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Road Bike to Cyclocross - Is it just the tires?

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Road Bike to Cyclocross - Is it just the tires?

Old 11-21-16, 11:00 AM
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Road Bike to Cyclocross - Is it just the tires?

Hi All, and thanks for reading.

I purchased my first road bike back in July of 2016 (5 months ago) and have put a little over 1k miles on it. It is a basic build, Bianchi Via Nirone 7 compact (9sp) /w Sora group set.

I sometimes ride with a guys and gals that have pretty pricey setups and ride rain/shine/snow/cold. My horse is obviously lacking in comparison to some!

I ride for exercise, but like to setup strava and compete against myself However, I am curious if I can set my bike up to be more of an "all-around" type of bike. I see some people set up on what they call "cyclocross" bikes but all I have noticed is that their tires are just bigger and slightly wider.

I enjoy riding on the roads, but sometimes wish I could get on some "rougher" trails, more gravel I suppose; nothing like mountain biking however.

Currently, I have not done anything to my bike other than a new seat and grip tape! My wheels/tires are still stock and will be due to replace the crank and chain after winter.

Cheers!
CK
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Old 11-21-16, 11:38 AM
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Cyclocross bikes are good all-arounders but some are better than others. First differences between road bikes and cross bikes...

-cross bikes typically have a higher bottom bracket and sometimes means the geometry is a little odd
-most cross bikes have steep headtube angles (cyclocross courses have tight turns were you never agile handling)
-cross bikes have much bigger clearance for wider, knobbier tires plus they don't have to worry about caliper brakes
-many cross bikes now come with disc brakes instead of cantilever brakes

All I can think of for now but I'm sure others will add to it. Before you start looking at cross bikes though, think about what you're really using it for. I originally was planning on getting a cross bike and was set on one til a friend pointed several things out and for my style of riding and where, a gravel bike was a much better match (for me at least). Over 2k miles later and I'm very happy with my decision.
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Old 11-21-16, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Ben I.
Cyclocross bikes are good all-arounders but some are better than others. First differences between road bikes and cross bikes...

-cross bikes typically have a higher bottom bracket and sometimes means the geometry is a little odd
-most cross bikes have steep headtube angles (cyclocross courses have tight turns were you never agile handling)
-cross bikes have much bigger clearance for wider, knobbier tires plus they don't have to worry about caliper brakes
-many cross bikes now come with disc brakes instead of cantilever brakes

All I can think of for now but I'm sure others will add to it. Before you start looking at cross bikes though, think about what you're really using it for. I originally was planning on getting a cross bike and was set on one til a friend pointed several things out and for my style of riding and where, a gravel bike was a much better match (for me at least). Over 2k miles later and I'm very happy with my decision.
Thanks for replying!

To be specific. I am not looking to buy a new bike. I am curious to know if anyone has put knobbier tires on their road bike, and better yet, on a bike similar to mine listed above.

What exactly is a gravel bike?

Cheers.
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Old 11-21-16, 12:00 PM
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You cannot make that bike into a cx bike just by swapping the tires. However, you can ride that bike on unpaved trails now or with wider tires, depending on how rough the surfaces are.

Around here there are crushed limestone rail trails that I ride with no problem with a road bike and 25 mm tires. On the other hand, there are also gravel roads that I wouldn't ride with a road bike.

You are riding an entry-level alloy bike and it looks like the wheels have a high spoke count. you won't break it by riding some unpaved trails.
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Old 11-21-16, 12:05 PM
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Ah gotcha. The majority of road bikes don't have the clearance for knobbier tires due to the brake calipers and frame clearance at the rear. For instance, my road bike barely fits 25mm tires with the calipers all the way open. I could probably put 28mm tires in but I wouldn't be able to get the wheels out without letting air out.

As far as adding knobbier tires, usually the knobby tires start at around 32mm wide which would never fit your bike. If you want to ride more places and paths, add bigger tires so you can run a little lower pressures.

A gravel bike is one of the ever growing categories of bikes much like adventure/all-road/etc bikes. Gravel bikes have slacker headtube angles so handling isn't quite as nimble as a road bike but more predictable and less "twitchy" and have more relaxed geometry so you're a little more upright so both of which are nice on really long rides. Also they often come with disc brakes and, as mentioned, wider clearance for wider tires. Gravel bikes usually can fit around 40mm tires if not wider.

Last edited by Ben I.; 11-21-16 at 12:12 PM.
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Old 11-21-16, 12:05 PM
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Cross bikes have different geometry. The important two (for me, at least...I would never buy a road bike again) is that they are designed more upright, with less reach than road bikes. You'll feel much more stable in general, and especially so on uneven surfaces. They also have greater tire clearances.
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Old 11-21-16, 12:12 PM
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A gravel bike is a bike that it's kinda like if a CX bike had a child with and endurance road bike. CX bikes are designed for short and fast races, gravel bikes are designed for riding miles and miles on gravel/dirt roads and pavement, so geometry is different.

Many new endurance bikes (or "adventure road" bikes) now come with disc brakes and clearance for larger tires so the lines is blurred between categories.

How much wide do you think you can go on your bike? Online pics don't show a lot of clearance on the frame, the brakes will also be a limiting factor.
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Old 11-21-16, 12:22 PM
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One of the challenges with trying to use a road bike as a cross bike is room for bigger tires. If you look at your bike, do you have room for knobby tires? Need to check space around the fork, brakes, seat stays, seat post, and chain stays. If you're running 23 or 25mm tires and space is already tight, you'd be hard pressed to fit 33 or 35mm tires in there.


If you have ample space, then you could put something beefier in there. The geometry wouldn't be ideal, but it'd be usable.
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Old 11-21-16, 12:34 PM
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Also, a cross bike will often be made from heavier carbon layups than a similar seeming road bike.

Basically, a road bike can be ridden on gravel and dirt roads... especially a lower end model where every extra gram of carbon has been engineered out.

But you PROBABLY can't fit 32mm knobby tires, particularly if you have caliper brakes (while V brakes and canti brakes probably will).

Luckily, excepting for muddy conditions, you really don't need them. Get some hardened 25mm tires, like gatorskins. MAYBE 28mm (IF they will fit inside your frame and brake calipers).

And just ride what you have.
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Old 11-21-16, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by kuroba
A gravel bike is a bike that it's kinda like if a CX bike had a child with and endurance road bike. CX bikes are designed for short and fast races, gravel bikes are designed for riding miles and miles on gravel/dirt roads and pavement, so geometry is different.

Many new endurance bikes (or "adventure road" bikes) now come with disc brakes and clearance for larger tires so the lines is blurred between categories.

How much wide do you think you can go on your bike? Online pics don't show a lot of clearance on the frame, the brakes will also be a limiting factor.
Hi! truthfully I could probably fit a couple digits between the tire and brake...
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Old 11-21-16, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by nycphotography
Also, a cross bike will often be made from heavier carbon layups than a similar seeming road bike.

Basically, a road bike can be ridden on gravel and dirt roads... especially a lower end model where every extra gram of carbon has been engineered out.

But you PROBABLY can't fit 32mm knobby tires, particularly if you have caliper brakes (while V brakes and canti brakes probably will).

Luckily, excepting for muddy conditions, you really don't need them. Get some hardened 25mm tires, like gatorskins. MAYBE 28mm (IF they will fit inside your frame and brake calipers).

And just ride what you have.
I am running the stock 700x23 that came with the bike. They are super smooth with zero tread. It appears I do have a decent amount of room between the calipers and the "top" of the brake.

Cheers.
CK
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Old 11-21-16, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan
You cannot make that bike into a cx bike just by swapping the tires. However, you can ride that bike on unpaved trails now or with wider tires, depending on how rough the surfaces are.

Around here there are crushed limestone rail trails that I ride with no problem with a road bike and 25 mm tires. On the other hand, there are also gravel roads that I wouldn't ride with a road bike.

You are riding an entry-level alloy bike and it looks like the wheels have a high spoke count. you won't break it by riding some unpaved trails.
I feel as if my current tires are too soft, I'm worried the winter will really chew them up too.
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Old 11-21-16, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Reodoc
I am running the stock 700x23 that came with the bike. They are super smooth with zero tread. It appears I do have a decent amount of room between the calipers and the "top" of the brake.

Cheers.
CK
You also need to check tire clearance to the fork, chain stays, seat tube, and front derailleur and cable. If you have a friendly LBS, perhaps they'd let you try and fit some larger tires to your bike prior to purchase to see what works and what doesn't.
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Old 11-21-16, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by joejack951
You also need to check tire clearance to the fork, chain stays, seat tube, and front derailleur and cable. If you have a friendly LBS, perhaps they'd let you try and fit some larger tires to your bike prior to purchase to see what works and what doesn't.
Definitely look at the chain stays. That's often the limiting distance.
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Old 11-21-16, 02:31 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso
Definitely look at the chain stays. That's often the limiting distance.

chainstay +1


I have a 2013 Cannondale Evo. Even 25-mm tire can be difficult. Wheel has to be almost perfect true. It sucks to have rear tire rubbing chain stay in the middle of the ride.
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Old 11-21-16, 02:35 PM
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Again, there are unpaved roads and there are unpaved roads. You don't need knobby tires to ride on maintained unpaved rail trails or many well-cared for unpaved roads. You probably can't fit 32 mm knobby tires on that bike, but if you get a good set of 28 mm tires (many options, but somebody mentioned gatorskins, also, something like conti 4 season tires, etc.), you should be more sure-footed than on 23 mm slicks.

To be blunt, you haven't done enough riding, paved or unpaved, for you or for any of us to know what you really want or need. 1000 miles since July is an excellent start, but it's just a start. Also, we have no idea what sort of roads and trails are available in your area. Go and try a few rides and come back with more questions.
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Old 11-21-16, 02:56 PM
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HI Reodoc, I recently asked a similar question over on the cyclocross forum in a different way

https://www.bikeforums.net/cyclocross...8mm-tires.html

I basically wanted to make my road bike the best it could be off road. I was directed to some "KENDA KWICK" tires, off-road tires listed as 30mm wide, but many people say they are closer to 28mm...So I'm going to get a pair and see if they fit my bike or not. I have decent clearance on my road bike (I have 25mm now with loads of clearance...28mm would be no problem). MY smallest space measures 33mm wide, so on paper I have room, but only if the wheel/frame flex doesn't cause it to rub when I put the power down!

https://www.amazon.com/Kenda-Kwick-7...ds=kenda+kwick

If they fit, I may just try a cyclocross race next season, or at least a bit of off-road riding. I'm hoping it works out.
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Old 11-21-16, 07:08 PM
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This is what I do except I start to switch to my cyclocross bike in the winter and for when I want to explore gravel roads or milder trails I have seen or know about. I have a mtn bike and a fat bike too but the cyclocross bike (while nothing too fancy) is amazing for that. I pushed its versatility yesterday but that is a different story. I used 33 tubeless tires and they are pretty file-tread-like so not the best for looser conditions or snow. However, they are far better and tougher than regular road tires in those conditions I described, and not too much slower. It is awesome having this versatility. You can try to convert a road bike to be a bit more versatile but you will find that you cannot fit more than a 25 or 28 tire in the rear triangle especially. Those tires are also not very knobby or aggressive and relatively fragile. All you really need to do is find the knobbiest tire you can fit but I have not seen such narrow cyclocross tires.





Last edited by Chandne; 11-21-16 at 08:28 PM.
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Old 11-21-16, 07:08 PM
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I used to ride trail on spesh armadillo 23's. Not as fast as something more designed for it but it works. Then I took my touring bike with a triple and got a second wheel set that I put 27x1-3/8 knobbies on running around 50 psi and it worked real well. Biggest issue for me was on more technical descent riding the brakes on drop bars was really tiring. Haven't done that kind of riding lately, but if I did I would want to install some of those aux brake levers (or at least 1).

scott s.
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Old 11-21-16, 08:23 PM
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Thanks so much for the advice ALL! I will take all into consideration and definitely stop by my LBS as a start.
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Old 11-21-16, 08:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Chandne
This is what I do except I start to switch to my cyclocross bike in the winter and for when I want to explore gravel roads or milder trails I have seen or know about. I have a mtn bike and a fat bike too but the cyclocross bike (while nothing too fancy) is amazing for that. I pushed its versatility yesterday but that is a different story. I used 33 tubeless tires and they are pretty file-tread-like so not the best for looser conditions or snow. However, they are far better and tougher than regular road tires in those conditions I described, and not too much slower. It is awesome having this versatility. You can try to convert a road bike to be a bit more versatile but you will find that you cannot fit more than a 25 or 28 tire in the rear triangle especially. Those tires are also not very knobby or aggressive and relatively fragile. All you really need to do is fine the knobbiest tire you can fit but I have not seen such narrow cyclocross tires.





Looks great!
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Old 11-21-16, 10:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Reodoc
Hi All, and thanks for reading.

I purchased my first road bike back in July of 2016 (5 months ago) and have put a little over 1k miles on it. It is a basic build, Bianchi Via Nirone 7 compact (9sp) /w Sora group set.

I sometimes ride with a guys and gals that have pretty pricey setups and ride rain/shine/snow/cold. My horse is obviously lacking in comparison to some!

I ride for exercise, but like to setup strava and compete against myself However, I am curious if I can set my bike up to be more of an "all-around" type of bike. I see some people set up on what they call "cyclocross" bikes but all I have noticed is that their tires are just bigger and slightly wider.

I enjoy riding on the roads, but sometimes wish I could get on some "rougher" trails, more gravel I suppose; nothing like mountain biking however.

Currently, I have not done anything to my bike other than a new seat and grip tape! My wheels/tires are still stock and will be due to replace the crank and chain after winter.

Cheers!
CK
If 28 mm Gatorskins fit your frame, you're good to go. Encounter many sharp rocks on off road? Kenda Kwest tyres. Heavier, harder, but good grip on pavement and strong side walls. If 28s don't fit, 25 mm is fine as well.
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Old 11-22-16, 05:50 AM
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I bought a cheap set of Kenda and put on my 85 Trek 400. Since they are 27" wheels, the sizing is a little different, but it equates to a 35mm tire. (27 x 1 3/8") They fit. They look cool. They don't have a heavy tread like a mountain bike, but I like it.
This is the maximum size that will fit. They just barely clear the top of the front fork.
There is also no way I could get fenders in there. Because the bike was not made for these tires.

At that price, you could try it and see what works.

Here is a link.
https://www.amazon.com/Kenda-Knobby-.../dp/B000A0KZ1O
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Old 11-22-16, 07:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Slaninar
If 28 mm Gatorskins fit your frame, you're good to go. Encounter many sharp rocks on off road? Kenda Kwest tyres. Heavier, harder, but good grip on pavement and strong side walls. If 28s don't fit, 25 mm is fine as well.
Thanks! Yes I was thinking about getting the gatorskins, but was unsure of what size. I am going to stop by the LBS tomorrow AM.
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Old 11-23-16, 04:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Reodoc
Thanks! Yes I was thinking about getting the gatorskins, but was unsure of what size. I am going to stop by the LBS tomorrow AM.
I don't have personal experience with Gatorskins but I've heard from a few people that they aren't great on wet/damp pavement. I've been running Continental Gran Prix 4000S II on my road bike for a couple years now and love them but I think the widest they come is 28mm (could be wrong). I've heard a lot of good things about the 4 Seasons, kind of like a Gatorskin but with better grip and they come in 32mm I believe.
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