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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 07-22-14, 10:46 AM   #1
jcwilde1
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Cyclocross fit - never felt stable

I went from a straight bar hybrid bike to a Ridley X-box in 2012. I do more touring on gravel roads and paved roads than anything else. I have started thinking about going back to my old bike. I have never felt that comfortable and stable on my cyclocross bike as I did with my old one.

My old one I could stear without hands and my back never got sore. With my cyclocross bike my back hurts, taint aches and if I let go of my handlebars for a split moment I will crash. I have tried adjusting it several times and haven't had much luck. I have also gone to a bike shop to get it adjusted in the year's past.

Any suggestions before I start bike shopping? I have another saddle I am going to give a whirl that I used to like to see if that helps, I just feel my stability and my aches and pains are all related.
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Old 08-07-14, 07:05 PM   #2
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From my experience in testing many brands of cross bikes, the Specialized Tricross was the only one that both did what a cross bike is supposed to do and felt comfortable at the same time. I know what you mean about those hands-free moments and the back still feeling good even after long rides. It's excellent and performs this well over pavement, gravel, and dirt. It's also a very solid feeling bike and felt like a natural extension for me.


I attribute much of the comfort to their proprietary Zirtz inserts in both the fork and seat post. This material absorbs rough edges of vibrations and hard knocks. It also is a fairly straight-up body configuration with not so much road bike forward body lean.

Also consider your saddle in getting a good and comfortable feel. The OEM squishy padded saddle was not good for me and caused me to get a Brooks B17. This made a huge difference for me in butt comfort. I learned that soft doesn't mean comfort on long rides.

Anyway, my 2 (biased) cents. Good luck on finding the right solution.
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Old 08-08-14, 04:33 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by jcwilde1 View Post
I went from a straight bar hybrid bike to a Ridley X-box in 2012. I do more touring on gravel roads and paved roads than anything else. I have started thinking about going back to my old bike. I have never felt that comfortable and stable on my cyclocross bike as I did with my old one.

My old one I could stear without hands and my back never got sore. With my cyclocross bike my back hurts, taint aches and if I let go of my handlebars for a split moment I will crash. I have tried adjusting it several times and haven't had much luck. I have also gone to a bike shop to get it adjusted in the year's past.

Any suggestions before I start bike shopping? I have another saddle I am going to give a whirl that I used to like to see if that helps, I just feel my stability and my aches and pains are all related.
I don't think it's because it's a cross bike per say, rather it's the specific bike and how you are seated on it. Of my non mtn bikes, I can ride hands free on the cross and touring bike, easily, but I can't do much of that on the road bike. Geometry is different on all three bikes, though my weight height and reach is same on the three. I think the front end of the bike contributes to the steady handling (stem length, bars, fork rake, etc).
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Old 08-08-14, 05:45 AM   #4
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The Ridley is a racing model, intended for fast laps during a Cyclocross event. It's not ideal as a first drop-bar bike.
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Old 08-08-14, 07:21 AM   #5
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The Ridley is a racing model, intended for fast laps during a Cyclocross event. It's not ideal as a first drop-bar bike.
+1

A true Cyclocross bike (one actually designed for Cyclocross racing) is going to favor handling and speed over stability and comfort. The typical Cyclocross course will cram 20 or more turns plus barriers, run-ups, etc. into a mile and a half loop. Finding a straight longer than 100m is rare, so CX bikes are primarily designed to be thrown around all kinds of turns (uphill, downhill, off-camber, on sand, mud, roots, gravel, grass - you name it). A race is 30 - 60 minutes of non-stop pain and you spend as much time out of the saddle as in it, so frames are designed for strength, not comfort.

For your type of riding, you're probably best off shopping for a different bike. It's tricky because some bikes marketed as "cyclocross" bikes are really much more suited to light touring than CX racing and would be fine for what you want. However, the recent popularity of "gravel grinder" events has led some brands to start marketing directly to that niche. The names vary (adventure bike, all-road, gravel bike, etc) but the common characteristic is design for longer distance recreational road (paved and gravel) riding. I suspect one of those would be much more inline with your primary use.
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Old 08-08-14, 08:38 AM   #6
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I would say get a proper fit done on the CX bike, if that doesn't help it might be a skill set issue. I would guess the aches and pains come from a poor fitting bike. If a pro does indeed verify your fit as being correct it might be a fitness issue, do you stretch when you wake up, before your ride, after your ride, and before you go to bed? I do, and it makes riding incredibly comfortable. Also, make sure you have strong core muscles.

I ride a Specialized Crux as my CX/Gravel bike, I have no problem riding no hands, doing balance point wheelies, bunny hopping barriers, etc on it. ****, I can even wheelie it one handed and nose tap it over logs on single track.

My road bike has a more aggressive geometry, that one I can wheelie and ride no hands. I can pretty much ride no handed indefinitely while eating or playing on my phone or adjusting my cleats etc.
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Old 08-12-14, 09:01 PM   #7
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Agree with others. You don't sound to be setup properly on the bike. My bike is a race oriented bike (Moots psychlo-x ybb) and it rides like a dream. No problems riding no hands nor stability issues in turns.
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Old 08-12-14, 09:12 PM   #8
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A true CX bike has a higher bottom bracket so you usually have to go down one size from your usual road bike size to compensate for the increased height.

Country/adventure/gravel road grinder bikes will have a normal feel and more stable geometry.
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Old 08-13-14, 06:46 AM   #9
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A true CX bike has a higher bottom bracket so you usually have to go down one size from your usual road bike size to compensate for the increased height.
Only if the bike has a horizontal top tube and you need more standover clearance. Almost all CX bikes today have at least some slope to the TT to get back the standover lost by raising the BB. BB height doesn't change bike fit ... it just means your saddle and bars will be farther from the ground by the same amount. Some CX racers will size down to get a shorter wheelbase and better handling, but that has nothing to do with fit.
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Old 08-13-14, 12:34 PM   #10
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The Ridley is a racing model, intended for fast laps during a Cyclocross event. It's not ideal as a first drop-bar bike.
But if the frame is the correct size then this can probably by trivially fixed, surely? Shorter reach and higher stem; maybe wider bars - completely different rider position. I'd try a 130mm 45 degree stem and Salsa Bell Laps first. Then if that fails, buy a cheap fork with an uncut steerer and try a "Rivendell fit" (ww.rivbike.com/kb_results.asp?ID=38) with the bars level with the saddle.

Last edited by meanwhile; 08-13-14 at 12:58 PM.
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Old 08-16-14, 10:00 AM   #11
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A more aggressive frame geometry will be less easy to ride hands free. Most hybrid bikes are going to tend toward a bit more relaxed steering, more trail and stability.

In terms of your personal comfort... If your butt is aching, definitely try a different saddle. Don't confuse thick padding with comfort though. Proper width (not too wide, not too skinny) shape and positioning are most important.

For your back, your position on the bike must match your fitness level and riding style. Some people find they are able to improve lower back comfort with a longer stem even at the same height, so don't always jump to just raising the bars, more reach may be all that is needed.

Finally, can you get a pic of yourself on the bike? That can help answer a lot of questions.
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