Cyclocross Buyer’s Guide, part three: Budget ‘cross bikes
In part 3 of our addendum to the November issue of VeloNews magazine, our tech editors detail the 'cross bikes they picked as favorite high-value budget race bikes for this season.
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Readers of the 2010 VeloNews USGP of Cyclocross Guide could start the process of choosing a new bike with a flow-chart spread, an amusing visual that the staff, the editors, and graphics department had some fun putting together. The graphic was designed to showcase and differentiate between 15 of our favorite fall-time steeds. What it was missing, however, was details of the bikes themselves – a sad result of the limited space print provides.
If you haven’t checked out the November Issue of VeloNews and the included USGP of Cylocross Guide, go take a look. If you have, we hope you’ll enjoy this online supplement.
Tuesdays Web-Optimized ‘Cross Guide Part One focused on dream bikes, the rigs that sit proudly at the top of the heap and have price tags to match. On Thursday, we selected five mid-to-high range race bikes for Part Two, picked for their supreme performance at a slightly more reasonable — but still not inexpensive — price point.
Finally, we present Part Three, aimed at the more budget conscious. The five bikes below are our idea of high performance-per-dollar rides, not a collection of the dirt cheap. Each packs a lot of punch for the price.
These choices are based on editors’ opinions after reviewing as many new bikes as we could (the choices were unrelated to advertising concerns, by the way. We don’t dare venture down to the Ad Pit, except to borrow their coffee). If you disagree with our choices, or have other favorites, let us know in the comments section.
Specialized Crux Comp – $1,850
With a shorter head tube, shorter chain stays, and steeper angles compared to Specialized’s Tricross, new Crux is the company’s first true thoroughbred ‘cross racing frame. In fact, Specialized uses the same angles as their top of the line road bike, the Tarmac, in an effort to keep handling tight and predictable. One of our testers has been on a Crux for a month now and applauds that decision. The aluminum Crux features internally routed cables through the down tube, a huge plus for those in damp areas, but lacks the carbon version’s Zertz dampeners in the fork and seat stays. SRAM’s economic Apex group, Specialized’s Roval wheelset and an FSA crankset keep costs low and quality high.
Yeti ARC-X – $1,750
Yeti has been building world championship-winning bikes for over twenty years, but the aluminum-framed Arc-X is one of only a few forays away from fat tires and flat bars. Yeti’s classic loop stays (as seen on their cross country hardtails), an aggressively formed top tube for easy shouldering, asymmetric chainstays for enormous tire clearance (up to 700x40c) and the company’s signature turquoise color scheme make for a striking frame with race winning credentials. Component highlights include SRAM’s Apex group, Avid Shorty brakes, and Easton EC 70X fork.
Giant TCX 1 – $1,675
The 2011 version of Giant’s venerable TXC line gets a slight decrease in weight along with a 5 percent increase in bottom bracket stiffness. The frame features heavily shaped tubing, with a squared down tube for stiffness and a flattened top tube for easy shouldering. As with so many 2011 bikes, the TCX 1’s head tube tapers from 1-1/8 to 1-1/4 for a stiffer front end. Component highlights include a dependable SRAM Rival drivetrain, Avid Shorty 6 brakes and Kenda Small Block 8 tires.
Kona Jake the Snake – $1,599
The new Jake the Snake is a budget racer’s dream bike. Born from years of feedback from North American cross star Ryan Trebon and the Kona-FSA team, the Canadian company now includes all the bells and whistles on its top of the line aluminum offering — a BB30 bottom bracket, tapered head tube, and Shimano Ultegra/105 mixed drivetrain — at a price that’s damn near impossible to beat. Plus, Kona made the Jake the Snake’s chain stays a full centimeter shorter than previous iterations, making for snappier, more nimble handling, perfect for racing at any level.
Surly Cross Check – $1,050
Though Surly’s Cross Check epitomizes versatility, spritely it is not. The 4.88 pound steel frame includes fender and rack mounts, semi-horizontal dropouts, massive amounts of tire clearance and rear spacing that accepts both road and mountain hubs. That means this frame is capable of everything from racing to loaded touring, from singlespeeding to Rohloffing to plain-Jane geared riding and everything in between. On top of the Cross Check’s functionality, it’s also affordable; the cheapest in this guide by more than $600.