Good luck finding a bike that will cover more ground — on any surface — for your dollar.
The X-trail fits into that ambiguous jack-of-all-trades category of bikes that are, depending on your viewpoint, either fantastically versatile or not really good at anything. It’s a groad bike. A gravel bike. Whatever. It’s a bike you can ride literally anywhere except a gnarly mountain bike trail, all for $1,600. That’s rad.
You can get a carbon version of the X-Trail, but for a bike like this, why would you? In an entire week of VeloNews Buyer’s Guide testing, my favorite ride was a high-speed run down a massive paved descent and then up a beautiful, hour-long dirt road climb. I was on the X-Trail Alloy. Not once did I look down and think “Man, I wish I was getting the 2 percent improvement in bottom bracket efficiency the carbon version might provide.” These sort of things matter less when there’s 35mm of rubber between you and the ground and your only performance metric is making it home before sunset.
The X-Trail’s internally routed, triple-butted 6061 aluminum frame has disc brakes and room (barely) for 40mm tires. The ports for the internal routing are large, so swapping cables or housing isn’t too bad. It makes the bike look cleaner, too — more like a carbon bike. You have to be close enough to see welds before you realize the X-Trail Alloy is aluminum.
The X-Trail is missing rack mounts, but all the cool kids are doing frame bags these days anyway. It does have hidden fender mounts, which is great if the bike will do double duty as a commuter. It has front and rear thru-axles, so the disc brakes stay nice and quiet and it’s compatible with the future of hub and wheel design.
Geometry is key in this category, and the proper figures haven’t quite been settled on by the industry at large. The ideal (I think) is a bike that sits somewhere between a road and cyclocross bikes, so that it has the requisite tire clearance but handles better at the sort of speeds encountered away from a cyclocross course.
The X-Trail nails it. It’s bottom bracket height is similar to a road bike (70mm of drop), and lower than a European-style ‘cross bike (usually around 63-65mm). That adds stability at high speed. Head tube angle, 71.5-degrees, is slacker than both road and cross bikes, further improving handling over rough surfaces. The wheelbase is about the same as a cyclocross bike, 101cm. The result is a frame that handles as it should on the type of terrain, and at the speeds, that it’s most likely to see.
The X-Trail Alloy is not light, but it carries its weight well, so that the heft quickly falls out of mind. The word ‘bombproof’ springs to mind.
The build kit is about as good as you’re going to get for $1,600. TRP cable-actuated discs aren’t as powerful as hydraulics, but they’re still better than a rim brake. The gear range is nice and low, with a 32-tooth cassette and 34-tooth front small ring up front. All the cockpit components are heavy, and there’s certainly room to drop significant weight there. But, again, why bother?
The X-Trail Alloy handles well on road and off, looks great, and has a grin-factor that can’t be beat for the price.
Component highlights: Shimano drivetrain, TRP Spyre C mechanical disc brakes, Challenge Gravel Grinder tires