As we headed into the off-season after one of the most exciting, ground-breaking seasons to date, for Issue 20, we took a look at the memorable people, races and products that defined the cyclocross year. In this online edition, we’re showcasing the companies and products that caught our – and your – eye this season. For a full list, be sure to snag an archive issue of Cyclocross Magazine Issue 20 (or if you’re a subscriber, check your mailbox, since it’s starting to be delivered this week. Online subscribers can find the full issue available in the next few days.)
For our Editors’ Awards, we didn’t simply emulate all the same categories posed to our readers, but rather, we tailored them to our own experiences with products we had the ability to test, with a focus on items released in the last two seasons.
Bikes are a fun category for us, but it’s important to note that our tiny staff doesn’t ride all 100+ bikes on the market during one season. For our Working Man Pro Category ($2900-3500) pick, we still like last year’s winner, the Redline Conquest Carbon Pro. And for our Pro Category ($3500+) pick, we chose the Specialized Crux Pro.
We fell in love with Mosaic Cycles’ work this past season after spotting it at the North American Handmade Bike Show (NAHBS) last year. Just being able to test custom bikes is a privilege, but the one that sparkled the most for us, both literally and figuratively? Mosaic’s titanium cyclocross frame. Designed for racing, built by a cyclocross racer, as light as some carbon frames, yet versatile with disc brakes and great tire clearance—what’s not to like? Start saving up. For more info, check out our profile on our custom Mosaic build in Issue 20.
BEST HIGH-END WHEELS:
Zipp 303 Firecrest: Light, expensive, wide, aero, proven. If you can afford them, they’re hard to beat, and our winner for the second year in a row.
BEST AFFORDABLE WHEELS:
Carver C38 tubulars: Our $399 Williams Cyclo-Cross alloy wheels are still going strong, but this year Carver’s $599 carbon C38 wheels, at 1380g, impressed enough to stretch our definition of “affordable” to $600. For a lot of us, that’s still a lot of coin, but they’re a good value, perform well, and save a half pound off OEM wheels. A worthy upgrade.
BEST DISC BRAKE WHEELS:
NoTubes’ Iron Cross: We had a chance to ride a number of disc brake wheels this season, and the two wheels reviewed in this issue, NoTubes’ Iron Cross and Easton’s EA90 XD, are our favorites because of their versatility and tubeless compatibility. EA90 XD is more durable, but the Iron Cross accommodates more tires and it’s lighter and more affordable. Tough choice, for sure!
When it comes to clinchers, Specialized’s The Captain Control 2Bliss was our top pick for an all-around tire. CXM has, for two years running, been putting its weight behind, and on, tubeless tires, and we like the Captain for its universal tread, high volume and reliability with a number of rims. For mud, we dug the Challenge Limus Open Tubular this season.
At CXM HQ, tires and brakes are always a hot topic of debate. In terms of tires, when it gets muddy and slippery, we still opt for last year’s winner, the tall-knobbed and aggressive Challenge Limus. When conditions get slippery, snowy or loose, the Limus has become our go-to tread to both stay upright and move forward. It’s also available in an open tubular, making racing and training on the same tire easy. But for all-around tires, we were torn. We were tempted by the Team Edition and Seta versions of the Challenge Grifo tubulars, but the first wasn’t available to the public, and the second is pricey. So, the relatively affordable standard Grifo wins the day.
Shimano M520: Times are tough, and even though last year we awarded the budget-friendly Shimano M540 pedal our Editor’s Award, this year we’re downgrading to the M520. You’d be hard pressed to notice the difference between the two, and two for the price of one is always nice in our book. $55 MSRP, but often sold for much less.
Shimano Ultegra Di2: Pricey, but shifting is precise, quick and effortless, and eliminating all cable friction and contamination offers a lot of upsides when racing. It’s not our first choice for an adventure bike or for weight weenies, but it’s our favorite race-day option.
BEST AFFORDABLE DRIVETRAIN:
SRAM Apex: The Apex drivetrain offers so much of the functionality and flexibility of more pricey SRAM drivetrains, at a relatively small weight penalty. Want to build two identical race bikes on a budget? We’d reach for Apex and spend the rest on wheels & tires.
BEST HIGH-END DISC BRAKE:
Avid BB 7 SL (reviewed in Issue 20)
BEST HIGH-END CANTI:
TRP CX 8.4: It came down to the new TRP CR959 that’s a snap to set up or the TRP Mini-V. We give the nod to the 8.4 because it can solve your brake chatter. (Want high end for 2013? Check out the new TRP HY-RD.)
BEST MID-RANGE BRAKE:
Shimano CX70: The CX70 gets our nod again, and this year our choice gets validated with a National Championship (Page) and World Championship (Nys).
BEST BUDGET BRAKE:
Tektro RX 6
Can’t get enough? Check out last year’s awards: Cyclocross Magazine Editors’ Awards: 2011/2012 Season.