Every year it’s the same story. As fall rolls around, riders bubble over with excitement that #crossiscoming. But when it’s finally here, it helps if you have your bike dialed in and ready to go. For me, a cyclocross bike is not something that I will use year ’round. You totally could use it all year for gravel and commuting missions, but I think it’s fair to assume that a lot of cyclocross bikes spend at least half of the year hung from the rafters collecting dust.
That made me wonder – what’s the cheapest way to get into a cyclocross bike while still getting a race worthy CX machine that won’t let you down on the weekend? We’ve reviewed a lot of carbon CX race machines, but for the most part they’ve all had fairly steep price tags. Which led me to question – what’s out there for less than two grand? Less than $1,500?
Meet the Framed Course Carbon. On paper, it’s almost everything you’d want from CX race bike. A full “high modulus” carbon frame with a matching full carbon fork complete with tapered 1 1/8 – 1.5″ steerer tube. Thru axles at both ends (100 x 15mm and 142 x 12mm). Disc brakes. A 1x drivetrain. It seems that the Course is a steal – which is exactly why I wanted to ride it.
Starting with the frame, the Course Carbon is shapely with slender stays and a flat-ish top tube that offers plenty of mud clearance around the stock 700c x 33mm Maxxis Mud Wrestler tires. Running internal cable routing through the frame and the fork, the frame openings have bolt on cable guides to prevent rattling and guide the housings through the tubes.
Shipped as a 1x (also available as 2x), the Course still has the ability to run a front derailleur with a braze on mount plus an opening for a bottom pull front derailleur cable in front of the rear wheel. A BB386 EVO bottom bracket offers a wide stance from the chainstays for improved power transfer and room for more mud clearance. And even though this is a race frame, twin bottle cage mounts inside the front triangle should help for those long training days.
Post mount disc brakes are found at both ends, with a 160mm rotor up front and 140mm out back. To keep the costs down, mechanical SRAM BB7 Road calipers are used which mate up with a mechanical SRAM Rival 11 speed group with a dedicated 1x front brake lever.
Rounding out the drivetrain, you’ll find a SRAM Rival 1x rear derailleur moving the KMC 11 speed chain up and down the SRAM NX 11-42 cassette, while an FSA Gossamer Cross 386 EVO crank with a 44t Megatooth chainring keeps things in check up front. Normally, I’d feel that 44t would be too big for my ‘cross needs, but with the 11-42 cassette it seems to work pretty well (if you’re ok with big gear steps).
The cockpit is mostly Framed in-house parts with their Cross aluminum compact drop bar, aluminum 100mm +6° stem, a carbon set back seat post, and a Selle Italia X1 Flow saddle. FSA bar tape completes the front, but for me this had to go almost immediately – it was just too hard. Replacing the tape also allowed me to reroute the shift cable which was positioned so that it rested under your palm while on the hoods instead of in front of the bar.
Completing the stock build are wheels built with Alex Draw 2.1 32h aluminum rims, 2.0 stainless spokes with brass nipples, and Framed sealed bearing Pub Hubs. Shipped with tubes and non-tubeless Maxxis Mud Wrestler tires, this is really the only downer about the spec. But it’s one of the reasons the price is so low.
Which gives you budget to upgrade – to something like the Framed Pub Carbon cross/gravel wheels. Hand built in the Framed US headquarters, the Pub carbon wheels feature a 31mm deep, tubeless ready rim profile that measures 21mm internal with a slight bead hook.
Using an asymmetric profile, the rims have a flat section for the spoke bed and for the tubeless valve (which wasn’t included, so I used some of the new valves from Orange Seal. The rims do come pre-taped though). The 28 spoke rims were laced two cross to DT Swiss 350 thru axle Centerlock hubs with DT Swiss Competition spokes and nipples. Obviously, you could order these with an XD freehub body for SRAM/e*thirteen cassettes, but the NX cassette uses the standard HG splined freehub so that’s what was sent.
The result is a pair of wheels with rim tape that came in at 1710g for the set (840g ft, 870g rr) which sell between $899 and $999 for the set depending on the options. The wheels above list for $899. However, you also have the option to buy this bike with the carbon wheels as stock instead of the aluminum wheels for $2099 which is a $300 discount on the wheels.
With the original aluminum wheels and tubed tires installed, the complete Framed Course Carbon in a 51cm frame came in at 19lb 6oz (8.78kg). Adding the Carbon Pub wheels dropped the Course into the 18’s.
In regards to the sizing, my advice would be to stick to your traditional measurements rather than rely on the current size chart on the-house.com. At 5’7″ with a 30″ inseam, the chart puts me on a 54cm. I knew that would be way too big, so I went with the 51cm frame, but even that is a bit on the large size. The frames seem to run large (54cm top tube on the 51cm frame) so keep that in mind when choosing.
Straight out of the box, I’ve been fairly impressed with the Course Carbon. From the excellent packing job, to the build, the Course has exceeded all expectations – especially for a bike priced at $1,499.95 ($2,099 with the carbon wheels if you buy them together). Whether that makes it a solid candidate for a race rig remains to be seen, but I’ll follow up soon with the full review when I find out.
*Note that Framed is in the process of updating their website, so currently you won’t find the Course Carbon or the Pub Carbon gravel wheels on their site – but you will find them in stock, and for sale on the-house.com which is the exclusive online retailer of Framed bikes.