Best cyclocross bike 2022: How to choose the perfect cyclocross bike

Edward Munn Joseph Delves
27 Jun 2022

How to pick the right cyclocross bike for your budget and style of riding – our pick of the best for racing, commuting and touring

Cyclocross is an odd sport. It’s something of a mixture between road cycling and mountain biking, and the bikes themselves are a hybrid mix of both. The best cyclocross bikes are rugged enough to be ridden off-road, while also borrowing many features from their tarmac-going cousins. They’re fast, tough, and a blast to ride.

And while the sport itself is spectacular (and surprisingly easy to get into), cyclocross bikes aren’t just great for racing. With relaxed geometries, powerful brakes, and space for big, grippy tyres, they make ideal do-it-all rides, equally happy on- or off-road, whether you’re competing, commuting or touring.

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Best cyclocross bike: At a glance

How to buy the best cyclocross bike for you

What type of cyclocross bike should I buy?

Cyclocross bikes need to be versatile, but some designs prioritise racing, while others offer more concessions to other riding styles such as commuting. Some designs can handle huge tyres which – while illegal in most races – boost the bike's handling ability on much more challenging terrain. It’s a good idea to decide up-front what type of riding you’d like to focus on; if you’re unsure, aim for a comfortable all-rounder rather than lumbering yourself with a stiff carbon racing bike that might be less comfortable than other options.

Which features should I look out for?

A light frame, strong wheels, and good brakes are a must. Disc brakes are pretty much essential on a cyclocross bike, with their superior modulation and swift stopping times. It’s now rare to find 'cross bikes without them. Hydraulic is best, but cable-operated models can be good too.

When it comes to the frame, carbon is king due to its low weight and ability to form complicated shapes. However, it’s not the be-all-and-end-all: a decent aluminium frame with great components can beat a cheap carbon one with duff kit. Wheels will necessarily be tough, but if you pay more – the most effective performance upgrade – they can be light too, and some can be set up with tubeless tyres for increased puncture resistance.

As for the groupset – well, it’s a matter of taste. Many cyclocross bikes have minimalist single chainrings. Ditching the front derailleur halves your available gears, but keeps things simple, cutting down on maintenance, dropping some weight and securing the chain. Predictably, bikes with two chainrings are useful if you deal with hills on a regular basis.

Some cyclocross bikes, usually not the high-end carbon racers, include more practical features such as mounts for mudguards and a rack. These additions mean that some 'cross bikes can double up as great commuting or touring options.

How much do I need to spend?

Cyclocross is a niche interest, so bikes start at a slightly higher price-point than standard road bikes. Around £600 and up will bag you a decent one, whereas north of £1,200 should be able to get almost all the most exciting features, like hydraulic disc brakes, tubeless tyres and ultra-stiff through-axles to attach the wheels. Above £1,700, you can expect to see carbon frames for lower weight and greater rigidity.

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The best cyclocross bikes to buy

1. Ribble CX AL Apex: The best cyclocross bike for first-time racers

Price: From £1,399 | Buy now from Ribble

An entry-level racer with no weak links. A decent aluminium frame and a carbon fork, a SRAM Apex groupset, and Mavic Aksium wheels; that’s a hell of a kit-list for a comparatively small asking price.

First, the frame. With dropped seat stays and a tapered headtube, the CX AL Apex could be mistaken for something a lot more expensive. With a pretty standard cyclocross racing geometry, it has plenty of mud clearance, space that could also be used to fit mudguards with tyres up to 35c. The carbon fork drops weight and improves comfort, while bolt-thru hubs at both ends keep the whole chassis stiff.

The Mavic Aksium wheels are both extremely tough and light for a bike at this price, while the Challenge Grifo tyres will get an approving nod from seasoned cyclocross racers, even if their heavy wire beads make them a good first upgrade.

The SRAM Apex groupset is slick in both looks and operation. With powerful hydraulic disc brakes, it uses a single chainring alongside 11 sequential gears. Cutting down on maintenance and giving mud fewer places to accumulate, a wide 11-42t cassette means that, despite its simplified gearing, it remains capable on longer hills.

A great first racer, the Ribble would also make a super winter hack or commuter. Just don’t mistake this for code that it’s heavy or dull - it’s far from either.

Key specs - Frame material: Aluminium; Fork: Carbon; Gearing: SRAM Apex 4tt, 11-42t 11-speed; Wheels: Mavic Aksium thru-axle; Brakes: SRAM Apex hydraulic; Additional features: Internal cable routing

Buy now from Ribble

2. Cube Cross Race Pro: The best budget high-performance cyclocross bike

Price: £1,749 | Buy now from Wiggle

If you’re after a bike with fabulous handling in even the trickiest situations, then the Cube Cross Race Pro could be the one for you. With powerful disc brakes, Schwalbe tyres and a combination of Shimano 105 and Ultegra gearing, the overall performance is no joke. This isn’t the only impressive aspect, either; despite its excellent agility and speed, the Cross Race Pro is still a comfortable ride.

Thanks to the carbon fork and double-butted, smooth welded aluminium frame, the whole bike weighs a mere 10kg. This means that it’s sturdy enough to deal with all the bumps and impacts that it will inevitably have to withstand, while also being light enough to carry on your shoulder should you ever encounter an obstacle that even the most talented rider couldn’t bike over. As a little extra bonus, you also get Shimano’s upgraded Ultegra RX rear derailleur which features a clutch mechanism to help keep your chain secure regardless of the conditions.

Key specs - Frame material: Aluminium; Fork: Aluminium steerer, carbon blades; Gearing: Shimano 105, 46x36T, 11-speed; Wheels: Cube CX 21; Brakes: Shimano 105 hydraulic; Additional features: Ultegra RX clutch rear derailleur

Buy now from Wiggle

3. Cannondale SuperSix Evo CX: The most versatile cyclocross race bike

Price: £4,000 | Buy now from Sigma

Cannondale recently updated its well-known SuperSix range to include gravel and cyclocross models. Both based around the same exceptionally light and capable frame, the SuperSix Evo SE model covers gravel-based adventures, while this SuperSix Evo CX is equipped specifically for racing in the mud.

Allowing the firm to concentrate all its efforts on achieving race-ready performance, this bike pairs UCI-approved 33mm Vittoria Terreno Mix tyres with lightweight DT Swiss R470 rims. Taking care of gearing, SRAM’s Force 1 groupset arrives with a speed-focused 11-speed 10-36t cassette and a single 40t chainring.

Fitting for a frame that’s also gravel capable, clearance is huge, meaning you can swap in far larger tyres if you desire. Despite being ready to race, all-day comfort is also considered, with skinny seatstays allowing the rear wheel a little vertical movement when hurtling over lumps and bumps.

The bike’s seatstays are paired with short chainstays that provide both huge amounts of mud clearance, as well as snappy handling. The front of the SuperSix Evo CX is stable too, thanks to a raked-out fork. Fast when you’re sprinting, comfy and stable when it gets rough, and with a very low overall weight, this is a versatile bike that excels in multiple areas.

Key specs – Frame material: Carbon; Fork: Carbon; Gearing: SRAM Force 1x 40t, 11-36t 11-speed; Wheels: DT Swiss R470, thru-axle; Brakes: SRAM Force HRD hydraulic; Additional features: Internal cable routing, tubeless-ready

Buy now from Sigma

4. Boardman CXR 8.9: The best budget all-rounder cyclocross bike

Price: £1,100 | Buy now from Halfords

This Boardman CXR 8.9 is a great candidate if you’re looking to dip your toes into the world of cyclocross bikes. Firstly, its price is relatively small compared to many other models on the market. Secondly, it's incredibly versatile with a light aluminium frame, 160mm flat mount hydraulic disc brakes, Donnelly Crusade PDX tyres, and 1x SRAM Apex gears.

The CXR 8.9 is unfazed, no matter which situation it finds itself in. With mounts for racks and mudguards, it provides excellent performance, ease of use and comfort – whether you’re using it for cyclocross training, as a winter bike, or for a commute to work.

Of course, it might miss out on a few high-end features like bolt-through axles or internal cabling. However, by being relatively lightweight and featuring an excellent finishing kit, we don't think many riders will miss them.

Key specs - Frame material: Aluminium; Fork: Carbon; Gearing: SRAM Apex PF30, 50x34T, 11-speed; Wheels: Boardman alloy; Brakes: SRAM Apex; Additional features: N/A

Buy now from Halfords

5. Vitus Energie EVO CRS Force: The best cyclocross bike for privateer racers

Price: £2,699 | Buy now from Wiggle

This ridiculously well-equipped racing bike comes from Vitus, the house brand of Wiggle/Chain Reaction. A full-blooded cyclocross bike at a superb price, its aggressive frame aids aerodynamics, while the whole bike weighs a very respectable 8.1kg.

Apparently, the frame itself clocks in at a minimalist 880g for a medium, making it just as lightweight as models from far more well-known and expensive brands. And in an age where many designs are hedging their bets to appeal to the gravel market, the Energie sticks to a proper cyclocross geometry, making it ideal for racing too.

Its slightly longer top tube and shorter stem also help it tackle more technical terrain. Given its manufacturer’s buying power, it’s unsurprising to find a truly phenomenal build kit hanging off the frame, which includes a full SRAM Force 1x11-speed groupset.

Rolling stock is equally good, with Prime supplying the tubeless-ready Baroudeur Disc wheels and Maxxis All Terrane 700x33c tyres. Finished with classy touches like a carbon handlebar, there’s even room for hidden mudguard mounts which add a touch of practicality without spoiling an otherwise race-ready bike.

Key specs – Frame material: Carbon; Fork: Carbon; Gearing: SRAM Force 1x 40t, 11-36t 11-speed; Wheels: Prime Baroudeur Disc; Brakes: SRAM Force HRD hydraulic; Additional features: Internal cable routing, tubeless-ready

Buy now from Wiggle