On with the testing:
We’ve ridden this bike a few times with normal cross tires and a couple of times with a 2.0 Specialized Fastrack tire in the front. We can attest to the versatility of this bike already but we’ll update it more as we try other tire options on it like 32c road tires and 23c racing tires.
As a cross bike, it’s one of the best we’ve tried. Acceleration and responsiveness is excellent. It climbs like a goat and gets off the line assertively. Stock gearing on our tester was a bit heavy with an 12-25 on the rear but we expect this bike to scale many walls as we get the gearing sorted for our local terrain. For racing, the 25 tooth rear is probably fine.
Comfort was definitely noticeably improved over other cross bikes we’ve tried. We’ve ridden the Surly Cross Check, Steelman Eurocross, Jamis Nova carbon bike and this X85 was more comfortable. Vibrations were dampened it had a bit of give to it.
Handling over rough stuff was improved as well as the chassis wasn’t bouncing all over the place. Better traction was maintained as the bike absorbed some of the trail chatter. Of course tire pressures have more effect on this equation but the frame seemed to contribute to the task. As far as lateral rigidity, the frame held its line well. It seemed really solid but we’d love to attack some of our paved descents to really test the handling of this frame.
We have not ridden this in muddy conditions but it seems obvious it will do well. The front fork has obscene amounts of mud clearance with a 32c tire. The rear doesn’t have quite as much but there is more room than we’ve ever seen on a cross bike. Plust the stays are shaped in such a way that it will be very difficult for mud to clog the system.
Braking on cyclocross bikes is traditionally the achilles heel of these machines. For example, my Steelman Eurocross has been through four sets of brake upgrades and it’s finally acceptable with the latest Avid Shorty brakes. The Avid BB7s disc brakes on the X85 are better than Shorty’s already. They are more powerful and consistent in all weather. Plus removing the wheel is not such a pain. But the true promise of this braking system lies in the future when I’m able to put my Magura MT8s or Formula R1s on this bike. On the front, there is none of that dreaded brake chatter under heavy braking.
There are a lot more rides coming up with this bike and we will continue to update this review. But if it proves as capable and versatile as we’ve seen in the early testing, this bike will be a break new ground.