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  1. #1
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    Keeping up with friends - road vs. cross (sort of)

    So I barely qualify as a Clydesdale (just tipping over 200, 6' 3"), but my fitness level is also terrible. I work a desk job, and haven't ridden a bike with seriousness since I was 14 (36 now). I have friends who have not only been avid cyclists for years, but are 150-170 and riding very nice road bikes. Obviously, I struggle to keep up with them, losing sight within a few miles in to a ride. They're nice about it and will circle back to me or wait up (though that's typically when I'll want a break and they're already way bored with theirs).

    I'm riding a new Felt F65X because the price was great, and it seemed like it had the versatility I wanted (commuting, maybe some gravel or even single track from time to time, disc brakes). Plus most of the research I've seen indicates Clydes should be running wider tires than featherweights, and cross bikes are wider by nature. And sturdier. As I've been increasing my road rides with it, I've put on some Clement X'PLOR tires for better road performance.

    So my question is: how much insult am I adding to injury by riding a cross bike? Would there be that much of a difference if I got a proper road bike? Or could I swap out my crank with one with more teeth and narrow the gap? If I keep taking steps to make my cross bike more road-like, where's the cutoff for no longer being versatile and having the advantages of a cross bike, but still not being road bike enough to justify it?

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    I would get rid of the knobby cross-tires and get some decent road tires. This will make a huge difference. Other than that, there is really very little difference between a cross-bike and a road bike.

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    Your cross bike is lighter and stiffer than many steel road bikes from the 80s. You might determine whether you could run narrower tires that take higher pressures, like 700 x 28c

    Other than that you aren't that different from a road bike. Your geometry might not be as tight, but that is a personal preference.

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    Your bike will work just fine. Work on your fitness levels. 36- 46 front, 28 -11 rear should be fine for gearing. Are you spinning out? A 48 outer chainring would help. How are the hills? You will want a low enough gear to still spin and not redline your heart rate. Find a group ride more to your fitness level? Can you pedal to work? A 2 hr weekend ride once a week is not going to improve things rapidly. I like 35 mm tires on my crosscheck. Get some smoother tires if your are just riding pavement. 28mm or 35mm wide ones would do fine. Give it at least 6 months to start to show improvement. Run, stretch, gym time, weight lifting ,swimming will all help with cross training. Try some long ,slow distances, like 4 hours. Try some hill repeats. Have fun. There are many ways to have fun besides fast road rides. I'm mostly a mountain biker who commutes and does some touring.

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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    I'm with hayden 52. You'll notice a biggish difference if you put on some proper road tyres. But apart from that, your initial reasoning was sound. The cross bike is versatile, robust, and light enough to double as a road bike.

    The sad truth is that the only way for you to keep up with your friends is to get fitter. How much riding are you doing?
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

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    Here is my opinion:
    That is a great bike, leave it as is.
    Find some hills and start working out on steep and short.
    Get a cadence computer and start working out with 80-110 rpm on hills. Recover on the coast back down (repeats).
    Your cross bike is never going to keep up with a road bike so make up the difference with training.
    Before you know it you will be in shape both cardio and strength.
    Very nice road bikes are only as good as the engine pushing them.
    Use the crank to your training advantage on the hills. 46/11 will get ya moving pretty fast - 90 rmp on your 46/11 will get your moving 30.76 mph, that is fast.
    Yes, you will have additional road resistance with non-slick tires but, have fun. Go find some dirt and tear it up. Find some hills and work on spinning fast up the hills. Have FUN!

  7. #7
    Senior Member ill.clyde's Avatar
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    I'll disagree a little ... in that the geometry of a cross bike is fairly different from a road bike. Longer wheelbase, higher bottom bracket, longer chainstays .... they all conspire to make the cross bike a little slower than a road bike, on the road. Sure, the frames look the same, but there are subtle differences, and for good reason. A road bike is nimble, quick while a cross bike's longer geometry makes it handle better off road in CX races, but makes it sluggish on the roads.

    You say your friends are riding "very nice" road bikes, so that gives them an advantage from the start. Their bikes are built for that purpose. Yours is built for a different, albeit similar, purpose. You also have to realize that you're carrying 30-50 pounds more than those guys, and that manifests itself too.

    I'll agree with others, narrower tires, with a more roadlike tread, would help a little. And I'll also agree that if you want to ride faster, you have to ride faster (i.e. ride more, ride harder, ride longer), or in other words, get fitter. If your fitness is "terrible" as you put it, you've got to fix that issue before you go looking for culprits on the bike.

    All of that said, I have both, a CX and a roadie. I commute on the CX because it's sturdy, allows wider tires, etc. And it also makes jumping on my roadie on the weekends very enjoyable due to the differences.

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    got the climbing bug jsigone's Avatar
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    IMO you shouldn't see the speed difference too much until you get over 22ish MPH...doesn't matter if its flat or downhill. The tires start to drag at that point, and you will see the road bikes pulling away. You're new tires MAY help for straight line stuff but you're leaning on knobbys at speed when you're turning on pavement it might drift some. AKA bad thing if you're not used to it or don't know its coming. I'd run those 35c tires to 65-70psi for pavement and down in the 40-45 range for dirt. If you want to go faster and easier on pavement, I'd run down to 25 or 28c road slicks on those rims

    46x11 @ 110rpm on is about 36mph on paper, but the 35c tires will make you work very hard for that speed even in the draft.

  9. #9
    Cat 5 field stuffer bbeasley's Avatar
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    Welcome to BF!

    I agree with most of the above that your bike's cool, maybe change the tires. At 200 lbs weight is not an issue with components unless you go crazy on some weight weenie wheels. I rode 23s at 252 lbs with no issues at all. If it's true that you're only riding one day a week that could be the issue. I've got to ride 3 days/week to hang onto the fastish group rider kids down here. One of those 3 days better include some painful wind sprints. I've recently tossed the car keys and I just ride everywhere. It sure makes the weekend group rides more fun.

    One more thought about your friends. The good and bad thing about cycling is you get better with time, years, and it's tough chasing the folks that have been doing it for decades. Good news is once you get close, say within 30% of their fitness, you'll be able to draft them and hang on.

    Enjoy your ride!

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    Quote Originally Posted by ill.clyde View Post
    I'll disagree a little ... in that the geometry of a cross bike is fairly different from a road bike. Longer wheelbase, higher bottom bracket, longer chainstays .... they all conspire to make the cross bike a little slower than a road bike, on the road.
    ?? Those things affect handling, how the bike corners. They don't really have any effect on linear speed. Speed is a function of power to weight, that's all the rider, aero position, which can be set up identical on a cross bike to a road bike, and rolling resistance, which can also be equalized by switching to road tires.

    I agree with main sentiments above, get slick tires, no need for different bike, and work on fitness & weight. A few months of consistent riding and you should start to feel a lot better.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bbeasley View Post
    One more thought about your friends. The good and bad thing about cycling is you get better with time, years, and it's tough chasing the folks that have been doing it for decades. Good news is once you get close, say within 30% of their fitness, you'll be able to draft them and hang on.
    On the flats, anyway. Uphill not so much. One thing is that as a new out of shape rider, your performance is going to be improving a lot faster than theirs, as people who have been doing it for decades will plateau or be getting faster extremely slowly, or getting slower as father time starts to win. So if you keep at it, you can eventually get close (or maybe even better!), as long as you continually strive to improve. Might take a couple years.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Black wallnut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stephtu View Post
    ?? Those things affect handling, how the bike corners. They don't really have any effect on linear speed. Speed is a function of power to weight, that's all the rider, aero position, which can be set up identical on a cross bike to a road bike, and rolling resistance, which can also be equalized by switching to road tires.

    I agree with main sentiments above, get slick tires, no need for different bike, and work on fitness & weight. A few months of consistent riding and you should start to feel a lot better.
    I agree. Having both a CX bike and a road bike. When I put road tires on my CX bike it is just as fast and feels snappier than my road bike. My cx bike is an aluminum Crux my road bike is a Spec. Roubiax. Both are 105. The only real difference is the crankset and brakes. Crux is just as fast to the max of its gearing.


    Mark

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    Welcome to BF!
    Thanks! And thanks to everyone for the replies so far. Questions and comments inline:

    I would get rid of the knobby cross-tires and get some decent road tires.
    You might determine whether you could run narrower tires that take higher pressures, like 700 x 28c
    So the Felt rims are 622x15 - is the only thing about them that is cross-specific their sturdiness, and that the increased width ability is only due to greater clearance? i.e. how do I find out how narrow of a tire the rim will accept? The Clement's were recommended to me by the bike shop when I told them I was going to be doing mostly road riding - they are far smoother than what came with the Felt, to be sure.

    When I hit singletrack, I so far have always reached for my full suspension 29er that I have built up to be a very nice mountain bike. The idea of taking a cross bike to those same trails and destroying my Strava PRs is always tempting, but hasn't been enough to go do it. So the reality is, the cross bike is probably my road/commuter and nothing more.

    Find a group ride more to your fitness level?
    I'm with this group because we're good friends, not because I went seeking them out for a group ride, I assure you.

    Can you pedal to work?
    I should add that the desk job is at home. At least it's an upstairs office? \_(ツ)_/

    Are you spinning out?
    Sometimes, yes. Definitely on downhills. There have been times when I feel like I should be able to gain some ground on my group, but my 46 can't compete with my buddy's 60. (Feels - I have no idea if that's actually the case or not.)

    How much riding are you doing?
    2-3 times a week. Terrain here is high desert / semi-alpine (east side of the Cascades in central Oregon). I'm easily overheated / maxed after 10-15 miles of trying my hardest. Rides including 300-450' of elevation every 10 miles is typical. Mixed in with that are a handful of rides each month on my mountain bike (600'+ in 10 miles there).

    Longer wheelbase, higher bottom bracket, longer chainstays .... they all conspire to make the cross bike a little slower than a road bike, on the road
    ?? Those things affect handling, how the bike corners. They don't really have any effect on linear speed.
    I know it may not affect linear speed, but I know on my mountain bike it can greatly affect my confidence and thus my performance. Having my center of gravity lower and weight positioned below the axels is a big part of why I prefer a 29er, though in that case it is accomplished by raising the axels instead of lowering the BB. I'm already tall, so anything that feels more like being in the bike instead of on top of it sounds appealing to me.

    You also have to realize that you're carrying 30-50 pounds more than those guys, and that manifests itself too.
    30-50 unproductive pounds!

    I'd run those 35c tires to 65-70psi for pavement
    I tried to calculate the "15% drop" using some formulas I found and it put me somewhere around 78 in back and 65 in front, so that's not too far off of what I've been trying.

    So overall I'm hearing that the cross bike is less of a contributing factor to keeping up than my fitness level is. But that the cross bike will require more energy to move, so maybe that's my fastest ticket to better fitness. I keep wondering if my friends could keep up with themselves on my bike. In any case, it's been enlightening to not have even one person recommend that I save the cross bike for the trails and get a proper road bike.
    Last edited by djones; 07-02-14 at 04:59 PM.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by djones View Post
    So the Felt rims are 622x15 - is the only thing about them that is cross-specific their sturdiness, and that the increased width ability is only due to greater clearance? i.e. how do I find out how narrow of a tire the rim will accept?
    You should be able to run pretty much any 700c tire on there. If you are sticking to roads get slicks; knobs squirming around is just causing rolling resistance & making you work harder. I'd run 700x28s or 25s, @ around 100 psi.

    Sometimes, yes. Definitely on downhills. There have been times when I feel like I should be able to gain some ground on my group, but my 46 can't compete with my buddy's 60. (Feels - I have no idea if that's actually the case or not.)
    I assume you are exaggerating about the 60; anything bigger than 53 would be extraordinarily unusual. 46/11 is actually a decent sized gear, keep in mind that back in freewheel days it wasn't uncommon for 52/13 to be the biggest gear on a road bike, which is actually a smaller gear than 46/11. You should be able to get to ~33 mph easily on 46/11 at 100 rpm, if you want to go faster than that, at some point it's faster on downhills to simply tuck in a more aero position and stop pedaling. Lack of bigger gear only really stops you from going faster when you are strong enough to sprint level ground > 35 mph, stops you from contesting sprints with a bunch of strong sprinters, not from keeping up in general. Gearing isn't holding you back, if you can't keep up it's not because their biggest gear is bigger than your biggest gear, because other than downhills, your friends aren't likely to be anywhere near their biggest gear. On the flats, if you can't keep up it's because you can't sustain the power necessary to maintain the speed, not because they are using bigger gears. Uphill you have the weight handicap in addition.

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    As eluded to above, the cross bike itself is definitely not holding you back, but your own level of fitness.

    I race and can pump out some good figures/speeds and I have actually looked at going to a cross bike from my race rig, a Felt F4. On my previous bike, I was running 23mm wide rims and 25mm tyres. When I transferred those wheels over to my new F4 just over a year and a half ago, I had to ditch the 25mm tyres and go back to 23mm because they were rubbing the chainstays. The 25mm tyres made a big difference on rougher roads and especially rough chipseal, but definitely didn't affect speed performance. I'm thinking of updating from the F4 to something that can handle wider tyres, but I'm 6'5" and there's not a lot of frames out there that can fit me for my racing style setup. The Felt cyclocross bikes have piqued my interest as the frame is the same geo aside from a slacker steering angle, but the slower handling nature of them has me a little worried from a race point of view, especially in a crit style race. On the open road there wouldn't be a problem, I'd just have to change over the chainset for speed as you have eluded to.

    23mm tyres will fit your rims fine, so go for some 28mm road slick tyres and keep riding with your mates. Hang in with them for as long as you can. Hold on for dear life and let the draft of the group help you to keep up and help to work your aerobic capacity. When you drop off, give yourself a little recovery time, say 5min, and hit the hammer at your own pace for the rest of the ride. Perhaps even work on intervals at say 5min hard 5min recovery. Because you're newish to this, you will improve quickly. There's a guy in our club that can win road races in his grade on a knobby tyred 29er. He can stick with the weekend group rides until the pace really heats up. He is just plain fit! Many people are in fear of the day he actually invests some money in a road bike!

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    Quote Originally Posted by stephtu View Post
    I assume you are exaggerating about the 60; anything bigger than 53 would be extraordinarily unusual.
    Yeah it's Ultegra, I think the 53/39T, it's just sort of how I feel when they pull away from me on the downhills. I always imagine a cartoonishly large crank. Wah wah.

    Thanks @stephtu and @brawlo for the tire advice. Our roads here aren't so high quality, so I guess 28s it shall be.

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    Quote Originally Posted by djones View Post
    Yeah it's Ultegra, I think the 53/39T, it's just sort of how I feel when they pull away from me on the downhills. I always imagine a cartoonishly large crank. Wah wah.
    Downhills are the one place where your extra weight should help, it should be them pedaling to keep up with you, not the other way around. What kind of road is this downhill, that they are pulling away? Only slightly downhill, and relatively straight, and they are going 35+?

    In my area, downhill speed is mainly limited by how skilled you are at taking the corners, it's not really limited by gearing, it's how much you are braking. Switching to slicks will allow you to safely take corners faster. Fast straight downhills where you can go 35+ the whole way safely, pedaling for extra speed, are rare in my area, don't know about yours. Steep and straight you should be able to keep up just tucking and coasting, using your weight to your advantage.

  18. #18
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by djones View Post


    2-3 times a week. Terrain here is high desert / semi-alpine (east side of the Cascades in central Oregon). I'm easily overheated / maxed after 10-15 miles of trying my hardest. Rides including 300-450' of elevation every 10 miles is typical. Mixed in with that are a handful of rides each month on my mountain bike (600'+ in 10 miles there).
    OK. I'd say that was too little to make rapid improvement. Specifically, if you have been very sedentary I'd say you are trying to spend too much time at high intensity (10-15 miles of trying your hardest) without having built an aerobic base. Try going out on your own for one of your rides, and going further, but at a more modest pace. High-intensity training has its place and ought to be an important part of any training regime, but it shouldn't be all you do, it should build on a base of endurance that you have created by being on the bike for extended periods at moderate levels of effort.


    So overall I'm hearing that the cross bike is less of a contributing factor to keeping up than my fitness level is. But that the cross bike will require more energy to move, so maybe that's my fastest ticket to better fitness. I keep wondering if my friends could keep up with themselves on my bike. In any case, it's been enlightening to not have even one person recommend that I save the cross bike for the trails and get a proper road bike.
    Seriously, don't spend a lot of money on a road bike until you've got fitter. At the stage you would be disappointed with how little advantage it confers. Once you can just about hang with them, then consider a road bike if you want to move on to the next level. But I can virtually guarantee that at this stage of your cycling career, a cross bike with road tyres will not be the thing that is holding you back.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  19. #19
    Senior Member elcruxio's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Black wallnut View Post
    I agree. Having both a CX bike and a road bike. When I put road tires on my CX bike it is just as fast and feels snappier than my road bike. My cx bike is an aluminum Crux my road bike is a Spec. Roubiax. Both are 105. The only real difference is the crankset and brakes. Crux is just as fast to the max of its gearing.
    The crux is a formidable bike.
    It does have relatively road bikish angles but something about it (maybe longer wheelbase or something) makes it descend like a missile.

    I personally feel that "slower" handling bikes descend better than the snappy crit bikes

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    Quote Originally Posted by stephtu View Post
    What kind of road is this downhill, that they are pulling away? Only slightly downhill, and relatively straight, and they are going 35+?
    Yeah, not the steep descents, the grads. I'm topping out at 31 and they at 34 according to the data. On steep or very long descents, I can regain some ground.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by djones View Post
    So I barely qualify as a Clydesdale (just tipping over 200, 6' 3"), but my fitness level is also terrible. I work a desk job, and haven't ridden a bike with seriousness since I was 14 (36 now). I have friends who have not only been avid cyclists for years, but are 150-170 and riding very nice road bikes. Obviously, I struggle to keep up with them, losing sight within a few miles in to a ride. They're nice about it and will circle back to me or wait up (though that's typically when I'll want a break and they're already way bored with theirs).

    I'm riding a new Felt F65X because the price was great, and it seemed like it had the versatility I wanted (commuting, maybe some gravel or even single track from time to time, disc brakes). Plus most of the research I've seen indicates Clydes should be running wider tires than featherweights, and cross bikes are wider by nature. And sturdier. As I've been increasing my road rides with it, I've put on some Clement X'PLOR tires for better road performance.

    So my question is: how much insult am I adding to injury by riding a cross bike? Would there be that much of a difference if I got a proper road bike? Or could I swap out my crank with one with more teeth and narrow the gap? If I keep taking steps to make my cross bike more road-like, where's the cutoff for no longer being versatile and having the advantages of a cross bike, but still not being road bike enough to justify it?
    Try something like these:

    Continental Bicycle -Sport CONTACT

    They come in various widths. 28s would give you a nice smooth ride and give you better role than the ones you linked.

    I noticed about a 10% speedup, so don't expect a huge increase in speed, but anything helps.

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    Senior Member digibud's Avatar
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    When I got back to cycling I got a Roubaix when I was around 240lb and road on 25mm tires with no problem whatsoever. I'm 62yrs old with a bad heart and can't cruise at 20+mph and probably never will but your lack of speed is all about your level of fitness and tire size. Going down to 25s will make a big difference. 200lb at your height isn't that heavy. Bike weight is meaningful but you've got a great bike and better tires will definitely help and you're definitely not too heavy for 25mm tires. Best of luck.
    Alaskans for global warming.

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    Just ordered a pair of Conti Grand Prix 4000 S II in 25c. I looked and looked for 28c but it seems no suppliers will have them until the end of July.

    Thanks all!

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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by djones View Post
    Just ordered a pair of Conti Grand Prix 4000 S II in 25c. I looked and looked for 28c but it seems no suppliers will have them until the end of July.

    Thanks all!
    Excellent tyres. Arguably the best you can buy.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

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    Quote Originally Posted by djones View Post
    Just ordered a pair of Conti Grand Prix 4000 S II in 25c. I looked and looked for 28c but it seems no suppliers will have them until the end of July.

    Thanks all!
    Now them's a good race tyre. I run the 23mm exclusively (after I had to ditch my 25mm GP4000) on my "nice" (to me at least because I'm a big heavy unit) race wheels. I run the GP4000 tyres on my everyday wheels as they're essentially the same tyre, just with a bit more rubber to last a bit longer. Enjoy!

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