Can You Get A Race Worthy Cyclocross Bike For $1000?
Cyclocross racing is one of the fastest growing sports in North America and across parts of Europe. Merging the speed of road racing with the handling technique of mountain biking, it offers an exhilarating way to spend fall and winter as the mercury starts to drop.
Cyclocross bikes are extremely versatile. Yes they can be used as a thoroughbred racing machine through winter but their adaptability means that you could fit some fenders and some road tires to use one for comfortable, quick commuting. Alternatively, you could fit a rack and head off touring with minimal additional investment.
We’re going to take a look at some of the best low-cost cyclocross bikes around the $1000 price mark which represents the lower end of the marketplace. With a selection of different options depending on rider preference and individual style it should be possible to pick up a bargain.
This review will focus on Raleigh’s Furley singlespeed cyclocross bike ($799) which features disc brakes for reliable stopping, Internet retailer Nashbar’s Steel cyclocross offering which features an impressive Shimano 105 groupset ($849 at time of review), Diamondback’s Haanjo ($900) featuring a flat bar and aluminum frame, Tommaso’s Bestia with Tiagra groupset and excellent price ($849), and the Redline Conquest ($1089) which features a performance orientated aluminium frameset.
This review will focus on whether the bikes are tailored towards cyclocross racing and if $1000 can buy you a race-worthy cyclocross bicycle for beginners or those on a budget.
Nashbar: A Steel Cyclocross Bike for Less Than $1000
Retailers no longer need a physical shop to sell their goods. Online retailers can offer excellent value for money by merit of reduced overhead.
Nashbar is an online retailer that strives to offer bikes at exceptionally low prices and their $849 steel framed cyclocross bike features Shimano’s 105 groupset, which is usually unheard of at this price point. The negative is that the customer is responsible for setting the bike up.
The frameset on the Nashbar is made from double-butted 4130 chromoly steel. Steel is renowned for its vibration dampening qualities and this frame, when coupled with its chromoly fork, should provide years of comfortable riding.
Steel is having resurgence within the cycling community and its retro appeal entices many for its simplistic looks and nostalgic feel. That said, in a performance orientated sport like cyclocross the extra weight of an inexpensive steel bike can be what holds a rider back in the mud. The frameset looks very similar to Surly’s Cross-Check in its geometry and its on trail comfort and handling is very similar.
One of the big selling points for the Nashbar is its Shimano 105 drivechain which is something you wouldn’t expect on a sub- $1000 cyclocross bike. It shifts impeccably well and will do so for years to come. The only variation is FSA’s excellent Gossamer cyclocross specification chainset. With 46/36 at the front and 11-28 at the back you should never be left wanting for gears whether you’re ascending Mont Ventoux or tackling a Christmas-time CX mudfest.
The Nashbar Steel has its compromise in its wheelset and additional components. Many buyers have noted that the wheels weren’t in true on arrival and that there was a little less bite from the brakes than they had hoped for. A small amount of knowledge on bike set up is required to put these issues right.
At its insanely low price the Nashbar represents good value for money for riders looking for a geared cyclocross bike with the comfort of a steel frame. A more reliable set of wheels would turn a great value package into a race-ready machine.
For the occasional move from tarmac to muddy singletrack it should be more than up to the task as initially sold.
Pros: Insanely low price, Shimano 105 groupset, sturdy and beautiful classic chromoly frame
Cons: Average wheelset, heavier weight, initial setup / truing required
Diamondback Haanjo: A cheap cyclocross bike with good reviews & versatile ride
Diamondback is one of the largest producers of bikes in the world. They’re largely an online retailer, but that doesn’t mean they’re short on quality. They produce a range of entry level road bikes that compete well.
The Haanjo is a good cyclocross bicycle under $1000, and it’s a great entry point into the sport. Diamondback labels it as an ‘alternative road bike’, but it would ride well in CX settings too.
The most noticeable feature of the Haanjo (to me) is the butted aluminum frame, which has a stylized shape with 6061-T6 alloy construction. The oversized downtube is especially attractive, and it gives the whole ride a sturdy, rugged appearance. The aluminum frame and fork ensure the weight isn’t too off the charts.
Disc brakes have been long overdue in cyclocross riding for many years. They offer braking reliability and consistency in harsh conditions when compared to old-fashioned cantilevers. The Haanjo features a set of Avid BB5 mechanical disc brakes that are paired up to 160mm rotors in the front and 140mm in the back. They stop exceedingly well when tuned (though not as nicely as hydraulics.)
The wheelset is one of the beefiest you’ll find. DB Equation CX rims (about 23mm wide) are paired up to a set of Kenda Happy’s. The 700x40c width of the included tires is considerable. Ride them for a few weeks; you might want to size down to a slimmer tire with more ‘bite’, but see how you fare.
The drivetrain is well suited to the task of cyclocross riding. An FSA Gossamer Cross crankset pairs to Shimano Sora derailleurs front and back. The shifters are 9-speed Soras too (flat bar style). Sora is a lower priced groupset, but I’ve found it works well when tuned and given some love. The 46 – 36t chainrings are pretty well suited to CX style riding.
With flat bars you get a ton of control and precise steering. The bars are wider than a typical CX, and the headtube is longer and slacker, and the geometry is more relaxed. It’s a ‘go anywhere’ ride. It’s a good racer for a beginner, and the fairly lightweight, durable frame should serve most riders well.
On the whole, this is an affordable cyclocross bicycle with good componentry. I’d certainly give it some consideration.
Pros: Reasonably priced, good drivetrain, lightweight and attractive frame
Cons: Slightly more relaxed riding position, tires possibly too wide
Tommaso Bestia: An aluminum framed CX bike with a great price tag
Tommaso is an interesting brand. Like Nashbar, they seem to be found only online, and their models range from basic to high performance. The Bestia falls into the middle of the pack, and makes a case as one of the best cyclocross bike under the $1000 price point. It’s certainly got its merits.
Beginning with the bones, we have a 6061 welded aluminum frame and fork. Aluminum frames tend to transmit vibrations, but Tommaso has addressed that with varying tube sizes, including an oversized downtube and extra structure in the fork. It will probably still transmit a bit more vibration than, say, a chromoly or carbon frame, but it’s nothing too overbearing.
The whole bike weighs in at 24.4 pounds (54cm frame). That’s slightly lighter than the Furley and the Nashbar. The geometry is aggressive enough for trying your hand at racing, but they’ve clearly built it to be a daily ride as well.
Case in point, the crankset. It comes equipped with a nice FSA Tempo with 50t – 34t chainrings. The 50 is a bit larger than practical for CX racing and competition, so you may want to downsize. That said, 50t is great for flats, commuting and road riding, so it’s up to you.
The drivetrain features a Tiagra groupset, which is very nice, though not as good as the 105 found on pricier models. There’s a 10 speed derailleur in the rear for a total range of 20 speeds. The integrated Tiagra STI shifters will fly through the gears quite nicely.
It stops using a pair of Tektro cantilever brakes, quite standard for this price point. Tuned well, they work like a charm. The whole bike rolls on Alex R500 rims paired up to Kenda K-162s. I prefer a bit more bite than these shoes provide, but that’s easily remedied.
It’s a beautiful bike and would serve well as an entry level cyclocross racer bike or a daily commuter. It’s also the most reasonably priced of the (geared) lot due to Tommaso’s purely online presence. Take a look draw your own conclusions!
Pros: Vibration resistant aluminum frame, good shifters / drivetrain, excellent price
Cons: Upper chainring a bit too large, tires could have more ‘bite’
The Raleigh Furley: Among the best cyclocross bikes under $1000
Singlespeed cyclocross (Abbreviated as SSCX) bikes have recently become popular in North American cyclocross racing. Their simplicity (by merit of having no gear shifters and derailleurs) takes away many of the worries over the harsh nature that winter racing and riding can have on many of a bike’s moving parts.
Singlespeed cycling in cities has become a niche, trendy area but for off road use it has its practicalities.
The main selling point of the Furley is its tough, rugged, yet comfortable steel frameset which is built from 4130 chromoly. The Furley’s frame smoothens out both road vibration and bumps from the trails. It also features a sleek integrated headset and chunky BB30 bottom bracket. The frame is on the heavy side for riders looking for a performance driven SSCX bike but the Furley can happily switch to being an urban commuter with ease.
Disc brakes are a welcome addition on the Furley, which marries the old-school approach of a steel frame with modern performance elements. It’s one of the few cheap cyclocross bikes under $1000 that offers disc brakes.
The Furley’s low price and excellent frame mean that a compromise has been met with some of the componentry. The wheels are heavy (yet should prove reliable over the long term) and the bike itself will never be lightweight, so those hills may become a grind rather than a glide.
The Furley comes with a sensible 39×18 gearing. A set of Schwalbe CX comp tires will also see riders switch from the streets to early fall conditions with relative ease.
Could you race cyclocross on a Raleigh Furley? Yes you could. Its geometry is aggressive and its brakes provide quality control into tight corners. Raleigh has designed the Furley around a great chassis that will continue to offer you service with a smile for years to come.
For the money it will be hard to beat and a simple upgrade to a set of race orientated tubular wheels will offer exceptional performance benefits.
Pros: Rugged steel frame, disc brakes (much better for CX), good tires
Cons: Heavier weight, single speed gearing is limiting
Redline Conquest 2015 Review: A Cheap Cyclocross Bike with Performance and Value?
Redline are a Seattle based bike manufacturer whose history in cyclocross dates back to the early 1990s, so they know plenty about getting a bike right. At $1089 the Redline Conquest falls just above the $1000 cyclocross bike territory; if you shop around there are options to get it cheaper than MRP.
As a racer, one look at the Conquest frameset and you know it’s designed with racing in mind. Produced from 6061 aluminium, the frame features hydroformed tubing to add additional strength where required. It also features a profiled top tube for those inevitable occassions where a rider needs to shoulder their bike and run.
Many cheaper aluminium cyclocross framesets do not feature this level of detailing and for that reason Redline should be commended for creating a fantastic frameset for this bargain racer. The geometry is neither too harsh nor too slack, which produces a well rounded cyclocross ride for beginners to the sport.
The fork features carbon blades and an alloy steerer for heightened vibration dampening over rough ground. This nice addition rounds off an excellent frame and fork package, which definitely warrants future upgrades to componentry.
Shifting is courtesy of Shimano’s excellent value Sora groupset. Its beauty is in its function, reliability and economy — parts are relatively inexpensive to replace in cases where “racing incidents” occur.
The compact 50/34 Sora chainset is excellent for a road bike at this price point; however the 50 tooth outer ring may prove a little big for cyclocross use and my recommendation would be to fit something along the lines of a 42 tooth chainring to give a better gearing range for cyclocross racing. Commuters who speed some time on the road should find the gearing perfect for their needs.
The Conquest’s Alex wheelset should prove reliable and stand up to the rigours of cyclocross racing. Grip is provided by Kenda Happy Medium tires which will serve beginners well through dry, hard-packed early season courses, although once the going starts to get muddy you’re likely to need to change tires.
The Redline Conquest offers an outstanding value for money package for newcomers to cyclocross racing. At the $1000 price point it offers a great frame which warrants future upgrades as well as the reliability of a full Shimano Sora groupset. It sets a pretty high mark for other brands to aim for at the lower end of the marketplace. As such, it is one of the best cyclocross bikes in the ‘under $1000’ category.
Pros: Beautiful, CX inspired frame with profile tube for running, carbon forks, lightest weight
Cons: Less reliable groupset than the Nashbar (but still decent), tire may need upgrading for mud
And the Best Cyclocross Bike Under $1000 is…
The Redline Conquest. The most expensive of this list also happens to have the nicest combination of features.
As a cyclocross racing machine the Nashbar is let down by its weight. In a typical 56cm frame size a bike weighs around 25 lbs. For the price, it’s a good entry point for someone ‘testing out’ CX riding or wanting a sturdy commuter bike.
The Raleigh Furley weighs in similarly. It’s a dependable and fun ride, but its lack of working gears ruins its chances to win this competition.
The Diamondback Haanjo is an affordable CX bicycle with nice features and components. It’s a ‘go anywhere’ type bicycle: the bars are wide and it has a slightly more relaxed riding position. For race performance the geometry isn’t as aggressive as I’d like, but for CX events and riding it’s a great choice.
The Tommaso Bestia offers a sturdy frame with great geometry. Its Tiagra groupset is impressive, though the upper chainring ought to be a bit smaller for race purposes. It’s let down by its weight at 24 pounds, but with good looks, great drivetrain and versatile performance, it nearly won this thing.
The Redline Conquest weights around 22 lbs in the same bike size and the difference on a race circuit is dramatic in comparison. If you’re looking for your first cyclocross racing bike you would be hard-pressed to find a better beginners bike than the Redline Conquest 2015 without finding a closeout bargain.
The Conquest has everything a racer wants in their first CX bike: A great frameset which is predictable and stable, yet responds to your every pedal stroke, and reliable shifting thanks to Shimano’s great quality Sora groupset. When you’re ready you could happily upgrade the wheels to some tubular rims and reap further performance rewards.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.