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What is the difference between a gravel bike and a cyclocross bike?

Cyclocross bikes for cyclocross racing on muddy courses look and function much like gravel bikes. What are the differences between them, and how should we separate them for selection and use?

Modified at: 2023.7.4Posted at: 2022.8.26

Gravel bikes and cyclocross bikes have many similarities

Cyclocross bikes are designed for use in cyclocross, a muddy road race among road bikes.

Based on road bikes, they are equipped with thicker tires with knobs for better grip on muddy or sandy roads, and disc brakes are used to prevent loss of braking power when covered with mud or sand.

In terms of details, the wire routing is top-routed so that mud and other factors do not affect shifting, and a single front shifter is used in anticipation of disabling the front shifting.

This is the same concept and design philosophy as gravel bikes.

Difference between gravel bikes and cyclocross bikes

Despite the differences in which bike manufacturers sell their bikes as either, it is safe to say that there is roughly no difference between gravel bikes and cyclo-cross bikes. You can ride gravel on a cyclocross bike, or you can participate in a cyclocross race on a gravel bike.

The difference is that a cyclocross bike is “a bike designed for racing, cyclocross racing,” while a gravel bike is "a bike for cycling and adventure. The difference is whether they are race-oriented or hobby-oriented.

When we talk about differences in orientation, the differences are about the following two things.

  1. difference in geometry
  2. differences in the parts installed

So it is possible to tailor a gravel bike for cyclocross, or customize a cyclocross bike to be gravel-like for travel.

Cyclocross bikes are currently on the decline

With the rise of gravel bikes, cyclocross bikes, a similar concept, are dwindling from bicycle manufacturers’ lineups.

In fact, Shimano has not released a new component for cyclocross for a long time, but has released the GRX for gravel. Although no official announcement has been made, some in the industry believe that the GRX has replaced the GRX.

This may be a natural trend, as simpler products are easier for users to understand than more complicated ones.

Given these circumstances, the following two options for cyclocross bikes are the current choices.

  1. customize a road bike to "cyclo specs
  2. using a gravel bike

In this sense, you can buy a gravel bike with cyclocross in mind, or you can ride a slightly older cyclocross bike as a gravel bike.

Points to keep in mind when using a cyclocross bike as a gravel road

Cyclocross bikes with a competitive mindset may use carbon frames, carbon forks, carbon wheels, and other carbon materials with the assumption that they will be ridden on a “cyclocross course”. This is because cyclocross courses have muddy roads and hills, but no rocks or trees.

Carbon is a strong material, but it is vulnerable to impact on a single point, so on forest roads or MTB courses, where gravel bikes are supposed to be ridden, there is a risk of crashing into trees or rocks and damaging them. The reason manufacturers produce gravel bikes in aluminum or chromoly is in part because it is easier for beginners to handle.

Carbon material is a big expense because once it cracks, you will either have to pay for expensive repairs or replace it.

If you are going to use a cyclocross bike with carbon parts as a gravel bike, it is recommended to enjoy forest roads and gravel roads, where you will not fall off the bike as much as possible.

What makes it different from other bicycles? Gravel Bike Features

Gravel bikes are road bikes optimized for rough roads, and we explain what makes them different from road bikes, MTBs, and other sports bicycles.

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