Ya, you. You almost certainly don't need one, let alone want one.
I know, I know, you're ready to knock some sense into my bro-tato head and spout off some nonsense about efficiency, rolling resistance, and shaving grams. To which I say, fill your favorite water bottle with Cytomax, kick back loosen your uni-chamois and humor me for ten minutes – which is, coincidently, how far you are behind that KOM you want so bad.
Or perhaps you're here because you are genuinely curious. 👋
Cross country are for a specific purpose
But I race! OK, do you race or do you race so you, can, um eat pizza and beer? Is racing your life or do you race but spend just as much time riding with friends? Like a true race car, they're pretty sweet on the race track but that's it.
Other mountain bike categories give you more
And with very little penalty. Let's step back for a brief minute a talk about categories. The industry is especially ripe with these lately but I think we can all agree the spectrum runs from XC (light and climby) to DH (squish and not climby). In between these two books ends you're here terms like trail, enduro, freeride, and one I keep hearing recently; down country. Cringe at the marketing terms but if you take a look at the myriad of options within the “trail” category and I'd wager that 99% of the time, these bikes are the better (best?) option for those considering though their silky smooth, spandex-clad legs over a cross country bike. What you get in return is a bike that exponentially more capable, more flexible and, from where I stand, a ton more fun.
Beginners, casual rider & non-downhillers take note of geometry
Sure, just as Yoga isn't my bag, downhill might night not be yours. So why would you get something bigger, heavier, and “not as good at climbing”? In a word? Geometry. Perching a rider's nose over the front wheel and ass in the air is a great way to spend some unexpected time with your dentist. This holds especially true for those new to the sport or those looking to ride a variety of terrain. More specifically, cross country bikes have exceptionally steep head angles, longer stems and in short – put the rider's center of gravity considerably far forward. The following gif really demonstrates the difference in geometry between a cross country bike and trail bike and helps to imagine where a riders center of gravity would end up on each bike.
I'm basically a dirt roadie
If you live, breathe, eat, sleep racing biked, fine. I admire your commitment. But I don't envy the torture that comes with riding cross country bikes in any sort of variable terrain.