A gravel bike vs cyclocross differs because it has wider tire clearance and bigger wheels, allows for comfortable riding posture, and best suits long races.
Gravel bikes have gained popularity over the years, becoming one of the favorite bicycles in the cycling world. It’s made to use wider tires that enable it to concur tough trails and doesn’t limit your track as it can go through most of the paths.
After the introduction of gravel bikes, it didn’t take long before cyclocross entered the market with almost similar features. Most people thought it was a gravel bike under a new name, which confused consumers. But the two bikes are different with distinct features making each of them unique.
The main difference between a gravel bike and cyclocross lies in their features, making them the best pick for certain trails. A gravel bike is a good choice for a long-distance fun experience on gravel paths, while cyclocross is for shorter cyclocross races on muddy tracks.
If you’re wondering about the difference between gravel vs cyclocross bikes, this guide will help you understand this.
Understanding The Difference Between a Gravel Vs Cyclocross Bike
To understand the differences between gravel vs. cyclocross bikes, you’ve got to look at individual features. You should check on features like;
The most notable difference between gravel vs cyclocross is in their frames. The gravel bikes have a more relaxed frame geometry than cyclocross bikes. This enables you to ride it for hours or on a tough trail with less challenges. The frame geometry also makes the bike more comfortable since it gives it a shorter reach and an upright posture.
The bottom bracket of the two bikes also differs. Gravel bikes have a lower bottom bracket improving the center of gravity and stability on rough trails. It also helps reduce the stand-over height allowing you to dab the bike on technical ground.
Additionally, a gravel bike has a longer wheelbase, enabling it to overcome steep descents and be more stable. The head tube angle of a gravel bike is also slacker, improving its off-roading capabilities.
On the other hand, the cyclocross bike has a higher bottom bracket that offers more ground clearance. This allows it to be victorious in obstacle races and shift the cyclist’s weight towards the bike’s front, providing a better steering response. A cyclocross bike has a steeper head tube angle since it’s a racing bike.
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Another difference between gravel vs cyclocross bikes lies in their tires. The cyclocross bikes have tires that are not more than 33mm wide. This means their tire clearance is smaller to accommodate such tires but provides some room for mud.
The cyclocross bike tires also have powerful treads, enabling them to go over mud. But there are some file treads that best work during summer races and are much softer than gravel bikes since they should be used on grass and not hard surfaces like tarmac roads.
The cyclocross tires are also lightweight and fit for racing, but they don’t have a puncture-protected layer like it’s on gravel bikes.
A gravel bike has a wider tire clearance than a cyclocross bike since it can hold a tire of up to 40 mm or more. The newer gravel bikes can fit tires of about 50mm in width. The wider tires are important for this bike as they enable it to tackle rugged trails with rocks or roots at a lower tire pressure. The wider tires also allow you to stay comfortable through the ride as it cushions shock. Some gravel tires also have tubeless tires, reducing the frustrations of getting punctures.
A gravel bike will allow you to maintain a comfortable riding position through the trail because of its frame geometry. The bike’s frame has a unique design that enables you to ride in a more upright posture. The wider tube also helps cushion you against bumps and dirt, plus the ditches on tough trails make you stay comfortable.
However, the cyclocross bike is for short races, so comfort is not much of a feature to consider when buying it. But they have stiffer chassis to increase the rider’s pedaling power and improve forward momentum. Rigid frames are not comfortable when riding on challenging trails.
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The gravel vs cyclocross bike gearing also differs due to these bikes’ different uses. A gravel bike should be ridden on different trails ranging from mountainous terrain to tarmac roads. Your gravel bike needs to have a wider gear range to enable you to enjoy riding on any of the terrains with ease.
The gravel bikes come with 1x or 2x drivetrain setups, which allows you to select the preferred gearing according to the road you’re riding on. If you like cycling on the less technical trails, the 2x setup will give you the chance to not spin at speed because of a bigger gear. It also provides an easy bottom gear depending on the cassette and crankset combination.
However, the 1x setup is the best choice for many gravel riders because of its simplicity. There are also gravel-specific groupsets that see the 1x setup demand rise.
A cyclocross bike requires narrow gearing. This is despite the bike going through a tough trail that needs you sometimes to sprint and goes over the mud and grassy paths. Most cyclocross bikes have the 1x drivetrains, which helps reduce their weight and the maintenance of the movable parts that can accumulate dirt while you’re on the go. But the first cyclocross had the 2x drivetrains, which are still present in some of the bikes.
Fenders And Racks
Unlike other bicycles, gravel bikes are more flexible, allowing bottle cage mounts and the inclusion of a tool keg on the fork blade. Some of their frames also have mounts over the top tube where you can carry your luggage.
Gravel bikes also have mudguard mounts with many brands, including rack mounts at the front or back of the bike, allowing you to choose what’s best for you. You can also carry your adventure kit on a gravel bike, especially during winter. The additional mounts on the gravel bikes are necessary since these are long and tough rides that require you to go out with everything necessary.
Since cyclocross is racing bikes, they don’t have mudguards or racks. This reduces its weight and the maintenance you’ll have to do after cycling.
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The handlebars of both bikes are the same. They both have drop bars, with the only difference being their size and geometry. The design of the handlebars of a gravel bike allows you to mount lights and bike bags. They are also wider, while some have flared edges for stability and better steering leverage.
Cyclocross handlebars offer you a direct steering response necessary to win the race. It also has a narrow cockpit which facilitates good cornering on bumpy trails. The narrow handlebars on this bike reduce bumping and the chances of crashing.
There are rules which dictate the size of the cyclocross handlebars. The rules stipulate that a cyclocross shouldn’t have a more than 50cm handlebar which sees most of the bikes have narrow bars. This should be in accordance with the cyclist’s size.
However, there are emerging trends where the gravel bikes have extra wide handlebars that are more than 50cm. This enables riders who like a wide and stable stance for a technical trail.
Can You Use a Gravel Bike for A Cyclocross Race?
Yes. You can use a gravel bike for a cyclocross race as it’s a versatile bike. The only instance where a gravel bike will let you down in this race is when competing for a UCI- level.
When you opt for this bike in such a competition, you can use a wider handlebar and tires. This is because this race is accessible to anyone, and everyone is encouraged to give it a try with any bike that is good for off-roading. Some riders also use mountain bikes for this competition, so you have less to worry about.
However, if you use a gravel bike for this competition, you need to select your tires well. You should look for tires that will make you a victor on a muddy and wet trail. This means you should switch tires and opt for those with aggressive treads that will have better traction on the wet roads.
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Is It Possible to Use a Cyclocross Bike for Gravel Riding?
This is much possible as long as you choose the right tires for your bike. While comparing gravel vs cyclocross bikes, we saw the major difference was in the tire clearance. The cyclocross has a smaller tire clearance than that of a gravel bike. But you can fix this and change the tires easily by squeezing them. The difference isn’t much bigger, so the wheel can fit in.
You can also choose to change the handlebars to have better control of the bike on the tough trail. Fix the flared handlebars on a cyclocross bike to improve its stability on tough terrain. You can also think about bringing in wider gearing for better performance.
Between A Gravel Bike and Cyclocross Which Is the Best?
After comparing gravel vs cyclocross bikes, it’s time to decide on the best one that meets your needs. To do this, look at the features of each cycle versus the reason you are buying it. If you’re looking for a bike for an off-roading experience, a gravel bike is ideal as it can overcome the tough trail. The bike has bigger tile clearance, wider tires, and handlebars, enabling you to be in better control.
The cyclocross is good for shorter races, and it has lighter drop bars but can make various trails, including sand, mud, and snow. It should have 33mm tires and not more than 50 cm handlebars.
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Choosing between a gravel bike vs cyclocross bike will be easier after going through this guide which has an in-depth comparison between the two. You can opt for a gravel bike if you want to go for long rides on the tough trail, while cyclocross best suits shorter races. But the cyclocross has smaller tire clearance and shorter handlebars and is not comfortable as a gravel bike.