Eastway CX 1

I was about ten minutes into the ride when I first thought about packing it all in and turning around. This was around the time I had my third out-of-control experience, when I had to let the bike take me through the half-a-foot-deep mud, because I was unable to steer, into a freshly planted field. This is where it stopped abruptly and ejected me like a wayward bullock would rid itself of a cowboy. I wouldn’t have been quite as bothered if the dog walkers weren’t there. They had witnessed the first crash as I tried to pass them, and the second, when I attempted a different path on the opposite side of some bushes which resulted in a low-speed face plant into bramble. Now, as I picked myself up from the field and tried to set off, I had a dog walker running alongside me shouting encouragement and offering medical assistance. At least it encouraged me to stay upright.

It should be said at this point that I am not blaming the bike for this fiasco. In fact there is nothing I would rather have been riding than the Eastway CX1 because at least it looks good. I blame mother nature, frankly, for dumping so much rain down over the past few months that even a couple of dry weeks had done nothing to drain out the ground. The field upon the edge of which I was riding was quite simply a quagmire - a Land Rover would have struggled to keep a straight line.

I had initially planned to give the CX1 a good thrashing in a proper cyclocross race but the season ended so I decided on the next best thing - Hadleigh Castle Country Park in Essex. Scene of much mountain bike action during the Olympics, the legacy of which was a whole network of purpose-built tracks threading through the woods, dry and lumpy. Ideal for a cyclocross bike, with its knobbly tyres and construction unhindered by complicated suspension. The trouble was, I had to negotiate the field to get to it.

This was second stage of the CX1’s trial. We’d been on the road together on a couple of decent-length rides, even managing to hold the pace of the group, albeit requiring a little more effort than usual due to those off-road tyres and the higher cross-specific gearing. The bike had received many an admiring glance, thanks to its standout turquoise and black colourway and the super effective disc brakes that I had heard so many horror stories about did an amicable job in not causing a pileup. In fact, road riding was quite pleasurable. If I had changed out the tyres it would have been a delight.

We made it to the other end of the field without much further incident, but also with zero velocity. So I had to shoulder the CX1 and sprint, like a proper cyclocrosser, up the 250ft hill to Hadleigh Castle. This allowed me to appreciate the flattened-out top tube and the routing of the brake cable above it. It also helped me to realise that a carbon cross-bike was more than a Flash Harry statement. With its added heft and about a ton of mud clinging to it, this was never going to compare to a road machine in terms of weight, but it was certainly light enough to carry up a hill.

And then I was off, dropping down over more sodden fields and through deceptively green and solid looking cow pat-pocked landscape. There was a stye with what turned out be about a foot of liquid mud around it. That was the second time I almost went home. The only thing that stopped me was the sight, on the other side, of the very track that had been built as part of the Olympic ‘legacy.’ The grey shingle proved more of a draw than the yellow brick road did to Dorothy.

On that track, as I headed towards the kissing gate, I was reminded how cross bikes make great trail bikes. Seriously, if you’re torn between a hybrid and a road bike, a cross bike provides the perfect solution. You have the added strength and clearance to deal with the muddy tracks, and the race-leaning geometry for the road. It really is the best of both worlds.

In the cross bike sector, the CX 1 is positioned among the big boys, thanks largely to its carbon frame and forks. This has been strengthened to accommodate the extra stresses which disc brakes put on it, resulting in a hefty looking beast which is more than capable of taking a bit of hard work. The gears are mid-range Sram Rival - a brand necessitated by the Avid brakes. You can’t have one without the other. Both worked admirably, even when caked in thick mud. The clips that secure the cables to the frame, however, did not. They have a habit of pinging off, to be lost forever. Cable ties facilitate a suitable, if less attractive, replacement.

Finishing kit is all own-brand, which on a bike at this price point does beg the question of which manufacturer is actually behind it. This fact remains a mystery, although parts all appear to be perfectly adequate - the own-brand handlebars offer a typically cross-friendly shallow drop and with the soft Eastway tape, a comfortable grip. For true racing and to save a bit of weight a serious cyclo-cross rider would consider changing out the alloy finishing kit for carbon, perhaps. This would not be such an easy job with the own-brand wheels. Changing out wheels with disc brakes is a far more complicated task than with rim brakes and options are strictly limited.

So you’re going to have to get used to your CX 1 as it is, which is not half bad. This is a great bike. It is comfortable, responsive and capable of taking you over many surfaces in most conditions. What’s more, it looks stunning. I think I found its limits in calf-deep mud, but not much would have got through that.

I’m pleased I persevered.

Summary: Stunning looks and carbon construction put it in the first division of cyclocross bikes, with handling and comfort to match. Own-brand finishing kit will raise eyebrows and disc brakes limit wheel options but as it comes this is the perfect all-rounder even if you don’t want to race.


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Graham Hutson