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Cyclocross or road bike for randonnčes / fast touring?

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Cyclocross or road bike for randonnčes / fast touring?

Old 09-02-14, 11:30 AM
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Cyclocross or road bike for randonnčes / fast touring?

Hi everyone,

I'm not just new to the forum but new to cycling as well (my sport was long distance running, until my Achille's tendon decided otherwise…).

I'm not interested in competitions, but I like going out on looong tours on Sunday to explore new places, carrying camera, lenses, and tripod (so I need a rack).

I actually cycle every day of the week, but Sunday is just the day I make the longer trips.

Now I'm using a mtb Montague Swissbike X50 with road tires (Schwalbe Marathon 1,7" @ 60psi); it's nice to use on a dirt track or in the city (it folds, so it enters quite comfortably in the elevator), but is kinda heavy. With a rack I guess it clocks at 35lbs / 16Kg or even a bit more.

I live in Italy and in my area the b roads, the ones with less traffic, generally have a not so good tarmac on the shoulder, lots of broken glass, and grades between 6 and 25%, with probably an average of 9/10% steepness. On this kind of roads my mtb feels like someone put SuperGlue into the hubs…and no, the brakes don't rub

Because of the tarmac condition I would be more inclined to buy a cyclocross bike than a road one, but I'm obviously open to suggestions (always something usable for randonnées / fast touring).

For now two bikes I like are:
- as a road bike: the Jamis Quest Sport (steel frame, around 500€; the components are not that great, but I can always upgrade these later)
- as a cyclocross bike: the Genesis Croix de Fer (steel frame, better components, unfortunately around 1400€ )

Do you think I'll see a lot of difference on the hills / mountains (on tarmac) with one of those two compared to my mtb? And between a road and a cyclocross there will be a notable difference going up steep hills?

Thanks a lot,
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Old 09-02-14, 11:47 AM
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I'd ride the Jamis. It'll fit 28mm tyres no problemo, for a plush ride on rough roads.

You can even fit some 30mm CX tyres on it for dirt road excursions if so desired.

Should be a pretty good upgrade from that MTB. Not familiar with that particular model but most Montagues I've seen weigh far more than a Jamis Quest.

Last edited by LesterOfPuppets; 09-02-14 at 11:51 AM.
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Old 09-02-14, 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by addicted2light
For now two bikes I like are:
- as a road bike: the Jamis Quest Sport (steel frame, around 500€; the components are not that great, but I can always upgrade these later)
- as a cyclocross bike: the Genesis Croix de Fer (steel frame, better components, unfortunately around 1400€ )

Do you think I'll see a lot of difference on the hills / mountains (on tarmac) with one of those two compared to my mtb?
It seems like it's typically around a 2mph increase if you have knobby tires and switch to slick tires (fat slick tires are fine, but no knobbiness). And about another 2mph if you switch from a mountain bike to a road bike.

Originally Posted by addicted2light
And between a road and a cyclocross there will be a notable difference going up steep hills?
It depends on the particular bike - a cyclocross bike is typical a hair heavier than a road bike, but not enough to make any noticeable difference (keep in mind a bike usually weighs between 15-30 pounds, while there's a 200lb rider on it). Particularly models might vary more in weight though.

Components are usually far more expensive to upgrade later rather than just buying the right ones to begin with. It's not *so* bad if you're not changing the # of gears in the back, but if you have to jump up a gear to get to the next level it's very expensive.

Generally speaking a cyclocross bike of the same level as the road version give you more flexibility to choose tires and fenders vs the road bike.
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Old 09-02-14, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets

Not familiar with that particular model but most Montagues I've seen weigh far more than a Jamis Quest.
Yes, mine weights around 35lbs or a bit more. Fairly nice to ride around the city or, going slow, on dirty tracks, but a real drag on paved hill roads.

Unfortunately the Jamis just went out of stock in my size

Last edited by addicted2light; 09-02-14 at 04:33 PM.
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Old 09-02-14, 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by PaulRivers
Generally speaking a cyclocross bike of the same level as the road version give you more flexibility to choose tires and fenders vs the road bike.
Thanks, I actually didn't think of that, but for me is really important to be able to kit the bike for long winter journeys with fenders.

Don't care so much about the choice in tire sizes: if I want to hit the single track I'll use one of my two mtb (the Montague and an old rigid model, that has been trashed quite a bit but it is lots of fun).
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Old 09-02-14, 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by addicted2light
Thanks, I actually didn't think of that, but for me is really important to be able to kit the bike for long winter journeys with fenders.
It's possible to wrangle fenders onto a regular road bike - most of the time - but it's awkward and difficult. It's definitely easier on a bike with better tire clearance, and a bike with fender mounts.

Originally Posted by addicted2light
Don't care so much about the choice in tire sizes: if I want to hit the single track I'll use one of my two mtb (the Montague and an old rigid model, that has been trashed quite a bit but it is lots of fun).
I'm confused then by your talking about road conditions in your original post, I thought you were saying you wanted flexibility in tire sizes. Depending on *how* bad the roads are on the shoulder, a wider tire can make the trip a tiny bit slower but a lot, lot smoother. My route myself doesn't need it, but thought that was what you were getting at in your post.

Not sure what winter is like where you are, but I live in Minnesota where I won't ride without studded tires, and they don't make good studded tires smaller than 35c. Even if you don't have ice, a wider tire is definitely better for keeping grip in the rain.

Last edited by PaulRivers; 09-02-14 at 05:19 PM.
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Old 09-02-14, 05:36 PM
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I'd ride the Jamis too. I like my CX bike if I'm going off the road and onto grass and dirt. Otherwise, if its road, usually no matter how bumpy or pothole ridden, I enjoy the roadbike. Once you're accustomed to speed, you become addicted to it.
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Old 09-02-14, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by PaulRivers
I'm confused then by your talking about road conditions in your original post
I talked about road conditions because some of the roads I enjoy cycling on, being remote / quiet country roads, have the pavement in pretty bad shape (especially on the shoulder). Recession means that the small towns often have to prioritize where to spend limited funds, and they obviously decide to keep in good shape the a-roads instead of the b- or c- ones.
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Old 09-02-14, 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Panza
Once you're accustomed to speed, you become addicted to it.
That's the second motive - the first being hill climbing ability - because I'm starting to un-love the mtb…even if, to be fair, with a change of cassette it would gain quite a bit of speed on flat ground and descents (but still no climbing ability, it has a 22 gear inches as a granny already and still feels like moving a truck)
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Old 09-02-14, 09:08 PM
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I have both a cross bike and a road bike for randonees/fast touring. I have the cross set up with a little wider gearing (a triple crank rather than a compact crank) and a little plusher tires than the road bike. I like them both a lot and choose the bike based on what I think the road conditions will be like.

If I had to pick one, I'd go with the cross because it is the more versatile bike.
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Old 09-03-14, 11:32 AM
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Originally Posted by addicted2light
I talked about road conditions because some of the roads I enjoy cycling on, being remote / quiet country roads, have the pavement in pretty bad shape (especially on the shoulder). Recession means that the small towns often have to prioritize where to spend limited funds, and they obviously decide to keep in good shape the a-roads instead of the b- or c- ones.
Ok, well, depending on how bad it is, a fatter tire could help with that if it's really bad then. I don't mean a 2" tire (though that would certainly help), but even a 28c tire can give a nicer ride than the old default of 23c, with no speed penalty. A 35c tire, imo, is a little bit slower on smooth pavement but it's faster if the pavement is broken up somewhat.

Saw your other comment, if you want to feel a bikes climbing ability, you gotta go to a shop and test ride a bike. Personally - I think the new Trek Emonda ($2,600 for the 500 level carbon which is the version that was amazing) is amazing. I test rode one, and would probably own one now if the shop hadn't sold it to someone else already and were waiting for it come back into stock. We'll see. (It wouldn't fit above a 28c tire though, I believe.)

But if you're looking for a racey feel, the best thing to do is to test ride the bikes in person yourself.
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Old 09-03-14, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by PaulRivers
It seems like it's typically around a 2mph increase if you have knobby tires and switch to slick tires (fat slick tires are fine, but no knobbiness). And about another 2mph if you switch from a mountain bike to a road bike.
There really isn't a speed difference between a road and cross bike: if the rider positions are the same, they'll be equally aero, and if the tyres are the same then the rolling resistance will be the same. The cross bike will be a little bit heavier, but only enough to reduce speed on a steep climb a % or two.

And on a rough road, at long distance power outputs, the cross bike will actually be faster than a typical road bike - because it can wider tyres that reduce rolling resistance on these roads. That's why dedicated randoneur bikes are built to take wide rubber - it used to be 32mm, but the state of the art is going to 40mm.

If you can't find or afford a dedicated rando bike, then a well chosen crosser is probably the best alternative. (Avoid the aggressively race oriented ones!)
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Old 09-03-14, 11:45 AM
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Originally Posted by addicted2light
Thanks, I actually didn't think of that, but for me is really important to be able to kit the bike for long winter journeys with fenders.

Don't care so much about the choice in tire sizes: if I want to hit the single track I'll use one of my two mtb (the Montague and an old rigid model, that has been trashed quite a bit but it is lots of fun).
Then look for a bike like a Crosscheck or Kona Jake: the racier cross bikes are NOT fender friendly.

And read the cantilever brake faq in the cross forum - the one problem crossers tend to is front brake squeal, but it's easily fixed with a $10 brake hanger.

Last edited by meanwhile; 09-03-14 at 12:06 PM.
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Old 09-03-14, 11:59 AM
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My Randonneur set up. Surly CrossCheck, Brooks saddle, VeloOrange Leather Tape, rear rack, VeloOrange front rack and Rando bag. Runs great, comfortable for long rides, and can carry up to 50lbs on the back no problem. I have a Banjo Brothers Pannier for commuting to school, but I usually tour light on the weekends. Just lunch and a hammock
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Old 09-03-14, 01:03 PM
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Originally Posted by meanwhile
There really isn't a speed difference between a road and cross bike: if the rider positions are the same, they'll be equally aero, and if the tyres are the same then the rolling resistance will be the same. The cross bike will be a little bit heavier, but only enough to reduce speed on a steep climb a % or two.
Not sure why you quoted me though, as I was comparing a mountain bike to a road bike. I agree with what you're saying about road vs cyclocross bikes being essentially the same speed on the road, if using the same tires. A cyclocross is basically a road bike with clearance for fatter tires. Guess the one drawback I'm not fond of on cyclocross is the brake squeal I encountered on the one I rode. I had thought it was just that model, but someone else mentioned other bikes had had the same issue. Hrm. In my experience "easily fixed" with some 3rd party thing doesn't usually work. I read that specialized redesigned the front fork to eliminate brake squeal on their cyclocross model.

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Old 09-03-14, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by meanwhile
Then look for a bike like a Crosscheck or Kona Jake: the racier cross bikes are NOT fender friendly.

And read the cantilever brake faq in the cross forum - the one problem crossers tend to is front brake squeal, but it's easily fixed with a $10 brake hanger.
Jamis Quest can fit 28mm tyres with fenders. 32 without.
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Old 09-03-14, 05:10 PM
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Originally Posted by RogueRadio


My Randonneur set up. Surly CrossCheck, Brooks saddle, VeloOrange Leather Tape, rear rack, VeloOrange front rack and Rando bag. Runs great, comfortable for long rides, and can carry up to 50lbs on the back no problem. I have a Banjo Brothers Pannier for commuting to school, but I usually tour light on the weekends. Just lunch and a hammock
Beautiful ride!

For me weight should not be a problem. I'm used to backpacking ultra-lite style so even accounting for a lot of water in the summer (I tend to run pretty hot when cycling) I don't think I'll ever go up to 30 pounds.
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Old 09-03-14, 05:12 PM
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Originally Posted by meanwhile
Then look for a bike like a Crosscheck or Kona Jake: the racier cross bikes are NOT fender friendly.

And read the cantilever brake faq in the cross forum - the one problem crossers tend to is front brake squeal, but it's easily fixed with a $10 brake hanger.
Unfortunately they are both quite hard to come buy here in Europe, and my LBS pretty much don't stock anything remotely similar.

If I should decide to go for a cx I will probably go for disc brakes, so the cantilever squeal will not be a problem.
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Old 09-03-14, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets
Jamis Quest can fit 28mm tyres with fenders. 32 without.
The Quest is no longer an option, at least for now, because it is out of stock pretty much at every online store that has reasonably shipping costs to Italy.

Actually some almost-local guy is offering for sale an old (mid-80s I guess?) steel Pinarello. It weights less than 20 pounds, but given that I should change the components anyway I could probably shave another pound or so. I'll try to see if I can arrange a test ride.
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Old 09-03-14, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by addicted2light
The Quest is no longer an option, at least for now, because it is out of stock pretty much at every online store that has reasonably shipping costs to Italy.

Actually some almost-local guy is offering for sale an old (mid-80s I guess?) steel Pinarello. It weights less than 20 pounds, but given that I should change the components anyway I could probably shave another pound or so. I'll try to see if I can arrange a test ride.
My '80s Pinarello Record wouldn't even fit most 25mm tires up front. I wouldn't expect huge weight savings unless you spend a LOT on new components. Mine was 22 lbs but had no really lightweight parts. AMAZING bike, though!!!
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Old 09-03-14, 05:39 PM
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I think the Surly Crosscheck & Straggler has clearance for 42mm with fenders...Salsa has some interesting offerings as well for mixed conditions, look at the Fargo and Vaya.
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Old 09-03-14, 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets
My '80s Pinarello Record wouldn't even fit most 25mm tires up front. I wouldn't expect huge weight savings unless you spend a LOT on new components. Mine was 22 lbs but had no really lightweight parts. AMAZING bike, though!!!
This one should be a Montello, and according to the guy it is sporting 28c tires on new wheels (not the original ones). Considering my actual bike weights more than 35 lbs I would be ecstatic just to go under 20
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