“ Brand: Giant / Type: Cyclo X Bike „
Three months ago I purchased myself a new bicycle for commuting to work. Having my sons child seat attached to my mountain bike was making it harder to ride because of added weight. Plus I just like buying new stuff to play with and convinced myself that I absolutely needed a new bike.
I looked into every kind of different bike that is on the market today. A new mountain bike, road bikes hybrids and one day in Evans cycles one of the salesman pointed me in the direction of cyclocross bikes.
I have to admit that I hadn't heard much about cyclocross and was intrigued. Needless to say I made my decision and it was a cyclocross bike I would be buying. For my route to work this kind of bike was the perfect combination for terrain I would be travelling on.
WHAT IS CYCLOCROSS?
Cyclocross in general isn't commuting or going for a joy ride. It refers to a form of racing that takes place in Autumn and Winter when conditions get a bit muddy and wet. They are bikes designed for use as a cross between road cycling and off roading.
A cyclocross bicycle will look similar to any other road bike and I have to be honest they did to me until it was explained just what they were by the Evans salesman.
The two main differences between road bikes and cyclocross bikes are that firstly a cyclocross tyre's have knobbly bit on whereas a road bike has slick, smooth tyres. Also above the wheels there is more clearance between the wheel and the frame on a cyclocross bike.
Both of these design features are to allow a cyclocross bike to be used off road and generally take a little more abuse than a road bike would. The tyres are knobbly to help the wheels grip onto mud and dirt trails and the clearance between wheel and frame allows for the mud and dirt that builds up on the frame to do so without interfering with the wheel. Or the gap can allow for mud guards to be fitted.
My commute to work is a combination of tarmac roads and paths and trails through farmland and some pretty uneven roads that do not get any attention due to being of the beaten track. For this reason I chose to get myself a cyclocross bike. Now all I had to do was choose which one.
After a lot of research and deliberation I decided on buying the 2013 Giant TCX3. I used the experience of two avid cyclists that I work with mostly a website called bike radar that specialize in cycling and especially reviewing all different bikes.
I should also mention that having had my Giant mountain bike for going on four years and hardly having to maintain it I knew that Giant were a good, reliable brand.
Another selling point of the TCX3 was the price. Priced at £699.99 it is relatively cheap for a cyclocross bike (believe it or not). With cyclocross bikes higher end priced bikes are really for people who are going to be using them to race or mainly for some hardcore off roading but as I understand it the lower the price the more it is aimed towards commuters and pleasure riders.
One website describes the TCX3 as "Commute to work in the week and begin your Cyclocross career at the weekend. The Giant TCX 3 is a diverse and dependable beast that will be as at home on the tarmac as tearing up the local trails." I think this description sums it up perfectly.
The first time I actually viewed the bike in a shop was the day I bought it. I had actually set my sights on a specialized bike I had seen in Evans cycles but decided to take a trip to another shop, Ken Foster's cycle logic in Chorlton, Manchester. Ken Foster's are actually a selling agent for Giant bikes so I decided to see what they had in stock before committing to buying.
This is where I came across the TCX3 and fell in love with it straight away. The bike I bought was the display model. There was no more in stock and I wanted it there and then. As it was ex-display the salesman offered it me for £600. As it was the right frame size for me and had no visible marks on the frame I said thank you very much, paid and was soon on my way home giddy like a kid on Christmas morning whilst my girlfriend looked on perplexed trying to fathom just what was so exciting about buying a bike.
It was just how good the bike looked on first impression that pretty much sold it to me. The shiny silver frame with black Giant decals along the frame looked classy and the black handlebars, seat, seat post and wheel rims made it look tough. I immediately got the impression that this bike would be more than adequate to sustain the low level abuse I had planned for it.
The main feature on the bike that impressed me was the double brake system the TCX3 has. Most cyclocross bikes have the brake levers at the front of the curved handles but the TCX3 also has two normal brake levers on the straight part of the handlebars. This means that you can ride the TCX3 like you would a road bike or in a race, crouched down for aerodynamics or you can sit in a more upright position and ride as you would with any other straight handlebar bike.
Compared to my mountain bike the TCX3 weighed a lot less. Weight can make quite a difference so I was impressed with how little it weighed. The frame is manufactured using Giants, Aluxx technology which means that their frames are built to be Lightweight framesets featuring optimized strength-to-weight ratios. As light as it was I felt as though the frame and front forks were strong.
Other features on the TCX3 are that it has less gears than mountain or road bikes. My mountain bike has twenty seven gears whereas the TCX3 only has sixteen. I have actually enjoyed having less gears. The ratio on the gears is perfect and less gears means it is easier to find the right gear to ride in rather than shuffling up and down through the cogs. Sometimes less is more and I find it had made the TCX3 easier and more enjoyable to ride.
The crankset is the FSA Omega (34/50) crankset with press-fit bottom bracket and the front and back Derailleurs and gear shifters are the shimano 2300 gear set. I have always found shimano gear sets to be highly reliable and one of the best brands around when it comes to cycling so I was more than happy with the gear set.
The gear shifters were very new to me. I am used to have shifter under the handle bars that you used your thumbs to shift gears. The shifters on the TXC3 are different. There is one lever that sticks out sideways for shifting with your thumbs and the gears are changed in the other direction by using the front brake levers that double up as gears. Something I was very impressed with even if it did take a little getting used to.
The handlebar, stem, seat post and saddle are all Giants own sports and performance components. Made from lightweight alloy to add little weight to the overall bike weight. All coloured black.
One of the features that differ from a higher priced cyclocross bike is that the brakes are good old fashioned cantilever brakes. Higher priced bikes will more than likely come with hydraulic disc brakes like most modern mountain bikes now have as standard.
I would of liked a bike with disc brakes but the cantilever brakes aren't to detrimental to the riding experience. A couple of issues I do have with them is that when wet they screech when you apply them and the wheel judders as the rubber tries to grip the metal rim. They also take the colour off your wheel rims. Mine have taken the black off and my rims now show the silver alloy underneath the paint.
The wheel rims are the Giant S-R2. I don't know any technical details about what they are made from or just how tough they are supposed to be. What I do know is that on more than one occasion I have hit pot holes quite hard and the rims have stood up to the impact well. My front wheel took an especially hard knock when I had to go up a high kerb after a car didn't see me and I took emergency action. I initially thought the impact would at least of buckled my wheel but it looks fine.
My rear wheel does however seem to be slightly buckled and will need to be trued (straightened) when I put my bike in for the free service I got as part of buying the bike. I suspect this buckle happened when I got a puncture riding to work and had to carry on riding on the rim because I had nowhere safe to stop. With all the weight on the back wheel you have to expect some damage. Having said that it is hardly noticeable and doesn't affect the way the bike rides.
The tyres are the Giant P-RX2 700x32c w/ Deflect Anti-Puncture. The walls of the tyre are built to deflect any debris off the tyres. These didn't deflect the large metal pin that punctured my tyre and I had to walk two miles home. I tried to repair the puncture at the side of the road but it had gone straight through the other side of the inner tube meaning I needed to buy a new one.
It was a rather large piece of metal that punctured the tyre and I guess they can't deflect everything. It is the only puncture I have had up to now and I was worried that due to the size of the puncture I would also need a new tyre but up to now that hasn't been the case so they must have some strength to them.
A SMOOTH RIDE?
I was riding a mountain bike with slick tyres for use on roads, yet I was still finding it difficult to get to work and on average it was taking me around thirty eight to forty minutes to get to work.
Using the TCX3 I have knocked around five minutes of that time. It is far easier to ride than my mountain bike and a lot less work for the legs. I feel as if it has vastly improved my riding. My average speeds are quicker and at weekends I can go out and cover longer distances without killing myself.
At first it was difficult to get used to riding a far lighter bike than what I was used to. Especially in the wind. Sometimes the wind would hit you and you have to use your body weight to compensate when you shift to the side but once you get used to the weight of the bike you don't notice and controlling the bike becomes second nature.
Another difficulty the bike has is going around corners at speed. The forks don't turn that quickly and at first I ended up having to take a lot of corners wide. On my rides I don't take to busy roads so it isn't so much of a problem but if the road is busy you have to slow down considerably to make sure you don't swing out into the road and in front of an unsuspecting driver.
My general opinion is that I have really enjoyed my rides on the TCX3 whether they have been commutes to work or joyrides, just me and the road. The fact that it takes less effort to ride than my mountain bike makes it easily more enjoyable to ride. I used to find it laborious riding to work on my mountain bike but now I sometimes go to bed and can't wait to get going in the morning. Coming home is sometimes different but then I have been on my feet most of the day before riding home.
I have taken on quite a few different terrains and find that no matter where I'm riding the effort never changes. It's a simple matter of getting from A to B. On my mountain bike it was sometimes difficult to ride on grass and stone and would make my legs get tired very quickly compared to how I am riding now.
I don't think that I will be entering myself into any cyclocross racing. I honestly think that it is aimed more at the commuter market rather than the racing community and as I do a lot of riding on the road this makes it perfect for me and I am very glad I chose to buy this model.
The final advantage of buying a cyclocross bike is that if I ever decide that I just want to stick to road riding I can simply buy some road tyres (slicks) and I have myself a road bike.
I fully expect that this bike will last me for quite a long time to come as long as regularly have it serviced at the recommended every six months. I haven't had any problems apart from the puncture and slight buckle to the back wheel both of which are easily rectified. Up to now I have rode 412.1 miles without much incident and have enjoyed every single mile. Cyclocross is definitely fun.