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Old 08-02-06, 10:16 AM   #1
dane_bikes
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Cyclocross vs. Road Bike

So I have question. I currently commute on a mountain bike with slicks but I'm interested in getting a new bike. I have been trying to decide between a cyclocross and a road bike. The main reason being the tire widths. It seems most road bikes don't have the clearence for larger tires. Anyhow, my main question is do you find that a wider tire is better for commuting or are normal road tires just fine? I have only ever owned mountain bikes so I thought I would ask...
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Old 08-02-06, 10:27 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by dane_bikes
So I have question. I currently commute on a mountain bike with slicks but I'm interested in getting a new bike. I have been trying to decide between a cyclocross and a road bike. The main reason being the tire widths. It seems most road bikes don't have the clearence for larger tires. Anyhow, my main question is do you find that a wider tire is better for commuting or are normal road tires just fine? I have only ever owned mountain bikes so I thought I would ask...
I think that a wider tire is better both for comfort and (depending on how much you bring on a commute) reliability. You'd get fewer broken spokes and better handling at speed.

When my workplace moved 10 miles, and I took that as an opportunity to upgrade from a hybrid to a road bike, I looked at cyclocross bikes, which were tempting, but most lack eyelets and clearances for racks. I went with a touring bike, which was the best balance of speed, cargo-bearing and comfort. You don't necessarily need to go with a fully loaded touring bike like the Trek 520 or a Long Haul Trucker. Instead, consider a 'sport touring' bike like a Bianchi Volpe. Wider tires and cantilevered brakes like a cyclocross bike, but you get rack eyelets and more relaxed, comfortable geometry.
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Old 08-02-06, 10:30 AM   #3
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It would depend upon where you commute and how far. Those wide tires seem pretty appropriate for urban commuting where pot holes jump out at you when you are occupied keeping an eye on traffic. I wouldn't want to go much more than 6 or 7 miles each way on a MBT bike as MBT doesn't have the gearing or ride quality I would want for road riding longer distances. Cross bike frames do have wider openings for big tires (and studs in the winter) some also come with disc break mounts which might be nice when it rains as you will be able to stop normally when going your regular speed in the wet, also you won't leave a lot of the pad on the rim when it's wet. I try to keep the tire size as narrow as seems appropriate for my commute. In the summer I ride slicks, spring and fall some tread and winter studded knobbies.
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Old 08-02-06, 10:36 AM   #4
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My commute is 13 miles in the suburbs. No city potholes jumping out at me but I do live in Pennsylvania, land of crappy roads...
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Old 08-02-06, 10:40 AM   #5
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I ride a cyclocross bike and it has eyelets for racks, fenders and accomodates wider tires and is drilled for canti or V-brakes. It's comfortable for an urban commute and I've done rides over 40-50 miles on it w/ no problems. I run 700x28s and they're a fine balance of speed and comfort. It's also a fixie.
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Old 08-02-06, 10:41 AM   #6
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I think the weight of you and your stuff enters into your tire choice. The weight of me and my stuff (>200# at times), and the crappiness of the surface on my route (and maybe this outweighs, so to speak, the weight issue), wore through a pair of 700x23s in about 1000 miles (well, only the rear tire was truly tattered). But they may have been exceptionally flimsy. I'm running relatively cheap kevlar-lined 700x28s now w/ no apparent wear on them.
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Old 08-02-06, 10:51 AM   #7
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Cyclocross bikes generally have lower gearing than road bikes too. More like 48 or 50 tooth big rings instead of 52 or 53... don't forgot that.

I like wider tires for my commute because there are three places on my commute where less than 50-yards on dirt and grass saves me many minutes of waiting on traffic. Plus a good percentage of my commute has a navigable dirt shoulder if push comes to shove and I have to leave the road to avoid something. I could manage both of those situation on skinnier tires - I would just be more nervous doing it.
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Old 08-02-06, 10:55 AM   #8
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Cyclocross-ish multi-purpose bike. Kona Jake, Bianchi Volpe, Bianchi Axis, Kona Jake-the-Snake, Surly Cross Check and their ilk will do great as commuters for that distance. The fatter tires will smooth the bad roads, they all have rear rack eyelets iirc (Volpe has front eyelets, too now). Plus you can hit the trails, tour (lightly loaded) and race cyclocross if you so desire. I now ride an Axis and it gets >90% of my miles over my MTB or my hybrid.
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Old 08-02-06, 10:58 AM   #9
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I went with the Jamis Nova last for almost the same reasons you describe. It is technically a cyclocross bike, but I'll bet most people that buy it (like me) never plan on racing. It retails for $1050, but we have a discounter in town that sold it for $750.

I currently have 1750 miles on it. It is an extremely comfortable ride, when properly fitted. I needed a longer stem and new saddle (brooks).

I ride it everywhere, fitness rides, commutes. I have been forced off the road several times and it handles extremely well on gravel. I've never felt like I was going to loose it. I've taken it on 50 mile rides and, while not the fastest bike, it is not a clunker either.

I got egg beaters, and cannondale mtn shoes that look like regular hiking shoes. I don't haul anything on it, so I can't comment on its suitability for that.
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Old 08-02-06, 11:16 AM   #10
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If tire clearance is a deal breaker for you, then get a 'Cross bike. I have 32c tires on my Specialized Tricross and I love them. At first, I wasn't feeling all that fast coming from a LeMond with 23c. Now I run over things or go off pavement when I wouldn't even think about doing with a road bike. 'Cross bikes are more versatile: commuting, touring and even road rides (just switch wheelsets with skinnier tires). My commute is 25 miles RT and it's all good!
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Old 08-02-06, 11:29 AM   #11
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I have a 13 mile roundtrip commute. About 2/3 is bike path, then some shortcuts across a park and busy roads with lots of debris on the edges. Upgraded from a hybrid to a cyclocross bike (kona jake) and am loving the drop bars, gearing, and narrower tires. I don't think I'd be quite as comfortable on actual road tires, but will eventually probably drop down in width and go slightly less knobby than the 35's that came with it.

To strike a nice balance, I'd recommend doing what I wish I'd done. Buy a cx bike, but have the shop swap out the tires for something more along the lines of 28's or so, with the relevant knobbiness for your ride.

PS- the front gears on the Jake run 30/42/52, for what its worth.
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Old 08-02-06, 11:31 AM   #12
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+1 for cyclocross bikes - wide tires, fenders fit and rack mounts, strong wheels, better brakes

you can always put go fast road tires on it an take off the fenders and rack if you want be a roadie.
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Old 08-02-06, 11:40 AM   #13
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Sweet. Thanks for everyone's help. I have been officialy swayed to the cyclocross side... Now all I need to do is finish saving some money and check out some different rides!
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Old 08-02-06, 11:45 AM   #14
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I ride a Bianchi Volpe with a Brooks b-17 and Armadillo All Condition 700x28c tires. It has been a great bike, much faster than my old rigid MTB with slicks and a lot more comfortable for longer rides.

A cyclocross or "sport touring" type bike with eyelets and clearance for wide tires is great for most commuting. If you have a very short inner city commute, or a very long rural commute you might want something more like a city bike or a road bike though.

The wide tires serve me well riding over glass and really rough pavement, I like the versatility. I could probably do my commute fine on skinnier tires because I'm such a lightweight (115 pounds) but I prefer the security of the wider ones. I can run a lower pressure on the wide tires to give a softer ride, which is nice.
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Old 08-02-06, 12:13 PM   #15
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+1 on all the love for cyclocross (aka CX) and sport touring bikes. I, too, graduated from a mountain bike to CX, and love it. The gearing has a wide range, lots of versatility like rack/fender eyelets, Canti/Linear brake mounts, clearance for big tires, etc. I ended up with a Kona Jake for $720, which is probably on the lower end of the price scale. Bianch Volpe was a strong runner up, as well, but cost a bit more, and the Surly Cross Check has to be the most talked about model in this forum, and can be found complete for $900 or so.

You're biggest challenge will likely be deciding if you have more roadie or touring tendancies. Any of these bikes will do well at either, but they all tend to lean one way or another. Try 'em, you'll like 'em.
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Old 08-02-06, 12:13 PM   #16
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Loved the cyclocross bikes, including the Bianchi Volpe, but for my 15 mile RT commute went with the Trek Portland which had better components, had disc brakes, and is faster (definitely more expensive though). The Portland will take wider tires than the 28 mm that it comes with (in case you want to put on 32mm knobbies).
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Old 08-02-06, 03:00 PM   #17
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+1 i just got a surly crosscheck for all the reasons mentioned above (especially tire clearance--HUGE!!!)

28 is the lowest i dare to go for mine. i'm still way faster than i was on my tank-like MTB and and the ride is about as smooth and sweet as i could possibly ask for.
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Old 08-02-06, 03:31 PM   #18
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Just for fun, to be contrary. It doesn't matter much which bike since you're not handling big holes. I'd recommend any bike that would handle x28-32 times. I used to ride on 32's and like the ride of the 28s better. I can't go narrower because of the rims. I find 23-25's are nice and fast, but ping rocks like crazy and a tad more comfort is nice.

Don't worry much about the gearing. You can get the lower chainring swapped out by LBS as part of the deal. I would strongly encourage a road style handle bar to save your hands.

Don't sweat about it too much, get your funds together, or check out the no interest financing many have available and have fun.
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Old 08-02-06, 04:43 PM   #19
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I've just come from a cross bike used for commuting for the past several years.. put > 6000 miles on it and it treated me well. However, a few caveats:

- the brakes suck. they are typically cantilever (center pull) and are not effective. the reason is to support large tires. if they made cross bikes with mtb-style v-brakes that would be great! but they don't...

- the gearing can be either way.. i have a c'dale xr800, came with full shimano 105 (which performed pretty well), but geared with the 'standard' 39/53 up front (a double) and 12/25 in the back. for steep stuff i picked up a 12/27 cassette. I may put a compact crank on it since my new roadbike has a compact and it would make more sense to have it on the cross bike

- I like going fast; therefore I rode with small (700x23 and x25) tires most of the time, unless I knew I wanted to do off-road stuff.... heck, even with the 700x23s I would up doing a fair amount of fire trails, etc.. people would give me funny looks but it worked! A small tire does not, however, necessarily mean blown spokes *IF* you get good wheels. The wheels the came on my bike lasted barely 1500 miles til spokes started going.. I had my LBS recycle the hubs and build strong wheels; no problems bombing over bad pavement and on trails on skinny tires since then.

finally... if you already have a MTB I would seriously consider just getting a regular roadbike; a cross-bike is great and all but is a big compromise. I, at the time, could afford one bike and wanted a good one for road riding, commutes, and light trails.. the cross bike was a good answer. however, now with several years of riding under my belt and wanting to go fast (triathlons and such) it would make more sense for me personally to have a road and MTB, and, maybe a cross bike.... well as it is now I have 2 out of the three (no MTB yet) and am pretty happy
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Old 08-02-06, 06:29 PM   #20
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I've done this dance twice. First time hade a Gunnar Crosshairs, and a Lemond Proprad. Nice rides, did not like the fit of either bike.......put about 2000 k on the pair. Early this year, had a Ridley Crossboa and a Cannondale cross......the rides were a bit harsh for my tastes. In general I think the ride of a good road bike is more comfortable. God know's I have tried the Cross bikes, and they work well for most, but getting them dialed in can be a *****.
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Old 08-02-06, 06:46 PM   #21
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Jake the Snake......modified

25 mm wide tires, full fenders, rear rack.
12,000 km a year commuting. (panniers in winter, trunk in summer)

Sunday group rides, i take off the rear trunk, put on seat bag, and piss off everyone by passing them while climbing hills with fenders and racks.

Starting to do randonneuring events of 200 km rides. Works great.

If your looking for only 1 bike to do almost everything, its the best.
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Old 08-02-06, 11:01 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Citabria
- the brakes suck. they are typically cantilever (center pull) and are not effective. the reason is to support large tires. if they made cross bikes with mtb-style v-brakes that would be great! but they don't...
Just an FYI -"mini-V" brakes are available for this. These are v-brakes that have shorter arms and thus work with the cable-pull of a road bike lever. They mount to the same studs that canti brakes do. You could also use regular mountain v brakes with a pulley cable-pull adapter.
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Old 08-03-06, 04:13 AM   #23
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Some sport road bikes come with long drop calipers. Mine has room for 32mm tyres + fenders. I usually ride with 28mm which are a nice balance between speed, reliability and comfort.
I find that caliper brakes are easier to setup and have a more positive response than cantis. Cantis are useful if you want wider tyres, studs or ride mud or snow.
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Old 08-03-06, 06:20 AM   #24
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a road bike (except MichaelW's) won't fit a nice set of full fender and 28mm tires.

i think these two things are mandatory for a commuter casue you don't stop just cause of a little rain.

i got v-brakes on my crosscheck and honestly don't know why cross bikes come with canti's... i tried them but they suck in comparison.
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Old 08-03-06, 08:15 AM   #25
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a road bike (except MichaelW's) won't fit a nice set of full fender and 28mm tires.

i think these two things are mandatory for a commuter casue you don't stop just cause of a little rain.

Strange no one has mentioned a touring bike. A touring bike is mostly a relaxed road bike and weighs in between a road bike and a MTB. I'm riding a Giant OCR with full sks fenders, 28mm tires, no problem. The nice thing is the new tires are only about 40 grams more than race tires. One of the best changes I made to the ride.
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