Categories
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.

Categories
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
Bikes Buying Guide Road Bikes

A Handy Guide to the Different Types of Road Bikes

With the huge focus on cycling in the past few years, and more and more people getting into the sport it can be confusing to navigate the various buzzwords that come with the sport. What’s the difference between a cyclocross and a performance road bike?  Who knew there was more than one type of road bike?! Which bikes are better for commuting, hybrid or a road? Don’t worry we have put together this handy guide to help you pick and choose the right one. So if you want to know your TT bikes from your touring bikes grab a pen and some paper and let’s get to it!

Performance Road Bikes

First up, the performance road bikes, these bikes are generally very sleek and made to be as light as possible. These fellas are made to go fast and get that one up on your opponent.  The performance road bike frames can be made from the usual bike materials: aluminium, and steel, each giving a different feel for the rider. Whilst the upper echelons of high-end performance bikes will be made from carbon fibre, which reduces the weight of the bike considerably. Stiff frames are common, giving responsive handling that will give you the edge on other riders. Cutting through the air is the name of the game and the position of the rider is an important aspect. With these bikes, the lower front end puts the rider in an aerodynamic position, allowing a faster, smoother ride. If you expect to find yourself competing, get yourself on one of these and get over that finish line.700 M CAAD Optimo Disc Tiagra

What we recommend under £1000: Cannondale CAAD Optimo Disc Tiagra – 2017 Road Bike – £949.99 Replacing the old CAAD8, the CAAD Optimo has the same geometry as the more expensive CAAD12, but is made from a lower grade aluminium. Not to put you off, though, this bike has got it where it counts (look at those disc brakes)!

Sportive Bikes

If you want a more relaxed version of a road racer, we have the sportive road bikes. Designed for long distance riding, they accommodate slightly wider tyres, which give far more grip and comfort. Sportive bike frames have been built with more vertical compliance, allowing for a more comfortable ride over extreme terrain such as the world famous Paris-Roubaix. Slightly heavier than a road racer, this bike has it where it counts, with lower gearing helping the rider get up those big hills. If you want to push yourself to go further than before, sportive bikes are the one for you. They are your stead for your endurance rides.cannondale-synapse-disc-tiagra-2017-road-bike

What we recommend under £1000: Cannondale Synapse Disc Tiagra – 2017 Road Bike – £  The Synapse Disc Tiagra is built for versatility, combining a sturdy and lightweight frame allowing you to push yourself up those climbs and take it easy on the descents. This is a perfect entry level road bike.

Cyclocross Bikes

Cyclo-cross bikes are the tougher, muddier cousin of the road racer. Cyclo-cross is mostly a winter discipline, with riders having to tackle an off-road course, getting extremely muddy and a touch of hurdles. Due to the obstacles on the course, dismounting and carrying their bike over with a quick remount is a common feature of the winter races. With this in mind, the more frequent frame materials are aluminium and carbon, offering a lightweight bike to pick up whilst leaping over a stray fallen log. Cyclo-cross bikes that are used for the race circuits tend to be slightly higher off the ground than road racers, this gives them great mud clearance! These bikes are probably the best if you want to feel that crisp winter air, don’t mind getting a bit dirty and especially if you like jumping over things in your path.
ridley-x-bow-20-disc-2016-cyclocross-bike

What we recommend under £1000: Ridley X-Bow 20 Disc – 2016 Cyclocross Bike – £649.99 The main workhorse of the Ridley fleet, the X-Bow is ideal for the introduction to Cyclo-cross. Though also a great one for commuting!

Touring Bikes

The Bear Grylls of the road bikes, the Touring bike is made for the great outdoor adventure. Pack up everything (including the kitchen sink) and leave your daily commute behind. Touring frames are built to last, with wider gaps between tubes allowing for maximum luggage space. With rear racks, mudguards and all sorts of saddlebags, the tyres of a Touring bike are designed to carry all that weight and more! The frame material for touring bikes, generally are made of steel which is easily repairable no matter where you are in the world! Disc brakes are becoming more common, which gives you a fair bit of control in all sorts of weather you will be encountering. This is the bike you take to ride from Barrow, Alaska to Rio Grande, Argentina!ridgeback-voyage-2016-road-bikeWhat we recommend under £1000: Ridgeback Voyage – 2016 Road Bike – £799.99  This bike is built to carry everything. With a classic look, full-length mudguards and a fitter pannier rack this bike will carry you all the way to Timbuktu.

TT – Time Trial/Triathlon

If you want a bike that is faster than a Lamborghini and is pushing on the speed of light, then you’ll probably have to keep looking. If you’re looking for a bike built to go as fast as possible with the most aerodynamic design, then a TT bike is for you! The majority of these bad boys are made from carbon, leaving no space for anything to weigh them down. All brake and gear cables are routed through the tubes themselves, taking away anything that is going to slow it down. The rider sits low and extended over the bike, with aero bars extending out the front for cutting through the wind. Rounding off the set up is carbon fibre rims, slicing through the air with very little resistance and using up less energy. One to pick up if you’re thinking of breaking some land speed records.cube-aerium-hpa-pro-2016-tt-bike

What we recommend just over £1000: Cube Aerium HPA Pro – 2016 TT Bike – £1199.20 Now I know this is over £1000, but really the lower end of the TT bikes generally don’t go below a grand. The Cube Aerium is built for speed, and if you have the need for speed then this is a good place to start! It combines a lightweight frame with an aerodynamic design to cut through the air and push you faster and faster.

Hybrid Bikes

Not technically a road bike and not technically a mountain bike either. Hybrid bikes are the Frankenstein monster of cycling world, taking the best bits from the road (the large/light frames and the 700c wheels) and mountain (the flat handlebars and the disc brakes) disciplines and combining them into a smooth, fast commuter’s dream. The frames, mostly made from aluminium, allow a good combination of strength and the advantage of being lightweight (useful for carrying all your work essentials). These are no nonsense bikes; not something you’ll be using in the Tour De France with, but getting you to and from work. The rider sits more upright on a hybrid, with comfort and more importantly safety within traffic in mind.charge-grater-3-2016-road-bike

What we recommend under £1000: Charge Grater 3 – 2016 Hybrid Bike – £679.99 Simple gearing, full length mudguards, and an aluminium frame, the Charge Grater is one of the perfect commuting bikes. Nothing complicated, just get on and ride!