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Cyclocross began about a hundred years ago in Belgium when local road racers would see who could get to the nearest pub and there were no rules: you could go through fields, over fences, etc. That turned into one of the largest growing types of bicycle racing in recent years. But cyclocross bikes are good for far more than just racing (though that’s very fun too).

Cyclocross bikes make great commuter bikes, some people buy them because of their great all-around nature. Ride to the coffee shop, on the local fire road, or take it to work, a cyclocross bike can handle it.

So what makes a cyclocross bike different? Only a few things:

  • knobby tires for dirt and mud (usually 700c x 30mm)
  • mountain bike brakes (cantilever brakes or disc’s are popular)
  • mountain bike pedals (easier to clip in and shed mud better)

As the sport of cyclocross has grown over the last ten years, the equipment has gotten quite high end. Carbon cyclocross frames and forks with carbon cantilever brakes and Zipp carbon fiber wheels are ridden by the pros. But don’t be put off, remember cyclocross harkens back to a simpler time in winter in Belgium with a bunch of mates that just wanted a good workout before their Trappist Monk ales.

As with all types of bikes, frame material is a big decision:

  • Steel: typically heavier, tougher to break
  • Aluminum: lightweight, cheap
  • Carbon: very lightweight, expensive
  • Titanium: less popular but Titanium offers many advantages of both aluminum and steel

The newest carbon fiber forks are made very well and do a great job of lightening a bike but also to absorb a lot of road vibrations. Many entry level cyclocross bikes come stock with carbon fiber forks now. Typically, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100-$200 extra for a bike that comes with a carbon fork over a steel or aluminum one.