Old 07-10-18, 01:38 PM
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Bikes: too many of all kinds

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Handling difference between Cross and Gravel bikes

How does Cross and Gravel handle differently? Specifically, When would one want Cross vs Gravel? How do they handle and ride differently? So here is the answer, based on my own research, experience, and validated with an OEM designer of CX and gravel bikes. These are generalizations, your results may vary. ;-)

The background:
Gravel is longer/lower/slacker meaning:
  • Longer chainstays/wheelbase,
  • lower bottom bracket,
  • shallower head tube angle
along with:
  • more tire clearance and
  • more frame stack
  • More compliant ride
These features make gravel bikes more suitable for 3+ hour rides, while a cross bike is designed to be ridden hard for <60 minutes.

Short chain stays help CX bikes respond sharply to power bursts, the long chain stays on gravel bikes do a lot to keep it stable on loose terrain.

Lower bottom bracket gives a slightly lower center of gravity (and longer chain stays), while a higher BB gives more clearance for obstacles and less pedal strike.
Slacker geometry slows the steering down a bit for more stability.

This leads to the following handling differences:*

Cross bikes: Quicker handling at the cost of stability.
Dynamically, a cross bike would be more agile, designed to be ridden more aggressively, accelerates and climbs a little faster, could corner harder/sharper (requiring more care on sweeping loose turns), less worry about pedal strike.

Gravel bikes tend to be more stable in loose terrain, and fast descents, a bit easier and more comfortable to ride, require a little more intention on turn-in (swinging wide too wide on very tight turns) and a generally more relaxed demeanor.

*Note that this is a generalization - some gravel bikes are more aggressive, and some CX bikes are more laid back, and some manufacturers use the same frame for both gravel and cross (often with different gearing and different stock tire size).

Last edited by chas58; 07-12-18 at 11:48 AM.
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