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  • Wear a helmet. Despite recent advances in medical science, brains still cannot be mended nor replaced.
  • Wear gloves or mitts. Hands often hit the ground first. Cuts and grazes invite infection and a hospital visit.
  • Wear eye protection, it only takes a twig or thorn to lose an eye. Crud catchers are a good idea in mucky weather.
  • When downhilling, for your own protection, allow plenty of space behind the rider in front.
  • Bring a bare minimum emergency tool kit and a spare inner tube.
  • Breakdowns are a bore. Plan not to have any by ensuring your bike is in perfect working order.
  • Punctures are also tedious. You can minimise them by fitting latex tubes, slime tubes or running tubeless tyres.

Photo: CAMMTB Winter 2022-23 rides have been posted up - please click on the Runs List link..

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Are CX Bikes good enough for riding off-road in Cambs?

Hi Folks,

After getting a bit bored with the road cycling and traffic round here, I'm looking to venture into some off-road fun around Cambridge and would like your opinion on a bike to get to do this.

I was initially thinking of 29er hardtail but have been wondering whether a Cross bike or Monster Cross / Gravel bike would do the trick? The latter have clearance for tyres up to around 1.75", rims that can take 29er tyres, disc brakes, no suspension forks but some have 'rigid' carbon forks for off-road, like the Niner CX bikes.

As i don't have a bike to check out the terrain, it's a 'bit chicken and egg' to know what bike to get before discovering what the riding's like. I live in the North villages where there are quite a lot of byways and bridleways to ride on but I don't know if these get claggy in winter and whether suspension forks would be better in general.

Any feedback welcome!


Re: Are CX Bikes good enough for riding off-road in Cambs?

Some of us do have CX bikes. I think general consensus is ideal bike is hardtail 29er. MikeT and others may be on shortly to advise how they are (CX) in the winter when things are muddy, not sure they are ideal for only off road bike. Suspension forks not needed though.

Re: Are CX Bikes good enough for riding off-road in Cambs?

Thanks Claire. My thinking is that cross bikes are quite versatile when fitted with different tyres and allow for quicker tarmac 'transfers' between off-road sections. In any case, today's cross bikes are not dissimilar in concept to the MTB's of 20 years ago with rigid forks and skinny tubing - but probably the experience on those bikes wasn't as good?

Any other feedback really welcome!


Re: Are CX Bikes good enough for riding off-road in Cambs?

Hi Ian,

CX bikes are great fun around Cambridge, there are a few sections around which are very bumpy (frequented by horses or tractors) and it's easier to fall into a rut but there is nothing off-road around here that isn't rideable on them - I like my cross bike because it (a) is easier on the road and faster through the non-technical sections (i.e. everywhere around Cambridge), and (b) turns the bridleways into a challenge, you have to be constantly switched on when riding (you're right, it's like old-school early nineties mtbing but with better perfoming kit) Also, Thetford forest is perfectly fine on a cross bike, although probably a bit more fun on an MTB.

I didn't ride my cross bike much last winter, so I don't know how it deals with the deep clayey mud that develops in a lot of the areas around here - the skinny tyres might just cut through it, but I suspect it would still get stuck and the gearing might be a bit too high and the maneuverability a bit too cumbersome to get out again...

In response to a few of your other comments: the North villages are clag central, and all the best routes are south; suspension forks won't help in the mud and aren't needed in the dry. I agree with Claire, if you just want to ride Cambridgeshire then a hard-tail 29er is best but CX is fine, but if you want to go to Wales/Scotland/Peaks/etc. then you might want to make a different choice

Re: Are CX Bikes good enough for riding off-road in Cambs?

Thanks very much for the reply , Mike. I'm still unsure what to do but it sounds like a hardtail 29er might be the best bet for a bike that can handle all the conditions round here, through all the seasons. At the moment some of the tracks I've looked at from a distance seem fairly dry and smooth but I think that's likely to change come winter time. I just don't want to buy a new steed and find I should have got the other one! Perhaps I'll end up with both a CX and MTB at some point anyway - you can never have too many bikes!


Re: Are CX Bikes good enough for riding off-road in Cambs?

It's a tricky one, I think you need at least 2 new bikes.

It's all well and good having a 29er hardtail and a CX bike but what if you want to go downhilling in the alps

Re: Are CX Bikes good enough for riding off-road in Cambs?

You need a single speed for the mud too!

Re: Are CX Bikes good enough for riding off-road in Cambs?

I'm riding a 29er hardtail, plus a spare set of wheels fitted with touring tyres so I can swap over easily for tarmac/concrete riding.

Last winter it was like treacle at times and there are also few surprisingly steep and loose hills hidden away out there.

You can live without suspension, but I do like the air fork smoothness.

I'd recommend getting a lightweight 29er with xc angles.

Re: Are CX Bikes good enough for riding off-road in Cambs?

Thanks for the comments, Christof, it's looking like the hardtail 29er is the more likely purchase! Probably a carbon Grand Canyon of sorts.