Author Topic: Road bike vs. Cyclo-cross bike  (Read 5305 times)

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Offline Bclayden

Road bike vs. Cyclo-cross bike
« on: February 12, 2018, 05:30:22 pm »

I've been touring extensively for many years on a stock Trek Madone 4.5 carbon frame road bike, 60cm frame with Mavic wheel set/700X24. This setup has been quite suitable for me as I travel CC style and without much weight...just a saddle bag and a small backpack.

It's time for a new bike and I am considering replacing the road bike with a cycle-cross bike. This would allow me better access to unimproved roads and trails. As I understand it cyclo-cross has a beefier frame with wider wheel/tires. Otherwise similar to a road bike?

My question is this: does anyone have experience with this transition and is it reasonable to expect the same average speed I have come to know from my road bike?  Running tire pressure at 100 psi I average about 16-17 mph during a mostly flat 100 mile day.  Will I see a lower average speed and by how much?  Do cycle-cross tires and the additional friction create a noticeable increase in effort required?

Thanks in advance for your replies. 


Offline RussSeaton

Re: Road bike vs. Cyclo-cross bike
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2018, 07:05:34 pm »
Unless you plan to ride a majority on dirt, maybe gravel, roads, why would you choose cyclocross tires?  Cyclocross tires are sort of like knobby tires for BMX bikes.  They are designed for dirt and mud.  Cyclocross wheels can also fit regular road bike tires just fine.

Assuming you mean a real cyclocross bike, like what the pros use, then a cyclocross bike is more or less a road racing bike.  Except for dirt, mud instead of paved roads.  Similar geometry, similar handling.  Similar weight too, except a little bit heavier.  Disc brakes.  Slightly different cable runs.  Both gear cables run along the toptube.  Front derailleur cable runs down the seattube.  Rear derailleur cable runs down the seatstays.  Cyclocross bike will fit wider tires if you want.  But you can also put the exact same tires as your road bike too.  Should be same speed too since the tires are the same.
To me it comes down to what roads you are going to spend a majority of your time on.  If dirt and gravel, then go cyclocross bike and maybe run 28-30mm tires.  Smooth or maybe a little tread.  If majority paved roads, then go with a road bike.  I like your plan of going light touring and using just a large saddle bag and backpack.  Although I would not wear a backpack for very long.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2018, 03:50:05 pm by RussSeaton »

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Road bike vs. Cyclo-cross bike
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2018, 09:51:35 am »
Russ touched on a couple of the variables -- a little extra weight, will slow you (but only slightly) on climbs; and tires are one more factor, similar tires should give you similar speed.

If you're planning to ride lots of gravel or dirt, though, you should expect a drop in average speed.  If you're doing a mixed surface ride, I'd recommend using tires for the worst average condition.  (Yes, there's some wiggle room in there.)  I'd generally recommend wider tires than Russ mentioned.

If you've got a half a mile of sandy road, you can walk it with 25s; if you've got 10 miles, you'll want a lot more width -- perhaps start with 35, or go for a 650b wheel with really fat tires (42-45?).  It's hard to generalize about gravel.  Some is well packed, and 28s will be adequate, while other roads just got a fresh covering of loose gravel and riding them with 32s will be sketchy.  I wouldn't try soft muddy roads with less than 32s, and I'd prefer 35-38.

Check carefully for the maximum tire width various bike models will take.  It might be worth while either borrowing a friend's bike to try out, or look for one of the road shows Trek and other brands put on so you can try various combinations of frames, tires, and roads.

Offline DarrenBnYYC

Re: Road bike vs. Cyclo-cross bike
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2018, 03:06:45 pm »
You might also want to check out the other variant on the classic road bike, what some manufacturers are now branding as a "gravel" bike. These bikes are very similar to road bikes and cx bikes, but they often have a somewhat more relaxed geometry to increase stability for all-day comfort and extra confidence on steep descents down gravel roads or trails. Frames also tend to emphasize the use of steel or carbon fibre for their strength and vibration dampening properties, and they are more likely to have mounting points for racks and extra bottle cages. They are also typically manufactured with disc brakes and they have wider chain stays and forks to accommodate larger tires, sometimes as wide as mountain bike tires, although you can easily run narrower tires also, to suit your preferred surface types on your favourite routes.

Offline pmhayden

Road bike vs. Cyclo-cross bike
« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2018, 02:10:40 am »
I built a touring bike on a cyclocross frame. It’s a little shorter frame, and a little higher bottom bracket then a road bike. It’s also a steel bike. To be honest, no racer would ride that bike, it’s too heavy. But the geometry matches a cyclocross bike. Which makes the point that there is no one standard for a cyclocross bike. You need to look at each bike and see if you like it. But it does take 32 tires easily, and carries a lot of weight.

If I were buying a new bike, I would look at something like the Specialized Sequoia, or maybe the AWOL. My preference would be the Sequoia. The AWOL is over-built for my own style of riding. I think the gearing on the Sequoia needs to be a little lower than the factory puts out. The baseline Sequoia frame looks really good to me.

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk Pro
« Last Edit: March 28, 2018, 02:14:45 am by pmhayden »

Offline DanE

Re: Road bike vs. Cyclo-cross bike
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2018, 12:02:19 pm »
Two things that I know of that may be factors in using cyclocross bicycles.

1, UCI racing regulations do not allow for tires greater than 33 mm to be used. Many cyclocross bicycles are made so that they will not fit wider tires than that since the rules prohibit them. If you are riding off road you may prefer to use wider tires than that.

2. As mentioned by pmhayden, cyclocross bicycles tend to have higher bottom brackets so that they have less chance to get hung up on barriers as the racers run across them when they are lifting them. A lower bottom bracket generally makes for a more stable feel, especially at high speed when descending.

Offline mzimmerm

Re: Road bike vs. Cyclo-cross bike
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2018, 10:13:40 pm »
Any thoughts on extensive touring on a Moots “Routt” Titanium frame bike? I also have a steel frame Novarra Randonee and it works fine- but planning a Transamerica trip and the weight favorability is pretty compelling.
Moots- pros= weight savings of approx 7 lbs versus the steel frame bike.
Moots cons= expensive bike I don’t want stolen on the road. Also gear ratio not as wide range as the Touring Bike.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Road bike vs. Cyclo-cross bike
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2018, 09:08:50 am »
Just MHO, of course.

7 pounds is tempting, but as a fraction of overall package weight (you plus bike plus luggage) it's not that significant; probably 2-3%.  One lower gear is usually around 10%.  If you lose 2-3 gears going with the Moots, you lose a lot more on the Appalachian and Ozarks climbs than you gain.

With the load, the Moots isn't going to feel as light as it does unloaded.  "Fast" steering is going to feel twitchy and erratic without a load up front, and it's going to be sluggish if you put much of a load there.

OTOH, if you want to take the Moots, see if you can get some lower gearing on the Moots.  Can you put a mountain triple on it?  If not, can you put a mountain compact double crank (24-38-ish) on?  You may regret losing your 115 gear inch top gear two days on a TransAm, but you'll wish for lower gears (if you don't have them) a lot more than that.

Offline mzimmerm

Re: Road bike vs. Cyclo-cross bike
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2018, 01:29:21 pm »
Great response. Thanks. Makes perfect sense. I’ve had successful tours on the Randonee a few times before. I should probably just stick with what works for such a long trip. I guess they make “touring bikes” for a reason!
Thanks again.

Offline Lydia-Hines

Re: Road bike vs. Cyclo-cross bike
« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2018, 11:22:17 am »
I bought a Marin Cortina cross bike 1.5 years ago and am very happy with it. I use it for commuting, traveling around the city and the occasional road training ride. My route takes me on a gravel road sometimes and the bigger tires are a big plus. last summer I had 23mm road tires on for a while and it was a little faster and a little rougher. Our roads here in Edmonton are 50% in poor condition and to me a cross bike makes sense.

I also take it in a bit of single-track and gravel MUT. I have enough clearance for fenders in the summer and studded tires in the winter. I say that a cross bike is much more versatile and it's the ticket unless you want be be a hardcore roadie.