Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative describes the Revolution Cross2 as “inspired by cyclo-cross bikes, a drop bar road bike but with extra clearance for wider tyres”.
I’m inclined to agree and would say it’s a characterful hack; a rugged daily driver with enough gears for long commutes, weekend touring, trailer tugging. Big clearances will entertain 35mm spiked rubber for grinding through winters’ worst and despite the relatively low bottom bracket; it’s surprisingly capable along moderate trails too...
The Cross 2’s frameset is an interesting hybrid with some definite cross DNA but with a less twitchy persona, closer in temperament to a traditional tourer. We’re talking 70 degree head, 72 degree seat tube, 41 inch wheelbase and 10.5 inch bottom bracket height. There’s sufficient room for 35mm tyres and full length guards - 38mm if you’re looking to retain its off road potential, or plan on riding through winter’s worst.
I found our 55cm tester absolutely bang on for my own 181cm frame - ample clearance between crotch and top tube, though with comfortable reach, which is unusual for me, since I’m proportionally much shorter in the torso.
7075 “Strongman” double butted main tubes keep pricing and weight competitive. As we’ve come to expect from the Far East, even at this end of the market, TIG welding is exceptionally neat throughout, there’s a replaceable mech hanger, gusseting where head and down tubes meet and a lifetime warrantee (to the original owner) is a definite plus.
The subtle “snake stay” rear triangle and disc only brakes continues this theme - there’s sufficient space for 42mm slicks but only just. These Maxxis Roamer were literally tickling the chainstay bridge - way too close for comfort! If you were looking toward spikes for winters’ worst, something like Kenda’s 35mm Klondike are the most practical option.
Given it’s off road pretentions, I was slightly disappointed by the rear facing seat collar, meaning water and ingress thrown up by the back wheel can enter the frame. By the same token, this problem is easily solved by making a boot made from off cuts of scrap inner tube and slipping it over the top - remembering to keep the post lightly greased. Oh and the factory has reamed the seat tube perfectly too, so little chance of scratching a nicer model, should you fancy an upgrade somewhere along the line.
Ovalised top and down tubes, are clear nods to purebred ‘cross builds and the single bottle mount follows the genre’s traditional narrative. These days - most “adventure” type machines sport two, sometimes three but there are lots of inexpensive adaptors should you fancy adding extra cages.
Four point carrier fixings are another welcome touch for a workhorse, extending its horizons to commuting, or even weekend touring. There’s adequate heel clearance for 20 litre panniers and size 9 feet, although I’d be more inclined toward two 15litre panniers and a rack bag. The hi-tensile fork was a little disappointing-I would’ve preferred basic Cro-moly blades. However, it’s well executed and does the job.
The bang on trend, matt black finish is well executed and. by budget bike standards, very tough, resisting stone chips and other generic scratching better than I’d expected.
That said, I’d protect the top tube under some old inner tube and add cable cuffs or electrical tape where control cables touch - there were some obvious signs of abrasion after a few weeks’ mixed terrain service.
These are a solid, dependable pairing in line with the Cross 2’s design brief. Strongman rims continue the in house narrative, which keeps pricing competitive and quality control high. In this instance, we are talking double wall, shallow section; disc specific models with CNC machined sidewalls and single eyelets.
These are laced two cross via stainless steel spokes to, six bolt Formula hubs. I was expecting these to be of the press-fitted at the factory sealed type, which require minimal maintenance but are bin fodder once they finally get the grumbles. However, I was pleased to discover they are a simple cup and cone unit with rudimentary seals.
Aside from the freehub’s audible clicking when coasting-much louder than basic Shimano M475 or Alivio; they feel surprisingly refined and so far, unaffected by flooded coastal causeways, muddy trails and spirited bridle path antics. Strip and re-grease at least annually and they should prove reliable.
Colour coordinated security T30 skewers are another practical touch. True, punctures and other roadside mechanicals take a bit longer and they’re no deterrent to serious thieves who will often carry a multi-tool for locusting parts. That said; perfect for those situations where you’ve only one lock and need to nip into the supermarket for a few bits 'n’ bobs.
Tyres are another area where manufacturers save pennies. The Kenda fitted here are similarly basic dual purpose trekking types with puncture repelling belts. Dual purpose treads enjoy an unenviable reputation but run at their 70psi maximum; they’ve proven reasonably capable. A bit sluggish, dare I say harsh over asphalt but there’s no hint of squirm when cornering hard, or spiteful tendencies doing at 30mph plus along 1in 7 with trailer en tow.
As a package they complement each other surprisingly well and have taken everything in their stride. There was a slight bit of play in the front hoop, though judging by the box, the parcel sorters had been doing their worst and there wasn’t any further loss of truth.
Some riders are just harder on their bikes than others but regular detours through badly churned bridle path, forest trails at full pelt, the inevitable encounters with potholes, glass and other nasties suggests they’re a robust and generally capable package. Personally, I’d be inclined to swap the Kenda for something better - the Maxxis Roamer 700x42s I fitted (note that these were not the original tyres) tickled the stays, but 38mm slicks or Vitoria Randonneur trail would be my choices straight off the bat.
Tektro Sypre are probably the biggest highlight of the build spec and without a doubt, the best mechanical system I have used to date; some have questioned their fitment to a workhorse, especially one that could spend several hours tethered to street furniture. I’ll accept the Spyre could attract unwelcome attention but they’re otherwise perfect for confident all-weather riding - especially when heavily laden, or indulging in some forest fun.
Designed to work with any cable operated road lever, uniquely they run two pistons, meaning both pads strike the 160mm disc rotors equally. Consistent component wear aside, this doesn’t translate into more power, or greater mud clearance but means pad adjustment-especially in wet, gritty conditions is simple and tool free. Tweak its barrel or inline cable adjuster. Roadside cable replacements are equally straightforward.
Drawing comparisons with my ‘cross inspired fixer’s Cane Creek/BB7 combination; the Revolution bog standard cables and Claris grifters, the spyre still trumps the Avid in most respects.
Aside from some initial drag from the rear and following wheel removal, I’ve had no reason to touch them. No sponginess, just smooth, progressive stopping in all contexts, whether hurtling along a 1in 4 with BOB Yak and week’s shopping behind, or belting through boggy bridle path.
They’ve spared my blushes when snaking through slow moving-stop-start town centre traffic and/or needing to change course to avoid a rim wrecking hole at the last second. Screaming along 1 in 4s at 35mph and engaging the brakes for half a mile didn’t induce any fade. Some annoying squeal set in after two hundred miles but easily cured by cleaning the rotors.
Pared to the essentials, I’ve been able to lock the front wheel, raising the rear several inches off the ground but there’s plenty of warning beforehand and only the most inexperienced run the remotest risk of spitting themselves off. Sleeker design not only scores highly looks-wise, it also helps with carrier fitting and large panniers.
90 kilo riders carting similar loads might find some limitations and I’d probably upgrade to compressionless cables once the OEM set were past their prime. We are talking preference, not necessity.
This is primarily Shimano’s Claris, although to keep within budget, they’ve gone for a SR Sun tour XCE square taper triple crankset with 28/38/48 steel rings. This adds to the overall heft, black arms will tire faster than silver or polished fare but the powder coated finish seems hardy and capable of taking wet, salty roads in its stride.
Square tapers are pretty old fashioned and lack the rigidity of external systems but perfectly serviceable and what I’ve come to expect from this end of the market. The same applies to its cartridge bottom bracket, which I’d be inclined to run into the ground over a season or two before upgrading to a UN55. I would change the 13mm bolts for 8mm Allen key type, since the latter are commonly found on pocket tools.
Shimano’s Claris group is one below their venerable Sora and a popular sight on road biased builds at the £500 price point. The grey painted finish looks classy, seems hard wearing and adds some welcome contrast to the stealth black. Better still, its dirt cheap to replace following a spill, or when obviously worn.
Grifters follow the same dual control integrated brake and gear system, where the brake lever is also the gear lever - just like its loftier siblings. As you’d expect, shifts are noticeably clunkier than Tiagra or 105, especially up front, although slick enough and unproblematic for general riding.
Held inboard the rear will drop several sprockets, which is brilliant for unexpected changes of pace, or inclines-its not fazed under load either, which made all the difference when tackling some particularly churned section of bridleway.
For general cruising, bombing and winching the eight-speed system isn’t obviously disadvantaged and the cassette less prone to clogging with grot off road. However, while the knee friendly 12-32 spread is undeniably helpful when heavily laden, bigger jumps between the gears can be a bit frustrating when keeping pace with other riders in changeable terrain.
Bigger jumps also put the rear mech under considerable strain, so its performance is all the more impressive. Still, I’d be inclined to get my money’s worth from the cassette and KMC chain and then substitute them for something more fitting.
The front is still very reliable, although requires a bit more patience and concerted effort, especially moving from the 28-48 tooth ring. Aside from being slightly clunky and pedestrian, it’s a consideration for riders with small hands, or when digits turn numb on long, midwinter rides. That said; even under provocation, I’ve never persuaded either to over-shift, or otherwise misbehave.
Kalloy rules the roost here. Some would call this low-rent, I would say unglamorous but very functional and given the design brief, exactly what’s called for. I’m broad across the shoulders-more so than my stature would imply, so tend to plump for 44-46 bars, especially on a ‘cross derivative. However, while lacking the outright control of the wider, flared type off road, on the hoods, they still kept everything in check at 18-20mph.
Control while trailer tugging was good, rather than great but during long, steady rides, the tapered drops allow easy shelter from wind blast-something I really appreciated when negotiating moral-sapping headwinds.
The Velo gel type wrap lacks the outright damping prowess of pure silicone and more sophisticated types but still absorbs fatigue and offers excellent purchase in all conditions. It does an excellent job of hiding the grime too, though organic muck is easily dismissed with a blast of bike wash and medium stiff brush. Expandable wedge plugs are another nice touch.
This is held in place by a functional four bolt Kalloy stem. Rigidity to both components is more than adequate for general riding and despite my best efforts, no trace of blancmange tendencies. As length goes, 110mm is about right, although 100 would’ve been ideal and might’ve made the steering fractionally sharper-not that it’s remotely barge-like.
The functional, black theme continues with the 350mm single bolt Kalloy post. Solid and reasonably well finished, it holds the saddle up without any fuss, creaks or fear of fatigue. These also tolerate post mounted hitches/similar duties better than exotica. If you’re going this route, bind some old inner tube where the hitch makes contact.
Talking of which, saddle comfort is deeply subjective but the DDK saddle with its broader, 148mm base is a good choice for more upright builds since it offers more support. However, I found the additional girth and softer padding uncomfortable after thirty odd miles, so swapped it for another 148mm model in my spares drawer. Otherwise, the faux leather cover seems pretty hardy and a good starting point for newbies.
Aside from some initial bedding in, the unbranded steel headset turns smoothly enough and I’d only bother upgrading once the bearings cashed in their chips. Ditto the cartridge bearing bottom bracket. Shimano’s UN55 remains a popular and inexpensive aftermarket choice, one that I’ve known to hit 8,000 miles plus, even in harsh conditions.
The pedals are another thing I’d upgrade from the get-go, I plucked these fetching Ritchey homages from the spares draw but hybrid SPD/platform models are the most versatile choices-perfect for running errands, or commuting short distances in regular street shoes.
The whole package translates into a surprisingly rewarding and relatively comfortable ride. Lacking the outright zing of a sportier adventure/ ‘cross build, enthused out of the saddle climbing doesn’t deliver the same ear to ear grin and keeping up with riding companions on pure bred cross/adventure bikes demanded a bit more effort, due in part to the jumps in gearing.
That said; the ride is a lot more engaging than its 13 kilos would suggest and has several advantages in the broader scheme of things. Getting things up to speed doesn’t require much effort and like a tourer, it cruises beautifully at around the 20mph mark - laden or otherwise. Switching to lighter, 42mm slicks certainly perked things up a bit, although still lacks a ‘crosser’s sparkle.
Budget aluminium frames once enjoyed a reputation for harsh, unforgiving rides, especially off road but falling prices mean double butted tubing is commonplace and the Cross 2’s proved surprisingly compliant in all contexts. As I commented earlier, the Hi-tensile fork helps but feels a little dead compared with more basic Cro-moly and adds to the overall weight.
The more even temperament is also very welcome on longer club/day rides, steering sits just the right side of neutral, predictable and forgiving on the one hand. Its still quick enough to sweep you around potholes, tree roots, opening car doors and other unexpected hazards - on those occasions where grabbing a handful of lever isn’t an option.
Replacing the OEM stem for a comparable (i.e. 7 degree rise) 90mm unit improved matters, without resulting in a twitchy or skittish front end. While I never felt unduly stretched by the stock model and relative to frame size, Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative has it bang on; this swap proved a breakthrough for me personally.
Tall enough to get a decent view of conditions ahead, you’re not going to get held back by fierce headwinds either. While not an obvious talking point, the 42cm drops have a subtle inward taper, which is surprisingly helpful when hunkering low for shelter.
This sort of width offers reasonable traffic jamming prowess, without adversely affecting leverage when hauling 20kilos of shopping home. Probably the biggest surprise was how competently the stock package performs along dirt/fire roads, dry forest trails and bridle path.
Dual purpose tyres, especially lower rent examples have an unenviable reputation but the tread bit very convincingly into loose, dry soil, delivering decent traction, while the 35mm sections offered some welcome cushioning from lumps bumps and the occasional hole.
Off road, it’s that bit more rewarding to ride, those superlative brakes and bigger ratios are on hand to save the day, whether a monk jack deer has leapt into your path, or an incline proved steeper than first thought... 20-25mph and an ear to ear grin for eight miles or so, until I discovered I’d accidentally taken a detour into someone’s back garden!
Having smiled a lot and professed my innocence, I dropped a gear or two and headed back-grin replacing grimace. For this reason, the odd taste of ‘beginner’s cross is well within its capabilities, although despite the top tube profile, shouldering wasn’t particularly comfortable.
Moving the brake cable guides would certainly help. The additional weight is another, noticeable disadvantage and serve to reaffirm this is a ‘cross inspired road bike, not an entry level ‘crosser.
Unless you are tackling a ridiculously dry course, upgrade the tyres too. Wet weather sees the OEM Kenda become slicks very quickly. I had the odd heart-in-mouth moment round town, such as clipping a manhole cover, but portly slicks made a world of difference.
Screaming down those 1in7s, I couldn’t cajole any bad; or unpredictable characteristics and those brakes inspire even more confidence-especially in emergency. On one mission, I was following the bend, when a heavily pregnant woman stepped out from a traffic island; leaving me with seconds to spare. Hauling home the front lever; then steadying the plot by gently applying the rear kept us all upright and a metre from casualty.
Verdict 4.5/5 stars
Brakes aside, on paper the Cross 2 isn’t going to have pulses racing, nor could it be described as an entry level ‘cross bike in the proper sense. At £399, the complete package is phenomenally good value - a mere 90 odd quid more than Shimano’s entire Claris groupset. It’s really well thought out and as a whole, translates into a bike that, with minor tweaks can commute; weekend tour and tackle some moderate trail surprisingly well.
Most of the money has been wisely invested in the frame, brakes and Claris components. At pound shy of £400, there’s some scope for upgrading - those wanting a sportier flavour could go for a budget carbon fork, upgrade the tyres and plug in some bargain basement SPDs. Others seeking a four seasons’ workhorse could forgo the flashier fork and add full length guards and a rack. Otherwise, beyond upgrading the headset, bottom bracket, chain, cassette and other consumables, I’d keep things stock, replacing the Claris components like for like when they eventually turn vague and sloppy.
Those strictly seeking a pure, back to basics hack are perhaps better served by its less glamorous Cross 0 and Cross 1 siblings. Disc brakes, especially that of the Spyre’s calibre are extremely desirable, thus likely to attract thieves like flies to dog poop.
Pros: Capable road biased working bike that represents phenomenal value. Amazing brakes, reliable components and finishing kit.
Cons: Hi-tensile fork a little dead compared with budget cro-moly blades.
PUBLISHED AUGUST 2016