Earlier this year, we provided an overview of some of the CX bikes that could be had for around $2000. This post also had some advice for riders considering the discipline, and it’s worth repeating some of it here. Cyclocross is hard on componentry, most races are muddy and/or sandy, and any CX bike will benefit from durable, race-worthy equipment.
Before the ride
The CX Pro is built around a triple-butted aluminium alloy frame that features a BB30 bottom bracket and a tapered steering tube (1 1/8″-1 1/4″). The forks are full carbon and equipped, like the frame, with mounts for disk brakes. There are a few other minor features such as asymmetric box section chainstays and wishbone seatstays to enhance the performance of the frameset. In addition, threaded eyelets are situated in the frame and fork dropouts for mounting mudguards and a rear rack, which will appeal to all-weather commuters and perhaps touring riders. The frameset is finished with matt black paint, yellow highlights, and simple graphics that look great even when the bike is grubby.
At the top of the componentry list are the SRAM Force shifter/brake levers and derailleurs; a FSA Energy compact crankset, Shimano cassette and KMC chain complete the transmission. Avid provides its BB7 mechanical (or cable-operated) disk brake calipers, while the wheels comprise Formula disk hubs, Ritchey Pro OCR rims, and Ritchey Excavader tyres. Rounding out the build is a Fizik Arione saddle and Boardman-branded handlebars, stem, and seatpost.
There are four frame sizes on offer for the CX Pro as set out below:
|Size||Seat Tube||Top Tube||Seat Angle||Head Angle||Head Tube|
It’s worth noting that the width of the handlebars and the length of the stem and cranks increase with the size of the frame. The head tube may seem short, however the forks have extra clearance for the tires and shedding mud, adding to the stack of the bike (i.e. the vertical distance from the bottom bracket to the top of the head tube).
With a dip in the exchange rate, the current retail for the CX Pro has risen to a little over AU$2000 at Wiggle, Boardman’s international distributor. Delivery, import duty and GST will add almost AU$470 to the purchase price for Australian buyers, making for a total of just under AU$2500. Update: Goldcross Cycles in Australia now sells Boardman.
The medium test bike arrived in a ready-to-ride state; all that was required was to fit the handlebars to the stem and the derailleur hanger to the frame before pumping up the tires and fitting the wheels. The CX Pro is noticeably heavier than a road bike and out on a CX course, it may require a little extra muscle to hoist over hurdles, though I can’t say how its weight compares to other bikes in this price bracket. For more information and complete specifications and geometry for the CX Pro, visit Boardman Bikes.
After the ride
On the road the CX Pro is docile, the slow steering and wide, chunky tires combine to produce a somnambulant experience. This is not a bike that is well suited to weaving in and out of traffic but it will handle all other aspects of your morning commute. However, take this bike off the tar and challenge it with some sand or mud, and it comes alive. I had a blast riding a variety of semi-groomed walking trails and indeed, the CX Pro turned eager in this kind of terrain. It was while I was drifting through some sandy corners that the slow steering finally proved to be an asset.
The SRAM Force shifters worked well and matched the performance of Red. I found the double-tap mechanism a little demanding to use off-road, particularly upshifting since it requires a longer throw of the lever to achieve. The brakes were very effective however they offered very little feel or modulation. The Avid BB7 Road calipers are intended for road brake levers, but I found the Force levers pulled too much cable and continued to pull on the cable after the pads made firm contact with the disk, eliminating all brake feel. The secondary levers mounted on the tops of the bars provided a lot more feel and I found myself favouring their use during my early rides. Once I was conditioned though, I found myself enjoying the brakes, they provided plenty of power that served me well when travelling wide on sharp corners through the bush (or performing a few fish-tailing skids on descents).
There was another, smaller, issue with the brakes. The pads squealed with heavy use and got a lot worse in the wet. At these times, even light braking produced a high-pitched shriek that was accompanied by a fair bit of vibration, though actual braking never suffered. A new set of aftermarket brake pads will probably solve this problem should you get fed up with the noise.
After a few weeks of heavy use, I took a look inside the headset and bottom bracket and was pleasantly surprised to find them clean, dry and free of sandy grit. Similarly, the seat tube was clean too, thanks mostly to the forward-facing slot for the seat post clamp. While I can’t provide a long-term review of this bike, I expect the CX Pro will handle the demands of regular CX riding and racing, including regular washes, without much complication.
Looking over the rest of the componentry, I didn’t have any problems save for the Excavader tyres. They offered a reasonable amount of grip in dry sandy conditions, but after a few pinch flats, I suspect the casing was too flimsy for the gravelly trails I was riding. I’m not familiar with the range of CX tyres on the market, so I can’t offer any insight on a better tyre, but based on my experience with MTB tyres, I’m sure a sturdier tyre can be found.
All told, the CX Pro is a robust performer that will revel in the muck of a cyclocross course. I’d also consider it a sound choice for all-weather commuting over a mountain bike too. I didn’t have any difficulty transferring my road bike fit to this bike, and aside from adapting to the bulkier tyres, I had no trouble making the transition from one to the other. The recent change in exchange rate diminishes the value of this bike somewhat, putting it into the upper end of the price bracket now. Canny buyers prepared to wait for a discount can expect a sound CX bike that will serve them well regardless of the riding conditions.