Buyers' Guide: 15 of The Best 2017-2018 Cyclocross Race Bikes
September 3rd, 2017
September 3rd, 2017
Anna is a jack-of-all-bikes, and has been riding and racing in a myriad of genres for over seven years; from World Cup level cross-country, to grass roots coaching kids on the road.
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Canyon Inflite CF SLX
Absolutely brand spanking new this year, we have the carbon Inflite CF SLX from Canyon. It’s boasting the lightest frame on the market at 940g, which makes it an absolute steal at £1,999 for frame, forks, seat post and their cyclocross specific Ergocockpit (integrated handlebars and stem). It is disc brake only and has a typically longer reach than the aluminium Inflite, and goes down to 3-XS (effectively a 42cm) of which comes with 650b wheels to ensure the frame geometry is proportionate with no toe overlap, and no slow, slack head angles to accommodate large wheels in little frames. They also go right up to 2XL (effectively a 63cm), making them offer the widest range of sizes on the market too. Full builds start from £2,499 and can save over £1,000 on competitors' thanks to selling direct, not to mention the added discount for Race Licence holders and bulk discounts if you need more than one (which of course you will if you're racing). This is going to be a real yellow snake in the grass this year (other colours available).
Ridley X-Night SL
Ridley are the kings of 'cross; they have helped many a rider become national champions and World Cup winners. They pay attention to detail in places often forgotten, like how much grass can collate in a chain-stay bridge, and how easy a bike is to change a gear cable. Their range consists of, in ascending order; the X-Bow, the X-Ride, the X-Night and the new X-Night SL. The Ridley X-Bow is the working horse in Ridley’s stable. The X-Ride is the entry-level aluminium frame, retailing between £800 and £1,500, the X-Night is carbon, retailing between £1,200 and £2,600, and the X-Night SL is, as it's name suggest, carbon, but just that little bit lighter. The X-Night SL has a new and impressive claimed weight of around 850g per frame for 2018 (which beats Canyon if it's true) and can be bought with Ultegra Di2 for as little as £3,499 (providing you don't fall into the lure of their custom colour options), which is an utter bargain for a proper winter-proof thoroughbred covered in ‘cross bling. The newer model also boasts flat-mount brakes and even more mud clearance than the already descent 2017 model. Ridley should really be the first port of call for the serious racers out there, and at least on the list of potentials for everyone else.
The CruX is quite a staple in the CX racing scene, and seems largely unchanged (although prices have gone up by about £200 each due to Brexit complications). Their 2017 range starts with the CruX E5 at £1,250 giving you an aluminium frame, Shimano Tiagra 2x10 gearing and mechanical discs. The Sport E5 will upgrade you to hydraulic brakes and Shimano 105 2x11 speed for £1,750. You will need a CruX Elite X1 to get a carbon frame, and although it is now 1x11 instead of two, and there’s a snazzy new paint job, the price seems to have jumped dramatically from £2,300 to £3,000 this year. So far, there's no such thing as a women's specific model, despite their investment in women’s specific bikes, however; the sizing does go down to a tiny 46cm. Finally, it looks like they brought the S-Works CruX frameset back this year too, in a fetching tie-dye on black.
The Cannondale SuperX is claiming to be lighter than most road bikes, and it’s this (albeit unproven) fact that presumably gives the SuperX its distinctive flex in the rear, which is said the add comfort. If they're as light as a non-disc bike, then I'm game, but unless you're a veteran 'crosser with a sensitive behind, or an occasional marathon and bridal way 'crosser, then flex may not be your thing. Who needs to be comfortable when they're chewing on the handlebars for 45minutes? Anyway, Weights have not been disclosed and it looks like they've pulled the “Hi-MOD” frames too. The SuperX range has increased this year, adding a super expensive Di2 model, and the snazzy SuperX Force One SE in un-Cannondale-like orange for £3,249, but I can’t help being attracted to the sultry hues of base model (pictured) with Ultegra for a reasonable £2,499. The CAADX is the aluminium alternative and an Ultegra spec will fetch £1,499, which is an utter bargain, especially with other cheaper models available.
Trek Boone 'Race Shop Limited'
Trek are one of few brands to still be offering a cantilever brake option in their Boone rage. For comparison, the Boone 9 Disc with Ultegra is 8.4kg, and the Boone Race Shop Limited cantilever bike with Ultegra weighs 7.66kg. Both bikes have carbon frames and the same groupset and finishing kit, but with, obviously, slightly different Bontrager wheels, but the Race Shop is almost 1kg lighter. That's the weight of an entire frame, or a large bag of sugar. The Boone Limited cantilever edition is expected to cost £3,200, which despite being lighter, is still a lot cheaper than the Boone 9 Disc. The Limited also retails at the same price as the Boone 7 Disc, which comes with a slight downgrade to SRAM Force and weighs a total of 8.6kg. So if you really want discs, but are on a budget, the Boone 7 looks to be a lot better value for money than the Boone 9, which is probably why they'll be discontinuing the Boone 9 soon. Arguably, it's six of one, half a dozen of the other with cantis vs discs, so you'll need to choose your weapon carefully here - improved weight or improved strength and braking - but bare in mind, Trek aren't calling it "Limited" for nothing! Check out our review of the Boone Disc last year.
Scott are disc only in their range. Their Addict comes in four models. The Addict 20 starts off the range as an aluminium frame with a carbon fork at around £2,599, weighing around 8.4kg, and ranges up to the Addict 10 with full carbon frame for just shy of £5k and weighing in at 7.6kg. This means the top spec disc model weighs the same as Trek's cantilever model, but although the Addict is around £1.5k more expensive, matching the weight with a stiffer frame and added disc brakes is very impressive. Scott claim that their carbon Addict has the lightest disc brake-optimized CX frameset ever produced. Their lower-end Addicts are much better value for money as well.
Raleigh RX and RXW
Technically, Raleigh don’t make cyclocross bikes any more, which is a shame, but if you can find a shop (Like the Leisure Outlet) online selling some out-of-season stuff, you can bet it’ll be a ruddy bargain. Raleigh were the only brand aside from Liv (Giant) to be doing a women's specific frameset too. They had three RX models and three RXW (women's specific) models. Take a look as we reviewed the RX Race and the RXW Race (with cantilevers) last year, and we were blown away by how fast and nimble they were. They've clearly learned a thing or two from the road racing teams, and we love their prices too; starting from £800 up to the top spec carbon disc RX Race at a very reasonable £2,200 for an 8.6kg bike. That's the same weight as a Trek Boone 7 for over £1,000 less. This has presumable been achieved by dropping weight and costs with a more modern 1x11 gearing set-up.
Kinesis CXRace (cantilever or Disc)
Kinesis had to make the Guide here, being a British based brand and being one of three brands in this line-up to still be offering cantilever options. Their CXRace hasn’t changed from last year, it still gives you the option of disc or cantilevers, is internally cable routed, Di2 ready and is made from a super light scandium alloy, and is still quite the bargain at £549.99 for the frame if you don’t care for carbon. While other disc models are available, notably the Pro6 Disc, which is another bargain at £649.99, the CXRace was designed for racing (obviously) and was the weapon of choice for British rider, Hannah Payton, at the World CX Championships. New this year is the CXRace EVO, which is disc only and £549.99.
Niner BSB (Blood Sweat and Beers)
The Niner BSB (Blood, Sweat & Beers) was one of few brands still opting to unveil their bike in raw carbon, but the new line-up will soon be gloss paint jobs in garish greens. For us Brits, UK distributors are still dishing out the classy colours in raw and green or raw and red. Not only does this look sleeker, but it also saves around 50g in paint. They also use rigid internal moulds to ensure their frames are beautiful on the inside as well as on the outside. Why? Because it sharpens up the strength and keeps things light. The Shimano 105 model can be obtained from worthy bike stores from around £2,699 or up to £5,849 if your budget stretches to 11-speed Ultegra Di2. Expect £2,199 for frame and forks only. We were lucky enough to review one HERE.
Pivot Vault has been unchanged for a number of years now, but 2017 does bring a new gloss blue paint job. The disc-only frameset is priced at £1,800, and seems oriented towards “mixed-terrain cycling”, so I’m not sure how racey it is, and I'm not convinced that rear seat stay offers the best clearance from mud, but it does look clean and sleek. For £1,800 though, you've really got to want a Pivot and a custom build to consider this.
On offer from Focus is the Mares AX aluminium frames with four options (including a commuter-specific spec with mud guards) and the Mares CX carbon frames, with three options or a lone frameset. Since 2014, Focus have boasted about their R.A.T axels; specially designed Rapid Axle Technology that is claimed to be the fastest wheel-change system; much more so than even traditional quick-release levers. This is achieved by a small T-pin at the end of the thru axle, which is pushed into a mount on the other side, so that the axle only has to be rotated 90 degrees to close the quick-release lever. The Mares with SRAM Force 1 is expected to retail at £3,599, so they are about on par with competition, however; there are some real bargains to be had if you look for last season stock.
Giant TCX Advanced Pro
Giant have a really varied range of "cyclocross" bikes, with a lot of them looking more like rigid mountain bikes with dropped handlebars, probably aimed at commuting, gravel and fitness. For true cyclocross racing you want the Giant TCX Advanced. There is the TCX Advanced SLR model in aluminium with hidden rack-mounts (although I’m not sure if this makes the bike UCI legal or not) ranging from £1,299 to £1,825, and the TCX Advanced Pro now comes in two carbon models from from £2,299. This means the entire range has increased in price by nearly £600 on the 2017 range, and they’re largely unchanged apart from flat-mount brakes and a new paint job. They also do a women's specific cyclocross bike; the Brava, courtesy of their women's specific alias, Liv Bicycles. This is largely the same as the Advanced SLR in aluminium, but the geometry is slightly tweaked, the paint job is different and sizes are limited to x-small, small and medium. Also take note of the TCX Espoir if your aspiring youngens.
Boardman start at a shockingly low price of £520 for a CX Comp, currently on sale at Halfords. This is an aluminium frame with seamless welds to give it that carbon look, but alloy forks with a steel steerer will weigh it down a tad. Laced with Shimano Sora and Mavic wheels, it may be a bit of a lump for racing, but it'll last for years with everything you have to throw at it, so it’s a good starter bike on the cheap that’ll double as a winter training or commuter bike, no doubt. 2018 bikes aren’t confirmed as such, and I’m not sure if they will continue the ‘mid-range’ any more, as Halfords are only selling the Comp (as above) and the CX Team at £1,000 for an aluminium frame with SRAM Rival 1x11 and Discs. I can’t say it’s as sleek looking as last year’s though.
Colnago Prestige and A1R CX (World Cup)
Colnago redesigned their Prestige back in 2016, and prototypes filtered onto the World Cup scene for 2016/2017, but it doesn’t appear to have filtered through the general public just yet, with models being unchanged from last year (or at least the 2018 models haven’t dropped at the time of publishing this). Colnago have the A1R CX as their aluminium frame option and the Prestige as their carbon option. The Prestige is not only a light and stiff carbon race machine, but it benefits from a very tidy internal cable routing job and seat stays that connect to the top tube rather than the seat tube, which allows for a little riding comfort. Having loved their road bikes, I’m sure this will be a beast to race, but it's a shame there's a chain-stay bridge next to the rear tyre as this could cause a bit of mud clogging. Thankfully this year, both models, fully-buit, are more readily available in the UK, with a Prestige coming in at £3,199 (and on sale for less in some stores) with SRAM Force CX, flat-mount discs and one year warranty.
BMC do great Swiss road bikes and, although they don't feature heavily in a British peloton, they did extremely well in the Tour de France this year, so I'm sure they know a thing or two about racing. Their Crossmachine CXA01 is the aluminium model which is a meaty 9kg+ and features a scary looking skinny rear end that is said to be "stiff where you need it, compliance where you don’t" at £1,599. New for 2018 is the Crossmachine 01 Two (no idea why) for a carbon, and presumably lighter, version, with SRAM Rival at £2,800. In the UK, they are almost exclusively sold via Evans Cycles.
See you in the pits!