Cyclocross vs Mountain Bike – Which bike is versatile?

Racers around the world appreciate the invention of cyclocross bikes meant to traverse more terrains than any other bike in the market. We compare them with mountain bikes to see which option is more versatile. 

Being in the wild outdoors is rooted in my blood. I crave the outsides and I make a point of taking myself and a willing group out into the wild every two weeks. When I started out on these bi-monthly expeditions, I owned a mountain bike.

At that time, I believed it was the hardiest bike I could find but over the years my opinion has changed. A few months back I got myself a cyclocross bike and took it out on these getaways. My experience was considerably different and I discovered why it was so.

What is the Difference between the Cyclocross Bike and the Mountain Bike?

Bike Type
Mountain Bike
Comfort and Agility
Stability and Leverage
Heavier 18 lbs
Disk and cantilever
Pannier – optional

Cyclocross vs Mountain Bike – How do they compare?


The first and most obvious difference between these two off-road heavy weights is their handlebars. Cyclocross bikes feature drop-bars because they are designed for racing at high speeds on varied terrain from muddy, rocky and gravel.

These handlebars guarantee the rider great support and many options on hand positioning which takes the pressure off the rider’s back, neck and arms. Also, these dropped bars are efficient to the rider who loves to crouch down over them which reduces the effects of head wind and helps them cruise faster.

Flat handlebars are the main feature of mountain bikes and they maintain this build because it encourages stability and balance. When the rider is maneuvering tough terrain, they have greater support by way of these handlebars which give them full control of the bike.

Mountain bikes encourage an upright posture when riding opposed to the crouch offered by cyclocross bikes.

Cyclocross bikes have drop handlebars while mountain bikes offer straight handlebars.


As a general rule, cyclocross bike’s tires should never exceed 33mm. Luckily, though, their design allows for a wider tire to be installed to convert the bike either to a road bike or a fat bike. It is known that fatter tires guarantee a smoother and more cushioned riding experience.

Mountain bikes tires range from 53mm to 60mm and this makes them heavier than cyclocross tires and this weight minimizes effects of rolling. As stated, these fatter tires suite the rough and uneven terrain they go on making their ride comfortable or bearable.

The greater benefit associated with cyclocross bikes is their ability to transform from into any other bike type by changing the tire size.

Mountain bike’s tires are made thicker than cyclocross bikes to provide the cushioning effect riders experience. Cyclocross tires may be thinner but they are replaceable with other tire sizes which turns the bike into a two for one.


Bike suspension provides greater cushioning to the rider because it is able to absorb the bodily shock of hitting hard surfaces which alleviates muscle aches and joint pains with long races. Mountain bikes have forever been designed with a suspension forkowing to the territory they are meant to conquer.

Unfortunately, suspension creates a bobbing motion and most riders opt to lock it out during performances. This is because suspension affects the pedaling motion by impeding it making the ride that much slower.

Suspension forks range anywhere between 30 to 40mm and another drawback is that they add weight to the bike. For cyclocross bikes that performs on paved, gravel or muddy terrains, suspension is unnecessary and will have you left behind as your pedaling suffers.

Mountain bikes offer comfortable suspension compared to cyclocross bikes which do not need suspension and which if added, could make the ride slower.


High speed racing requires quick gear changing and cyclocross bikes have a wider gear range as compared to mountain bikes. For a Force 1 drivetrain on your cyclocross bike, you should use a 42t chainring on a 10-36t cassette.

Mountain bikes on the other hand have a purpose to maneuver sharp bends and endure a grueling long-distance track.If you have an Eagle drivetrain you would need a 32t chainring on a 10-50t cassette. With this type of gearing, you will find steep climbs manageable and gear changing quite adequate.

Cyclocross bikes have more versatility in function because they can be reengineered to fit the drivetrains found on a mountain bike. What’s more is that they are also found in double-chainrings which makes them superior in their gearing capabilities.

Changing gears rapidly in high speed races with a combined terrain is made easy by the cyclocross bike while the mountain bike’s gears help maneuvers sharp twists and turns. 

Cyclocross Bike vs Mountain Bike – A Comparison Overview

Cyclocross Bike – Overview

Cyclocross Bike

These bikes were designed specifically to train racers during off season months. This trend started in Europe where racers were subjected to harsh weather conditions in rugged terrain where you will have to mount and remount your bike severally. It’s honestly quite an exhausting cycling discipline but it works wonders.

They feature drop bars that increase your arm shoulder and overall comfort and control of the bike in various kinds of terrain. They are made of aluminum and sometimes carbon material which makes the bikes strong and durable.

Cyclocross bikes have a top tube that the cyclist uses to carry the bike over steep slopes. Despite its added weight in tire size, the bike only weighs 18 pounds which is quite fair for any athletic person. Heel clearance is provided by a tall bottom bracket whose position also protects the bike’s crank.


  • Quick and efficient
  • Holds upright riding position
  • Comfortable and gives rider control


  • Easily damaged
  • Not as comfortable for long casual rides

Mountain Bike – Overview

Mountain Bike overview

Most mountain bikes are made of aluminum or steel making them quite hardy and able to withstand hard falls or knocks against rocks and other surfaces. Their wide tires help get them across rugged terrain but at slower speeds.

Mountain bikes are the perfect companion for the adventurous souls who love to go hiking or cross-country riding. Having been engineered with full suspension, they tend to be much heavier and more stable than other bikes.


  • Full suspension makes them very stable
  • Different terrain ruler
  • Strong and heavy
  • Thick tires
  • Guide chain for head control


  • Not good for long distance roading
  • Not for Urban commute
  • Tough to control when riding downhill

Verdict: So, between cyclocross and mountain bikes, which is more versatile?

Cyclocross bikes have outdone themselves and they clearly are the more versatile option as compared to mountain bikes.

With a cyclocross bike, you can go from office to off-road racing in a matter of minutes. What’s more is the option to change up tires when need be essentially giving you two bikes in one. Their dropped handlebars make for very comfortable riding and allow the rider to crouch down which centers their gravity and gets them through rough winds.

If you are torn between the two, pick a cyclocross bike because it will do more for you in its lifetime.