Cyclocross may not be one of the most widespread disciplines of cycling, but the versatility of the bikes used for it is hard to deny and difficult to ignore. The first such test subject that I got my hands on was Cube’s Cross Race Disc, a model not exactly aimed towards the performance part of this occupation, but which does well in more than one regard.
For who is this bike meant for?
More than ever, this question is 100% useful. Not a very common sight around the world, except for a few countries that worship the muddy discipline, the cyclocross bike is basicly a road bike modified for handling off-road courses, not very demanding ones, but having different obstacoles such as mud, sand and others, in harsh weather conditions. The whole phenomenon was conceived in the first half of the last century as an alternative bike sport during wintertime and autumn, for reasons ranging from a way to stay fit, to having important competitions in those cold days. To cut the long story short, a cyclocross bicycle is spec’d with mountain bike-specific brakes, cantilever or disc brakes, wider tires with knobs, has a larger clearance to prevent mud from piling up, and the frame’s geometry is designed to make the entire bike more maneuverable. The bottom line is that such a contramption has versatility written all over it, and the Cross Race Disc doesn’t differ from this at all.
Frame/On the trail
Cross Race Disc’s 7005 aluminum frame is a great choice regarding the material. In a period when most bike enthusiats dream only of carbon, the 7005 alloy offers the same performance as a mid-level carbon fibre frame, with an extra of durability. We’re not dealing with a top model in the facing review, so the specification chart doesn’t leave me in awe, but the total weight of the bike, 11,8 kilograms, shows that some grams were saved thanks to the option regarding the main component. Still, a better job wouldn’t have upset no one, because the 1,782 grams frame together with the 840 grams fork, don’t make weight their strongest point.
On the other hand, when you look at the welds and finishing touches of the frame, you won’t notice any obvious flaws, so as far as visual and functional points of view go, the Cross Race Disc is a-ok. The cable routing is neatly designed to keep mud and dust away from the mechanism, with the derailleur cables running a big part of their length through the frame, while the brake cables are completely tucked in the hoods. I must admit that the rear brake cable could have been more carefully attached to the top tube, or maybe even could have ran under it because when unmounting in cyclocross style, there’s a big chance you can get your foot tangled in it.
Despite the fact I had to ride a 56-cm model, unlike the 52-53-cm size I usually pedal on, the frame’s length is noticeably shorter, so the difference wasn’t that obvious. This is a thing commonly met at a cyclocross bike, because such a race demands a very agile and maneuverable bicycle. A shorter frame is much more easy to control, and in the same time is more comfortable because you don’t have to lean forward to grab the handlebar. And if you consider that the head tube is higher than in the case of usual road bikes, comfort is a thing that comes naturally when riding the Cross Race Disc.
Moving on to lab data, Cube’s model has a head tube stiffness of 117,2 Nm/degree and a stiffness-to-weight ratio of 65,8. As there isn’t (yet) the possibility of a head-to-head comparison, the Cross Race Disc can be put in balance with other off-road bikes, such as the Ideal Hillmaster. The cyclocross model isn’t as stiff as the mountain bike, but it’s lighter and therefore it has a better stiffness-to-weight ratio. That implies that if you’re body mass is under 90 kilos, then you can fully enjoy the perks of the model.
Cross Race Disc’s drivetrain is almost completely composed of Shimano 105 components, the only part that doesn’t belong to the groupset being the purpose-built cyclocross crankset, Shimano’s CX-50. Gear shifting ran ok, but not superbly, and I would put this on behalf of the bike being brand new. The 46/36 chainrings together with the 10 sprockets ranging from 12 to 28 teeth allows you to ride on various trails, from road ones, to off-road ones, that do not contain hills too steep. Personally, I tested the bike in a forest rich in singletrails, having roots, rocks and demanding ascents along the way, and in medium physical condition, there’s no problem conquering such obstacles.
A pair of Shimano’s CX-75 mechanical disc brakes, fitted with 160mm rotors, make sure of braking, the Japanese manufacturer claiming that this pair is designed for cyclocross strictly. I will have to admit that their performance wasn’t staggering, but I am also keeping into account that the bike hasn’t been rode a single mile before this test, so their in-running is out of the question. Despite this, the brakes managed to eventually stop the bike, and offer good braking power when pulling the levers with full force, yet they will certainly have to do better given the fact the name Shimano creates a definite level of expectations. Still, the fork and the seatstay have a space for fitting rim brakes, although I am still trying to figure out which model would be compatible in this case.
Also regarding the brakes, I want to point out the extra set of brake levers situated on the flat part of the handlebar. On rough terrain, braking whilst having your hand in the drops or around the levers isn’t always the most efficient, nor the most comfortable, because the rider tends to hold the bars from the upper side, which is flat. Therefore, placing a set of brake levers there spares you from a handful of trouble, and the whole things adds some extra points to the comfort score.
An important element of the Cross Race Disc is the wheelset, a chapter treated very carefully by the manufacturer. A pair of DT Swiss R520 double wall rims and Shimano XT hubs spec’d wheels are responsible for getting around, and by the looks of it, they seem pretty strong. The tires chosen come from a German brand as well, Schwalbe’s Rocket Ron Kevlar model being present on the wheels. With a width of 33mm, and just the right number of knobs, they reach the right balance between grip and rolling speed.
Other components that are worth mentioning are the saddle and the handlebar. The first, a Selle Italia X1 Road model, is above average, but not what I would call stunning, unlike the Easton EA30 handlebar which just felt like home for the palms of my hands, being one of the most comfortable and ergonomical I have ever used.
Cube Cross Race Disc will probably not satisfy a picky road enthusiats, and neither such a mountain rider. But I consider that many persons will find it useful given it’s average performance on the road, whether more sporty or leisure/touring riding, and it’s similar performances on off-road, on hilly trails, that would be a challenge for recreational mountain bikes.
Regarding pricing, I have mixt feelings, because the Shimano 105 groupset and a handful of other components are worth their money, but on the other hand, given the destination of the bike, it’s hard for me to figure out how you could get the best out of them. A thing’s certain when you draw the line though: for the price of the Cube Cross Race Disc you get an off-road bike, with decent performance on the road, and comfortable enough to take on a long touring/trekking ride.
Cube Cross Race Disc data
Total weight: 11.8 kg
Frame weight: 1.782 grams
Wheelset weight: 4.026 grams (tires, tubes, sprockets and quick release included)
Fork weight: 840 grams
Crankset weight: 880 grams (BB included)
Handlebar width: 435 mm
Headtube stiffness: 117,2 Nm/grad
Stiffness to weight ratio: 65,8