Cyclocross: The best bike you’ve never heard of

Cyclocross bicycles are the best all around bike you can buyIf you’re looking for one bike to rule them all, you should be looking at a cyclocross bicycle. “A what?”, you say. That’s right a cyclocross bicycle (commonly CX or just “cross”, for short) is the do-all, be-all bicycle if all you can afford (or all you want to have) is just one two-wheeled steed.

What is a cyclocross bicycle and why is it the best all-around bike?

Cyclocross is a type of bicycle racing that is all kinds of crazy, muddy fun. Its season is just fixing to kick off and runs from September to January/February.

Cyclocross bicycles greatly resemble road bikes, but what makes them the best all-around bike you can buy are the differences that make them CX-specific (even if you’re not planning on using them for cyclocross racing).

Here are some of those differences:

  • Sturdier: A good road bike might come in around 17 pounds, but a cyclocross bicycle will tip the scale somewhere between 20-25lbs. Still light enough to be fast on the road, but built to take more of a beating.
  • Wider front and rear forks: Allow you to run wider and bigger tires for better comfort and/or traction.
  • Cantilever brakes: These brakes shed mud, water, and grit better than road bicycle caliper brakes or mountain bike v-brakes.
  • Lower gearing: Because of the crazy courses that CX bicycles are meant to be raced on, the gearing is lower (which means easier) than your average road bike. That means commuting around town may be a little easier on the ole’ legs.

Most cyclocross bicycle makers know that CX bikes are the best all-around bike, so they usually also pre-drill eyelets so you can attach fenders and/or racks. There are other differences that may or may not be present, depending on the model year and manufacturer, but they really have more to do with cross racing specifics than the 4 points I mentioned above.

But wait, there’s a down side…

Some of the most popular cyclocross bicycle manufacturers are Ridley Bikes, Kona, Redline, Cannondale, and Specialized. If you recognize any of those brand names, you’ve no doubt guessed that the price of cyclocross bike might be on the high end…and depending on what you consider “the high end”, you’re right.

You’ll be hard-pressed to buy a cyclocross bike for under $1,000. But that might not be a downside, per se. A cyclocross bicycle will give you the ability to ride (and ride well) in so many more scenarios than any other bicycle could ever dream of. Throw some 700 x 23 tires on there and make it a fast road machine. Drop some 700 x 35 knobbies on to roll some gravel, fire road, or non-technical mountain bike action. Roll it in the rain. Turn it into a packhorse by popping some racks on it. And the list goes on…

Back in May we asked our facebook fans how much they’d be willing to spend on an be-all, do-all bike, and less than 50% said they would spend more than $600. We went on a hunt to find the best bikes under $600, but to be honest…there aren’t many at all. In that price range you’re looking at Wal-Mart bikes or Craigslist/eBay.

(SPOILER ALERT): We did find an INCREDIBLE bike for women that came in around $700, and we’ll be talking about that one in a few weeks.)

As a friend of mine pointed out on our Facebook fanpage earlier today, the best bike is the bike you ride…and I agree. But for me, that bike is a cyclocross bike.

The good news is that with CX season fixing to kick off, many racers will be wanting to get rid of their season or two old bike and upgrade to the latest and greatest. That said, you may be able to score a sweet deal on a cyclocross bike via eBay, Craigslist, or your local bike shop. As a matter of fact, bike shops are beginning to clear out inventory for next year’s models coming in, so this is a pretty good time to buy a bike of any kind.

What’s your favorite bike and how much would you be willing to spend on one if you were going to buy a new one?

My personal story with a new cyclocross bicycle

I’ve been riding a mountain bike as my all-purpose bike for the last several years. I ride mostly road and the mountain-specific design of the bike was starting to get in the way of the “time in the saddle” i was beginning to log. I was shopping around for a road bike or hybrid bike and discovered cyclcross bicycles. I decided, for all of the reasons I mentioned above, that this was the best type of bike for me.

So I bit the bullet and purchased a Ridley X-Bow from (retail $1395.95, on sale for 899.95 with no tax and free shipping) just about a month ago. Let me say that again…I BOUGHT the bike. It was not sent to me for free to review. I did my own homework and chose this bike.

I didn’t like shelling out $900. Not at all.

But after the last month of riding, I’m SO glad I did. The ride is wonderful, again, for all of the reasons I mentioned above. The only downside I can find was that though the gearing is a bit lower than a normal road bike, it is higher than my mountain bike…so my legs have had to adjust. But that’s no big deal.

Here are some more images of my Ridley X-Bow

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About Jeffrey Davis

Yo, I'm Jeffrey, founder of and editor in chief here at Eco-Snobbery Sucks. I live in Nashville, TN and am a writer, personal trainer, web designer, and wookie hugger. I hang out on Twitter some but you can find me more active on Facebook. Enjoy the site!

  • debe white

    I looked to the cyclocross as a tourer but I could not find one in my size at my price limit (used)- My first good bike was stolen and I did not have much for the next- I did end up with an 80′s trek 560 tourer-I think the cyclocross i was hoping for was a surly…

    • Jeffrey Davis

      Bummer about the “good” bike, but glad you found a used bike that fits your needs. And yeah, I was hoping to buy my first CX bike used too, but couldn’t find one in my size…or at all, for that matter. I guess that means that once people buy CX bikes, they keep them. Ha. The exception being cyclocross racers that unload them every season or two to upgrade.

  • Chris Baskind

    I’m just about to buy another bike — one to replace my aluminum-framed Trek SOHO/Xtracycle combo, which I use for everything from heavy grocery runs to 80 or 90 milers.

    And you’re right: A cyclocross bike is a great choice for someone who wants a solid bike that will do almost anything. Slap some city bars on it, and you’ve got a bombproof urban bike. With a rack, it’s great for light touring or a trip to the market. Plenty of room for fenders and fat tires.

    I came very close to buying the Surly Cross Check, but I think I’m going with the Long Haul Trucker. It’s an awfully tough choice, but I’m heavy enough (and carry enough cargo) that it doesn’t make sense to buy a bike with fewer than 36 spokes per wheel. The LHT fits the bill nicely (and comes with 38mm tires!). 

    You made a good call with your bike, though. It would be great to see more people looking for solid all-rounders like these.

    • Jeffrey Davis

      Sweet Chris. I rode a Cross Check (and a Kona Jake) before I chose the
      X-Bow. I’m not a big fan of the bar-end shifters that Surley likes to
      use, but their steel frames are bomb-proof.

      I tip the scale just under 200lbs at the moment, so I’m no weight weeny
      either. I’m giving CX racing a shot for the first time this season, and
      the 36-spoke wheels that came with my X-Bow will be home to my cross
      tires and a buddy is giving me some spare wheels that are a bit lighter
      to run my 700 x 23 slicks on for around town (unless i wanna do a lot of
      hopping off curbs and stuff, in which case i’ll use my CX wheelset).

      I’m thankful to the guy at my LBS that failed to build up a the road
      bike he promised to sell me in a timely manner. If he had of, I would
      have bought the roadie before I discovered cyclocross.

  • debe white

    I had forgotten about the spoke thing- I remember it now, along with not as many places for attaching stuff. I looked at a couple of lht’s. They were too small or to tall-used ones I mean.

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