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  1. #1
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    Design Question: Cyclo-Cross vs. Road Bike

    I didn't get much response to this question from folks on the road cycling forum. Thought I'd try this forum for more feedback:

    I own an IF cyclo cross bike that I use on and off road. I'm looking for a second bike that I would ride more on road and am naturally looking at road bikes. But I wonder if a second cyclo cross bike might not be a bad investment. I could use it for on road work but have an alternative second bike for tougher terrain.

    So here's the question:

    In comparing the design of a road bike to a cyclo cross bike is there any design advantage to the former if the intent of use is long distance cycling? By long distance cycling, I'm thinking of centuries and beyond where I can compete against myself for the best time.

  2. #2
    Isaias NoRacer's Avatar
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    I've done centuries on this cross bike w/studded tires on it:



    It's geared for the road (53/39 11x28 cassette) , but it's no problem gearing it down for cross racing or rugged terrain.

    I swapped out the wheels; now I have 23mm Conti 4000 S tires--rode 179 miles this past Saturday on them.
    Last edited by NoRacer; 03-29-10 at 07:51 AM.
    2009 mileage = 14,738 miles; 2010 mileage = 15,234 miles; 2011 mileage = 17,344 miles; 2012 mileage = 11,414 miles; 2013 = 12,169

  3. #3
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    If you want to do century rides in the fastest possible time then you'll want a dedicated road bike. If you're just doing it for the challenge of doing it then the cross bike is just fine.

    I have three bikes for different purposes. My cross bike is definitely the most versatile. For fast road rides I swap my wheels and change the stem to slightly longer one and flip it down to get a more aerodynamic position. For long distances at a lesser pace I only change wheels, not as aero but more comfortable. For riding around town I use my 'tarck' road bike, it's fast and reasonably comfortable plus I don't have to worry about expensive components getting stolen. Usually I ride it fixed because it's fun but singlespeed is an option. Then there's the mountain bike for the trails that have too much gnar for the cyclocross bike.
    ClintonRH
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  4. #4
    Eternal NooB threeflys's Avatar
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    I think a cross bike is head and shoulders above a "road" (modern racer) bike for long rides/tours... The reason is a lot of cross bikes are designed a bit more relaxed with a little longer head tube... The only downside would be if the cross bike had a higher bb which is becoming less common (higher bb= a little less stable in a straight line)...

    The other major benefit is you can run much larger tires for added comfort with VERY little performance trade-off and fenders if needed....

    so, no I don't believe a true road bike has any advantage over a cross bike in this intended application other than maybe one pound of weight which is nothing over a century or brevet....
    If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.

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  5. #5
    Devil's Advocate
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    Road bikes are lighter and faster, they have more precise handling which makes them capable of tight situations, but also twitchy. For longer rides they have you in a more aggressive position, there's less wind resistance but you have more pressure on your hands. If you are looking for something really quick than a road bike is the way to go, if you would like another bike that works well for everything, and is more comfortable on longer rides than stick with cross.

    I don't plan on ever buying another road bike, but I have one from the mid 80s, and it's my favorite of my 4 bikes, including a mountain, cyclocross, and mid 80s pursuit bike. The road bike is definitely not as good on long rides, and can't take fenders or racks or bigger tires if you wanted them, but gives a ride you just can't get with a cross bike. If it were me I would get a road bike, because it gives you another type of riding your bikes offer you, and you could easily switch the wheels on the road bike to the cross bike so you could do long road rides with either the road bike or the cross bike instead of having 2 cross bikes.

  6. #6
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    To my eye, modern cyclocross bikes are basically what road bikes were in the 70s and 80s. Your typical top-end road bike from the late 70s or early 80s had a Reynolds 531 or Columbus steel lugged frame with a relaxed wheelbase that had room for racks, fenders, etc. Just like a modern cyclocross bike. I owned Peugeot PX-10 and Raleigh Professionals from that era with full Campy Record etc. Basically the same type of bike that most racers were riding. Riders back then also tended to ride larger frames than today. The whole mountain bike era has brought out much taller seat posts than used to be used.

    So for decades and decades road racers up to the Tour de France were riding on bikes that were basically much more similar to a modern cyclocross bike with slicks than a modern carbon fiber road bike.

    So yes, cyclocross bikes make wonderful road bikes for everything but the highest level of road racing. Of course if you areThor Hushovd and sprinting for the green jersey at 50 mph then yes, you might want a stiffer bike. But if I'm picking a bike to take out for a casual century then I like my cross bike.

    That said, Captain Jack has a point. If you already have a nice cross bike and are burning to buy something else, might as well buy something that will provide a different ride than the bike you already have. Road bikes are fun to ride. You don't say where you normally ride but the typical road bike is going to give you a higher-end gear ratio for high-speed peloton type riding. If you do a lot of hard fast riding on flat roads with other fast riders then a road bike would be nice for that.

  7. #7
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    20 yrs ago CX bikes had higher BBs to provide clearance for the toe clips when you didnt have your foot in the clips, but now that people ride clipless many CX bikes have the same BB height as road bikes. CX bikes generally have shorter top tube relative to seat tube than road bikes, so if you would like to ride with a flatter back a road bike would be better.

  8. #8
    Dog Chaser BetweenRides's Avatar
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    My main ride is a titanium road bike. It's my favorite and is perfect for any distance, but particularly for long rides. Last year I bought a cross bike (Kona Jake the Snake) for night riding and for the trails. I have a spare set of Ksyrium wheels that I put on it for shorter road distances. I enjoy having the versatility and it's wonderful for shorter, faster rides and for hilly courses because of the compact gearing. I haven't ridden it over 45 miles at a time and probably won't, as the aluminum frame seems to wear me out on rides over 40 miles. Fit is similar to the Cyrene, but a little more stretched out and upright. It's a comfortable fit though and I don't have any issues keeping up with the group on either bike.

    If you already have a nice Cross bike - and it looks like you do - I would go for a dedicated road bike. It's more fun to have different bikes for different purposes and if one is in the shop, you can always ride the other.

  9. #9
    headtube. zzyzx_xyzzy's Avatar
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    Height of the BB doesn't matter once you are actually on the bike and riding it, it only matters mounting and dismounting.

    Only one disadvantage I can think of, cross bikes tend to have a slack head tube angle with not much fork rake, resulting in long "trail". If you like to keep snacks, armwarmers etc. in a handlebar bag for ready access on the bike, long trail doesn't handle well with the load of the handlebar bag.

    There's been a little vogue for 'randonneur' style bikes lately, these are optimized for long distance riding with clearance for wider tires and fenders, more relaxed fit compared to modern road race bikes, and low trail that handles well with a bag in front. Many older ('70s, early '80s) road frames can work out this way too.

  10. #10
    Hey let's ride. pathdoc's Avatar
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    I have a cyclocross frame that I built up as a commuter. This setup allows me to run tires up to 32mm or so. I usually run 28's but my 28's started to show some evidence of bead seperation at about 1600 miles so I put on an old set of 23mm road tires that were in the garage. I need to find something between 25-28mm soon as the 23's are getting old.
    Overall my cyclocross/commuter can do about anything.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member Scotland Yard's Avatar
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    I use my cross bike primarily for road riding. The geometry is usually a little bit more slack then more race orientated road bikes so they're comfortable, at least mine is on long rides. I don't have enough income as a student right now to afford multiple bikes, So I love the option of having something that's reasonably light and fast for road riding and something that's tough enough for all weather commuting. Sunny days or crappy weather it's the best bike.

    However if you already own a cross bike and need a bike just intended for road riding, why not try a more slack road bike geometry or compare the geo's at the shop.

  12. #12
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    I actually thought the higher bottom bracket was one of the signature features of CX - at least that's what one guy at an LBS told me (the guy was an arse though).

    Is there really much of a difference in geometry. In some brands I see a large different with the CS bikes having a more sloped top tube compared to road bikes. But one others, such as the Motobecanes, it has a horizontal top tube.

    Is it brand specific?
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  13. #13
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    Most cross bikes today (at least the mass produced one's) are quite similar to road bike geometry. There are small differences such as slightly longer wheelbase, slacker angles on some tubes but other things such as BB height are nearly the same. Some of the more strict builders produce frames with higher BB height, but not that many. Not sure it matters much anymore. I've ridden a cross bike with a higher BB and it does take a little getting use to. I always felt a little tippy on it.
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  14. #14
    Devil's Advocate
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    Quote Originally Posted by damnable View Post
    I actually thought the higher bottom bracket was one of the signature features of CX - at least that's what one guy at an LBS told me (the guy was an arse though).

    Is there really much of a difference in geometry. In some brands I see a large different with the CS bikes having a more sloped top tube compared to road bikes. But one others, such as the Motobecanes, it has a horizontal top tube.

    Is it brand specific?
    Kind of like the other poster said, Cross bikes are built a lot like road bikes, although they make the wheel base a bit longer for stability and tire clearance and the BB a bit higher. Cross bikes are usually somewhere in-between a road bike and a touring bike. Cross bikes are essentially road bikes that they made much less specified so you could use it for any sort of riding you want. Giving up some responsiveness for versatility. The best thing for you to do would be to try out a road bike and cross bike. Of course there is a range in there as well. The Specialized Tricross is much more relaxed than most road bikes, while the Scott Cross bikes have fairly short wheelbases and are built a bit more like a road bike.

    A higher BB shouldn't make you tippy, but your bike definitely won't be able to corner as sharply as a lower BB because of the higher center of gravity.

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