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Cyclocross Bike Setup

Frame Size

Keep it the same as your road bike. Too many people think they should downsize their cyclocross bike because of the higher bottom bracket and lower saddle position. What they end up with is a bike that they can't raise their bars high enough on because the head tube is too short. Bottom brackets on cyclocross bikes used to be very high to allow for clearance when pedaling on the backs of pedals that had clips and straps. With clipless pedals, most cyclocross bike bottom bracket heights have come down to that of a normal criterium bike. So, the need for a smaller bike to accommodate standover height doesn't exist to the same extent.

Saddle Height

Your saddle height on your cyclocross bike can vary from the same as your road bike to 1cm lower. Some people keep the height the same and let the higher stack height of mountain bike shoes and pedals provide the lower overall height. Because you're often riding on bumpy ground you'll spend a lot of time slightly out of the saddle. There needs to be room for your bike to "dance beneath you." I find that no more than 5mm lower is perfect for most people.

Saddle Setback

The nose of your saddle should be the same distance behind your bottom bracket center as on your road or mountain bike, or up to 5mm further forward if you sit far back on the road. It should be set up so that the soft spot below your kneecap is immediately over the pedal spindle with your foot at the 3 o'clock position. A traditional road position you might be further back to emphasize a powerful, efficient, and pretty pedal stroke. In cyclocross, you don't have time for beauty, or even efficiency. In an hour-long race, you need to be able to explode down on the pedals with instantaneous power and be balanced between the wheels for good bike handling. Again, similar to what you might set up for criteriums, or even the track. Remember that what's efficient is not necessarily what's fastest, and your priorities in a long road race are different than those for a short cyclocross event.


The distance from the nose of your saddle to the center of your bars should be 1-2cm's shorter than your road bike. This is so you can reach your hoods and drops without bending over to do so. You might also find it more comfortable to tilt your bars up slightly, or raise the brake lever position on the bars so that you can hold them solidly in your hand, rather than rest your hands on them.


Drop is measured as the difference between the height of your saddle and the height of your handlebars. Your bars should be 1-2cm's higher relative to your seat than on your road bike. This is again so you can reach the drops without bending over and allow you to keep your weight back on drop-offs and downhills.