Big Bike Test – Winter bikes
Do-anything, go-anywhere overlander
Four great machines designed for riding on the road in all conditions.
The Crossrip has a relaxed approach to road riding, and is claimed to be ‘surefooted when roads get rough, quick in traffic and comfortable over the long haul.’ It’s the only one of our four bikes with the built-in ability to venture on to dirt and gravel. So what’s it like?
First impression Noticeably the most laid-back of our bikes in terms of its steering geometry, the Trek instantly cossets with a slack head angle and easy riding position, giving the impression that a soggy commute might be something approaching a joy behind its handlebars. It’s biddable, and the tread of its all-road tyres just shallow enough to promote confidence in cornering. On the road Given that the Crossrip is designed to ply its trade on a variety of surfaces, it could very easily have turned out to be a Jack of all trades, yet master of none. In fact, it’s master of at least a handful. The easy-going riding position is firmly in the adventure bike bracket, which is what the Crossrip most closely resembles on first glance. Its low standover height makes it user-friendly in traffic, and makes it easy to get a decent fit, too. The two standout features for us in general road use are its comfort and its versatility. The saddle is moderately firm, yet deeply padded, isolating your rump from any harshness. Taking a whiff of air out of the bike’s voluminous 32c tyres also gives you the upper hand in controlling ripples and high-frequency vibes. Although it might seem like a small thing, the extra padding beneath the handlebar tape makes the Crossrip much easier to ride fatigue-free. Although more often seen on CX bikes, the Tektro shorty levers on the bar tops really come into their own when you’re stuck in traffic (of all four of our test subjects, this one is easily the best suited to daily urban use). Being able to easily reach the brakes from three hand positions (drops, hoods or tops) makes for a stress-free journey. OK, the mechanical disc set-up doesn’t quite match the bite of Shimano’s hydraulics, but there’s ample stopping power. Handling Once we’d reduced the tyre pressure to 70psi, the Crossrip’s
handling improved greatly – not so much in its ability to steer quickly into turns and corner on a sixpence, but more in the way that its tyres perform with a little extra predictability and confidence. The hybrid-spec rubber wrapped round the Bontrager rims is perhaps better suited to bike paths and parks, but it’s certainly going to prove long-lasting, even on tarmac. With a wheelbase well over the metre mark, the Trek’s handling was never likely to set the world on fire, but what it lacks in sharpness it more than makes up for in stability. In fact, venturing on to a few fire roads and paths reveals its real handling prowess to lie in the fact that it performs well no matter what surface you’re riding on. Its long bottom bracket drop also contributes to a feeling of firm-footedness, compounded by the sensation of a low centre of gravity. A bike weighing almost 10 and a half kilos has rarely been more commendable to the road rider – and if tackling the odd ride on light off-road terrain with a few mates at the weekends is on the cards this winter, you’d be well advised to look at the Trek as a do-most-things alternative to a full-on adventure bike. While it perhaps won’t destroy the massed ranks of the club run, it’ll smash the commute, and make you feel like you’re riding a two-wheeled tank while you’re at it.
Frameset The frame is made from Trek’s 200 Series aluminium, which is produced in such a way as to keep weight to a minimum while maximising its strength in key areas. The front frame triangle is noticeably more all-road than pure road, but the sloping, tapered top tube necessitates a longer length of exposed seatpost which helps to deal with road vibration admirably. Mounts for mudguards and a rear rack add much needed adaptability for anything from commuting to club runs, to social rides to weekends away. The cabling is internally routed, which we’d say is a prerequisite for any bike designed to be ridden through the worst of the British weather. The Trek’s measured head angle of 70.3° is positively laid back, and when allied to a seat angle of 73.8°, the overall impression is of long-distance comfort more than exhilarating
steering input. The Crossrip’s welds are particularly fine, too – often an area that can look unsightly on mass-produced alloy frames. There’s plenty of scope for adjusting the riding position, as well, with 30mm of spacers to play with on the steerer. Tyre clearance amply accommodates the fitment of our test bike’s 32mm rubber, but with mudguards in place, we dare say this might reduce slightly – you’d still be fine with 28c tyres, though. Groupset The Crossrip approaches winter with a no-nonsense, 10-speed Shimano Tiagra groupset. This entry-level range supplies the 50/34 compact chainset, a cassette with an 11-34 spread of ratios, both the front and rear derailleurs, plus the shifters/brake levers. There are also cyclocrossstyle, bar top-mounted Tektro levers for when you’re riding on the tops and need to scrub off a little speed. The Crossrip takes the mechanical route for its braking system, with a Spyre TRP system in charge of hauling up its 10.52kg bulk. Finishing kit The alloy Bontrager finishing kit has a trick up its sleeve. The handlebars have the firm’s Isozone padding at their tops and drops – adhesive pads fitted to the bars before the tape is applied, to provide extra vibration damping. Those 400mm diameter bars are clamped to the steerer by a very short 80mm alloy stem – we’d probably size-up to provide a slightly more stretched-out riding position. The stem is compatible with Bontrager’s Blendr system, meaning you can clip a light or computer mount to it. A 27.2mm alloy seatpost also allows for enough flex to dial out any particularly harsh vibes that might otherwise make it to your chamois region, and is topped by a very sumptuously padded Bontrager Evoke 1 saddle. Wheels Bontrager’s tubeless-ready, disc-specific 32-spoke rims might not make for the most rapid wheels we’ve ridden this year, but they are laced to the firm’s own hubs which feature sealed bearings, so should prove maintenance-free all through winter. Bontrager’s 32mm H5 Hard-case Ultimate tyres are actually designed for Trek’s hybrid bikes, which speaks volumes about their durability. Don’t expect to corner at silly lean angles on them, but do expect not to have to change them for a few years. There’s built-in puncture protection, and they’re equally at home on bike paths and light, hard-packed gravel as they are on tarmac.
The standout features are comfort and versatility, with voluminous 32c tyres, plus rack and mudguard mounts