If you want to take cycling to the limit—whether on or off-road—you need the best cyclocross bike.
These extreme machines aren’t just for the dedicated competitive rider. For the everyday cyclist, they offer a seriously powerful—and impressively fast—workhorse.
Here are the seriously surprising reasons you need one—and the best examples on the market.
The Five Ultimate Cyclocross Bikes:
What Is a Cyclocross Bike?Cyclists use these bikes in the increasingly popular sport of cyclocross—a racing discipline in which riders cover a course that may include meadowland, forest paths, grassland, and pavement. Typically, this consists of numerous laps of a relatively short circuit (1.5-2 miles)—where the cyclist will often have to dismount and carry their bike, due to navigating impossibly steep terrain or traversing unrideable obstacles. These cycles bear the closest resemblance to road-racing cycles—with narrow tires and drop handlebars. However, you can differentiate them by their much stronger frames, greater tire clearances and lower gearing.
Why Do I Need a Cyclocross Bike?If you’re planning on taking up the extreme sport of cyclocross—naturally, you need the correct bike to be competitive—and to ensure your bike doesn’t fall to pieces over the tough conditions. However, you don’t have to be a professional to reap the immense health, practical and pleasure rewards that these cycles deliver. Here’s why you need a cyclocross bike:
Everyday VersatilityWherever you and your family enjoy riding—manufacturers have designed these bikes to cope with all conditions. Hence, you can whizz along at rapid speeds on roads, make thigh-crunching hill ascents, and power through mud and gravel tracks. Furthermore, if you need your bike to function as an everyday commuter—keeping your gas-guzzling motor in the garage—they’re possibly unbeatable. Not only do the relatively thin tires and aerodynamic riding position make for a speedy and comfortable journey to work—but also their immensely strong frames mean they’re suitable for panniers and racks to carry your work gear.
Improves Your Cycling AbilityMany users of these cycles indicate that using a cyclocross bike has enhanced their riding skills. The thinner tires don’t float easily over rocks, roots, and rubble—unlike mountain bikes—meaning you have to push yourself and concentrate harder to maintain precise control. Hence, as your skills develop, you’ll be skidding gracefully on gravel, drifting through corners and fishtailing on mud. This means if things go a little wrong on the road—you will stay calm, avoid accidents and remain on your bike.
All-Season CapabilitiesHow often do you and your family’s cycles become consigned to the garage in winter? Let’s face it, if your usual bike is a road-racer—that’s going to be useless in snowy conditions. However, the features of a cyclocross bike such as a longer wheelbase, larger tire clearance, knobby tires and shorter top tube promote a more stable and traction-enhancing ride. Thus allowing you to keep on cycling when normally the weather would prevent it.
Cyclocross is a Phenomenal SportWith its combination of riding, lifting and running—professional cyclocross is a highly-addictive and health-boosting pastime. But, you don’t have to become competitive to cyclocross. Instead of using your mountain bike on those tried and tested trails—ride them with a cyclocross bike and see the difference it makes. You’ll attain greater speeds on the flat, slide through corners, and endure some immense exhilaration plus an immeasurable dopamine rush flying downhill in a drop-bar position.
How to Choose the Best Cyclocross Bike?While manufacturers mainly design these bikes for competitive use—their features not only affect how they function in cyclocross contests—but also determine how practical they are for everyday use. Here are some points to consider:
Frame and WeightTypically, manufacturers make cyclocross bikes from steel, aluminum, titanium and carbon-fiber. Each material differently affects weight, cost, stiffness, and durability. Carbon-fiber delivers the best strength to weight ratio—while steel is the heaviest and usually the most budget-friendly material. If you’re thinking of competitive cyclocross, you need a bike that’s easy to carry and lift. Conversely, if you’re using it purely for commuting, this may not be so much of a priority.
BrakesWhile some entry-level cycles may have cantilevers, more commonly today, they include the mountain-bike staple of disc brakes. This is due to their effectiveness in all weather conditions, impressive reliability and low-maintenance requirements. However, these discs also add weight and are often more expensive than cantilever types. Consider whether the frame houses the brake cables. This often increases the bike’s aesthetics and can prevent snagging when carrying or riding in thick undergrowth. Furthermore, check whether the disc brakes are mechanical or hydraulic. The former requires much more physical effort than the latter to operate.
TiresWhile naturally, you can change the tires on your cyclocross bike—it’s worth considering the manufacturer supplied type to save costs. UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) regulations state for cyclocross, tire-width must not exceed 33 mm. However, some cycles that manufacturers create for everyday use can accommodate tires up to 40 mm. Larger tires mean more stability and traction, heightened resistance to punctures and you can deflate them for enhanced grip and shock-absorption. These tires are available as clinchers (the standard), tubulars and tubeless.
The Five Best Cyclocross BikesWhether you want to take up a new cycling sport—or simply want one of the most versatile bikes on the market—there’s a cyclocross model for you. Here are my top picks of the best cyclocross bikes available.
Whether you want to take this bike on the course and compete like a pro—or you simply want a rapid commuting cycle—I’d suggest this is the best cyclocross bike for you.
Based in Waterloo, Wisconsin, this USA manufacturer has been producing mid to top-end cycles for the past 45 years.
The seriously lightweight aluminum frame (18.9 pounds) can accommodate up to an additional 256 pounds. Meaning that if you want to load this bike up with panniers and racks—it has the capacity to cope. The manufacturers have reduced its overall mass by including carbon-fiber forks and seat post.
The 11-speed SRAM Force drivetrain should offer the versatility you need to power up those challenging inclines.
However, if frequent gear changing isn’t your bag, then there’s another option.
You can switch this cycle to function as a single-speed drive if you wish. This might appeal to commuters who don’t want to be continually shifting between gears and want the simplicity of just a sit-on-and-ride.
Flat-mount hydraulic disc brakes on both front and rear should provide reliable and low-maintenance stopping ability. Furthermore, the manufacturer has routed the braking-system and gearing cables through the frame—meaning a clean and tidy appearance with a low-risk of snagging.
The cycle includes 32 mm Bontrager Pro tires with a substantial knobbly tread. However, this bike will accommodate up to 40 mm should you wish to go larger post-purchase.
- Equally at home on a competitive course or on the road.
- Rugged 3S chain-keeper.
- Foam-padded handlebars for comfort and safety.
- Cyclocross competition compliant.
- Mounts included for cycle computers and lights.
- Includes a saddle with titanium rails.
- Incorporates two water bottle cage mounts.
- May require purchasing mountless fenders for commuting—as there are no attachments included on the cycle.
- Only available in slate color.
- Weight: 18.9 pounds.
- Wheels: 700cc 12 mm thru-axle.
- Frame: 50 cm to 61 cm.
- Chainstay length: 42.5 cm.
If you’re looking for pure speed, this could be the best cyclocross bike for powering you through the course or along the tarmac.
Incorporated in 1971, this Connecticut-based manufacturer has been making seriously high quality-cycles. Top professionals use their machines in Division 1 road-racing, mountain-biking and Ironman competitions.
This cycle is the third incarnation of the SuperX, with the manufacturer promising it delivers greater traction, better mud clearance and more stable handling than its earlier generations.
The SuperX Ultegra boasts a carbon-fiber frame, forks and seat post, leading to an incredibly light weight of 19 pounds. But, it's not just this lack of mass that makes it ideal for rapid cycling.
This bike incorporates Cannondale’s proprietary OutFront Steering Geometry. In simple terms, it means a higher fork-rake (55 mm) combined with a slack head angle (wheel further in front of the headset (handlebar cuff). Thus meaning that it’s easier to handle at high speeds.
At genuinely high velocity, you need controllability. Hence, this cycle includes reliable Shimano hydraulic disc brakes—allowing you to avoid collisions with pedestrians or obstacles—whether on tarmac or on the course.
You can switch the knobby Vittoria Terreno Mix 33 mm tires to larger 40 mm if you require—or swap out for slicks if you’re looking for some eye-watering road speed.
- Possibly the best cyclocross bike for pure speed.
- Internal cable and hose housings.
- Incorporates bespoke SAVE micro-suspension in rear triangle.
- Shimano 2×11 R8000 drivetrain.
- Smooth and snappy shifting between gears.
- Tubeless tire ready.
- The ample tire clearance should prevent clogging in highly muddy conditions.
- Fabric-covered shallow Elite saddle.
- Includes mounts for water bottles.
- Only available in black pearl color.
- Has a lower riding position than many models—may not suit all riders.
- Weight: 19 pounds.
- Wheels: 700cc 12 mm thru-axle.
- Frame: 46 cm to 58 cm.
- Chainstay length: 42.2 cm.
Perhaps you’re not chasing a combination tarmac, everyday and off-road bike. If you’re purely looking for a unit for all-year-round competitive use—this could be the best cyclocross bike.
The only issue with competitive cyclocross is that the season is short—starting in the fall and finishing at the end of winter. Serious riders often then switch to gravel racing (on unsurfaced roads and paths) in the spring and summer—but that means having two different bikes.
But no more.
This Ibis Hakka MX (monster-cross) is the exception. The manufacturer has put together a unit that crosses over both categories. That is, it can accommodate the higher-traction 650b wheels for gravel (included) or the greater-momentum 700c for cyclocross.
Sticking with the wheels, the included Schwalbe Thunder Burt tires are fairly heavily treaded—in line with its gravel pedigree—but not to the extremes you would see on a 100 percent gravel rider.
This cycle has a lightweight and durable carbon frame. However, some cyclists indicate that it’s surprisingly stiff—which may suit the hard demands of cyclocross as opposed to gravel.
Whatever your sport of choice, the SRAM hydraulic disc brakes should provide the control and rapid decreases in speed both classes demand.
One of my favorite features of this cycle is the ability to add additional components. It possesses two separate water bottle mounts on the seat and down-tubes. Furthermore, removable fender mounts at the bottom of the seat-stays may appeal to riders who love wet and muddy conditions—or wish to use this bike for commuting.
- Crosses over between gravel racing and cyclocross.
- Capacity to accommodate 700c and 650b wheels.
- Carbon-fiber throughout.
- Ability to mount bottles and fender.
- Silent use and gear change
- Low and long geometry for stability on dirt.
- Internal cable routing.
- The stiff ride may prove uncomfortable for some riders.
- Weight: 17 pounds with 700c tires, 19 pounds with 650b tires.
- Wheels: 700c/650b 12 mm thru-axle.
- Frame: 61 cm.
- Chainstay length: 43 cm.
Sometimes, it appears you can have it all.
If you’re looking for a cycle that's suitable for competition and commuting, manufactured by a top-end brand, and has the looks but not the cost of a seriously highly-priced unit—in my opinion—this is the best cyclocross bike.
This cycle has a lightweight aluminum frame—although going by appearances, that’s a surprise. The matte black coloring, combined with the Invisible Weld Technology, gives this bike the impression of a carbon-fiber construction. Yet, the price says differently.
For commuting or tarmac riding, I suggest its ideal. It includes both water bottle and fender mounts—excellent for keeping you hydrated and protecting clothing if using for work journeys.
However, take this cycle into woodland, onto gravel tracks, or through muddy ground—and I’d say it's equally at home,
The simple SRAM Apex 11-speed drivetrain should make light work of undulating land. Furthermore, with its cables housed within the frame—it promotes quiet operation and keeps hoses away from snagging.
While it may weigh a pound more than the harder-on-the-wallet models, its flat-underside top tube should mean that it's easy on the shoulders when carrying.
If you need to stop suddenly at an intersection or control rapid mountain descents, I propose that the Tektro C550 mechanical disc brakes will cope easily. Furthermore, the 32 mm size Bontrager CX3 block-rubber tires should provide impressive traction off or on-road.
- The looks of a carbon-fiber bike without the price tag.
- IsoSpeed fork promotes a smoother ride.
- Frictionless gear changes in all conditions.
- Includes fender mounts for all-weather protection.
- Respected manufacturer.
- High tire clearance to easily navigate treacherous conditions.
- Available in matte black or Miami green colors.
- Heavier than many cyclocross bikes.
- Hard and minimalist Bontrager saddle may be uncomfortable.
- Mechanical, not hydraulic brakes.
- Weight: 20.28 pounds.
- Wheels: 700 12 mm thru-axle.
- Frame: 50 to 61 cm.
- Chainstay length: 42.5 cm.
I’d suggest this is the best cyclocross bike if you’re looking for the aesthetics of a competition cycle—but are seeking the best value on the market.
Personally, I’d say this bike will suit if you’re purely needing a commuting cyclocross bike—you’re not going to win any competitions on this unit. However, it’s still a solid machine.
With an aluminum frame and weighing 26 pounds, it’s lighter than many mountain bikes—although a little more hefty than top-end cyclocross models. It has Kenda Kwick Trax 32 mm tires with symmetrical tread, which I’d suggest are more than adequate for tarmac use—but lacks any nobbing, which may make it short on grip off-road.
The Oryx brakes are of quality construction—made by the respected brand Tektro. However, as cantilevers, they lack the reliability of discs and will require significant effort to operate in extreme conditions.
Furthermore, the cables run along the outside of the frame—again acting against this being a real off-road cycle.
I’d put forward that if your commute is across undulating topography—this cycle will cope. It includes a Shimano Sora 24-speed gearbox with integrated shifters.
- Precision-welded from aluminum tubing.
- Bi-oval downtube for responsive performance and a comfortable ride.
- Allows for a more upright position than many cyclocross bikes.
- Rear rack mounts.
- Available in yellow and black.
- Ideal for those looking for a cyclocross-appearance bike on a budget.
- 24-speed drivetrain.
- Includes pedals—unusual for a cyclocross bike.
- May function well purely as a commuter cycle.
- May not perform well in off-road conditions.
- Heaviest bike in this top five review.
- The looks, but not the versatile function, of a true cyclocross bike.
- Weight: 26 pounds.
- Wheels: 700c.
- Frame: 42 to 50 cm.
- Chainstay length: undeclared.
Best Cyclocross Bike Conclusion
When you want to take cycling to the max—both on and off-road—you need a cyclocross bike.
With the ability to cope with extreme conditions, deliver surprising speed, all combined with formidable strength and durability—they provide the ultimate in bike-riding experiences.
For me, the best cyclocross bike is the Trek Crockett 7 Disc.
This USA-made cycle is ideal both for the serious competitor and the environmentally-aware commuter. Although weighing 18.9 pounds, it can cope with a further 256 pounds—enough for you and your panniers.
Its hydraulic disc brakes provide dependable stopping, whether avoiding pedestrians while at speed or controlling your rapid aerodynamic descents. Furthermore, if the included 33 mm tires are insufficient—this bike will accommodate a larger 40mm size.
Combine all those features with computer, light and bottle mounts, frame-housed cabling and an 11-speed drivetrain—and you understand why I consider it the best cyclocross bike on the market.