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Raleigh RXW Race Women’s Cyclocross Bike Review

by Beth Hodge

The cyclocross season is just around the corner, and even though muddy fields seem like a distant memory as the sun is shining, I put the Raleigh RXW Race bike through its paces last spring. I raced it, trained on it and also took it on a huge Welsh off road adventure, and I couldn’t have asked to have been on a better bike.

Learn more about Cyclocross:

Raleigh are committed to cyclocross development, sponsoring riders including Hannah Saville and Joanna Rycroft and even making models for kids. The team were on hand to answer any questions I had about the bike, and their appetite to make incredible cyclocross bikes was apparent. The RXW Race is the first women’s specific carbon cyclocross bike, and underpins that commitment to developing racing across the women’s and men’s disciplines. The model I tested was developed with the help of Caroline Mani, a pro CX rider from the states.

The RXW Race is the top level of women’s specific cyclocross bikes that Raliegh currently offer, and retails at £1,850, with two sister cyclocross bikes in the range starting at £800. Raleigh describe the RXW Race as ‘carbon perfection for women who dream of muddy fields’. Spoiler: I’m going to agree with them.

The frame on the Raleigh RXW Race Women’s Cyclocross Bike

I had to review a smaller frame size than usual, as the sizing only goes up to a 52. Normally riding a 54 frame (depending on geometry), I actually got on extremely well with the 52 and found it handled so much better than my own cross bike, which is a little on the larger size. However, at my height (5’6) I’m only just under the limit for this bike (Raleigh advise 5’7).

Having slogged my way through a first cross season on a heavy do-it-all gravel type bike, to be able to ride carbon now is a real treat, and this RXW Race bike only emphasised the delight you can get while racing a lighter bike. Any concerns about whether a carbon frame and forks can withstand the demands of the rough stuff should be put to one side. Weighing in at 8.1kg what you have here is a really nippy bike, which feels incredibly solid and ready to deal with the demands of the day.

The RXW Race geometry is what you would expect to find on a racing cyclocross bike…

The RXW Race geometry is what you would expect to find on a racing cyclocross bike, but with the emphasis for this model on female specific RSP handlebars and women’s specific saddle, the Selle Royal Sirio as standard, although I would always advise to get a bike fit to ensure your measurements are bang on. The top tube is tapered, meaning maximum comfort when shouldering the bike, with the rear brake cable routed along the top tube to keep things neat and out of the way, and the gear cable internally routed.

With a standard high bottom bracket, the WRX Race uses a reinforced bridged seat stay with a good amount of clearance. What let the frame down was the bridging on the chainstay, which doesn’t allow the heaviest of mud and muck to clear through, which can be a problem on some cross courses, particularly when it’s been raining.

Raleigh are looking to remove the chain stay bridging on the women’s frames – but as they pointed out to me when we discussed it this bike came 2nd in a CX World Cup race in Belgium. That isn’t to say they should rest on their laurels, and it’s good to hear changes are being made for future models. Many bikes suffer with the same problem when the going gets really tough. It’s a compromise between keeping the bike light and ensuring it is stable enough to cope with the demanding conditions.

There are two sets of standard bottle cage bosses on the RXW Race bike (will take two bottles), and no bosses for mudguards or panniers- this bike is built to race.

Component on the Raleigh RXW Race Women’s Cyclocross Bike

  • The Raleigh RXW range
  • Race: £1850. Carbon, SRAM Rival groupset, TRP Revox rim brakes, American Classic TCX Tubeless wheels with Schwalbe x1 tyres. 8.1kg.
  • Pro: £1500. Aliminum. SRAM Rival plus SRAM Rival Hydraulic Discs, Cole Rollen CX Tubeless wheels with Schwalbe X1 tyres. 9kg.
  • Elite: £800. Aliminum. Shimano Sora groupset, Tektro CR710 rim brakes, RSP CX2.0 23mm wide section profile wheels, Schwalbe Rapid Rob tyres. 9.8kg.

Stem and seatpost Of course, you can make the best frame in the world – but when retailing a built bike, a brand needs to offer decent spec for the price of shoppers will look elsewhere. The Raleigh RXW Race comes well dressed – but if you want to spend a little less, there are other models with the same frame and altered components.

The stem and seatpost are both Raleigh RSP components, the seatpost being carbon and the stem alloy. The carbon seat post only added to the comfort levels over the rough stuff.

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The specializations and technology involved in designing a cross bike are impressive. As a cycling enthusiast, you need a steed to match certain challenges and riding styles. Not all types of bikes are equal. You need to take them out on the road to notice the subtle differences in their components and design

The cross-bike sector is just as diverse and versatile as the whole road bike sector. The cross-bike segment makes everything possible. This is why bike manufacturers are using all types of expressions throughout their product portfolios to attract customers. Some include all-road, adventure bike, road plus, monster cross, and more.

A mountain bike will allow you to take a path not traveled. A cross bike, on the other hand, is specially designed to allow you to take a path that is not much of a path. Bike manufacturers are pretty good at hyping their niche products.

Think about the fat-tire bikes that were all the rage. However, cross bikes are durable enough to handle some modestly difficult terrains, such as fire roads, gravel trains, and more. Better yet, they are nimble and light enough to efficiently ride on the pavement as well.

Rising Popularity of the Cross Bike

Are you looking for a bike that you can ride in all types of terrains, in addition to giving you an edge while racing? If you are, a cross bike should be at the top of your list. Over the past few years, there has been somewhat of a revolution in the biking sphere. Formerly, crossbikes, sometimes called gravel bikes, were the toys of biking enthusiasts who spend their free time running around and riding around muddy fields.

cross, bike, brand

Today, gravel bikes, or CX bikes as most people call them, are the preferred choice for many commuters looking for a bike that can handle the most difficult riding conditions. Coupled with the unprecedented rise in popularity of the cross-bike scene, this effect is forcing manufacturers to FOCUS on versatile bikes that people can use for bike-packing one weekend and racing the next.

Nowadays, businesses are striving to cater to all customer pursuits. Consequently, bike manufacturing brands are now offering specially designed bikes for each discipline. However, certain things make a cross bike special, compared to any other type of riding machine.

Things to Consider when Looking for a Cross Bike

Nowadays, cross bikes are very popular. Few other bike categories are as beginner-friendly and versatile as crossbikes. This type of bike will allow you to rediscover your turf and explore the world. If you want to ride to work every morning, it will help you enjoy your daily commute. It can even spice-up your dull workout plan. This article will tell you more about cross bikes to help you make a more informed decision when buying one.

Of course, there is a wide range of crossbike applications. Therefore, for each selection of comparable cross-bikes, certain standard guidelines define a bike’s features in all of its different facets, irrespective of the specific function or niche.


When you look at a cross bike, you will probably think that it looks like a road bike. You have the shifters, classic drop bars, and cool rims. However, there are small upgrades and tweaks sprinkled throughout a cross bike that help it handle rougher conditions. Whereas the FOCUS is on comfort in a standard road bike, cross bikes have a somewhat aggressive position.

It has a longer wheelbase and slightly lower bottom bracket, which allow it to be more stable over rough terrain, even at higher speeds. The wheels also have bigger tires, which do not require tubes. Therefore, you can ride on lower tire pressures for better control on a wide range of surfaces. All cross-bikes have one thing in mind, which is allowing riders to move fast in all terrains.


When tackling different riding-based events such as adventure-cycling and racing, it is important to have a wide range of options. When it comes to cross bikes, this is not a problem. They are extremely versatile, which means that a rider has a wide range of gear setup options.

Before you purchase a bike, you need to understand that some bikes are ideal for fast on-road or off-road rides. Others are perfect for long-haul adventures and carrying luggage. When looking for a cross bike, you need to consider the components that match meet your needs. If you plan to try out more difficult off-road climbs, you will need a bike with more than a 50/34t compact chainset.

Nowadays, more biking enthusiasts are moving towards lower gearing for cross bikes. As this type of bike grows in popularity, manufacturers are introducing terrain-specific models with gravel-friendly gearing options. Therefore, you can always find a cross bike to suit your specific requirements.


Manufacturers of most adventure-focused bikes pay a lot of attention to the overall weight of a bike. If you are looking for a good bike, you probably want to do more than cycle up and down the street. You also want to be able to go around obstacles and jump off some of them. This is where a cross bike can come in handy.

Other factors to consider which choosing a cross bike include:

  • Whether you need a used or a new bike
  • Its size, including the frame size, handlebar height, pedal position, and saddle
  • The braking system
  • The appropriate wheel sizes
  • The suspension system
  • Its durability
  • The ideal type of handlebars for you
  • Where you plan to ride your cross bike

If you obsessively monitor the biking industry, you may feel like a new type of cross bike is appearing every other week. To make it worse, each new type seems to interpret what an all-terrain bike frame means.

cross, bike, brand

These bikes power the cross-bike sector into a position of prominence. Even if other people think of it as just a bike, you can use your cross bike for almost anything. Furthermore, you will improve your physical fitness in the process.

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Cyclocross bikes: strong off-road, fast on the road

The cyclocross bike was developed for the unique sport of cyclocross racing. As a combination between road, gravel and cross-country mountain biking, a cyclocross bike is the perfect tool for the job.

The cyclocross bike is an off-road racing bike. The bike was specially developed for the tough conditions of cyclocross racing. The features and functions of the bike are perfectly adapted to dirt tracks and challenging races.

One of the most important differences compared to a classic road bike is the increased tire clearance for wheels with larger tire widths.

  • Typical equipment of cyclocross bikes:
  • 28-inch wheels with treaded tires.
  • Tire width between 32 and 35 mm (for competitions maximum 33 mm)
  • Shimano or SRAM gears with fine gear graduation especially for cyclocross (standard: 2 chainrings, 1-1by groupsets are also available)
  • Hydraulic disc brakes

A lightweight frame and a flattened top tube make the bike comfortable to shoulder. This is necessary because almost every course in cross races contains sections that cannot be ridden. Whereas aluminium frames were used in the past, today it is primarily carbon frames with an even lower weight.

Thanks to the geometry with short wheelbase, you can easily keep control of your cyclocross bike even in difficult conditions.

Tip: Find out how our engineers developed the Inflite. the winning bike of the Cyclocross World Championship.

Is a cyclocross bike right for you?

With a cyclocross bike, the FOCUS is clearly on performance. Everyday suitability is secondary.

Under these conditions, a cyclocross bike is ideal for you:

  • You want to ride at high speed through unpaved and hilly terrain.
  • You are not afraid of muddy ground and puddles.
  • You want to be able to continue your training in all weather conditions.
  • You prefer short, challenging routes to really push yourself.

For longer rides off-road and on the road, a gravel bike is recommended due to a more relaxed and comfortable geometry. For more relaxed rides, hybrid bikes or even e-bikes are just the ticket.

Which Canyon cyclocross bike is right for you?

With our Inflite CF series, we offer cyclocross road bikes for different training requirements:

cross, bike, brand
  • Inflite CF SL: The SL models are ideal for your local league races. Frame and forks are made entirely of carbon and are based on the top level models. The perfectly tuned ‘cross geometry allows you to ride at a fast pace, with a stable ride and impressively direct handling.
  • Inflite CF SLX: The SLX models are our high-end machines for use in international championships. Frame, fork and rims are made of stiff but at the same time flexible carbon fiber. Thanks to the geometry that has been optimised down to the last detail, you always have maximum control over your bike.

Cyclocross vs. gravel bike: What’s the difference?

Cyclocross and Gravel bikes are drop-bar bikes designed to handle off-road riding. These bikes strike a balance between the efficiency of road bikes and the capability of mountain bikes.

For the purpose of simplicity, this guide discusses both gravel and cyclocross bikes together. There is a significant amount of crossover and a large number of riders will use one bike to satisfy both styles of riding. Nowadays, some brands are designing cyclocross bikes that are capable enough for gravel riding.

Here are the key differences between a bike that’s purely built for gravel and one that’s meant for cyclocross.

Gravel frames vs. cyclocross frames

Gravel frames are designed for long-distance riding, necessitating geometry that is stable and well-mannered. Usually, this means a slacker head tube angle, longer wheelbase, lower bottom bracket, and taller stack. Plus, gravel frames often afford more tire clearance, additional mounts for bottles and bags, and sometimes even incorporate aerodynamic features for battling across the windswept prairie.

Cyclocross frames are designed for short, high-intensity races where bike-handling can be the difference between winning and losing. They are made to respond to Rapid rider inputs, meaning the overall feel is fast, bordering on twitchy. Cyclocross frames are everything that gravel frames are not: steeper angles, shorter wheelbase, lower stack — all in the name of handling quickness and precision. Cyclocross top tubes are often horizontal so the bike is easier to shoulder while running.

Gravel tires vs. cyclocross tires

Most pure cyclocross tires are 33mm wide, in part because that conforms with the rules of cyclocross racing. (I know, it sounds silly, but so does running around in the mud with a bike on your shoulder.) As mentioned above, most gravel tires are about 40mm wide.

Gravel tires are typically built to be more durable for flat prevention, while cyclocross tires are meant to be lighter and suppler for higher performance usage. Serious cyclocross racers often choose tubular tires for better traction and an ephemerally blissful ride feel. These glue-on tires are a maintenance headache and difficult to repair mid-ride, so you wouldn’t want tubulars for gravel riding.

Gravel gearing vs. cyclocross gearing

Given that ‘cross racing is fast and furious, the gearing is more akin to a road bike with tight jumps between gears. Often, cyclocross bikes also have single-chainring drivetrains, further limiting gear range but ensuring chain security on bumpy race tracks.

Gravel bikes usually rely on a wide gearing range to handle everything from fast, flat races to grinding climbs up forgotten forest service roads. However, like cyclocross bikes, gravel bikes need reliable chain security, so you’ll see similar features between the two, such as clutch rear derailleurs and narrow/wide chainrings on 1x drivetrains.

Frame Material

Your choice of frame material will usually come down to personal preference, price, and the type of riding you like. The integrity of a bike’s frame is paramount to its value and safety, so it is essential to check for structural damage, cracks, and other potential issues. Carbon often receives the most scrutiny, but all frame materials can fail and should be carefully inspected when purchasing a used cyclocross or gravel bike.

If you choose a pre-owned or Certified Pre-Owned bike from The Pro’s Closet, they are all professionally inspected by one of our full-time bike mechanics and guaranteed to be in perfect working order. They are also professionally packed and shipped so they arrive safely.

Aluminum is often the most affordable frame material. When comparing two similar bikes, it will usually be heavier than carbon, but it’s also less expensive and, in some ways, slightly more durable. This makes it a good option for budget-minded riders and amateur ‘cross racers who will abuse their bikes. Though aluminum has a reputation for being extremely stiff, many newer aluminum bikes can provide a ride feel nearly as good as some of their more expensive carbon counterparts.

For more information, check out our detailed Carbon vs. Aluminum article.

Carbon is the latest and greatest material in cycling, and most high-end bikes will use it in some form. It can be used to make frames that are lightweight, stiff, and responsive, and it can also be shaped into special aerodynamic shapes. Across all cycling disciplines, high-end race bikes are almost always carbon. Carbon can also be engineered to have greater compliance in key areas for added comfort. This generally comes at a price as carbon frames are typically more expensive.

For more information, check out our detailed Carbon vs Aluminum article.

Steel is the classic frame material, used since the bicycle’s inception. It’s revered by many for its supple ride quality and durability. A steel frame will likely last a lifetime if it’s maintained correctly. Steel’s rugged nature makes it a popular option for adventure riding and long-distance off-road touring. It is often slightly heavier than other materials, but plenty of riders prefer it simply for the feel, durability, and the classic good looks.

Like steel, titanium is a classic and rugged frame material. It has a supple ride quality similar to steel, but is much lighter, and has great durability thanks to its high strength and resistance to oxidation. The trade-off is a much higher price tag. Few big brands offer titanium frames, so it is often limited to smaller boutique and custom builders.


The three most common drivetrain manufacturers are Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo. All three brands offer groups with hydraulic disc brakes that are compatible with modern disc brake-equipped ‘cross and gravel bikes.

Your choice will largely come down to personal preference and budget. Entry-level drivetrains will generally be cheaper, but feel less refined and are heavier. As you become more experienced and competitive (and pickier), high-end components will feel like a greater necessity.

Basic Component Hierarchy

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