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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 01-23-12, 06:45 PM   #1
oneninetyseven
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Might be getting a CX bike - what can I expect as far as bumpiness and roughness?

Hello all,

New to these forums. I might be getting a CX bike (2011 Giant TCX1) soon (maybe, maybe not, depending on how things go with the LBS's return policy - long story, won't get into it here).

Should I end up getting this bike (though I'm hoping I won't be obligated to), I'd like your thoughts on what I might be getting into and what I could expect. I'm having some trepidation about it because not only do I need the money I paid for something else now (life happens), but I'm used to hardtail MTBs; in addition, I have some wrist and other joint issues that, upon reflecting on, I've realized may not take kindly to a rough beating from a rigid frame.

I'm not a hardcore trail rider; I just like to go with what's around in my area: A mix of up and down hills, mostly narrow trails, some woodchips, definitely a fair number of roots, and some rocks and slippy conditions to boot.

My current bike is a 30 pound-ish Giant Revel 0 hardtail. Having no better MTB to compare it to, I'd say it does a nice enough job in the aforementioned conditions. But it really gets sluggish on long road rides, especially when there are a lot of hills to climb. That's why I got the TCX1 (cyclocross).

However, now I'm concerned about how much of a beating my body - especially my back, wrists and - would take on this rigid frame - both on the trails I described, and over longer stretches of less-than-smooth road, gravel, potholes, etc.

If I can actually get my money back and not leave the store with the cyclocross bike I will - but if it came down to getting it, could you all offer me some pointers, reassurance and general ideas and suggestions about what I might expect and perhaps what I should and shouldn't do to make for a painless ride?

Thanking you kindly.

Last edited by oneninetyseven; 01-23-12 at 06:48 PM.
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Old 01-23-12, 07:00 PM   #2
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Brilliant first post. Well played.
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Old 01-23-12, 07:06 PM   #3
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Dirt/mud/gravel are fine but I would stay off roots and rocks on a CX bike, use them like artificial barries to practice dismount and run. If you stay off the worst trails, you will be able to run low pressure in your tires for more comfort and traction on moderate trails. If you insist on riding roots & rocks, they will need more pressure in the tires to avoid pinch flats & bent rims and so reduce the ride quality. Using the widest tires you can fit will also help with comfort.
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Old 01-23-12, 07:22 PM   #4
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A lot depends on your riding style. If you sit rigid on the bike and let it roll over whatever is in its way, it will beat you silly. If you get out of the saddle a bit and let your knees and elbows absorb the obstacles that you can't avoid or hop, it will be fine for the types of trails you describe. If you want one bike for those kind of trails and long road rides, a CX bike is definitely the way to go.
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Old 01-23-12, 07:57 PM   #5
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Brilliant first post. Well played.
Thanks for taking the time to make such a helpful reply.
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Old 01-23-12, 07:58 PM   #6
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Dirt/mud/gravel are fine but I would stay off roots and rocks on a CX bike, use them like artificial barries to practice dismount and run. If you stay off the worst trails, you will be able to run low pressure in your tires for more comfort and traction on moderate trails. If you insist on riding roots & rocks, they will need more pressure in the tires to avoid pinch flats & bent rims and so reduce the ride quality. Using the widest tires you can fit will also help with comfort.
That's encouraging. At least I know I could go over some non-paved road terrain without noticing too much. I guess, though, if I use wider tires, I lose some of the improvement in speed I'd get on pavement?

Cheers
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Old 01-23-12, 08:06 PM   #7
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A lot depends on your riding style. If you sit rigid on the bike and let it roll over whatever is in its way, it will beat you silly. If you get out of the saddle a bit and let your knees and elbows absorb the obstacles that you can't avoid or hop, it will be fine for the types of trails you describe. If you want one bike for those kind of trails and long road rides, a CX bike is definitely the way to go.
That, too, is encouraging. I guess I'm used to letting the bike do the work - and in a way that's advantageous for me (knees aren't the greatest for constant getting up and down) - but I'll have to see how things go. Get the bike? Get used to moving a bit more with it. Don't get it? Make sure I always have suspension. We'll see, but I appreciate your thoughts!
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Old 01-24-12, 11:09 AM   #8
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I ride my CX bike on some of the same cross country rails I ride my fs mountain bike on. With the CX, there are some spots I have to dismount and carry. Other spots I have to go slower and pick a better line. But there are also spots where the CX is faster because it is lighter and therefore easier to move around. Its fun to use either one.
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Old 01-24-12, 01:06 PM   #9
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Seems most people get them as a road sport bike that allows room for wider tires,
and perhaps, mudguards.

there are "hybrids" that keep the straight bar, but gain the wheel type 700-35 or skinnier.

but of course the whole thing is a bundle of potentially interchangeable parts.
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Old 01-24-12, 07:15 PM   #10
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but of course the whole thing is a bundle of potentially interchangeable parts.
This is true. So the general consensus is that adding fatter tires would make the biggest difference in support/comfort on non-road surfaces. And that CX helps one be a better technical rider.

Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful replies to an admittedly odd first post!
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Old 01-24-12, 10:33 PM   #11
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For the conditions you describe, a CX bike will be an excellent choice. I would recommend that you learn to "make yourself light" when riding more technical sections, or you will take a beating, and the bike will too. I suspect that if you are used to hard tail MTBs, you are already familiar with this skill.
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Old 01-25-12, 06:25 AM   #12
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CX bikes are wonderfully versatile and sound perfect for your use. I've taken mine over the full range of terrain from road to singletrack and had a load of fun doing so. My CX bike beat me up less than my full rigid MTB. The much lighter CX bike will feel far nimbler and easier to control than the MTB simply because of the weight loss. Keep your tire pressure low offroad and higher onroad and you'll be very happy with the feel.

Keep/develop a relaxed grip and you won't have problems with your wrists and other joints. If you're having problems getting up and standing, start a weight training regimen and you'll find it easier in a fairly short period of time. You might even find that while exercising, your wrist problems start to go away because of the added support fro increased musculature.
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Old 01-25-12, 06:39 AM   #13
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My first bike as an adult was a Specialized Rockhopper (hardtail MTB) and I subsequently added a Specialized Tricross (CX bike) to the stable.

There's not much I've done on the rockhopper that I wouldn't do on the tricross (seeing as I'm not a hardcore MTB rider by any means). The rockhopper is more comfortable on rougher surfaces but the tricross is faster on the road and climbing. Interestingly it seems the rockhopper is faster going down gentle declines, which I hadn't expected. That said I do have basic preferences as to which bike I take.

If I know I'm going to be dealing with mud and bumpy terrain I'll take the rockhopper simply because the tyres are better suited to mud and the suspension fork smooths out bumps, at least up to a point.

If I know I'm going to be dealing with hills or lots of mostly good surfaces (tarmac, compressed gravel, pretty much any sort of path as long as it's reasonably smooth) or long distances I'll usually take the tricross.

If I'm riding with someone else I'll consider the above but also take a bike that's likely to match my speed more closely to theirs, so riding with a weaker friend I'll slow myself a bit with the rockhopper, with a stronger friend I'll take the tricross to help keep up.

As others have said you can always put different tyres on the cross bike to make it better suited to anything from pure road cycling to more challenging off-road. I put 700x32 tyres on mine, on the basis it seemed pointless to own a mountain bike with road-friendly tyres and a sleeker lighter bike with mud-friendly tyres.
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Old 01-25-12, 10:37 PM   #14
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Thank you for the further replies, everyone. I am surprised to hear that CX bikes are that versatile, but there are certainly enough supporting statements in this thread.

Here's a daft question: On "rough" but non-technical surfaces - let's say a somewhat bumpy gravel road with some loose stones and different sizes of gravel (not a rock garden by any stretch), would one notice the vibration of the uneven surface going up into the bike frame on a rigid CX bike any more than they would with a hardtail? Or does the front suspension of the hardtail really only make a difference when hitting actual bumps (tree roots, really bumpy dirt, rocks, etc.)?

eddubal, thanks for the tips on the wrists. I seem to have issues with a number of joints, probably on account of hereditary joint laxity (some of my joints are a bit looser than "normal"; I can, for example, subluxate my shoulders) - so weight training isn't the healthiest option for my body. I'm fortunate to have a lean build, and I do isometrics to maintain a degree of strength and musculature. I would agree with you on the wrists; on my hardtail, I've been practicing "floating" or, rather, balancing myself using my core rather than putting pressure on the wrists and hands. Started doing planks to strengthen the core muscles - bloody hard exercise, that is. I made it to about a minute and 20 seconds the other day.
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Old 01-26-12, 02:12 AM   #15
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Here's a daft question: On "rough" but non-technical surfaces - let's say a somewhat bumpy gravel road with some loose stones and different sizes of gravel (not a rock garden by any stretch), would one notice the vibration of the uneven surface going up into the bike frame on a rigid CX bike any more than they would with a hardtail? Or does the front suspension of the hardtail really only make a difference when hitting actual bumps (tree roots, really bumpy dirt, rocks, etc.)?
I certainly do. There's a stretch of gravel path near home that on the rockhopper I'll usually take at 15-20mph (other path users permitting) but on the tricross will rarely go very high into the teens. I'm sure the tricross would cope with it faster, but I'm more aware of the uneven surface.
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Old 01-26-12, 07:22 AM   #16
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I certainly do. There's a stretch of gravel path near home that on the rockhopper I'll usually take at 15-20mph (other path users permitting) but on the tricross will rarely go very high into the teens. I'm sure the tricross would cope with it faster, but I'm more aware of the uneven surface.
Cheers, thank you for letting me know this.
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