Join Date: May 2006
Location: Hillsboro, Oregon
Bikes: Specialized Roubaix Comp, Soma ES
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Not much difference between a road bike and a cross bike and a few decades ago racers used their road bikes to do cross racing to keep up their fitness. Today there are specific bikes that race cross but mainly this is to invent a market. The usual differences you'll find are in the brakes, where most cross bikes will have either cantilever, v-brakes or maybe even discs. Geometry is another place you may find differences between road and cross where the cross bike will have a higher bottom bracket and possibly longer chain stays. Cross bikes frames and forks will be beefier with wider chain stays and forks to fit the fat tires and along with the brakes, allow mud to pass through easier.
Other differences are usually gearing where a cross bike will have something like a 46/34 crankset which will work on road, but this is usually lower in the top end than most would like. There are even special brake levers for cross that are mounted on the top of the handlebars, but this is a matter of preference. On my cross bike, you'll find my handlebars have very shallow drops that flare out a little. This is very good for cross, but might not be desirable for road.
While the differences are subtle, these differences make one bike suitable for cross where a road bike difference make it mroe suitable for road. You could ride either for either purpose, but you wouldn't be as pleased with the results as you would if you used a purpose built bike.
Same thing can be said if you compared a MTB with cross bikes. Some similarities there as well. But I wouldn't want to take a cross bike where a MTB shines. It could do it, but it wouldn't perform nearly as well.
Demented internet tail wagging imbicile.