Getting 'Cross...

I used to not really get 'cross. As a mountain biker, I didn't understand why you would want to reduce your off-road stability with narrow tyres and bars. As a road cyclist, I couldn't grasp why you would want to make autumn and winter even wetter, muddier and plagued with mechanicals, than it was already. Things have changed...

Back in the summer, I test rode the Verenti Substance CX (review link). For a month, I switched out my usual commuting steed, a 1997 steel touring bike, for this knobbly tyre machine. It was a whole load of fun!

No longer was I confined to the lanes and cycle tracks on my commute. Before long, I had added dozens of new routes home; linking up bridleways, farm tracks and unmade roads. At every opportunity, I was jumping off curbs, tearing down tracks and thoroughly enjoying kicking up some dust and dirt.

The Verenti went back, all too soon; but it left me yearning for a bit more excitement on my daily rides to and from work. I tried riding my mountain bike in for a week or two, but as a fair portion of the ride is unavoidably on tarmac (the Portsmouth part), it made things rather hard going. It clicked, I realised quite why cyclocross bikes are so much fun. A cross bike lets you link up the best trails and tracks in an area, without having to slog it down roads on fat knobbly tyres to get between 'sectors'.

I also quickly realised that a CX bike was in fact a lot more comfortable for commuting. Although the Verenti CX was a little weighty, it was bombproof. I was blasting down broken roads and bouncing out of potholes, without the fear of punctures and pinch-flats. The disc brakes were a revelation as well. Having previously only really ridden disc on mountain bikes, I hadn't realised quite how much better they were for wet roads; coupled with the semi slick tyres, they provided a lot more confidence on leaf strewn corners and poor road surfaces.

Although I might still need a bit of convincing before I sign up to a cyclocross race, I can now see that cyclocross bikes are incredibly versatile, and a lot of fun. For me, they probably make the ultimate commuting steed.

I now "get" 'cross. My search for a CX bike has begun...

My month of commuting on the Verenti opened up some great new routes home.

No traffic commuting.

The steel tourer, my usual commuting steed, was laid up to rest for a month. Replaced by the Verenti Substance.

Knobbly tyres, mud clearance and disc brakes. Confidence.

Maybe not the prettiest or lightest bike, but a bombproof commuting steed.


  1. It would take an enternity for me to feel stable of a drop handlebars bike on a muddy path like that!

  2. I love how a cyclo cross route to work in the morning leaves me feeling so much more refreshed when I get to my desk than commuting solely on the road. I think the combination of the extra wildlife I see and hear plus the fact I have to worry less about dodgy drivers in a rush as my road time is reduced really makes a difference.

    I hear you on the cross racing Tim but if you can find an old school course with a bit of everything in the parcours rather than just a muddy field you'll probably be surprised how much fun it is blasting around at maximum heart rate for an hour!


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