Are XC (Cross Country) Mountain Bikes Dead?

If you are wondering whether cross country (XC) mountain bikes are dead, rest assured, they aren’t. The discipline grows more popular every day with new bikes are being churned out to meet the technical demands of new courses. Also, with the 2018 World Cup XCO and XCC series kicking off you can bet things are just getting started.

XC bikes are trending towards a larger, 29” wheel size, ultra-lightweight builds, and longer chainstays and wheelbases. The tires cater towards a reduced weight while you have and longer stems put riders in superior climbing positions.

 

We know that trail bikes and all-mountain bikes are becoming lighter with improvements in overall design. However, since cross-country bikes continue to evolve you have got to consider that they will be hanging around.

 


More Saddle Time

 

Whether you are on a fire road or descending a perilous double track, nothing beats the length of a great ride. Compared to Enduro or Downhill with all that waiting around, starting and stopping, XC definitely keeps you in the saddle longer and we love that.

 

Discovering new trails is half the fun while you are improving your overall fitness and base training. Considering that cross-country is the most popular riding discipline and the only one found in the Olympic games, we suspect that it will be sticking around some time.

 


Bike Manufacturer’s Changes To XC

How are the bike companies dealing with the changes in the market and keeping riders happy? We dig in and take a look at several bikes that are meeting the modern-day challenges faced by riders and show how XC bikes are not dead.

 


Rocky Mountain Element

 

Considering how styles are blending, Aaron Gulley at Outside Magazine says, “ it’s “North Shore’s answer to the cross-country bike and the equivalent of many brands’ full-fledge trail machines.” It has got 100mm of travel in the rear coupled with a 120mm fork, 69-degree head angle, a 60mm stem and 800mm bars and a dropper post.

 

It is not the quickest climber weighing 27 pounds but makes up for it on the downhill with wider bars and low saddle. I would favor a lighter Element model but overall definitely a move in the right direction keeping it fun to ride.

 

 


Specialized Epic

 

This bike has got serious street cred. Venerated throughout the cross-country community, it is one of the top names on the market today. This model has had some serious redesigns too.

 

The rear pivot is gone now relying on flex in the stays for the first time. The head angle is now 69.5 degrees, the rear has 438mm chain stays, which are tighter than before and a longer front center with a shorter stem(75mm).

 

The bike has reduced it’s weight down to a feathery 21.4 pounds making those uphill climbs feel like nothing. It’s handling in treacherous downhill terrain is nimble and polished. Epic has raised the bar placing itself in the front lines yet again.

 


Scott Spark World Cup

 

This bike took the great cross-country rider, Nino Schurter, to the Olympic and World Championship titles. It’s been at the podium of every race that counts. It’s got Boost spacing and trunnion mounted rear shocks. All your power will be going straight to the pedals, which makes for great uphill climbing power putting the rider at an advantage on those steep ascents.

 


Final Thoughts

 

The current breed of bikes are far superior to previous models making going downhill, hitting rock gardens and putting some air between your bike and the ground much safer. The changing culture leans towards bigger and faster with more emphasis on jumps and descents much like what the X Games did to snowboarding and skateboarding.

 

I used to find fire roads and doubletracks provided greater challenges to my older, inflexible bikes. That was due to where the technology was at the time. I think you all can agree  there have been some fantastic bikes that have come along over the past decade.

 

However, cross-country mountain bikes are not dead. It’s a riding discipline that continues to evolve. The advancements in technology paired with high-caliber tracks only adds growing popularity to the sport.

 

It may be in a state of transition while the bikes continue to evolve but it is not dead by a long-shot.

 

I found this quote from U23 racer Reece Tucknott hammers it home:

 

To me, XC racing is the purest form of mountain bike racing that is around. XC racing includes all facets of mountain biking from technical climbing, speed, technical descending as well as consistency. The athletes who are winning the XC races at the highest level are themselves at the highest level of technical ability, the highest level of physical fitness, the highest level of mental fitness and the highest level of hunger to win. You are dead at the end of XC racing but XC racing isn’t dead.


 

 

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