The world of cycling has undergone a complete transformation over the past number of years. While initially road bikes and mountain bikes ruled the scene, new entrants like cyclocross bikes have opened cyclists up to a whole new world.
In my family, adventure and discovery have been a bedrock that all of us have lived by to this day. in following with this tradition, I found myself drawn to cycling in the wild outdoors and this was the beginning of my cyclocross journey.
When I started it was just a weekend and evening activity where we spent hours circling around the block. But as we got older, we dropped out road bikes and took up cyclocross bikes to get us further out of town.
Simply looking at the bikes will give you no clue as to which is which because they are both built almost the same way. So what sets them apart?
What is the Difference between the Cyclocross and the Road Bike?
Comfort and Agility
Disk and cantilever
Mudguard, Racks, Bottle Holder
Cyclocross Vs Road Bike – How do they compare?
The angles and lengths of tubes and how they are put together create the bikes geometry. Changes made to the bike’s frame geometry can give it a significantly different riding experience.
Cyclocross bikes have a more relaxed geometry featuring a smaller-angled head tube with a bottom bracket that is raised from the ground and a longer wheel base. The purpose for this build is to ensure that the bike’s pedals don’t touch the ground in tough terrain or the front tires.
With this geometry, the cyclist remains upright making it not so comfortable a ride.
Road bicycles head tube have a steep angle with a lower bottom bracket and saddle. Keeping low the center of gravity gives the bike faster response to your demands as you ride at break neck speeds and take sharper turns. The narrow wheelbase enhances these quick maneuvers too.
As both bikes have specific terrains that they thrive on, their geometry differs to accommodate and enhance their performance.
A cyclocross bike user will at some point in their challenge, need to carry the bike and run up a steep slope which is impossible to cycle on. For this reason, they are made of light aluminum and carbon fiber frames.
Road bikes are designed with a light frame with narrow tires and this makes them ideally faster.
Road bikes are lighter in weight compared to cyclocross bikes because their build is a small frame that is designed to make the bike go even faster.
The tires on a cyclocross bikeshould not be any bigger than 33mm wide. However, they always have available room to fit wider tires up to 40mm. the wider the tire, the more stable the riding experience will be.
Road bike tires can range anywhere between 20mm and 28mm with the most commonly used width being 23mm. They are designed in this fashion to increase aerodynamic properties of the bike meaning less tire touches the ground which super charges their speeds.
Depending on the kind of terrain you will mostly ride you bike on, either the cyclocross or road bike would do.
In addition to the traditionally used cantilever brakes, cyclocross bikes are also fitted with disc brakes. Disk brakes have advantage over others because they have strong and unfailing resistance especially in the wet regions or on very rough surfaces. Unlike the other brake types, these ones are unaffected by rim damage meaning they still work exceptionally well regardless of any conditions.
Caliper brakes are the kind you will find on a road bike and while they do a satisfactory job cycling on paved grounds, they do wear down quickly and sometimes fail to respond fast enough in wet and muddy circumstances.
Opposite to cyclocross bikes, the rear brake lever is on the right and the front brake level on the right handlebar.
Cyclocross gear levers are mostly on the left handlebar which is convenient for the rider and the cable goes over the head tube for safety precautions.
Cyclocross bikes are built with flexibility and comfort in mind rather than speed. The saddle position is raised up which give the rider a comfortable, upright and better control posture when riding. To minimize chances of backpain, the handlebars are also raised slightly.
Road bikes are all about speed and the faster you can go the better the bike. Which is why their parts are placed so low to keep gravity down to increase aerodynamics and speed. However, this presents strain to your neck and back which can be very painful.
Handlebars and Gears
Just like road bikes, cyclocross bikes have dropped handlebars with a slight difference in width which is a little bigger compared to road bikes and ensures a comfortable and firm grip over hard terrain. These handlebars are also placed a bit higher compared to road bikes to give the rider maximum comfort and control.
Road bikes are all about going against the wind and having narrower and lower handlebars guarantees that the rider’s posture stays low enhancing the speed and agility of the bike overall.
Gears on the cyclocross bikes are lower and designed to go over tough and rugged terrain while gears on road bikes are higher to push through the needed speeds while racing on the road. With a narrower gear range, you can shift gears rapidly.
Cyclocross bikes have higher placed handlebars with low gear and road bikes have low placed handlebars with high gear.
Cyclocross Bike – Features that stand out
- Tire width of 33mm
- Geometry specific for race position with its short head tube, steeper head, long top tube and seat tube angles. This lowers and lengthens the riders’ position across the length of the bike and over the front.
- A horizontal top tube comes in handy when the rider needs to run up a steep slope. You can place the bike on your shoulder to get through an impossible terrain on foot.
- The tall bottom bracket offers better heel clearance and keeps the bike’s crank from encountering barriers.
Road Bike – Features that stand out
- Geometry built for high speed with the steeper head tube, a lower bottom bracket and saddle keeping the rider low positioned on his bike for. This type of frame may increase neck and back exhaustion and any pains you may experience when riding long distance.
- They come in a variety of wheel sizes for better capability on paved or muddy road.
- Tires can range anywhere from 20mm to 28mm. The thinner the tire, the better your experience on the bike will be.
- May have a bottle holder but lack availability of accessories such as the mudguard and pannier rack mounting nodes for luggage carrying
Verdict: So, which between Cyclocross and Road bikes is the better choice?
Either bike is ideal based on an individual’s specific needs. If you love to high speed chase down the estate block with your friends when you have some time, the road bike is ideally your best pick. You need to remember though, that it can lead to serious falls if and when the brakes fail for any reason so be sure to wear the necessary protective gear.
For the racing enthusiasts, a cyclocross bike is a gem you must have. If you are an avid traveler and you like to take your bike along on these long trips, this bike will give you the best service over varied terrains allowing you to explore further down a rugged terrain.