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Adapting a Cyclocross Bike to Go Touring

Cyclocross racing is great. With a few adaptations a cyclocross bike can do everything from road riding to touring.

Cyclocross racing is great. With a few adaptations a cyclocross bike can do everything from road riding to touring.

Cyclocross Bike for Touring

Cyclocross bikes are one of the most versatile multi-use bicycles you could possibly buy. Since the sport's inception, cyclocross has been slowly gaining in popularity as a result of an inclusive attitude and the yearning for cyclists to do something productive, yet high on the fun during the winter months.

The popularity of the sport has led to increased sales of cyclocross bikes and enhanced interest in their practicality. Many cyclocross bikes double up as commuters and tourers during summer months for savvy riders who have spotted their multi-use potential.

This guide will help educate how you can adapt a cyclocross bike for touring use. You can also use these instructions to make considerations for turning your cx racer into a load-carrying commuter bike too as the principles are very similar.

Contact points are important for touring cycling and attention needs to be paid to them for long distance riding

Contact points are important for touring cycling and attention needs to be paid to them for long distance riding

Comfort in Cycle Touring

Cyclocross racing bikes can be somewhat unforgiving in comfort terms. In their racing guise, their primary focus is going fast through mud and along trails for a relatively short period of time. This means that the bike has to be at one with the conditions.

Therefore any cycling enthusiast needs to make adaptations to improve riding comfort when on the roads. Cyclocross racing is tough on the body as a result of the precise nature of the racing bikes so a large number of adaptations need to be made to adapt for cyclocross bikes for touring.

Check Your Cyclocross Bike for Rack Eyelets

Many budget and mid range cyclocross bikes have a number of additional features to give them additional use ability despite cyclocross becoming a specialized cycle sport in it's own right. Many budget aluminium and steel frames now include fender (mudguard) and rack eyelets to enhance their usability. Examples of frame-sets which include Rack Eyelets are the Planet X Uncle John and Cannondale CAADX to increase their versatility.

Get Yourself a Pannier Rack For Touring

One of the key needs for cycle touring is the ability to be able to carry your luggage on your bike. That means the requirement for at least a rear pannier rack. Rack mounts will allow you to fit a pannier rack as featured below to take weights up to 25 kg depending on the specification and build quality of the rack for using a cyclocross bike for touring.

Unfortunately a big difference between a cyclocross bike and a touring bike can be seen in the length of the chainstays. Touring bikes feature longer chainstays than those on a cyclocross bike which forces the panniers away from the foot for enhanced heel clearance.

On a cyclocross bike, heel clearance can be an issue when using panniers. However a number of companies have made adaptations to the pannier racks as a result of this. The Tubus Logo rack has stays which push your panniers much further from your feet to eliminate heel strike.

As an alternative you could use a normal pannier rack combined with a smaller set of panniers, set back to the rear of the rack to push the panniers as far away from your heels as possible. Unfortunately this approach might not work for all, particularly those with big feet.

What Happens if My Cyclocross Frame Doesn't Have Rack Eyelets?

If your cyclocross bike for touring does not feature rack eyelets there's no need to despair. For light touring you can pick up a seat-post mounting rack system.

A seat-post mounting rack will hook around your seat-post which therefore means it will only have one contact point with the bike. This means that load-carrying capacity will be diminished. However, if you're only doing some light touring a 10 kg load capacity shouldn't be a major headache and will actually challenge you to be a more effective packer for your cycling travels.

A lighter load capacity should not be an issue for trips where you just have to travel the essentials for up to a week.

Bicycle Pannier Racks for Cyclocross Bikes With No Rack Mounts

Add Some Fenders to Protect You and Your Gear From Spray

A long running theme with touring bikes is mud-guards. Fenders are a necessity to keep both you clean and your kit away from spray off the roads.

Consider some specific touring bike fenders which will be wide enough to accommodate a wide tire.

Fenders For A Touring Bike Or Cyclocross Bike

Can You Go Touring on Cyclocross Gearing?

Running a single 39t chainring is not going to be ideal for touring. For bicycle touring you're likely to need your gearing range to go relatively low.

Many low to mid-range cyclocross bikes now spec something like 36-44 tooth chainrings or 34-42 tooth chainrings. These can give you a relatively good range of gears for touring if you're not carrying extremely heavyweights. Ideally a triple chainset with something like 22-32-42 tooth chainrings to give the low climbing gears often required for weighted touring.

Wheels For Touring on a Cyclocross Bike

Cyclocross racing wheels are pretty specific to the sport and are designed for a combination of speed and strength in relation to the demands of cx. Stock cx bike wheelsets are great for cyclocross racing and normal road riding. But the additional loads experienced and need for wider tires for touring mean that your standard stock cx wheels might not be up to the job for touring.

Realistically for touring you need to consider a heavier duty wheel set with higher spoke numbers and wider rims than traditional road and cyclocross bikes to handle wider tires.

Make sure any replacement wheels for your cyclocross bike have the correct axle width. Some cyclocross bikes and touring bikes have a rear axle spacing of 135mm which allows them to accept a mountain-bike-style bicycle hub. Traditional road bike wheel-sets feature a 130mm rear axle spacing.

Tires Are Important For Cyclocross Bike Touring

Using a cyclocross bike for touring allows for awesome tire clearance

Using a cyclocross bike for touring allows for awesome tire clearance

Cyclocross bikes offer good tire clearance for 32mm knobbly racing tires so for many frames you should have ample clearance to fit some touring specific tires and a set of mudguards.

Cyclocross tires are great when conditions are rough; however when you're on the roads for mile after mile, they squirm and waste valuable energy.

The best touring tires are related to the trips you're taking, but if you're looking for a particular tire that will do almost everything well, consider Schwalbe's Marathon Plus. The Marathon Plus is available in widths of 28mm upwards so you should easily offer ample clearance when you team them up with a set of fenders. They also feature some of the heaviest duty puncture resistant breakers available for limited issues whilst out on the road.

If you're looking for the right touring bike tires have a look at the Travelling Two Blog as they have some excellent info on touring bike tires.

Make Sure You Have a Comfortable Saddle

Touring Cyclists pride themselves on spending long days in the saddle. Therefore they need a very comfortable saddle. Cyclocross riders have comfort in mind over short distances although the saddle is not always a major priority.

Many cyclocross riders fit an older saddle to their racing bike as the regular dismounts and remounts can be hard on the saddle and they can get pretty beaten-up over the course of the racing season.

For touring, the priority is comfort, as many road riders know. There's no point planning to ride for a week straight if you've got doubts on whether you'll be able to sit on your saddle for such a long period of time.

© 2012 Liam Hallam