For this post we’d like to welcome back our Family Bike Guy, Henry with another bike review. Henry’s perspective is from that of a regular (very late 30’s) dad, with an interest (but not an obsession) in cycling. He doesn’t compete in any events (he’s not that fit) and he rides more miles with his daughter on the back of a hybrid town bike than any other more exotic machine. In short, a perfect fit for the Cycle Centre’s family centric approach to bikes. This week we gave him a great value Cyclocross (CX) bike from Trek to test ride.
Thank you Cycle Centre (sadly I have to agree with the fitness remark)
Cyclocross is a form of competitive cycling that actually pre-dates mountain biking. The classic CX bike looks like a road bike from a distance but typically has a stronger frame and forks, more relaxed geometry (a fancy way of saying the frame is built to offer a riding position that is a bit more upright or “relaxed”), a bit more ground clearance and gear ratios more suitable for hill climbing and mud plugging than high speed (actually the true classic CX bike is a single speed but they are only for real die hard CX fans).
Cyclocross and CX bikes are experiencing a big surge in popularity right now, I was keen to find out why and if it was the kind of bike I would like to own or more importantly whether it would be suitable for a dad with a limited budget, limited time and ageing legs!
The Trek CrossRip is priced at £850.00 and is therefore a great bike [for me to start exploring the CX world] and for anyone looking to either get into cyclocross or wanting to try a CX frame instead of say, a regular road bike or a full on mountain bike. The thousand pound point is where things start to get serious in the CX and road bike market, Trek have clearly created this bike for those people looking for an ‘all rounder’ rather than aiming for the hard core CX rider. This suited me fine and indeed it is the ‘all round’ capability of CX bikes that appealed to me.
The CrossRip is described as being “sure footed when the weather or pavement gets rough and comfortable over the long haul”. Part road bike, commuter, tourer and of course CX bike. Taking a close look at the CrossRip, it’s not hard to imagine doing all of the above on it. A few notable features (without getting too technical): it has the extra ‘chicken brake’ levers on the horizontal section of the bars (great for cruising without worrying about needing to stop suddenly – i definitely recommend them), it has a triple crank (offers more gear ratios, great for touring and the ‘all-rounder’ suitability, it has mechanical disc brakes offering great stopping power whatever the conditions and unsurprisingly it is fitted with all the mounts for a rack and mudguards.
First impressions: I really liked the paint job and overall look of the Trek CrossRip. This was the 56cm frame (dimensions and full spec available to view here) which may, on reflection, have been one size too large for me but I still managed to have some fun on it. I used to ride mountain bikes a lot in my late teens and I really felt at home on a bike that is built to handle and take punishment despite the very different bars, brakes and shifters. Cyclocross racing requires great bike handling skills (so I’m told by those that race CX) so a CX bike needs to handle well. I won’t bother with the technical details on how a bike is made “to handle well” as I don’t really know and it would be rather boring.
I rode the CrossRip on road, dirt trail, grass and gravel. It was very sure footed and I certainly never found it’s limit, although I may have found mine once or twice. I should point out that I put my own SPD pedals on in place of the standard toe-clipped track style ones.
The brakes worked superbly. Mechanical (operated by cable), rather than hydraulics, discs are often criticised for being difficult to set up and less efficient. This may be true but don’t forget that this bike cost £850 not £1850. To offer discs rather than ordinary cantilever brakes (the norm for CX bikes until recently) on a bike in this price range is really a good thing. Get the Cycle Centre guys to fine tune the brakes properly after your first decent ride and you should be enjoying powerful stops in all conditions. Personally I think the extra weight of the disc brake is well worth it.
Pros and Cons:
I want to mention two more things before I summarise my time with the 2013 Trek CrossRip. Tires and groupset.
For an £850 disc brake CX frame there was always going to be a compromise somewhere. I believe that the groupset is the main area where Trek have had to cut cost a bit. The Shimano 2300 derailleurs and shifters do work fine but I wouldn’t describe them as any better than ‘functional’. This bike also has a triple chain ring rather than the preferred (amongst CX fans) compact double. The benefit is more gear ratios, the down side is clunky changes and more likely to clog with mud if you do any proper CX riding.
The tyres, on the other hand, are great. Trek’s own Bontrager H5 Hard-Case Ultimates are a combo style tyre that aren’t a real CX tire but are much better suited to the surfaces I rode on. They also seemed to be quite puncture resistant – I didn’t get one and I rode over a lot of broken glass during my test rides.
The Trek CrossRip 2013 is a great “jack of all trades” bike, clearly aimed at those cyclists looking for a bike that can do a bit of everything. Yes, it would be nice to own a tourer, MTB, road racer and a CX bike but that’s just not realistic for most folk. Is the CrossRip a Cx racing machine? No, I don’t think so. Could you do a novice CX race on it and have fun? Yes, absolutely (perhaps with a knobblier set of tyres fitted) and you could then ride it to work on Monday. As far as the groupset goes, just ride it until it wears out and then put better parts on. You’ll still have the decent frame and forks at a great price. I can definitely see a CX based ‘do it all’ bike making it’s way into my bike shed at some point. But there might be a bit more testing to do first!
Would I recommend the Trek CrossRip 2013? Assuming you were properly fitted to ensure that you purchased the right frame and you weren’t looking for a hardcore sub-grand CX bike, then yes, I would definitely recommend the Trek CrossRip. There isn’t much this bike can’t do straight out of the box, so you won’t be confined to just enjoying one type of riding.
Authored by Henry Aarvold, Family Bike Guy
Disclaimer: No direct payment was received for this review and I did not keep the product written about.