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  1. #1
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    Road vs Cyclocross

    Hi all,
    What's the difference between a road and cyclocross bike? I'll be in the market for a new bike next year and starting the research stage of the purchase. If I'm not going to do any racing why would I chose one style over the other?

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    I'm in the same boat... I'm researching the options. What I've found is that cyclocross bikes have wider tires (can even accommodate a narrow mountain bike tire), have different brakes, sometimes have a higher bottom bracket (for going over rougher terrain), a little more upright geometry, and cost a couple of hundred more with comparable components. The reason I'm considering a cyclocross is I live in Alaska and even the paved roads are uneven with cracks from frost heaves. Bikes I like which I've test ridden are to my liking: Kona Jake the Snake, Specialized Crux and TriCross, and Redline's Conquest Pro.
    Happy Hunting!

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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    lots of commuter bikes share the stuff people call cross bikes
    wider 700c tires and clearances . not as big as a 29er..

    Cross you carry the bike, some, and so it has to accommodate that.
    doesn't have any rack mount. never mudguards. even a bottle cage gets in the way..

    commuter bikes are OK, now disc brakes are more common, triple crank
    road high gearing ..
    stuff CX doesn't need .. wet turf and Gooey Mud is slow ,
    and the granny gear users watch the run hard up hill people
    leave them behind.

    the commuter section may be more the direction..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 07-22-12 at 06:15 PM.

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    I recently was in your shoes. Here is what I did. First asses what kind of riding your going to be doing. Are you commuting? What terrain are you going to be traversing? What type of riding position is more comfortable? Then I test rode a few road bikes and a few cross bikes, heck even a few hyrid and commuters.
    The test rides showed me that I like a slightly more upright position than a road bike but less than a flat bar hybrid. I also found out that 23-25mm road tires made me feel every bump in the road and were kinda scary to ride anything that wasn't paved. I also determined that most of my riding would be on roads or trails. Trails meaning cement MUP's and hardpack gravel. So I wanted something that was more suitable for that. I don't commute much so having fenders, racks, and the like were not overly important to me. One thing that was important to me was not having to worry about pot holes and curb jumping and some rough use breaking my bike. So for those reasons I was drawn to the cyclocross bikes (if you werent aware cyclocross bikes are built heavier and more robust to withstand the abuse that cyclocross as a sport entails).

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    I asked a similar question not too long ago and got some good input. Do a search on my username in this forum. I've learned a lot here.

    TM

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    Senior Member gforeman's Avatar
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    I have a Madone 3.1 Road, and a Mtn. bike with Road tires for roads with less than optimal surface. I wanted to replace the Mtn. bike with a bike that had the same ergonomics as my Madone, but wider tires. I ended up with a Specialized Crux Disc, and while I do not ride off-road, I absolutely love this bike! It smooth shifting, the ride is not harsh, and I am finding myself on it more than my Madone. This was going to be my vacation bike and backup, but it is becoming my main ride.

    I did install 35c road tires on it, but other than that, it's just a pleasure to ride right out of the box!

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    I also ended up with the Crux disc and its absolutely rocks I did a review of it on this forum earlier this year. Its funny though cause I did the opposite of you, I took the 33mm tires off and put 28mm road tires on and it rocks.

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    Road bike and Cyclocross bike has a lot of difference.


    The biggest difference is tire clearance. Most Cyclocross bikes would accept up to 700x40C, sometimes even 42. CX bikes also usually have higher bottom bracket height than the road bike, making the standover height a little higher than those of road bikes. This allows more room between pedal and the ground, due to the types of racing they do (you don't want your pedal hitting the mud: you'll fall. However, I am not sure whether few millimeters difference in BB height makes much difference. I have snowy weather over here during winter, so I put studded tires on my CX bike, but when the pedal hits, it hits.

    Another bigger difference is that CX are usually equipped with Cantilever brakes. However, recently many manufacturers started laying their hands on Disc brakes.

    Some people on this thread mentioned it wrong, but low level CX bikes do have fender mounts. Most of them are usually steel or aluminum frames. Most of these bikes also have mudguard mounts. No carbon frame bike would ever have fender mounts though. Also, due to the frame geometry design, the posture is less extreme than those of Road bikes. So generally, CX bikes tend to be "more comfortable" than road bikes, but it's usually all about Bike fitting, so I can't really comment on this.

    Good thing about CX bikes is that you could still put 700x28C and thinner tires on and use it as a road bike. My CX bike is equipped with 700x28C. It's awesome. You might not get the same speed as road bike, but you could still enjoy what roadies do. If your CX bike has rack mounts, then you could go for touring.



    If you aren't going to do any racing, then I don't think it would make any difference between CX and road, so I suggest road, so that you have more variety of options to choose from because CX market is not as popular as road. If you want drop handlebar, thick tire bike, then you may want a touring bike.

    But if you are like me, who wants a bike that looks racy but thicker tires, then CX is still a good option to consider. Low level CX bikes may have rack mounts (Japanese version of Kona Jake 2012 does have rack mounts, which is the bike I own). You probably won't be needing any high-edge components. Shimano makes low-end components which is cheap enough for beginners and non-hardcore riders to put their hands on.



    But honestly, you should buy what you feel the best. Some people, even though they are never going to use it for race, have Dura-Ace Di2 equipped carbon frame bikes that costs like $10000, not because they actually need such bike, but because it's simply their hobby buying the best bike out there. I absolutely think this is a fine hobby, it's not like I have any say on it neither, neither do anyone. If you come across a bike that best fits your image of your ideal bike, go ahead and buy it.
    Last edited by IFLUX23; 07-23-12 at 07:31 AM.
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    I have found there's nothing I can't do with road tires on my Kona Major Jake that I could do on my Madone 4.5. I really don't notice the gearing unless I'm on a major downhill, and it really doesn't limit me. The bonus is I can switch wheels to cx for general riding an go places I'd never go on a true racing bike. Unless your an elite level rider a cx bike might be more flexible! particularly a more race like carbon farm cx bike. The cx does sit a bit more upright tout that's good for me, though with the stem slammed its plenty aggresive. Ride a few. I've kept up with plenty of roady groups even with the knobs, though I does make it more challenging for sure.

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    Quote Originally Posted by IFLUX23 View Post

    Some people on this thread mentioned it wrong, but low level CX bikes do have fender mounts. Most of them are usually steel or aluminum frames. Most of these bikes also have mudguard mounts. No carbon frame bike would ever have fender mounts though. Also, due to the frame geometry design, the posture is less extreme than those of Road bikes. So generally, CX bikes tend to be "more comfortable" than road bikes, but it's usually all about Bike fitting, so I can't really comment on this.

    Good thing about CX bikes is that you could still put 700x28C and thinner tires on and use it as a road bike. My CX bike is equipped with 700x28C. It's awesome. You might not get the same speed as road bike, but you could still enjoy what roadies do. If your CX bike has rack mounts, then you could go for touring.



    If you aren't going to do any racing, then I don't think it would make any difference between CX and road, so I suggest road, so that you have more variety of options to choose from because CX market is not as popular as road. If you want drop handlebar, thick tire bike, then you may want a touring bike.
    i
    Lots of bikes might be called CX but CX really are bikes designed to race. They don't have fenders or racks. They are close to road bikes but can handle wider, knobby tires, use cantilever or disc brakes, and perhaps have a more upright position. That's it. Cyclocross is a type of race.
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

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    Quote Originally Posted by StanSeven View Post
    Lots of bikes might be called CX but CX really are bikes designed to race. They don't have fenders or racks. They are close to road bikes but can handle wider, knobby tires, use cantilever or disc brakes, and perhaps have a more upright position. That's it. Cyclocross is a type of race.
    So are you suggesting that unless you use the bike for CX race, it's not a CX bike?
    I've got 2012 Kona Jake

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    Wheelsuck Fat Boy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IFLUX23 View Post
    So are you suggesting that unless you use the bike for CX race, it's not a CX bike?
    I would say that most of the people riding CX bikes are using them on a touring capacity. CX bikes are a bit trendy right now, so I think often people end up on them that would be better served with a touring bike. Unless you're spending a good chunk of time off road, then a true CX bike it's probably not the best tool for the job.

  13. #13
    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fat Boy View Post
    I would say that most of the people riding CX bikes are using them on a touring capacity. CX bikes are a bit trendy right now, so I think often people end up on them that would be better served with a touring bike. Unless you're spending a good chunk of time off road, then a true CX bike it's probably not the best tool for the job.
    +1/2

    Marketers apply the term "Cyclocross" to a wide range of bikes. Some of these bikes are pure race machines, these often lack features including rack mounts and water bottle cage mounts. Many Cyclocross bikes are sports bikes intended for recreational use. These models offer the versatility of cantilever or disc brakes and can fit larger tires than road bikes. they also have attachment points for fenders and racks, making them useful as rain bikes and commuting.

    Touring bikes tend to have other features that include longer chainstays, bar end shifters, and triple touring cranksets not usually seen on Cyclocross bikes.
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    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    So are you suggesting that unless you use the bike for CX race, it's not a CX bike?
    might be over use of a name that becomes a marketing cliche' to sell
    a hybrid.. a commuter bike ..
    maybe a hybrid, with drop bars will do, to use same tire types
    allow addition of mud guards and has rack fittings ..


    Competition cyclo-cross frames lack all that, intentionally.
    though enough people with disposable dosh,
    want a step up from hybrids to have Ultegra STI gears and such..
    that frames begin to fit mounts for stuff.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 07-27-12 at 09:31 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nbo10 View Post
    Hi all,
    What's the difference between a road and cyclocross bike? I'll be in the market for a new bike next year and starting the research stage of the purchase. If I'm not going to do any racing why would I chose one style over the other?
    The history of cross bikes is much longer than the modern road bikes, but they were used as road bikes then. Why? It's because roads in the past were not typically well paved and usually gravelly to muddy, so bikes then usually run rather fatter tires with fenders. The longer chainstays and relaxed fork rake were designed to accommodate fatter tires. When roads become better and smoothly paved, road bikes with narrower tires become more common and the needs for fatter tires not so much.

    So what are the main differences between a road bike vs a cross bike.

    Basically not much ,except that the cross bike chainstays is slightly longer than a road bike to accommodate wider tires. But this length is not longer than a typical touring bike. Yes, you can fit 700x40c tires on a cross bike that you can't on a typical road bike which maxed out at 700x25c. Another unique feature found on a cross bike is the flattish top tube, designed for ease of portaging because that's what racers do in a cyclocross; carry their bikes across obstacles! The cables are typically run ontop of the top tube, whereas road bikes run their shifter cables on the downtube. This helps prevent mud and crap dislodging the shifting when cross racing. The geometry is also slightly different. A typical professionally fitted cross bike is usually about 1" to 2" shorter on the top tube and about 1 to 2" higher on the handle bar since aerodynamics is not a main concern with cross racers. They typically ride SLOWER than roadies on the Tour De France.
    The only reason I would recommend people go for a cross bike is the versatility. Being able to run fatter tires is a plus on rougher surfaces which was what people had to contend with poor roads in the past. Plus the ability to run fenders and racks on some cross bikes built with braze-ons is a plus. Road bikes do not have braze-ons for either both, but some newer roads bike today like the Madone 3.1 come with fenders attachments and you can bolt on a Tubus Fly or an Axiom Streamliner DLX rack to get you that rack option on any road bike makes buying a cross bike unnecessary unless your desire is to run fatter tires.

    So, if you ride in really rough gravelly or pot hole infested roads, a cross bike with fatter lower pressure tires is a better option compared to the narrower higher pressure tires.

    Now speaking of CX Race and CX bikes in general. CX race bikes are built to race and are ultra stiff. Ride compliance is usually at the back of the designer's mind because a typical cross race last only 30 to 45mins in general. So a really stiff bike is really good for stop and go racing with good acceleration and excellent hill climbing abilities and sprinting. Even on a road bike circuit, you also have road bikes that are ultra stiff, designed for racing purposes and not so much for all day comfort riding. The mistake I've seen with a few people is that, they are attracted to the CX race bikes because they are lighter than normal CX which have to have the tubes reinforced on the braze-ons to take on more weight from the rack. The problem with CX Race bikes is that, they will undoubtly ride much stiffer, especially with alloy frames. The damping and cushioning come from the soft ground they race on which asphalt does not provide.

    Some CX bikes come with triple cranksets, but there is a trend moving away from triple to double. A 50/34 and a 12-30 10 speed Tiagra gives you an equivalent road triple and you can always replace the 12-30 to a 11-36 SLX with a Deore derailleur to go even lower!

    A lot of people like CX bikes as opposed to touring, because it's usually always lighter than a touring bike. A touring bike is designed with beefed up tubing to anticipate carrying the loads necessary for an expedition type touring trip. Most people don't do expedition type commuting to work, so why ride a tank when you can ride something like a cross SUV which a cross bike is and save some weight?
    Last edited by pacificcyclist; 07-27-12 at 10:51 AM.
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    I was facing the same decision a year and half ago. I decided to get a CX bike and I have been very happy with my decision. The main benefit or a CX bike is it's versatility. As mentioned above, A CX bike will typically fit wider tires than a road bike. A CX bike can handle a variety of riding conditions by simply switching out different types of tires. I mainly use the bike for road riding (skinny tires 700x25). I try to do a group ride once a week that is hosted by a local shop where we ride in a paceline at fairly high speeds. I also use the bike for greenway (MUP) riding and the occasional gravel road/dirt trail (fatter tires 700x32) around town. I live about an hour from a national park where you put together a variety of 50+ mile loops by linking together various paved and unpaved roads (fatter tires). I also use the bike for the occasional CX race.

    I recently purchased a second wheelset. I keep my skinny tires on the newer, lighter wheelset for road riding and keep the cx tires on the stock wheelset. I simply swap wheelsets (this is quicker than swapping tires, but obviously more expensive) depending on the type of ride I plan to do.

    I live in a hilly/mountainous area. Another advantage of of CX bike is that they are geared down relative to the standard road bike gearing. The stock gearing on my CX bike is 48-34 up front with an 11-28 cassette in the rear. This combination gives me more easy gears for climbing. A road bike will usually have 53-39 or 50-34 up front with 11-23 or 11-25 in the rear. So, a cx bike will sacrifice some top end speed relative to road bike gearing. However, given that I like in a hilly area, this hasn't really been a problem.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fat Boy View Post
    I would say that most of the people riding CX bikes are using them on a touring capacity. CX bikes are a bit trendy right now, so I think often people end up on them that would be better served with a touring bike. Unless you're spending a good chunk of time off road, then a true CX bike it's probably not the best tool for the job.
    Well not all people go to race, some people buy top-notch components even though they are never going to race. At least in this level, cycling and owning a bike itself is like a hobby to them. Maybe these people wanted a bike that can be used for touring but looks racy at the same time.
    I've got 2012 Kona Jake

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fat Boy View Post
    I would say that most of the people riding CX bikes are using them on a touring capacity. CX bikes are a bit trendy right now, so I think often people end up on them that would be better served with a touring bike. Unless you're spending a good chunk of time off road, then a true CX bike it's probably not the best tool for the job.
    This statement may or may not hold true depending on where you live. In my local cycling community the folks with CX bikes are using them for road riding (solo and group/club rides), gravel road riding, MUP riding, commuting, and the occasional cx race. If you want to have one "road" bike I think a CX bike is a good option.

    Also, the CX line of most of the big name bike brands feature carbon and aluminum models that are more or less "race" bikes and do not include the rack and fender eyelets that would be necessary for touring. Bikes like the surly cross check, which may be marketed for their light touring capability, are not typical CX bikes. It is usually only the lower end models of big name CX bikes that have touring/commuting features for racks and fenders.
    Last edited by mtb123; 07-27-12 at 12:51 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fat Boy View Post
    I would say that most of the people riding CX bikes are using them on a touring capacity. CX bikes are a bit trendy right now, so I think often people end up on them that would be better served with a touring bike. Unless you're spending a good chunk of time off road, then a true CX bike it's probably not the best tool for the job.
    I think the main reason most people use CX bikes is due its more relaxed riding geometry compared to a road bike. Head tube placement is a bit higher. CX bikes are a bit like the old school Rando bikes of the past and of course, this appeals to people who don't race. Most cyclists don't. But what they'll like to do is street race from stop light to stop light and the CX bikes are more appealing to ride compared to a boat anchor touring bike which is slower in acceleration and in steering response. A touring bike is application specific and people do not want to ride a specific bike. A CX bike is way more versatile in this regard; change of wheelset can make it road bikeish and then a change to another wheelset makes it an off-roader/tourer. I use my CX bike as an off-road and inclement weather bike and it differs in ride and response quality compared to my carbon road bike.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by StanSeven View Post
    Lots of bikes might be called CX but CX really are bikes designed to race. They don't have fenders or racks.
    Back in 2008 I was looking for a drop-bar commuter. My only real requirement was that it be able to take a rack and full fenders. I bought a Kona Jake and immediately put a rack, fenders and slick tires on it. However, the following year I decided to try out CX racing, so I removed the rack and fenders and put the knobby tires back on. I really enjoyed CX racing so I eventually bought a Major Jake. The MJ is nice, but it's really only marginally better as a race bike than the base Jake and most of that margin comes down to component selection.

    You could split hairs over whether or not my Jake is a CX bike when it has rack and fenders on it, but I can tell you that if I had bought something like a Surly Pacer instead it wouldn't have made a very good bike to try out CX racing.

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