Bikes of the Bunch: Chickens x Morvélo CityCross

by CyclingTips

In this edition of Bikes of the Bunch we profile the Chickens x Morvélo CityCross collaboration and learn a bit about the bike’s UK origins.

The original idea for the CityCross bike came from Morvélo co-founder Oli Pepper’s ride to work five years ago. Like most cycling enthusiasts he often chose the longer, more interesting route. This in itself was a dilemma. The best route encompassed quite a bit of road but also went through the University of Sussex with its abundance of steps, banks, drops and jumps. His road bike was suited to the first part of the ride, but a MTB was more suited to the urban terrain. The ideal mix then was a cyclocross bike.

Oli’s love of riding stemmed from his BMX days in the ’80s so he has always viewed the urban landscape in the same way a street rider does. Looking for elements to play on, over or across. Only this time he was on a cyclocross bike. There were initial reservations as he clattered down flights of steps but what he found was the additional challenge of riding street on a cross bike made the ride that much more fun and engaging.

As the cross bike saw more and more use on Oli’s commute the idea of a film based on this ride came to mind, and so Ride Everything was born.

After organising a series of successful cyclocross events the team at Morvélo started to think “what would be the ideal bike?”. MTBs were then warmly embracing 29″ wheels while at the same time cyclocross bikes were embracing disc brakes. CityCross has elements that reward both MTBs and Cross bikes but the ideal option would be one that combines the two. Something built for speed but designed for abuse.

During this long development, close friend Jon Aston was working at Enigma Bikes as their first apprentice. However a bad bicycle crash and a broken wrist put that to an abrupt end. After he had recovered he set up his own business, Chickens Frame Emporium, based in the unique setting of an old shipping container in a middle of a farm, making immaculate steel brazed frames. This film short, Two Wheels Peace and Quiet, shows his workshop and him still riding the very first Chickens frame.

Oli and Jon got together to discuss how this CityCross bike should be. It needed to be strong enough to handle jumps, drops and steps but agile and stiff enough to make it fast. Jon chose Columbus Life tubes to give the frame added strength and included a tapered headtube to increase stiffness along with straight seatstays and chainstays.

Oli rides bolt-through forks on his MTBs and loves the direct steering so he looked for a cross fork alternative. Needless to say the options were very limited. In fact limited to just one, with Whisky Parts Co. in the USA coming to the rescue with their lightweight and strong No:9 carbon bolt-through fork. In order to keep things light and strong the cockpit was shod with FSA SL-K parts. This theme continued to the wheels, opting for Reynolds Carbon 29er XC hoops with a 15mm bolt-through hub at the front.

To keep things stripped down they opted for a 1×10 set-up using a 12-25 Shimano Ultegra block matched to an Absolute Black CX specific chainring. This small UK company designs chainrings specifically for single-ring set-ups and their CX version, with its specially designed wide-narrow tooth profile, keeps the chain really snug, especially when married to a SRAM Type 2 Clutch rear mech to keep any rattling to a minimum. It’s perfect for when your are barreling down steps and over roots. To help ditch all this extra speed the Chickens CityCross is shod with the excellent and easy to adjust TRP HyRd disc brakes with continuous hoses to stop grit and grime getting in.

To finish off the build Oli and Jon had to decide on the paint job. Jon is justifiably proud of his immaculate brazing so an idea was formed to keep these elements exposed and match the stencilled logos to the same colour as the brazing. It just so happened to then reflect the iconic John Player Special Formula One colour scheme, a fitting finish to a bike that is designed for speed and thrills.


Frame: Chickens Columbus Life steel with tapered headtube
Forks: Whiskey No:9 Carbon bolt-through fork with custom Rock Shox Maxle Lite
Headset: FSA Integrated
Stem: FSA SL-K Carbon
Bars: FSA SL-K Carbon
Bartape: Lizard Skins DSP
Cables: Jagwire
Seatpost: FSA SL-K Carbon
Saddle: Prologo Zero II Titanium Saddle
Seat clamp: Chickens Integrated
Wheels: Reynolds 29R XC Carbon with 15mm bolt-through hub
Tyres: Maxxis Raze 33c
Brakes: TRP HyRd
Levers: SRAM Force with one customised to run singlespeed
Mech: SRAM X0 Type 2 10 speed Clutch rear mech
Chainring: Absolute Black CX 42t
Cassette: Shimano Ultegra 6700 10 speed 12-25
Chain: SRAM PC1071 10 speed hollow pin chain
BB: SRAM GXP Outboard
Cranks: SRAM Red Black Edition
Pedals: Shimano Deore XT M780

Disclosure statement: We asked the team at Morvélo to help us with the content in this article after we discovered this unique and interesting bike. Morvélo does not advertise with CyclingTips.

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