What you want to think about is that you plan to use the bike for. This will let you easily determine which bikes offer the features that complement your needs.
What Features Do I Need?
The basics for a cyclocross bicycle are fantastic brakes, a lightweight frame, and durable wheels. It’s also pretty important to go with disc brakes, specifically, since they have the fastest stopping times. Most cyclocross bikes come with them by default. The best option is hydraulic, but cable operated can do the job, as well. As far as the frame, the best is undoubtedly carbon. It’s also the most expensive, so aluminum can be a reasonable alternative. For wheels, the more you pay, the better they are going to be. However, something mid-range can still get the job done.
How Much Will I Need to Spend?
When it comes to a cyclocross bike, it isn’t going to be as inexpensive as a typical bike. You can get an entry level one for under $1,000 if you’re new to the hobby. However, if you want a bike that can do anything you throw at it, the price is going to creep up. The upper end might be around $4,000 to $5,000. What you’ll want to do is consider your budget and then find a bike that fits it.
Whether you’ve been involved in cyclocross for ages, are just considering it, or just want a bike for off-road adventures, the list above has a great selection to start from. Each of them has a solid frame, great wheels, and the durability to last, which matters when you’re going as hard as you can. Whether you want to go with a budget model to start or grab one with tubeless tires, hydraulic brakes, and a carbon fiber frame, you’ll find it here. Good luck!