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Bikes Cyclocross

Cyclocross Bikes Explained

So, what is a Cyclocross bike? In it’s purest form, it’s an out and out race bike, essentially a road bike for the mud. If your still confused then you may want to continue reading.

To understand why a cross bike looks the way it does, you will need to know a little about the racing it’s designed for. Cyclocross is a form of racing that typically takes place in the cold, dark, winter months. It’s a predominantly off road discipline with courses often involving obstacles such as stair sets, sand pits, hurdles and many other joys.

 

 

Of course, many of these obstacles cannot be passed whilst mounted which is why many riders will dismount, chuck their bike on their shoulder and run like the clappers. This is why cyclocross bikes have a “boxy” appearance. They have a large front triangle to enable the rider to easily carry their bike on their shoulder, this also gives the  bike a taller standover height, something to bare in mind when purchasing a cross bike.

Riding off road in winter also means mud and lots of it. This is why cross bikes have huge amounts of clearance around the fork and chain stays. In addition to this, they tend to have a higher bottom bracket for ground clearance.

Although disc brakes are only just becoming acceptable to the roadie crowd, the guys and girls riding cross have been using them for years now. As well as providing better tyre clearance, they are also a lot more powerful than traditional caliper brakes, giving more consistent braking in the poorest conditions without chewing up your lovely new wheels.

When it comes to geometry and sizing the best thing to do is chuck a leg over one of these beasts and allow our expert staff to help you find the best fit. For most brands, the sizing is similar to their road bikes. For example, if you normally ride a 52 Specialized Tarmac you will most likely be a 52 on a Specialized Crux. Of course there are exceptions to this and it will vary depending on the individual, so don’t hold on to that statement too tightly.

The fit on a cyclocross bike is quite different to most road bikes. Typically cross bikes have a taller head tube, shorter top tube and a higher bottom bracket. You can of course set it up as close as you can to your road bike. However, a lot of cyclocross riders tend to run a slightly taller front end and shorter reach in comparison with their road bike. This allows the rider to have more control out of the saddle and man handle the bike especially around the many obstacles that they will be fronted with on course.

So you’re not looking to race and you don’t like riding through sand pits? Well you still shouldn’t rule out a cross bike. They make great all rounders and if your spouse doesn’t conform to the N+1 rule, it could be the one bike to do it all. Being born from the mud, cross bikes come equipped with relatively wide tyres with low gearing which enables them to complete most trails with ease. Swap those knobbly tyres out for some smoother road tyres and you’ve basically got a burly road bike. The only potential disadvantage can be gearing, with most brands opting for a 1×11 SRAM setup, they can suffer at higher speeds on the road but given this bike is designed for racing offroad, it still proves itself to be incredibly versatile.

Cyclocross has never been more accessible with more and more races, plenty of local cycling clubs involved and our full range of 2018 Cannondale CX bikes currently on sale, grab yourself a bargain and get cross.

 

“Jack Explains”

Jack works in our Chichester store, is a fully qualified Retul Bike Fitter and whilst he rides all disciplines, it’s safe to say his heart belongs to mountain biking.

Check out Jack’s Instagram for more inspiration to get out on your bike.

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Buying Guide Cyclocross Featured News Tyres

What Tyres For Cyclocross?

Ah yes the age old question: “Which tyres should I use for Cyclocross”. It’s probably the most frequently asked question we get on the topic of Cyclocross here at Hargroves Cycles.

Having raced cyclocross for the last 10 years in pretty much all conditions from sand to mud to ice, Matt Macdonald has firsthand experience of what works and what doesn’t. In this post, Matt shares his wealth of knowledge and experience in the tyre-buying department for the benefit of any newcomers to the sport or those looking to upgrade to a better performing tyre.

Tyres Make a Difference

Cyclocross, like a lot of things, does come down to budget and not everyone can afford 3 cyclocross bikes and endless pairs of wheels to suit every condition. Some people have 2 bikes and those that don’t, get by with a spare pair of wheels. Unfortunately to be competitive in typical winter conditions you would benefit from having 2 bikes.

Tyres are relatively inexpensive compared to other bike parts, but contribute a huge amount to the bikes overall performance. If you’ve ever heard Formula 1 teams go on about their tyres so much it’s because, like cyclocross, they are that important.

Clinchers or Tubulars?

Tyre decision in cyclocross comes down to one important question, clinchers or tubulars? If you’re just starting out or are on a budget then you will probably opt for a clincher. This type of tyre uses an inner tube & the tyre itself sits on the bead of the rim. Some higher-end clincher tyres are also referred to as open tubulars. It’s easy to get confused about the terminology, but these are still clinchers.

Tubulars are used by those who have a slightly higher budget or who really want to maximize the performance of their tyres in all conditions. From my experience, the only time where a clincher could potentially be a better choice than a tubular is when the course is completely bone dry & pan flat with no off-camber sections. When conditions are dry and fast, cornering speeds are often much higher which can put a lot of strain on a tubular tyre. This can sometimes cause a tubular tyre to roll off the rim (which isn’t ideal). It’s also worth pointing out that a clincher can have a slightly more predictable ride as the tyre itself isn’t ‘moving’ around on the rim.

Matt’s Favourite Clincher (Open Tubular) Tyres

My favourite tyre for dry to intermediate conditions is the Challenge Grifo 33 Open Tubular. It’s unparalleled in rolling speed & suppleness and feels quite close to that of a tubular tyre. Closely followed by the Challenge Fango Open Tubular which is geared slightly more to intermediate conditions as it has a more aggressive tread pattern.

For muddy days the hands-down winner is the Challenge Limus Open Clincher which has a very aggressive tread pattern but still a low rolling resistance & superior suppleness to allow for lower tyre pressures.

You may be wondering why every tyre choice here is a Challenge, but these tyres are “unchallenged” in terms of quality & performance every time.

For those on more of a budget a good, all round choice is the classic Schwalbe CX Pro which has decent enough tread to cope with all conditions & performs surprisingly well for its price. The Clement MXP Clincher Tyre also offers good one-tread-fits-all performance & handles most conditions pretty well, except for the mud where most clinchers do falter. Challenge also makes a budget version of the Grifo called the Challenge Grifo Pro, which for its price is still a very good performing tyre.

Tubular Tyres Explained

On to Tubulars for where the real performance gains can be found, but a quick description as to why they are better for certain conditions. The carcass of a tubular tyre is completely sewn together with the inner tube inside and is glued to the rim. Often the sidewalls of tubulars are made of cotton which makes them extremely supple and able to mold to the terrain much better. This, of course, means more grip & better traction on loose terrain. The nature of tubulars allow for you to run them at much lower pressures, which assists in their superior traction.

Terrain, where tubular performance is highlighted the most, is on any kind of off-camber, any type of mud (from slightly wet to very muddy) & rocky/rooty terrain.

Tubulars are excellent through off-camber sections due to their ability to mold to the terrain. At the right pressure, the tread & carcass will follow the angle of terrain as much as possible whereas a clincher will stay rigid. They can be run at much lower pressures too (sometimes under 20 psi) which gives increased traction and tracking around corners especially in muddy conditions. They also work extremely well on rocks and roots due to their resistance to pinch flats. They’re not puncture-proof, but you’ll be worrying less about getting a puncture mid race.

Tubular Tyre Recommendations

As for the products, the greatest mud tubular of all is the famed Dugast Rhino, which has become synonymous with Cyclocross in the mud & has won many a World Cup & World Championship over the last 5-6 years.

Challenge also make a rival for this called the Challenge Limus, which is very close to the Dugast and some would argue better, mainly because its a bit more robust.

For dry to intermediate conditions there are 2 options from Dugast, the Typhoon or the brand new Small Bird. Both are very good tyres, but personally, I think the Small Bird pips the Typhoon to the post as it has slightly better versatility for dry courses for those who don’t want to go for file treads.

Challenge make a slightly cheaper rival for these in the Grifo & Fango patterns both very well suited to dry & intermediate conditions.

On the more budget end of the scale, if you can call tubulars that, the Specialized Terra & Tracer tubulars are good for dry to intermediate conditions.

If you opt for a Dugast or Challenge tubular I would highly recommend using Aquasure to protect the sidewalls from mud staining, impact damage and persistent jet washing abuse. Aquasure, by trade, is a wetsuit repair substance but is used in the ‘Cross community as sidewall protection. It is a transparent rubber material that is applied wet and dries onto the sidewall and acts as a protective layer to increase longevity and durability against constant jet washing and mud staining that can eat away at the sidewall and rim glue. The only trade off is that you add a tiny bit of weight (maybe 20g for both tyres) and it takes away a little bit of the suppleness, but in my opinion, its worth it if you want your tubulars to stay looking new and last for more than one season.

What About Tyre Pressures?

One large area to consider after making your tyre decision is how to set up the pressures on the day, which is another area for great discussion, especially in the car park before and after a race. Buying a fancy Dugast is pointless if you’re running it a 40 psi in the mud.

Some riders are very loyal to PSI readings & digital pressure gauges but I personally prefer the trial & error method of going by feel, as each course has a unique set of demands.

Depending on your weight (I’m 78kg) I start at ~30 psi, ride the course once and make note of particularly tricky corners or bumpy sections that are hard to ride. Let air out until you feel the tyres ‘give’ enough to soak up some of the bumps and still maintain ride-ability through the corners.

In wet and muddy conditions tyre pressures take on a near art form level of precision. When letting air out there will be a point where the tyres will start to “bite” rather than slide and this is where you’re trying to get to, but treat the course as a whole rather than focusing on one bad corner. It’s much better to not be able to ride one corner than to have tyres that run too flat for 95% of the course.

Take note that the role of the front and rear tyres are quite different and would need attention individually. The front tyre you want grip and the rear you want traction, so in the mud you would tend to put more body weight onto the rear tyre through corners so that you can maintain forward momentum while pedalling, and keeping the front end ‘light’ so that you don’t wash out.

Also, take into account any sections of tarmac or awkward off cambers & obstacles that may pull the tubulars off or cause pinch flats.

Sometimes your pressures might be so low that the tyres bottom out onto the rim, but as long as the ground is soft, this shouldn’t matter. If someone is able to ride a corner/section you can’t, chances are they have different pressures or they’re just a better bike handler.

Hopefully, that helps you narrow down your Cyclocross tyre choices!

Categories
Buying Guide Commuting Cyclocross

Commuting with a cyclo-cross bike – What’s that all about?

With Summer now in full swing, you might already be cycling to work and taking advantage of the warmer mornings and lighter evenings. If you’re not, we would highly recommend cycling to work, even it’s just one day a week. There are a whole bunch of health benefits plus it’s been proven to boost productivity at work.

Normally, would expect to see people riding hybrids, drop bar road bikes or mountain bikes to work but there is a new trend emerging. More and more cyclists are riding to work on cyclo-cross bikes and they seem to be cropping up all over the place.

What is a cyclo-cross bike?

Cyclo-cross bikes have drop handlebars like a road bike, but generally have fatter tyres which offer way more comfort and grip. The best thing about a cyclo-cross bike is that you get all of benefits of a road bike but with the added bonus of being able to ride the bike off road. OK so admittedly it’s not going to shred the trails like a full suspension mountain bike, but the bigger tyres are less prone to punctures and will roll really well over bumpy terrain.

Also because they have drop bars you can mix up your riding position. For example you can put your hands on the drops, on the hoods or on the flat bit of the bars. Allowing you to be able to change your riding position helps with climbing up hills, descending tricky bits of trail or even just riding at a steady pace on the flat sections of road. Cyclo-cross bikes are a jack-of-all-trades.

What sort of spec can I expect?

At the heart of a cyclo-cross bike will either a good quality alloy (aluminium) or carbon frame. Carbon frames are lighter and stiffer but don’t discount Alloy. Alloy-framed rides are generally less expensive than carbon and still offer an incredibly comfortable ride.

For most people riding to work you don’t need the super duper expensive gears and brakes. Functional is the name of the game. Thinking long term, a bike with a 105 groupset is going to be way cheaper to maintain. Just think when it comes to replacing the chain, cassette and chainrings you’re not going to have to re-mortgage your house. Most cyclo-cross bikes are now equipped with disc brakes.

As a mountain biker at heart, I’ve been riding disc brakes for years and the difference in braking compared to conventional road brakes or v-brakes is night and day. As opposed to the classic 26” mountain bikes I often see when i’m riding to work, cyclo-cross bikes roll with 700c wheels which translates to about 28” in diameter. Those extra inches will pay dividends because bigger wheels roll faster and are easier to turn which equals less effort and more speed!

Where is the best place to start?

To help you on your way, we’ve handpicked a number of cyclo-cross bikes which we think offer exceptional value for money. What’s More we’ve even broken them down into different price points.

Best selling cyclo-cross bikes under £700

Ridley X-Bow 20 Disc – £599.99

This versatile frame is perfect for those new to cross and can easily be used for training or commuting.
Ridley X-Bow 20 Disc - 2015 Cyclocross Bike

Cannondale CAADX Sora – £699.99

Cannondale CAADX Sora is the perfect bike for a commuter who would like to attack some gravel/muddy parts of a path. Rather than building a bike which has all the top end components Cannondale have created a budget minded cyclocross bike. Future proof frame with disc brakes and mudguard mounts the Cannondale CAADX Sora is for all conditions.
Cannondale CAADX Sora - 2016 Cyclocross Bike

Best selling cyclo-cross bikes under £1,000

Cannondale CAADX Tiagra – £799.99

New Shimano Tiagra 4700 on a new Cannondale cyclocross bike makes a well spec’d machine. It is a bike which can do so much. From the dialy commute or handle a cyclocross race.
Cannondale CAADX Tiagra - 2016 Cyclocross Bike

Ridley X-Bow 10 Disc – £849.99

The Ridley X-Bow 10 Disc is the working horse in Ridley’s stable. Ideal for first cyclocross or cycling experience, while the fender and carrier mounts make it the perfect companion for commuting.
Ridley X-Bow 10 Disc - 2016 Bike

Cannondale CAADX 105 – £899.99

The Cannondale CAAD X 105 is a complete carry over from the 2015 range. If it is’t broke then why fix it.
Cannondale CAADX 105 - 2016 Cyclocross Bike

Best selling cyclo-cross bikes over £1,000

Cannondale CAADX Ultegra – £1,299.99

The Cannondale CAADX Ultegra if a thoroughbred cyclo-cross race bike. But don’t let that stop you from using this bike as a mega commuting machine. The ultegra drive-train provides the rider with super smooth shifting and the disc brakes will stop you on a sixpence. if you’re looking for a slightly more luxurious cycle to work, this is the ride for you.
Cannondale CAADX Ultegra - 2016 Cyclocross Bike

Cannondale Super X 105 – £1899.99

Some may think this is TOO much bike to ride to work on. But for those looking for the ultimate riding experience on a bike that’s fit for elite level cyclo-racing then this is the bike for you!Cannondale Super X 105 - 2016 Cyclocross Bike