Can a cyclocross bike become the best commuter bike for your daily bike route? If you’ve ever caught a glimpse of cyclists pedalling through mud and quickly mounting and dismounting their bikes to hop obstacles, then you’ve witnessed a cyclocross race. The fall and early winter sport is quickly gaining in popularity, as are the cyclocross-specific bikes used by racers. A bike that rips through and sheds mud, gains speed from skinny tires and can handle whatever Mother Nature throws its way? Sounds like the best commuter bike.
The quick and dirty
At first glance, a cyclocross (or cross bike) closely resembles its cousin, the road bike. But there are some major differences. The frame has a higher bottom bracket than a road bike, perfect for navigating obstacles and has a slightly different geometry, as it’s made to be ridden in a more uptight position. Another major difference is the brakes. While road bikes rely on calipers, cross bikes have cantilever or disc brakes, which offer more stopping power in the elements. Cyclocross bikes also tend to use slightly wider, knobby tires to provide traction through mud, sand, water and snow.
Convert it into the best commuter bike
It doesn’t take much to transform a cross bike into the best commuter bike. Look for a bike frame that’s aluminum or steel. Cross bike frames are strong and durable, yet lighter than most touring bike frames. Find a bike frame that comes with plenty of braze-ons and be sure to add fenders to help keep your bike commute dry. Install racks or panniers for hauling extra gear. Most cross bikes should have space for these add-ons. Since you’re not racing the bike, weight is not a major concern and you should also find a saddle that’s comfortable for longer rides. Lastly, unless you’re planning to ride gravel bike paths or rough dirt roads, consider swapping out the knobby tires in favor of slicks. These bike tires will increase your cruising speed and ensure a smoother ride. Find a bike tire that’s durable and fairly flat resistant.
Other cross bike considerations
If you’re buying a new bike you may have the option of disc brakes, a fairly new addition to cross bikes. Most cantilever brakes are fine for bike commuters, but if you often commute by bike in wet, slushy weather you may want to consider investing in disc brakes, which offer more reliable and effective stopping power. Before you buy a cross bike also consider if the geometry will be comfortable for you. The more road bike-like position will stretch out your back, shoulders, neck and arms more than a touring bike, commuter bike or mountain bike, which put riders in a more upright position. If you have any neck, back or shoulder problems you may want a bike that’s less aggressive. To learn more about Cyclocross, check out Cyclocross Magazine.