12th November 2010 Words: Derri Dunn Photos: Chris Catchpole
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The interesting thing about testing cyclo-cross bikes is how different machines within this genre can be. The designation ‘cyclo-cross’ has become less about the racing category, and instead manufacturers have seized upon the ‘cross’ part of the name to use it to create bikes which cross boundaries, which cross all sorts of terrain.
The design brief seems mostly to be about producing one bike which can do it all, for those of us who can only afford to own a single steed, but don’t want to be stuck with just one type of cycling. Cross racing, riding tracks and bridleways, commuting, touring — these bikes do it all.
The one slight exception to this is the Specialized Crux. The simple fact that it has no rack and mudguard eyes means you’ll be hard-pressed to tour on it. Also, comfortable it ain’t, due to the ultra-stiff frame. But this one’s a ‘proper’ cross bike, built for the race scene, and very good at it too. If you’re serious about getting into cross, its clever design features represent a bargain below the Cycle-To-Work-Scheme threshold — and you could cycle to work on it, too; very, very fast.
Rather less of a bargain, but rather more versatile is the unusual and well thought-out Genesis Croix de Fer, with a good dose of speed and luxury. It’s prevented from being the clear winner of this test, however, because the luxury just doesn’t quite add up to that cool £1,100 price tag. It needs to be more special, or cheaper to take the title, simple as. It can also expect competition from this year onwards — we’re expecting an influx of disc-equipped cross bikes now they’re UCI legal on the racing circuit.
For a downright bargain, though, neither of the premium bikes could touch the classic Kona Jake. Comfortable, kitsch-looking and ludicrously cheap in the end of line sales, it’s a bike you could take anywhere with you without feeling you had to be precious about leaving
it locked up outside the shops or accidentally wrapping it around a tree off road.
It’s not the fastest bike here and it’s certainly not the best looking, but it’s a true multi-use bike that’s accessible for all. Let’s hope the overhauled 2011 version is just as good value and easy to get on with — we’ll be sorry to see this model go.
This article first appeared in the November 2010 issue of Cycling Active magazine