WORDS AND PHOTOS BY TOM HILL
£2,699 / €3499 / $4390
WEIGHT: 8.8KG (WITH PEDALS) // SIZE TESTED: 57CM
We live in exciting times. The popularity of what was a tiny niche – riding drop-barred bikes off-road – has led to a boom in choice when it comes to, well, #dirtydropbargoodness. Sometimes this feels like it might be to the cost of where it all began; the out-and-out cyclocross bike shares shoulder space with adventure bikes, gravel bikes and the like. There are times, however, not least when racing, that a proper ’cross bike, with aggressive geometry and little compromise elsewhere is the best tool for the job.
The KTM Canic CXC 11 brings the ’cross race bike right up to date, without watering down its sense of purpose. The carbon frame and full carbon fork shouts FAST. Big diameter ‘tubes’ converge on a hugely oversized bottom bracket cluster, and beefy chainstays. This is contrasted by pencil-thin seatstays, integrated seat clamp and long narrow seatpost. Bolt-thru hubs complete the modern build and contribute to an approach that says ‘compliance in the right places for comfort, rigidity where it should be for speed’ – in theory, at least.
A no-nonsense approach is carried through to the rest of the build, with full SRAM Force CX1. The 46T chainring hints at head-down, lactic-burning, lung-lacerating efforts, but the wide ratio cassette does provide a little light relief for tired legs. DT Swiss X1700 Spline wheels, shod with Schwalbe X-One tyres are tubeless ready, and converted with ease. Finally, own brand bars, stem and seatpost function as they should, with a notable nod to the bars, which feature a great semi-compact shape. Twin bottle cage mounts are the only nod to practicality beyond an hour of pain.
At £2,699 it’s not a small amount to spend on a bike, but a quick glance at what it will buy you from other brands suggests that the KTM offers a great value for money package. The build comes in at 8.2kg, which I was impressed with, given how easy it would be shave further grams if you wished. Having said that, there is certainly little that I would look to upgrade immediately – other than tubular wheels if I were to race on a more than occasional basis.
My early rides on the bike were conducted at a pace that wasn’t appreciated by my out-of-shape body. As so often happens when riding a fast-feeling bike, I couldn’t help but not stomp on the pedals – revelling in the rapid acceleration that effort was rewarded with. The racey geometry kept a lively feel, making tight singletrack a joy. While it is often easy to identify an uncomfortably stiff frame, it is harder to pick out compliance – particularly when tyres, pressure and ground conditions are taken into account. The Canic was comfortable though, even on rides significantly longer than a typical ’cross race – including a two-day bikepacking adventure (Chasing Winter in Glencoe – issue 007). The specified 46T chainring made very heavy mud hard work, and I’d be tempted to swap it for a 44T when it wears out. This may be more of a commentary on my fitness than a criticism of the spec, however. Speaking of heavy mud, clearance around the chainstays is a little tighter than I would have liked, especially given the clearances elsewhere. It never got fully blocked, but regularly collected enough field debris that I could see it being an issue in true ‘modder’ conditions, especially if there isn’t a spare bike waiting in the pits.
The SRAM Force groupset performed flawlessly. For me, a single ring set-up makes complete sense off-road. Not only is shifting simplified, but mud clearance is improved around the cranks/BB cluster, and I don’t mind the increased spacing between gears. On the occasional road-foray, those gaps are sometimes more noticeable.
I have few criticisms of what has been a great bike. The internal cable routing looked neat, but rattled chronically from the start. Despite a lot of fiddling, it wasn’t an issue that I was able to cure completely. While this didn’t detract from the ride, it was certainly annoying.
At the end of the day, the KTM Canic CXC 11 is a bike that screams ‘race’ from aesthetics through to ride characteristics. It performs superbly at that task, but not at the price of all-rounder fun. If I was buying a new ’cross bike for next season, this would be on the short list.