This is a review of the Specialized TriCross, which shows that this bike can be an ideal commuter bike for the urban bike commuter, once properly accessorized. Rugged, robust and strong, this bike is well suited for bike commuters who want a strong, comfortable bike. Here’s my own Specialized Tricross, fully equipped as a commuter bike.
I’ve been on a quest for the perfect commuter bike for 15 years, and I think I may finally have found it in the Specialized TriCross. It’s no secret that I LOVE Specialized bikes – such as my beloved Sequoia Elite, reviewed here.
My Specialized TriCross fits my body and my needs like a glove. Almost as fast as a pure road bike and nearly as capable as many mountain bikes, the Specialized TriCross Road Bike lives in the zone where fun and practicality overlap.
The Tricross is categorized as a “Freeroad” bike by Specialized.
The Specialized TriCross lineup includes the basic TriCross (reviewed in this post); TriCross Sport Disc; TriCross Elite Disc; and TriCross Comp Disc. This model is the only one that does not have Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes, but I find the Tektro Cantilever brakes are definitely good enough for a bike this light.
Related: If you’re thinking of buying a new or used bike, read this Guide to Bike Terms to make sure you understand exactly what the sales person is saying, and can assess the quality of the components.
What is the Specialized TriCross bike?
The Specialized TriCross is NOT only intended to be used as a cyclocross bike, despite the name. It’s also perfect as a commuter and a tourer. And of course, for riding the trails.
At first glance it looks like a road bike, but it is more rugged and sturdy than the average road bike. Of course, that comes with a price – the bike is heavier (24 pounds for the 54 cm frame), and it is certainly not as fast as a dedicated road bike.
Using the Specialized TriCross as a Commuter Bike
The Specialized TriCross was designed for … tricross, of course! However, I found it easy to set it up as a commuter bike. I didn’t lay my money on the table until I was certain that the bike could accommodate wrap-around fenders (an absolute necessity for bike commuting). It could, with ease.
Before I took it home, I had it fitted with wrap-around fenders and super grippy pedals, and once home I stripped my old bike and put all the pieces on my new bike: a good strong bike rack, my Electron Terra bike lights (reviewed here), a rear light, a rear-view mirror and of course a bicycle bell.
I also added one of my sets of Monkeylectric lights (reviewed here) to the front wheel. I never commute without lights, and I run my lights in the daytime too. I like to be as visible as possible.
I highly recommend a Mirrorcycle as an add-on. Cheap, but makes cycling SO much safer. In fact, I recommend a rear view mirror as an essential safety device for all cyclists. You wouldn’t drive without one, so why cycle without one?
The reason I like the Specialized TriCross as a commuter bike is that (like all Specialized bikes with carbon forks) it soaks up the bumps really well. On the one hand, this makes it a great bike for the trails, and I had a wonderful time in Whistler with it. Here it is, posing beside Green Lake in Whistler.
And here is my Specialized Tricross on the morning it took me for a ride along the bumpy, gravelly back roads near Buntzen Lake in Anmore, British Columbia.
On the other hand, in my experience you more often have to soak up the bumps in urban areas than on good single track trails. The reality is that urban roads are often a whole lot more bumpy than mountain trails. I live in New Westminster, a fairly old city built on river silt. So my commute includes cobble-stoned streets, plus almost unbelievably badly rutted and potholed roads (caused by the shifting of the silt). I am not exaggerating when I say that I have driven on cattle tracks that were smoother than the roads of New Westminster.
My Specialized TriCross soaks up the bumps, while being robust and rugged enough to keep taking the battering punishment inflicted by being ridden by a fairly heavy guy on the truly awful roads.
Commuters who prioritize light weight and speed would likely not choose this bike. But if your priorities are comfort and strength, this could be the bike for you. It helps that the frame is set up to take panniers front and back, so you can really load it up if you need to.
Specialized TriCross Offers a Comfy Ride
To me, the slightly heavier weight is more than worth it because the ride is so much more relaxed and comfortable. Specialized has made this bike with a slightly relaxed geometry so that you can have a more upright riding position. This increases comfort over long distances and also makes it safer to ride it in traffic. The main thing about the Specialized TriCross is that you can ride it anywhere. Here’s a video I took while riding it through an urban forest. To get to the forest, I had to first ride across urban tarmac. My Specialized TriCross handled it all with ease and consummate style.
This ride was along the Prospect Point Trail in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, which I reviewed here. And here’s my TriCross photographed right at the top of Stanley Park (which also offers one of the world’s greatest bike trails, reviewed here).
The Specialized TriCross has a FACT carbon fork that helps to soak up rough roads and potholes. That, combined with tires that are bigger than a standard road bike, on sturdy and fast rolling Mavic rims, makes for a comfortable ride. The stock tires (700 x 32c) are great because they provide good traction, but some users swap them out for smaller tires for added speed. If you will be mainly riding on good pavement that would be a smart upgrade. However, I am sticking with the stock tires because a lot of my ride is on very bad pavement with multiple potholes.
One of the things that Specialized really can do well is make a bike that is comfortable, yet still rides well and acceptably fast.
The double butted A1 Premium aluminum frame is lightweight. It is also fender and rack ready, thanks to the dual eyelets brazed on to the rear. I had both fenders and bike rack installed on the bike before I even left the shop. One little problem though – I find that with wrap around fenders on the front wheel, there is not much toe clearance when cornering. So check this out if you plan to put on fenders. If you have big feet or like to wear chunky cycling shoes (such as the wonderful Five Ten shoes (reviewed here), you may have a problem.
Built with a Shimano 24-speed Drive Train, the bike has three rings on the front derailleur, which is always my preference. Sometimes I just need that grandpa gear!
The bike has a blend of components, with Shimano Sora on the front derailleur, Shimano 2400 for the rear derailleur and crankset, and an 8-speed Sunrace cassette.
Specialized TriCross is Low Maintenance
I really love the internal routing for the shifter and brake cables. They make the bike really low maintenance. The next time I do a cycle tour, this is definitely the bike I will use. Maybe this summer I will do the wonderful Galloping Goose trail (reviewed here) again – this bike would be perfect, because it would do equally well on the tarmac sections as on the off-road sections.
A neat detail that I really like is that the underside of the top tube is flat and smooth, making it easy to carry this bike on your shoulder if you need to get it up stairs or across a river.
Specialized TriCross is Versatile for Bike Fitting
Whenever I get a new bike I get a professional bike fitting to protect me from cycling knee pain (see my miracle cure for cycling knee pain here). This bike was really easy to tweak to fit me perfectly, thanks to an adjustable four-position oversized alloy stem with a 31.8mm bar clamp.
Specialized Crosstrail Sport Disc Hybrid Bike
Here’s a very similar offering from Specialized – another great bike!
Bottom Line on the Specialized TriCross
I highly recommend the Specialized TriCross for anybody who commutes in cities, or whose bike rides include on and off road cycling. I find dedicated road bikes can offer very rough rides in the city, as they are usually very stiff. That makes for speed, but it’s tough on knees, elbows and wrists. To me, the Specialized TriCross is the ideal compromise between comfort and speed. And of course, being a road bike means it has three different hand positions, so you can mix it up to prevent repetitive strain injuries.
The Specialized TriCross definitely rates a Gold Bike Star!
Specialized does this odd thing where they regularly rename their brands, or discontinue a brand and then bring back something similar with a completely different name. As a result, you cannot buy a Specialized Tricross new any more, because they stopped using the name. But you can ask a bike shop (or even Specialized itself) what Specialized is currently offering as a cyclocross bike. Or you can search on Craigslist or eBay, which is what I would recommend. These are great bikes which make a great buy when bought as used. If you go that way, I have a post with lots of advice on buying used bikes online here.
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Technical Specs of the Specialized TriCross
FRAME: Specialized A1 Premium Aluminum, fully butted, 1-1/8″ lower bearing, w/ rack/fender fittings, internal cable routing
FORK: Tricross, aluminum, alloy steerer/ crown for 1-1/8″ bearing, w/ fender fittings
HEADSETL 1-1/8″ sealed Cr-Mo cartridge bearings integrated w/ headset, 20mm alloy cone spacer, w/ 20mm of spacers
STEM: Alloy, 4-bolt clamp, 31.8mm
HANDLEBARS: Specialized Comp, 6061 alloy, shallow bend
TAPE: Specialized S-Wrap
FRONT BRAKE: Tektro, cantilever
REAR BRAKE: Tektro, cantilever
BRAKE LEVERS: Tektro secondary lever
FRONT DERAILLEUR: Shimano Sora, triple
REAR DERAILLEUR: Shimano 2400
SHIFT LEVERS: Shimano 2400 STI
CASSETTE: Sunrace, 8-speed, 12-25
CHAIN: KMC Z51
CRANKSET: Shimano 2400, triple
BOTTOM BRACKET: Sealed cartridge bearings, square taper, 68mm shell
PEDALS: Nylon flat test ride, loose ball, w/ reflectors
FRONT WHEEL: AXIS Classic
REAR WHEEL: AXIS Classic
FRONT TIRE: Specialized Borough CX Sport, 60TPI, wire bead, 700x32c
REAR TIRE: Specialized Borough CX Sport, 60TPI, wire bead, 700x32c
INNER TUBES: Standard presta valve
SADDLE: Body Geometry Riva Plus, Cr-Mo rails, 155mm
SEATPOST: Specialized Sport, alloy, 2-bolt, 27.2mm
SEAT BINDER: Forged alloy, 31.8mm