Cyclocross season is coming near, and with it comes faces full of mud, tired legs and wide smiles — and bikes kitted specially for taking on the hilly, technical courses. But cyclocross bikes aren’t just reserved for World Championship racers. Cyclocross bikes are great for getting out and exploring roads that make road bikes cringe. From gravel, to mud, to dirt, to grass, the knobby tires on cyclocross bikes, paired with more pliant framesets, make them uniquely qualified to take on trails almost as well as a cross-country mountain bike. On the flip side, most cyclocross bikes also have fairly racy geometries, which means that most of these bikes could be fitted with slicks and taken out on the road without a weight penalty on your weekend group ride. Just make sure you’re ready to take on the tougher gear ratios, which tend to be suited to the mostly flat terrain of cyclocross courses. These are our favorite ‘cross bikes of the season.
Ritte is a small bike manufacturer, and the Crossberg, their flagship cyclocross model, is constructed from 7005 Series aluminum. Ritte spent several years refining the ride and geometry of the Crossberg, and the time spent is reflected in a bike that is ready to crush any terrain you throw at it.
Specialized S-Works Crux
When it comes to Specialized’s S-Works line of bikes, it’s hard to find faults — and the S-Works Crux is no exception. It comes kitted with a top-of-the-line parts spec including Specialized’s FACT carbon crankset and fork, Roval wheels and Shimano’s Dura-Ace groupset.
Felt F1x Cx1
Felt’s F1x is designed to go fast, while still handling the obstacles you meet on the cyclocross course with form and grace. The frame was designed with ergonomics in mind so it can easily be shouldered when the time comes to take on the stairs.
Low mkII CX
Based in San Francisco, Low Bicycles is a small maker of aluminum bikes. We also featured the mkII in our Best Commuter Bikes of 2016 list because of how comfortable it is on gravel bike paths, but it excels just as well on the cyclocross course.
Parlee Z-Zero XD
Designed and built in Beverly, Massachusetts, the Parlee Z-Zero XD is the weapon of choice for the Maxxis-Shimano professional cyclocross team. Parlee uses a proprietary system for building each carbon tube and, without getting into too much technical jargon, that translates to a comfortable-yet-responsive ride.
BMC Crossmachine CX01
From Jeremy Berger, Outdoors & Fitness Editor: The Crossmachine looks, feels and, to a large extent, rides like the brand’s top-tier road bike, the Teammachine SLR01. It has similar tube shapes, it’s shockingly light, and it’s super responsive and agile on the road. The comparison ends there, though. With hydraulic disc brakes, forgiving vertical compliance and the SRAM Force CX1 1×11 groupset, the Crossmachine is a monster when you throw imperfect conditions at it, whether that’s wintry roads, city streets littered with debris or a muddy ‘cross course.
We featured the Open U.P. in our GP100 because of its versatility, ability to fit a wide range of tire sizes, and overall innovation. These same criteria make it a shoe-in for our best cyclocross bikes list. No, it isn’t strictly a cyclocross bike per se, but take this thing out for a few laps on your local course, and we wouldn’t be surprised if you never switched back to your standard ‘cross bike.
Norco Threshold SL Force CX1
We tested the Threshold SL on the backroads of Vermont this spring and were overwhelmingly impressed by it. It’s fast, comfortable and compact enough to flick around and toss over the shoulder to hop barriers and sprint up stairs.
If there is one thing that Boulder, Colorado residents know how to do, it’s getting outdoors and into the dirt. It’s no surprise, then, that Boulder-based Mosaic Cycles produces a killer cyclocross bike. The XT-1 is built from titanium, and even has the option of internal cable routing.
Moots Psychlo X
Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Moots is known for crafting the best titanium bikes on the market. The Psychlo X takes what Moots learned from and refined in their Vamoots and Routt bikes and applies it to the cyclocross course. The result is a comfortable bike that isn’t afraid to go fast.
Speedvagen Cyclocross Disc
From Henry Phillips, Photography Manager: When Vanilla Bikes began producing lugged and fillet-brazed frames in Portland in the early 2000s, they were an unbelievable balance between form and function that hadn’t been seen before. They were a key factor in the steel bike’s resurgence later that decade. But, even if you can afford one you’ll have to deal with a prodigious wait list (somewhere around five years). The quick fix? A TIG-welded, race-bred subdivision known as Speedvagen. Not bad for a second choice.
Cielo Cross Racer
Cielo is the sister company to Chris King‘s respected component business. King takes the same craftsmanship and applies it to steel-framed bikes — the area of expertise that he first started out with. The Cross Racer is King’s take on the cyclocross bike, decked out in his own components and paired with and ENVE carbon fork.