Big Bike Test – Win­ter bikes

Do-any­thing, go-any­where over­lan­der

Bikes Etc - - CONTENTS -

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?

THE RIDE

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.

THE SPEC

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

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