Marc Abbott tests out the Eastway Balun C1 as part of a comparative review of cyclocross bikes
Eastway says the Balun C1 has been built to take on cyclocross racing “ready to carry you, or be carried, over any course designed” but – like the Giant – it’s also said to be able to handle forays into the world of adventure riding. Its high bottom bracket and relatively steep frame geometry should make it a more than capable race bike. Once in the saddle, it stands out from our other two bikes by virtue of its flared Ritchey Evo Max handlebars, which position the hands in a more “elbows-in” position, and due to its differently shaped brake hoods. They cleverly conceal the necessary components of Shimano’s hydraulic disc brake system, and while they’re noticeably higher than Shimano’s standard 105 hoods, they’re a comfortable place to rest your hands. The Balun’s stunning paintjob makes it the looker of the bunch, too.
How it rides
The Balun immediately makes its comparative lack of weight (it tipped our scales at 9.84kg in a size 52) felt on uphill sprints along rutted tracks, but – while it does make the bike a little less fatiguing to carry on the shoulders – minimal mass isn’t necessarily the be-all-and-end-all.
The Eastway’s trump card is actually its comfort levels. Those flared handlebars make it easy to ride on the drops for long periods, and also offer a fair amount of control when negotiating tricky descents (always descend on the drops off-road, as it gives you better control of the brakes and helps to get your weight lower on the bike).
Fizik’s Tundra saddle is the best of the bunch for us – what suits you saddle-wise will differ, but we enjoyed the flat perch and its relatively thin padding for the connection it gave us to the tracks.
The brakes are the hardest to lock-up in this company, and we say that’s a good thing. It allows late application of the stoppers with maximum confidence, especially useful when you’re in a “last of the late-brakers” duel with a fellow competitor. Like the Giant TCX, Shimano 105 components are used across the groupset, but the Eastway has an FSA Gossamer Pro chainset taking care of pedalstroke power transfer.
The spread of gears available is identical to the TCX’s, too, and works admirably to haul the Eastway up and down varied terrain. Its tyres, however, are 35c Continental CycloKings. The other two bikes here wear 33c rubber, and the extra width of the Continentals does lend slightly more contact patch, and therefore confidence in corners.
They’re well suited to most conditions (and even roll quickly on bridleways), but the closely packed tread makes clearing thicker mud from the knobbles slightly harder – we’d fit something more hardcore for really wet and muddy conditions.
The frame itself has clearance for 38c tyres, should you wish to fit even wider rubber for longer days in the saddle away from the world of racing.
Ideally suited to long days of gravel riding, although perhaps the least suited to full-on cyclocross competition. Good value too.