Author Topic: Could a cyclo-cross bike do?  (Read 6442 times)

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Offline peterharris

Could a cyclo-cross bike do?
« on: September 26, 2011, 06:50:51 am »
I'm not a "serious" tourer ... yet. I'm building up to it via weekend trips and eventually week-long trips. When I retire in a few years I want to start doing longer trips. I have too many other "distractions" right now - hiking, backpacking, kayaking, running, along with cycling. And with those activities comes gear and I'm starting to overrun with gear and run out of storage space - or at least that's what my wife thinks and if she thinks that then I pay attention. Peace in the household is a wonderful thing.

I have one bicycle - a Trek 7.5 FX hybrid - that I'm making do with for now. I am not going to be able to get away with another bike - one is all SHE can tolerate and all I really have room for - but I want something a little more suitable for the type of touring I'm doing now and expect to do over the next few years. An experienced cycling friend of mine has suggested a steel frame cyclo-cross bike as a compromise that might be appropriate for some touring and that would still be okay for the type of fitness and general riding I want to do, too (I have no aspirations to be a pedal-to-the-metal roadie, BTW). I really want a bike that does everything but I know there's no such thing ... I'll have to settle for something that does a few things pretty well but doesn't excel in any one thing. Budget is a consideration, too - can't afford a custom bike. I am okay with compromise.

I do value your opinions and thoughts on this, particularly since it's probably repetitive. You all seem to be genuinely interested in getting the less experienced of us out on the road more often to enjoy touring. I appreciate the variety of opinions - even though many of you take distinctly different views on a subject - but that presents options and alternatives to me I probably wouldn't have thought of on my own. I almost always go away from this Forum with the kind of information I need to make an informed decision. So, I'll thank you in advance for helping me out!

Offline staehpj1

Re: Could a cyclo-cross bike do?
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2011, 07:12:39 am »
Depending on how you tour, cyclocross bike may not even be a compromise.  Having moved to packing lighter and lighter, I am coming to the conclusion that for me a more road bike like bike is actually preferable over the bikes that are ideal for really heavily loaded touring.  For those who carry 100 pounds of gear a cyclocross bike may be less suitable, but if you pack at sub 30 pounds (gear only not counting food and water) the cyclocross bike might be not just acceptable, but the preferred choice.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Could a cyclo-cross bike do?
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2011, 07:29:31 am »
Could a cyclo-cross (CX) bike do it all?  Sure.  It should be sturdy enough to take a load on the road, which is what you want.  And one of the guys in my city did a long tour with one, so it surly (Surely? ;)  ) can be done.  You could probably also do a long tour with your current hybrid, especially if you're towing a trailer

I'd watch out for a couple of potential problem areas with a production CX bike.  It's cheaper to buy the whole bike, but it's also possible to build it up from a frame.  These are my personal issue, if you will, some people will disagree with one or more.

(1) Make sure they don't cut the stem too short when you buy the bike, if you like your bars roughly even with the saddle.

(2) Make sure gearing is low enough.  Some CX bikes come with doubles, I don't know of any that have gears low enough for me to be comfortable touring.  I want a low gear of about 20 gear inches; that requires a mountain triple crank and pie plate cassette.  Bar-end shifters can handle the front derailer, you have to be careful with (road) brifters.

(3) Does it have eyelets to mount racks and fenders?  OK, you don't have to have fenders, and you can probably mount a rack on any steel frame and fork.  Just don't try it with a carbon frame, and if it has a carbon fork, be prepared to go without a front rack.

(4) There should be room for fat tires (say, 700C x 32-37), with fenders.  Probably isn't an issue with CX, but check before buying, or be prepared to stick with smaller tires.  I've had a problem with horizontal dropouts (which many CX frames have) with a bigger tire.  No fun putting a wheel on flat because it won't go on full, pumping it up, and finding out THEN there's a leak in the replacement tube.

Offline whittierider

Re: Could a cyclo-cross bike do?
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2011, 12:46:09 pm »
A true cyclocross bike has very little in common with a touring bike.  Don't confuse the two.  See this post from someone who has owned many CX bikes, owns a big shop, has led tours in Europe, and raced for decades.  He's a little bit abrasive but really knows his stuff.  The link should land you on the post starting with the quote, "Where can I get some good information?" and then his longish answer about the differences between true cyclocross bikes and touring bikes.

Offline ducnut

Re: Could a cyclo-cross bike do?
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2011, 02:56:38 pm »
Many manufacturers label a model "cyclocross" bike, but, they aren't a true race bike. They may be a 'tweener; something in between a do-it-all/commuter and a real 'cross bike. So, don't be swayed by the naysayers. Just know what to look for. Below are a few of my (nit)picks.

-The most basic thing is look for a steel frame, as an aluminum frame isn't going to have the vibration damping nor will it have much compliance.
-Look for eyelets. There are a variety of 'cross bikes out there that have a complete set of eyelets. Generally, they'll have more all-around geometry.
-Pay attention to the drivetrain. For what I do, I can get away with a compact crank (50/34T) and 36T cassette. Most 'cross race bikes have a 46/38T crank.
-Closely look at the geometry and know what you need to be looking for. The biggies are headtube length and angle, chainstay length, rake/trail, and effective toptube length.
-Know how much tire you want to run and if it will fit.

Like you, I didn't want a full-on tour bike. I don't carry heavy amounts of gear. I wanted to have one all-around road bike that was fairly lightweight and responsive. I bought off eBay, as I knew what I was looking at and had a budget. I bought a leftover '09 Specialized Tricross Comp. It has carbon seatstays, seatpost, and fork legs. It was the last year to have all the carbon frame sections and still have mid-fork eyelets. The geometry is a compromise between a tour bike and road bike. It'll accept my 40mm studded tires and fenders, at the same time. I added a 125 degree stem, to get the bars up. I wanted the double 'ring crank. I already had a SRAM Apex mid-cage derailleur set that allowed a 36T cassette that I swapped onto the bike. For me, it's just about the perfect compromise. In hindsight, I would've sacrificed some responsiveness/stiffness for a steel frame.

Having said all that, there are some steel, all-arounder bikes out there worth looking at:
Surly Cross-Check-Unfortunately, has 46/38T crank, but, are seen on eBay and are affordable.
Salsa Vaya-Starting this year, you can get double or triple crank build options. Light-tourist/all-arounder. Hard to find 2nd hand.
Salsa Casseroll
Gunnar CrossHairs-I'd only buy 2nd hand, as they're expensive new.
Jamis Coda-Steel, flat-bar, multiple build levels, eyelets, and disc option.
Jamis Bosanova-For me, very intriguing; probably what I would buy if buying new, today. Less long-haul than their Aurora and more all-arounder.
Motobecane Fantom CXX-$800, with Apex drivetrain, from bikesdirect.com. Made in Asia, like most every other bike. I've heard good reviews of the site.

Offline DaveB

Re: Could a cyclo-cross bike do?
« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2011, 06:12:18 am »
As mentioned by a couple of posters, a dedicated racing cyclocross bike is not a multi-purpose device.  However, most frames sold as "cyclocross bikes" are, in fact, quite versatile.

The Surly Cross Check has dual rear dropout eyelets and seat stay braze-ons for mounting both a rack and fenders and the fork has fender eyelets and braze-on low mount rack eyelets and plenty of clearance for wide tires and fenders.    The double 48/36 crank is limited for touring but can be changed out for a touring or trekking triple fairly inexpensively and the barend shifters will handle either crank.  You might be able to get your dealer to work a crank swap at lower cost if you ask at the time of purchase.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Could a cyclo-cross bike do?
« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2011, 07:28:25 am »
A true cyclocross bike has very little in common with a touring bike.  Don't confuse the two. 

Whittierider, hope you don't feel like I'm piling on.  Still, while I respect your position, and the one you cite, I think there's a couple of thing missing from that analysis.

First, OP was asking for a bike that can also do touring (in addition to everything else he wants to do).  For loaded touring, a loaded touring bike is obviously the best solution.  For fitness and fun riding, maybe something between a loaded touring bike and his current hybrid would be the best compromise.

Second, I think "cyclocross" means about as much as "hybrid" any more.  Just as hybrid can mean anything from a road bike with flat bars to a mountain bike with bars reaching for the sky, so CX can refer to almost anything between a full carbon road racing bike modified for wider tires, to an all-steel loaded touring bike frame with a double crank.  If you take the Surly Crosscheck as an example of the latter, check out the chainstay geometry.  16.9 inches, a little less than the 18.1 inch chainstay of the LHT, but at almost 17" it's still longer than almost any bike made ten years ago.  I'd call that a pretty good compromise, even if it's not optimal.

Offline ducnut

Re: Could a cyclo-cross bike do?
« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2011, 07:48:04 am »
Second, I think "cyclocross" means about as much as "hybrid" any more.  Just as hybrid can mean anything from a road bike with flat bars to a mountain bike with bars reaching for the sky, so CX can refer to almost anything between a full carbon road racing bike modified for wider tires, to an all-steel loaded touring bike frame with a double crank.  If you take the Surly Crosscheck as an example of the latter, check out the chainstay geometry.  16.9 inches, a little less than the 18.1 inch chainstay of the LHT, but at almost 17" it's still longer than almost any bike made ten years ago.  I'd call that a pretty good compromise, even if it's not optimal.

That was exactly what I meant by "know what you need to be looking for". I wanted something that was longer/taller than a criterium race bike and less than a touring bike; shoot for the middle. I gather that's what the OP is looking for.

Offline reed523

Re: Could a cyclo-cross bike do?
« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2011, 03:32:11 pm »
I don't know if this helps or not but here is my 2 cents.  I just completed a cross country with a girl who rode a Specialized Tricross.  She abused it badly with her packing style and it held up fine.  About a week into the ride, her low budget rear panniers failed and so she just overpacked her front ortliebs (brimming to the top) and put everything else into one big bag on top of her rear rack.  I would have bet the farm the bike (or at least the racks) would have broken but she had no issues at all.

Offline ducnut

Re: Could a cyclo-cross bike do?
« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2011, 05:49:11 am »
I don't know if this helps or not but here is my 2 cents.  I just completed a cross country with a girl who rode a Specialized Tricross.  She abused it badly with her packing style and it held up fine.  About a week into the ride, her low budget rear panniers failed and so she just overpacked her front ortliebs (brimming to the top) and put everything else into one big bag on top of her rear rack.  I would have bet the farm the bike (or at least the racks) would have broken but she had no issues at all.

There are at least 2 others on the forum who've done XC on Tricrosses, too.

Offline richschurter

Re: Could a cyclo-cross bike do?
« Reply #10 on: September 30, 2011, 05:13:20 pm »
I have done two five day rides (Illinois to Minnesota along the Mississippi R.) with a guy who uses a cyclo-cross for that type of touring. He loves it. The bike is a Gary Fisher and while we are credit card travelers he does carry quite a bit of weight on the rear of the bike. He rides numerous road centuries and never complains about comfort (age 61).

Offline TCS

Re: Could a cyclo-cross bike do?
« Reply #11 on: October 11, 2011, 04:53:32 am »
1) I don't think you need another bike for weekend and week long tours.  I think your present Trek FX7.5 is fine for that - certainly as good as a repurposed cyclocross bike.

2) A "real" touring bike will serve wonderfully for fitness and general riding when you're not touring - certainly as good as a repurposed cyclocross bike.

3) If you've got a jones for a cyclocross bike, get yourself one.
"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."