More on the roadbikereview cross forum but also here, there seems to be an occasional rift that forms between those who buy cross bikes as race machines and those who buy them for other reasons, such as commuting, light touring and trail/dirt road riding. 'Cross racers in my experience aren't really snobs, but there are lots of instances in which racers seem to look down on people who use the bikes for other purposes. I can understand the sentiment in some cases. I too sometimes wince a little bit when I see a Major Jake with 32mm slicks, fenders and a rear rack. But then I have to catch myself and ask if it really matters. Yeah, it's a race bike, but is it really so blasphemous that it isn't being raced?
One of the inherent flaws with this sport, I think, is that “cyclocross” is synonymous with “cyclocross racing.” rarely do you see people mention “cyclocross riding.” It's a pretty specialized racing discipline, true, but in most other areas of cycling, “riding” is just as valid as racing. It's still mountain biking even if it isn't an XC race, and it's still road even if it isn't a stage race or criterium.
Personally, I'm a newb racer. I am looking forward to having at least 7 races here this fall, and maybe traveling a bit for some more. I also may use my cross bike for road racing. Definitely for road riding, at least. A large portion of my riding though really probably could be called cyclocross riding, which basically means a mix of different types of terrain in one ride. One of my favorite short loops starts with a 4 or so mile on-road climb, then a mile or two of climbing on an old logging road, then a descent on a mile or two of twisty singletrack, and the is finished on some screaming fast gravel/dirt doubletrack. I don't see why this isn't as valid a use of my cross bike as racing.
A lot of people commute on cross bikes. I understand why. They can be a bit more practical than traditional road bikes. Though I personally believe touring bikes fill the commuting niche a bit better, if someone buys a cyclocross bike, puts fenders and slicks on it, and never rides it off road, well, I guess that's okay too.
Then there's Markhr always posting that list of his and railing against rim brakes. A dedicated race machine won't have discs for a variety of reasons we don't need to get into, but just because it has them doesn't make it somehow impure.
Cyclocross racing is fun, but as a college student I could never have justified the purpose of the bike if racing were the only thing I used it for. With 32mm cross tires, it's a race machine. With 23mm slicks it's a pretty dang good road bike. With a Panaracer 45mm Fire Cross up front it's an abomination, but it's a lot of fun.
And of course for a lot of people racing is the primary reason they ride a cross bike.
Sorry for the long post. It's just something I've had in the back of my mind for a while.
Also, no poll because I'd probably leave something out and I just want to read written responses.