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Recreational Cyclocross and Gravelbiking This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

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Old 09-07-11, 04:12 PM   #1
Javaslinger
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Am I crazy to get a cyclocross as my first bike?

I'd been looking for a good hybrid/dual sport to be able to do rail trails and road biking. Either they leaned too far to the road spectrum and were unsuitable for rails trails or they were to mountain bikey and sucked on roads....

They someone suggested cyclocross bikes... These are quite the jump in price starting at a grand, but they seem to nail my desires... a great road bike that can still hit the rail trails.

But why do they start at a grand when the hybrids start at $500 and top out just over a grand?

Am I getting in over my head to start out with a cyclocross bike?

The only ones I could afford are likely the entry level models. Are these still going to be quality bikes or am I better off getting an top like hybrid?

So I'm comparing the Specialized Tricross, Trek Lane, Fuji Cross to say the Trek DS 8.5, etc...

What do to... what to do???

Thanks,

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Old 09-07-11, 04:30 PM   #2
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If you want to really get into biking, don't be afraid to splurge a little. You won't regret it. I bought a Surly CC and I'm now $1000 poorer but I sure am glad to have a nice bike, especially after working on the in-laws' bikes...really made me appreciate the quality piece of equipment I have.
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Old 09-07-11, 05:21 PM   #3
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Do you have a Kona dealer nearby?
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Old 09-07-11, 05:45 PM   #4
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I wouldn't overestimate what you need to ride on rail trails. Most of the one's I've seen could be ridden with anything that can take 28-32mm wide tires, if not even skinnier slicks.

Cyclocross bikes are great as both road bikes and trail bikes, but they're only great road bikes when they have slick tires on them, and they're only great trail bikes when they have knobby tires. As I say above, you can ride most rail trails without knobby tires and you can ride pavement with a less aggressive (file tread) tire and not lose as much, but the "great" qualifier tends to depend on tire choice. For this reason, it is common to have a second set of wheels and tires to swap on and off depending on where you intend to ride.

As for the expense difference, I'd guess that it's a matter of what people are willing to pay. That is generally correlated to better quality components, but at some point there's a marketing guy saying "people will pay more for a CX bike than a hybrid." Comparing CX bikes to other entry-level road bikes levels this aspect out a bit. Some of the components involved with drop bar bikes (particularly the shifters) are more expensive, but I'm generally skeptical about the relationship of cost-to-manufacture and price, except to the extent that it sets a lower limit of where competitors can undersell (see also Bikes Direct).
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Old 09-07-11, 06:14 PM   #5
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Do it! I picked up my Focus Mares AX2 and I've loved every minute of it. With the right tires, I can play road warrior as long as I want, but if I feel the urge then I can just bomb off with hardly a second thought. Is it as efficient as a true roadie? Nah. Is it as bombproof as a good MTB? Not quite. Would I do it again? Oh, hell yes.

As for priceerformancearts, I thought the Focus was a screaming good deal on sale via Performance. I feel that I got at least what I paid for and probably a bit more. With 105's, Continentals, carbon fork, and whatnot, the only things I've done thus far are throw on a Zipp seat post, a Fizik saddle, and some other little things. I'll probably upgrade the Avid Shorty 4 brakes to Ultimates and fine a lighter set of wheels, but I digress.

Do it!
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Old 09-07-11, 06:27 PM   #6
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I started off on a cross bike, but ended up riding on the road 95% of the time...so I ended up buying a road bike afterwards. Money wasted? Some would argue yes, but I wasn't prepared to drop money on a nice road bike not knowing if I would enjoy the sport enough.

I say get a cross bike, and get a second wheel set with road tires. Or....get a cross bike and put 28c tires on it, which will serve you well on both road and rail trails.

If there's any advice I can offer, buy the best bike you can afford, because if you fall in love with the sport, which you most likely will, you won't have the "upgraditist" bug as much. I initially bought a Shimano 2300 bike and quickly outgrew it.
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Old 09-07-11, 07:32 PM   #7
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I was in a hurry earlier. The reason I asked if you have a Kona dealer is actually twofold:

-First, the Kona Jake is one of the better priced cyclocross bikes for the component level, IMHO, and also can easily do all of what you intend.
-Second, the Kona Dew series is a well-regarded hybrid, so you can compare the two if you like.

Not that Kona is the only company which offers that selection, but both those bikes are pretty reasonably priced, also. (Disclaimer: I own a Jake)

As mentioned, the tire choice will affect what you can do with the bike, and how well you can do those things. With the cyclocross or the hybrid, you should be able to fit tires wide enough to ride rail trails, and actually quite a bit wider. 28 - 32 size should do you well. Many modern true road bikes cannot fit those.
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Old 09-07-11, 07:44 PM   #8
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I can't tell you how many friends have come to me asking for advice on what to get for a first bike. Generally, these friends are looking to:

a.) get into cycling for fitness
b.) want to do some light touring / charity rides
c.) might want to go off road
d.) expect to do some beginner group rides once their fitness is up (usually 14 - 16mph avg rides)

So long as they don't want to tackle technical off road trails or race in a criterium / road race, the cross bike is the perfect bike for them. My biggest frustration is when someone buys something that doesn't fit all their needs. I can't tell you how many friends come back from purchasing a road bike, fixed speed, or mountain bike & realize that I was right about my suggestion of a cross bike.

A cross bike is the most versatile bike there is for the general population. Don't think too much about it. If you find the desire to get on faster rides during the summer, I know plenty of ppl who ride their cross bikes in races, time trials and on faster group rides. They simply put on thinner road tires that are 23 - 25mm tires, and sometimes swap out the larger chainring from a 40 whatever tooth to 50 or 53 teeth chainring.

Don't think about it too much, just get out there and ride. I suspect that you'll love your cross bike. It will allow you to ride confidently in all types of weather.

I'm not sure where you are from, but a cross bike is ready for any season & most surfaces.

Dave
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Old 09-07-11, 07:51 PM   #9
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I can't tell you how many friends have come to me asking for advice on what to get for a first bike. Generally, these friends are looking to:

a.) get into cycling for fitness
b.) want to do some light touring / charity rides
c.) might want to go off road
d.) expect to do some beginner group rides once their fitness is up (usually 14 - 16mph avg rides)

So long as they don't want to tackle technical off road trails or race in a criterium / road race, the cross bike is the perfect bike for them. My biggest frustration is when someone buys something that doesn't fit all their needs. I can't tell you how many friends come back from purchasing a road bike, fixed speed, or mountain bike & realize that I was right about my suggestion of a cross bike.

A cross bike is the most versatile bike there is for the general population. Don't think too much about it. If you find the desire to get on faster rides during the summer, I know plenty of ppl who ride their cross bikes in races, time trials and on faster group rides. They simply put on thinner road tires that are 23 - 25mm tires, and sometimes swap out the larger chainring from a 40 whatever tooth to 50 or 53 teeth chainring.

Don't think about it too much, just get out there and ride. I suspect that you'll love your cross bike. It will allow you to ride confidently in all types of weather.

I'm not sure where you are from, but a cross bike is ready for any season & most surfaces.

Dave
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Old 09-07-11, 08:07 PM   #10
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I can't tell you how many friends have come to me asking for advice on what to get for a first bike. Generally, these friends are looking to:

a.) get into cycling for fitness
b.) want to do some light touring / charity rides
c.) might want to go off road
d.) expect to do some beginner group rides once their fitness is up (usually 14 - 16mph avg rides)

So long as they don't want to tackle technical off road trails or race in a criterium / road race, the cross bike is the perfect bike for them. My biggest frustration is when someone buys something that doesn't fit all their needs. I can't tell you how many friends come back from purchasing a road bike, fixed speed, or mountain bike & realize that I was right about my suggestion of a cross bike.

A cross bike is the most versatile bike there is for the general population. Don't think too much about it. If you find the desire to get on faster rides during the summer, I know plenty of ppl who ride their cross bikes in races, time trials and on faster group rides. They simply put on thinner road tires that are 23 - 25mm tires, and sometimes swap out the larger chainring from a 40 whatever tooth to 50 or 53 teeth chainring.

Don't think about it too much, just get out there and ride. I suspect that you'll love your cross bike. It will allow you to ride confidently in all types of weather.

I'm not sure where you are from, but a cross bike is ready for any season & most surfaces.

Dave
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Old 09-07-11, 09:26 PM   #11
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The Scattante X-330 from Performance ain't a bad bike of you don't mind Sora components. Wait until they put it on sale for 550-600.
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Old 09-07-11, 10:26 PM   #12
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Sounds like you're all pretty sold on a cyclocross even as a first bike... Surprise - in a cyclocross forum and all...

Well, My next question is about the cost of the 'entry' level... On most bike models the entry level bike is cheap... pretty much not worth getting... As the entry level cross bikes are at a grand, I assume they are not suffering from the same issue?
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Old 09-08-11, 10:17 AM   #13
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It's about the components. Race bikes require smoother shifting derailleurs, faster stopping brakes, and lighter weight parts than do non-race bikes such as hybrids. As each of these requirements become more important, the cost of developing and producing components that meet these requirements rises.

CX bikes are (or historically have been) a race specific bike, so the components must meet a certain standard. Recently, they've been used more and more for commuting because of some of their unique characteristics. Because of this, rack and fender eyelets have been added to frames, and lower priced component lines have been used to create a commute friendly "entry-level" bike so the bike can be viewed as both a practical machine and a recreational one. You can still use it to race, but it might end up being one of your limiters fairly quickly. They do make for a speedy and pleasant commute with the drop bars and slightly wider tires. The componentry will be quite durable for that too. As for dirt, they are great in it and there are any number of treads that will serve your purposes quite well for off-road use, or even a mixed-surface use.

Are you crazy to buy one as your primary bike? You'd be crazy NOT to!
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Old 09-08-11, 11:18 AM   #14
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Yeah, I think you're safe with a $1000 CX bike. Part of the reason that you don't find $300 CX bikes from Trek, for instance, is that the kind of people who buy CX bikes don't buy low-end bikes like that.

Personally, I think the Tiagra level components are worth the price difference relative to Sora and 2300, but I've heard a lot of people say they're happy with Sora. For around $1000 you can get a new CX bike at an LBS with Tiagra or better components.
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Old 09-08-11, 12:21 PM   #15
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I just found a Specialized Tricross Sport 2009 model for about $1K as NOS.

I think it's very comfortable and I wanted a bike for all the reasons Daveydave mentioned, and the Tricross seemed like a good way to get into more frequent/ longer biking without making the jump into a serious road bike. (I had a hybrid for many years.)

I would say the one thing I don't like about the Tricross is the brakes- they take much more squeezing for stopping power than my hybrid v brakes.

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Old 09-08-11, 12:42 PM   #16
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I would say the one thing I don't like about the Tricross is the brakes- they take much more squeezing for stopping power than my hybrid v brakes.
This is a common complaint about CX bikes, mostly from people who are used to V-brakes.

Out of curiosity, have you compared where you squeeze the brake lever on your Tricross to where you squeeze the brake levers on your hybrid? Drop bar brake levers tend to encourage squeezing very near the pivot (from the hoods), which drastically reduces effective power per squeeze. This is especially a problem if you have short fingers.
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Old 09-08-11, 12:51 PM   #17
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I think the CX bike is perfect for you. FWIW my wife bought a Trek hybrid years back which just sits in the basement now becasue her CX bike is that much better. Hybrids are heavy clunky and don't do anything really well. CX bikes are good all rounders.
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Old 09-08-11, 02:07 PM   #18
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I think a cyclocross bike is a great bike to start with. For all intents and purposes that is what I did. I went through two undersized Trek hybrids for brief periods before obtaining a 1988 Fuji road bike and realizing that drop bars are not uncomfortable at all like many claim. From there I just thought to myself "Is there a drop bar bike that offers the same versatility as a fast hybrid?". The answer is a cyclocross bike. Actually, it's even more versatile since it's can be configured like a true road bike with an extra set of wheels if you wish. Once your body gets used to drop bars and the even distribution of weight on your hands, butt and pedals you may very well see how this is the most natural cycling position and why the majority of those that ride really long distances usually have drop bars.

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The Scattante X-330 from Performance ain't a bad bike of you don't mind Sora components. Wait until they put it on sale for 550-600.
This is my bike and is a good start bike. Very comfortable riding position and cheap. If you don't want to spend a grand and the Sora is good enough than you may want to go this way. If you can spend a grand and want Tiagra that certainly is a good option as well. Just make sure you don't spend a grand and only get Sora. To be honest with you, the Sora isn't all that bad. I didn't like it the first month or so when the cables were breaking in but now I have it dialed in pretty good and the bike shifts just fine. Regarding cantilever brakes I'm not sure why people have issues with them. IMOO I don't think they stop quite as quickly as V brakes but I find that they are easier to modulate if you just want to slow down to regulate your speed or are coming to a long slow stop.
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Old 09-08-11, 07:46 PM   #19
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Narrowing it down...

Well, I finally got around to test riding a few bikes. The only cross in the area was a baseline specialized Tricross. It was pretty awesome, but it seems you can get better componenets on the Kona Jake at nearly the same price. Plus the shop owner rubbed me the wrong way...

Anyway, I'm going to take a 2 hour drive this weekend to check out the Kona Jake and the Ridely XBow. I would love to try the Jake the Snake but I think that's just too much to swing since I've still got to (at least) get a helmet, lock, and bike rack thingies for my Yak rack... ($300 more for all that? OR less?)

I noticed the Ridley Xbow is just an 18 speed. That concerns me... Should I be?

I live at the top of a pretty crushing hill so I'l have to tackle that bastard daily...

Thanks for ALL the great input...

Ken
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Old 09-08-11, 09:47 PM   #20
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Why is a hybrid/"flat-bar road bike" not capable on rail trails? Something like a Specialized Sirrus IS a cyclocross bike with a flat handlebar and better brakes. Plus, you get a wider range of gearing for all situations, rather than the very narrow range on most CX bikes. Unless you really want drop handlebars, you'll get more bang for your buck with a Sirrus instead of a Tricross, and it is probably even more trail capable (wider bars + better brakes = more control).

As for the X-Bow, it should be a 2x10 setup with SRAM Apex. If you see a 2x9, it is an older model with Tiagra. The price dropped for 2012, and the parts spec got better... so unless you are getting a killer deal on the 2011, I'd pass in favor of the newer one. 2x10 should not be an issue, most road bikes come set up as 2x10, no problems. The issue is that the XBow is 2x10 cyclocross gearing... in this case, probably 36/46 for the teeth on the front. Typically a road bike would either have 53/39 or 50/34. You don't need a wide gear range for CX racing, so race bikes get spec'ed with a very focused gear range. For general road riding, you usually do need lots of gear choices, so the CX gearing could at times be a hinderance. I think the Tricross comes as a triple, so no issues there, it's a wide range (it's also no really made for racing), as do a few others. It's hard to find good triple-chainring road parts these days, so don't discount a double (especially a compact double)... just try to avoid a CX race gearing, that would be limiting.
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Old 09-09-11, 02:51 AM   #21
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Why is a hybrid/"flat-bar road bike" not capable on rail trails? Something like a Specialized Sirrus IS a cyclocross bike with a flat handlebar and better brakes. Plus, you get a wider range of gearing for all situations, rather than the very narrow range on most CX bikes. Unless you really want drop handlebars, you'll get more bang for your buck with a Sirrus instead of a Tricross, and it is probably even more trail capable (wider bars + better brakes = more control).
This is contrary to most of the advice that I've been given previously. Most people have told me that hybrids like the Sirrus, FX, Quick, etc will do rail trails... poorly... And a CX bike, will not only do rail trails, but practically singletrack... ie. it would be much better than a hybrid offroad.

Specifically relating to the Kona Jake the Snake I read a review of some guy who road raced on it and took it on downhill singletrack... Can't do that on a hybrid...
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Old 09-09-11, 08:26 AM   #22
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This is contrary to most of the advice that I've been given previously. Most people have told me that hybrids like the Sirrus, FX, Quick, etc will do rail trails... poorly... And a CX bike, will not only do rail trails, but practically singletrack... ie. it would be much better than a hybrid offroad.

Specifically relating to the Kona Jake the Snake I read a review of some guy who road raced on it and took it on downhill singletrack... Can't do that on a hybrid...
Not to burst your bubble, but you've been given some poor advice. Hybrids can do rail trails and singletrack just fine. Once you get to the high-end ones, you do get a frame that is similar to a CX bike ( slightly slacker angles) but with straight bars. Some of the geometry is dictated by this design. This puts you in a more upright position which is less aerodynamic. Don't believe that you can't go where a CX will go it will provided you get the right tires on it.

Many guys do ride single track on CX bikes because it's more challenging to do than riding a sprung mountain bike. You have to be more careful about the line you pick. The biggest advantage of a CX over a hybrid is the bar style which allows different hand positions and a lower center of gravity.
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Old 09-09-11, 11:15 AM   #23
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Not to burst your bubble, but you've been given some poor advice. Hybrids can do rail trails and singletrack just fine. Once you get to the high-end ones, you do get a frame that is similar to a CX bike ( slightly slacker angles) but with straight bars. Some of the geometry is dictated by this design. This puts you in a more upright position which is less aerodynamic. Don't believe that you can't go where a CX will go it will provided you get the right tires on it.

Many guys do ride single track on CX bikes because it's more challenging to do than riding a sprung mountain bike. You have to be more careful about the line you pick. The biggest advantage of a CX over a hybrid is the bar style which allows different hand positions and a lower center of gravity.
Actually if you look closer at the hybrids he listed he is correct about them not being that good on trails/singletrack (at least the upper echelon of these bikes like a trek 7.7 fx or 7.9 fx). The higher end versions of these bikes are pretty much pure flat bar road bikes and inherit some of the same limitations of drop bar road bikes; albeit to a lesser degree. As far as hybrids overall you are certainly correct. Most hybrids do very well on trails and some of the mountain bike leaning ones may actually do better than a CX bike on singletrack.

I do totally agree with you in that the biggest advantage of a CX bike over a hybrid are the drop bars. I actually think flat bars and the aggressive riding position of many of the flat bar road bikes are not a great combination for your hands and purchasing bar ends is almost a must if you want to do long rides.
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Old 09-09-11, 11:17 AM   #24
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Yeah, you can definitely do rail trails on a hybrid. The lower end models will be heavy and have lower-end components, but they'll all do for non-technical trails. IMO, it's really on road rides that a CX bike outshines a hybrid.

BTW, if you haven't already done so, you should watch a video of a CX race to get an idea of the kind of thing these bikes are designed for. This is my personal favorite: http://vimeo.com/16492241 If watching that doesn't have you thinking that you MUST get a cyclocross bike, then you're probably OK with a hybrid.
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Old 09-10-11, 06:46 PM   #25
midschool22
Digging in the pain cave.
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
BTW, if you haven't already done so, you should watch a video of a CX race to get an idea of the kind of thing these bikes are designed for. This is my personal favorite: http://vimeo.com/16492241 If watching that doesn't have you thinking that you MUST get a cyclocross bike, then you're probably OK with a hybrid.
Awesome! I loved it! Thanks for the link.
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