There is a lot of debate in the cycling community about which type of bike is better for racing on gravel roads – a gravel bike vs cyclocross. Both types of bikes have their advantages and disadvantages, so it really depends on what your priorities are when choosing between them.
Gravel bikes tend to have wider tires and are designed for riding on rougher terrain. Cyclocross bikes have narrower tires and are designed for racing on a variety of surfaces, including pavement, grass, and dirt.
So what is the difference between cyclocross and gravel bikes?
Let’s be with BSXInsight to learn more useful information through this blog post.
- 1 What is Gravel Bike?
- 2 What is Cyclocross Bike?
- 3 Gravel Bike Vs Cyclocross: What’s The Difference?
- 4 Most Popular Cyclocross Bikes Today
- 5 FAQs
- 6 Conclusion
What is Gravel Bike?
It’s time to think about gravel bikes because, in contrast to their cyclocross counterparts, they serve a range of functions. You can go on enjoyable adventures with gravel bikes, such as day-long bike-packing trips and explorations of various terrain types.
In addition, you can utilize these bikes for gravel races, which are challenging and encourage riders to perform at their best. Gravel riding is a diverse sport, thus the bikes used for it will have a variety of designs and constructions.
Some excellent dirt bikes share common characteristics, despite the fact that no “Special Instructions” must be followed in their production (We’ll get to those later!).
Before these kinds of bikes entered the fray, people were using Cyclocross bikes with greater versatility and unique characteristics, which bring out the greatest performance in a gravel bike. These cyclocross bikes even included mudguards and rack attachments, which are often found on gravel and mountain bikes.
When gravel bikes eventually arrived, they provided comfort and adaptability unmatched by anything else. Because of this, many people adore using them.
Now that the fundamentals of both cyclocross and gravel biking have been taught let’s talk about what makes them unique and what sets them apart.
What is Cyclocross Bike?
Cyclocross bikes are designed specifically for cyclocross racing, as the name suggests. These competitions are held on flat tracks that put competitors’ skills and endurance to the test.
The best is frequently required because these bikes are designed for riding at a high level of intensity. These bikes are designed to deliver fast handling and even an aggressive riding stance, given the nature of these races. These are the primary needs of a cyclocross racer, and the bike must satisfy these fundamental criteria.
Due to the tight construction requirements set forth by the UCI, if the requirements are not followed, the bikes are merely ignored. The UCI, which oversees professional racing, has given manufacturers instructions to abide by these rules.
Let’s use a UCI-sanctioned cyclocross competition as an illustration. The bikes utilized in these competitions should have a 33mm maximum tire clearance. The bikes are judged useless if it is discovered to be greater than.
Gravel Bike Vs Cyclocross: What’s The Difference?
1. Frame Geometry
The two types of bikes have different geometries, which is what distinguishes and distinguishes them. When we examine a gravel bike, we can observe that its geometry and build are more relaxed; this is because these riders utilize the bikes for numerous days and for a variety of purposes. Bike packing or simple family and friend adventures are sometimes involved.
The emphasis on aerodynamics is very low because comfort is a bigger concern for gravel bikes. In addition, these bikes have a short reach, yet riders should anticipate an upright riding stance.
Aside from the aerodynamic gravel race bikes, you may have noticed that gravel bikes are not designed to be used at greater speeds. These bicycles are designed for gravel racing.
Bottom Bracket Differences
The bottom brackets are another difference between these two bikes. With this adjustment, dirt bikes feel more stable. A bottom bracket should be as low as feasible (on some bikes). This lowers the standover height and facilitates riding over uneven terrain. These characteristics make it very simple to dismount whenever you want if you are riding through technical terrain.
Because gravel bikes have lower bottom brackets and longer wheelbases, they are more stable. These are the main features that make riding these bikes enjoyable as well.
Cyclocross bikes are all about the rush of the competition; riders on these bikes need to be aggressive in their riding stances. These bikes have a taller bottom bracket than gravel bikes, as you’ll see. With this improvement, the rider can be more aggressive while being safe. A higher bottom bracket also makes it possible for the rider to move weight forward, which improves steering.
Head Tube Differences
The head tube angles of the two bikes also need to be considered. The slacker head tube angle of gravel bikes is extremely reminiscent of that of mountain bikes. Contrarily, cyclocross bikes feature the same steep head tube angle as racing road bikes.
Compared to cyclocross bikes, gravel bikes enable them to have outstanding off-road performance.
2. Tires and Tire Clearance
The tire and tire clearance are the next key distinction between these two bike kinds. As we previously noted, when it comes to the production of cross bikes, UCI has disallowed various regulations. As a result of the regulation, cyclocross bikes can only have tires that are 33mm wide at most. These bikes feature a narrow tire clearance, which makes sense given this type of effect.
There are numerous types of cyclocross tires, including the following:
- Extremely aggressive treads: provides room for mud and fast racing
- For mud and grass, bone-dry treads are ideal.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, unlike gravel bikes, cyclocross bikes lack tire puncture protection. This is when the bikes’ characteristics come into play. Cyclocross bikes are designed for high-intensity racing, whereas gravel bikes are designed for multi-terrain riding.
The tires on gravel bikes are substantially broader than those on cyclocross bikes (40mm). There are also some updated and newer frames that support 50mm-wide tires. If tubeless is what you want to use, gravel bikes are a great fit for it. These wider tires provide the riders with the greatest level of comfort during long journeys and also make it simple to ride through difficult terrain.
3. Gearing System
These two bike kinds’ nature and intended use also influence how they are equipped with gears. A narrow gear range is ideal for cross bikes when it comes to these models of bicycles. This gearing setup enables the cyclists to sprint hard and even climb steep slopes quickly. A gearing set up like this also enables cyclists to traverse muddy and grassy terrain.
2x drivetrains were initially used on cyclocross bikes, but there were frequent complaints that they were excessively heavy. You’ll notice that contemporary cyclocross bikes have a 1x drivetrain installed; this lowers the bike’s total weight and guards against mud buildup. When buying a cyclocross bike, the drivetrain options remain 2x and 1x.
Gravel bikes, by their very nature, need a considerably broader gear range to function well.
Gravel bikes are used on a variety of surfaces, including rough terrain and mountainous areas.
Additionally, this group of bikes can be equipped with 1x or 2x drivetrains, with the latter being the most common option. The 2x drivetrains’ nature will appeal to riders who will spend most of their time on paved roads and less time on challenging terrain. Users will therefore be able to benefit from a simple bottom bracket when choosing a 2x drivetrain.
Although 1x drivetrains are excellent, they nevertheless have limitations that negatively impact user experience. Even so, there are a few groupsets that provide tailored experiences, including the Shimano GRX, SRAM XPLR, and many others.
4. Mudguards and Luggage Mounts
Typical bikes with several uses come equipped with baggage mounts and mudguards. This changes drastically when it comes to cyclocross and gravel bikes. First, let’s look at cyclocross bikes.
The majority of cyclocross bikes are designed exclusively for racing due to their nature. Neither luggage mounts nor a mudguard is present. The majority of the time, you will only see one bottle cage because racers think that one bottle will last them for the entire hour of tough racing.
Of course, this varies from racer to racer, but that is the way these bikes are built. The users may be somewhat constrained, but the build is kept streamlined and is very simple to keep clean.
The construction of gravel bikes, in contrast, is generally quite generous, with the exception of select “Special” models. Gravel bikes pride themselves on their versatility, which is why they are equipped with a variety of bottle cage mounts. Even third bottle cages and fork blade mounts that let you transport stuff are occasionally found.
People enjoy eating on the go, especially when they are having an experience. Because of this, some frames for gravel bikes incorporate an attachment on the top tube for a food box or similar item from the category. Gravel bikes frequently include mudguard mounts, and you can typically mount front and rear racks on them.
5. Finishing Kit
The finishing kit is the final major distinction between Gravel and Cyclocross bikes. We will focus on the handlebars, dropper posts, and seats that are shown in the finishing kit.
Cyclocross bike handlebars should have a maximum width of 50 cm, according to UCI guidelines. It cannot go beyond this; in fact, most cross bikes have handlebars that are far narrower than this. The handlebars may be adjusted so that riders can choose the most comfortable position.
One thing that mountain bikes and gravel bikes have in common is extremely broad handlebars. These handlebars ensure that the cyclist is at ease while doing lengthy excursions through various terrains.
Now that we’ve looked at the bars, you can see that cyclocross bikes have a more conventional drop while gravel bikes have a flared bar. Additionally unusual is the location between these two drips, which is wider than what is applied to the hood. To ensure that descent is secure and simple, there is an adjustment between the two bars.
The type of seatposts seen on gravel bikes allows the rider to flex, which is essential for comfort when dealing with rough terrain and long distances. Contrarily, cyclocross bikes have seatposts that enable aggressive riding, rapid turning, and maximum power transfer.
6. Comfort and Stiffness
As we’ve already mentioned, cyclocross races are made up of grueling loops after a brutal lap of relatively short (30- to 90-minute) high-intensity exertion with continual hard braking into turns and quick accelerations.
Therefore, a cyclocross bike is typically built with a stiffer chassis to maximize the rider’s pedaling force and direct every available watt toward forwarding movement. After all, every second matters in a race. But it can also result in a very stiff bike.
While many riders choose a rigid frame with lots of road or dirt feedback, others do not. Because of this, most gravel bikes have construction that is more comfort-focused.
For example, carbon layups and distinctive tube shapes work together to reduce vibrations and big hits from the dirt, providing a more comfortable riding experience over the course of a long ride on tarmac, gravel, dirt, and any other type of surface.
Most Popular Cyclocross Bikes Today
Vitus Bikes Energie CR Rival (2020)
The Energie EVO CRS bicycle from Vitus features a high-quality carbon frameset that is both sturdy and lightweight.
Cyclocross racing, off-road trail riding, and commuting are all possible on this bike thanks to its SRAM Force 1×11-Speed groupset, 40T chainset, wide-range cassette, and hydraulic disc brakes. Furthermore, it offers a wide selection of cassette gears.
Cannondale SuperSix Evo Carbon Disc
Rapid, accelerated. Nothing but a road bike. Featherweight, silky, and blazing quick. This is where the traditional racing car has come from.
Kona Jake The Snake Charcoal/Gray/Chalk / 52
If you’re a serious racer who also wants to use your bike for lengthy cross-training rides, look no further than the Major Jake. Climbs and rough terrain are no match for the complete carbon frame and fork.
This bike is equipped with an SRAM Rival 1x transmission, hydraulic disc brakes, and Vittoria Terreno Mix 700x33cc tires for immediate racing success.
All-City Nature Cross Single-Speed Bike
The Nature Boy, as its new name “Nature Cross” suggests, is a bicycle that can be utilized in a variety of ways and is a lot of fun to ride.
A comfortable ride was provided by the high-quality steel frame and the considerable tire clearance of 38 to 42 cm. The bigger tires on this cyclocross racer make it suited for use as a commuter or dirt bike.
In addition to the paint treatments and frame finishes, there was internal cabling and rust-proofing. With the correct components, you can transform it into a leisurely single-speed cruiser or a lightning-fast racer.
Can I Use My Cyclocross Bike For Gravel Riding?
Simply said, absolutely.
Even though tire clearances might be your only option for fitting some chunkier rubber into your cyclocross frame, many riders still prefer to modify cyclocross bikes for everyday off-road riding.
For example, the 2022 Cannondale SuperSix EVO frame is available in two configurations, for gravel racing (SE) and cyclocross (CX), while the new Specialized Crux has been relaunched as a gravel racing rig. In certain situations, the geometry variations between gravel and cyclocross variants are negligible.
A cyclocross bike can have aftermarket additions like flared handlebars to increase stability over more difficult terrain, and the gearing can always be changed if you discover you require a wider range.
Can You Race Cyclocross On A Gravel Bike?
In most circumstances, using a gravel bike for a cyclocross race will be perfectly fine, even if you’re running tires over 33 cm or bars wider than 50 cm unless you’re competing at a UCI-level competition.
Everyone is advised to give local cyclocross leagues a try on pretty much any bike capable of off-road riding because they are frequently regarded as the most approachable type of cyclocross racing.
Don’t assume you need a category-specific bike to get started; many riders begin on a mountain bike or anything similar.
The most crucial factor to think about while using your gravel bike for a cyclocross event will be the tires. For better traction in the slop when racing in muddy and wet conditions, you might need to switch out your tires for ones with a more aggressive tread pattern.
In the end, there is a lot of overlap between gravel bikes and cyclo-cross bikes; in actuality, there is no reason you couldn’t go on a gravel adventure if you already have a cyclo-cross bike. Alternatively, a tire swap successfully enables your gravel bike to compete in a cyclocross race. However, as they are both specialized equipment, it is highly recommended to choose a gravel bike over a cyclo-cross cycle if you want to start riding on gravel.