Cross bikes are the do-it-all workhorses of the drop-bar realm. They are light. They can be set up for road-only use, off-road-only use, and mixed-surface use. And, if you want to race cyclocross, they can’t be beat. We have lots of cyclocross bikes for sale. While these bikes are ridden hard, ‘cross racing is usually pretty forgiving on bikes, as unpaved surfaces are much kinder on impact and speeds in cyclocross are typically fairly low. Yes, the bigs offer excellent bikes, like Giant with their TCX, but smaller manufacturers and custom shops have some incredible rigs, like Kona’s Jake the Snake and the Santa Cruz Stigmata. If you’re wondering about CX vs. road bike, it depends on how much time you spend on dirt.
You might have heard that gravel bikes are occupying the versatile drop-bar space. There’s some truth to that; the CX vs. gravel bike debate is pretty intense. But there are differences, and those differences are worth noting. Cross bikes are typically lighter, stiffer, faster, but with fewer built-in mounting points and less room for really fat tires, so it depends how rough you anticipate the going to be and how much stuff you want to carry on the frame. Wheels are also a place where the bikes are different. The best cross bikes are also designed around 33mm knobby cyclocross tires, which are the maximum width for internationally-sanctioned ‘cross races, though the bikes can typically fit up to 35-40mm tires depending on the make—check first. Also, while tubular tires might be going out of fashion in most of the bike world, they are still unbeatable in ‘cross racing. The most elite racing cyclocross bikes might even come stock with tubulars.
The Specialized CruX was the ‘cross bike for the Big S Works. Crux=cross, the capital X is for emphasis. The platform debuted in 2011, and has seen several updates over the years. The bikes started off with cantilever brakes, but evolved over the years to be disc-only. Originally, gearing was 2x, but newer bikes are more likely to run 1x. Being a Specialized, the CruX was always fast and fun. But in 2021, the bike changed from a pure cross racer to a bike that fits into both the gravel and ‘cross scenes. The way they did it was increasing clearance for fatter tires while keeping the frame as light and stiff as possible, leaning toward nimble steering.
The Trek Boone, Trek’s purpose-built cross bike, debuted in 2014 under cyclocross legend Sven Nys. Nys, nine-time Belgian national champ, two-time World Champ, is cyclocross. Now retired, he leads the Trek-sponsored Baloise Lions, who have World Champion Lucinda Brand and European Champion Lars van de Haar, and consults on bike design. The Boone is supposed to be a pure cross racer; super light, limited tire clearance, no fender mounts. The IsoSpeed decoupler in the back softens bumps, as does the IsoSpeed fork. Trek’s Crockett cross bike is ‘cross-oriented but swaps in an aluminum frame, a little extra trail, and added mounts.
Cannondale committed to cyclocross in a big way starting in 2006, when they started sponsoring US ‘crosser Tim Johnson. First, they had the CAAD9 CX bike with double-butted and extensively shaped 6061-T6 aluminum frame tubes and an Easton carbon fork; hugely popular from the start. And they followed that up with the first carbon-fiber Super X in 2010. In the years since, they’ve tweaked the design, making it lighter, stronger, faster. And it’s been ridden by every incarnation of the same team Johnson started, Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.