Cross vs Gravel Bikes: Swapping the Wheels

In my quest to figure out what makes the gravel bike (Niner RLT9 RDO) more comfortable on bumpy terrain compared to the cyclocross bike (Giant TCX Advanced Pro 1), I take the wheels off the gravel bike and put them on the cross bike. Here are the results…


twowheelslater says:

I’m thinking about pulling the trigger on a tcx advanced sx. For me it will be more used for gravel, bike touring, and knowing me maybe a little single track. i’m just a little concerned about the higher bb and stiff frame. I was also looking at the RIDLEY X-TRAIL ALLOY 105. I like the fact that the giant is carbon and that I have a good dealer within 30min from me. There are a couple of ridley dealers one that I dont care for and one I know nothing about and is an hour away from me. The ridley is on sale for 1600.00 right now so thats good but it is an aluminum bike. IDK other than specialized offerings any ideas. I love the niners but there just out of my price range. I want to keep this one under 2k

round around says:

I asked already, but I thought a little reminder could be added… 🙂 Could you try a 29′ with narrow tire on the trance, just to see if it could fit, when you have spare time.

Dan Morgan says:

My TCX will have aluminum wheels so this is encouraging. But then of course the frame is aluminum too haha.

Gravel Crunchers says:

Doesn’t matter what bike you ride as long as you love it and a Cane Creek Thudbuster certainly worth the few extra grams to protect your lower regions. I use Fulcrum Racing 5 CX LG Wheels with Schwab touring 47mm 28 in tires. Bulletproof but heavy.

Space Cowboy says:

Could you make an educated guess all things concidered if the major difference in comfort lies within the geometry or the materials used?

Phoenix 07 says:

Good video. I always wondered whether having a second set of wheels would require recentering brakes, adjusting gears ect. When I got my set, I had one set that was centerlock and one that was bolted on. Even with all that, I did not have adjust either brakes or gears with Shimano.

axxxxman says:

Good, so this test helps justify keeping both bikes, so now you don’t have to feel guilty. 😉 It comes down to the right tool for the job.

Camo Dude MTB&H says:

Hey good to know all these things, what was that screen looking thing outside on your drive way?

Rxk Boland says:

Sir I have CX my question is should I keep the drops they come with or gravel bars. I don’t race but I do have a emergency break or top break that for confidence I use

MTB Rider of Justice says:

Maybe you’ve mentioned it and I just missed it, but in my opinion the seatpost plays a major role in comfort. Seatpost with a setback should be more comfortable than a straight post, and a carbon one should be more comfortable than alloy one. So having a frame with steep seat tube that requires a setback on the seatpost is IMHO desirable.

dennyjoe says:

Great video as usual, but I’m not convinced that the aluminium wheels are more compliant than your carbon wheels. In my experience, the larger volume tyres have a huge influence on comfort. It would have been better to eliminate this factor, by using the same tyres on both wheels.

Krigloch theFurious says:

So the opposite of mountain bikes? Weren’t you a big fan of carbon wheels on an aluminum mtb? over aluminum wheels on a carbon bike?

Mr T Maybert says:

What are g outs

Gravel Crunchers says:

I ride on Fulcrum Racing 5 CX LG Wheels, I’m experimenting with some 47mm tires.
The key right now is tire pressure. Weight: 90kg, factory tire pressure is fairly stiff on that particular Schwalb tire I’m using. I have been riding Snappy racing bikes for years and I like the geometry of my Cross bike coupled with big fat tires. I must say however there is no traction advantage on blacktop roads. I believe that if products have been tested successfully by successful Racers, they are good enough for someone like me in my mid-60s. Look up the discipline you enjoy. Find the most successful rider there is and look what he or she uses. If that person is a great Rider, uses that equipment there might be a correlation, at least psychologically which is a big benefit to us amateurs.

Jim Sage says:

Great video as always Clint. I have the 2016 TCX Advanced pro 2, and the alloy wheels you mentioned(px-2)are bricks, they weigh 2.5kg (5.5lbs) for the set. The freehub is junk too, I’m on my 3rd one in 8,000km( 5000miles). I love the bike especially for racing. I’ve upgraded the wheels to (CXr-1) for racing and saved 900grams. I use the px-2’s for general riding and cross practice. I don’t notice any difference in comfort between the 2 sets.

Vilhjálmur Magnússon says:

Which type of bike, CX or Gravel, would you recommend if you’re looking for a do-it-all bike plus dragging a wagon with two kids on family trips?

SS J says:

I have thought about putting gravel tires on my road bike do you think that would work. On the 700cc road bike rims.

twowheelslater says:

Ended up pulling the trigger on a jamis renegade exploit. I was thinking you have a gravel bike and a power meter. As an idea for a video it would be helpful to me at least for you to do a video of what the power output would be on different gravel tires to maintain a given speed on road and off. You have a big enough channel manufacturers should give you samples. That might be a good one for you since manufacturers are coming to the table with new offerings a lot lately. The topic is really confusing to me. I have decided for the riding i do here in n ga I need a 40 mm tire my bike came with the 35mm clement x’plor ush, and it was in over its head doing the assault on Currahee mountain route today. super sketchy!

Loganx5 says:

stick with good old cromo frames like me, aluminium frames are hard on the arse.

Rodney Bailey says:

Clint, thank you for the video! I’ve been looking forward to this since you first mentioned doing this test. You answer the question I was curious about which is having a cyclocross bike to also do gravel roads and the tcx advanced Pro 1 was the bike I was seriously considering. I would have liked to have seen you put the carbon wheels on the gravel frame and do that comparison. Other than that this was great. Thank you!

Samrudh Dixit says:

Interesting experiment, can you specify your tire specs !?

Ride Alongside says:

I’d sell the cx. The hours spent on the gravel bike will likely be more than those spent racing on the cx for me.

James Einloth says:

I agree with you assessment of the importance of the frame, and the relatively small role of tire volume, in giving a comfortable ride on gravel. Last year I used my Niner RLT Steel for D2R2 – a long day of extremely steep and rough gravel “roads” and washed out jeep tracks. I used 34mm tires on aluminum wheels, which worked great. Most other riders were using tires of about the same size. It seems that larger volume tires detract more from performance on smooth roads than they add on rough roads. I use my 40mm only on singletrack. I have two wheel sets with identical hubs to facilitate switching.

Andy7846 says:

I just bought a cross bike in early December, guess I bought the wrong bike. There’s plenty of clearance for wider tyres so I may go down that route.

Bluecollar Backcountry says:

Nice comparison. If I did that where I live in Texas, dogs would be nipping at me the whole time. Does the Giant maybe have a shorter wheelbase that helps with the turning, and I wonder if the Niner frame has a little softer material that absorbs the vibration better ?

Vineet Tyagi says:


Ryan West says:

Man you definatly have some sweet gravel roads down there in florida, in jealous lol, are gravel here is terriable

Ride Alongside says:

Not only does the frame/wheel combo make a big difference, but I’ve also foind the Fork, seatpost, handlebars, tape, and saddle make a big difference. The geometry is huge as well of course. Good vid Clint.

Jerry T says:

To make the test conclusive you should put the CX wheel and tire combo on the gravel bike and ride the same loop.

Space Cowboy says:

Interesting! Didn’t really see it coming! Lots of people claim that CX and Gravel bikes are basically the same and I was the opinion that they were at least very similar in terms of performance. I didn’t expect such massive difference in ride quality, tho. That reconfirms my decision to save up for a Gravel Bike and not bother at all with CX Bikes cause comfort is a huge factor for me.

Vineet Tyagi says:

I was first!

im watching you, be very afraid. says:

Test comment

Road Glide says:

Just a bit longer chain-stay, taller head tube and lower bottom bracket on the gravel bike makes a huge contribution to comfort and why with merely a swap of the wheels or tires a Gravel bike makes a great road bike.

The Gefster says:

Hi Clint….. You may have heard or not heard that there are actually suspension forks made for gravel bike now that have up to 40mm of travel.  Fox and Lauf and Rockshox all make them.  Be interested in your findings if that increases the capability of a gravel bike off road, and how much it can handle compared to a hardtail .

DilbertMuc says:

Your results fall in line with the geometry differences between gravel and CX bikes. Gravel bikes tend to have a smaller head angle and therefore a more stable steering compared to itchy CX bikes. That’s why I prefered them for long backpacking tours. On the other hand, I had an aluminum TCX SLR and it was very comfortable. Probably the TCX Advanced (carbon) version is just too stiff and hard on demanding terrain.
In the end I stayed with a relaxed-geometry XC mountain bike with a good fork and fast gravel tires, which was the best mixture of all worlds.

banner67b says:

great video. I will do my first 100 mile gravel grind this weekend on the TCX. What I did to make it a little more gravel friendly was to go to Maxxis Ravagers 40C wheels and then flip the stem over and give it a little more rise, and then angle the handlebars up a little more to give a bit more upright feel. not too much, but just enough to change my body position a bit so not quite as an aggressive posture. I’ll see how it goes this weekend. The thing I am still playing with is the psi for tubeless tires. I weight 175. Any advice would be appreciated.

jimmythefish says:

In terms of wheels, there is no difference in vertical compliance. Spokes can’t compress, and the depth of the rim won’t compress at all regardless of material. Any compliance in the rim is negligible compared to the compliance from the tire. Carbon rims will be stiffer laterally and may be lighter, but they won’t be more vertically compliant.

Karloz Gonzalez says:

What if you Frankenstein a bike?

Cup & Cone says:

Is there any reason you don’t prefer/use an out-front style Garmin mount? Or stem mount it? I know on MTB’s the general thought is for protection not having it hang out front of the bars, but what about your CX & gravel?

Dave The Dog Dude says:

RE: centering the disc on a second set of wheels, at least for 6 bolt types there are small shims (like 1/32″) that you can use to adjust the rotor spacing, I think there are 2 of them on my second wheel set that positions the rotor very close to the same position as compared to the stock wheels. So now I can adjust the brakes for either set of wheels and they work for both without any fiddling around when I swap them.

Prastt says:

I like this series but in my opinion there’s one thing that maybe you’ve overlooked. In the realm of road bikes you have a whole spectrum of how different the ride feels from bike to bike. In your tests you’re comparing two bikes in different let’s say categories. But the conclusion may not apply to all bikes in each category. So saying cross bikes are X than gravel bikes may not be true. But rather the specific models with specific components you tested. Not sure if that makes sense or not.

John Broderick says:

I’m wondering about a test of wheels with different amounts of spokes weight and stiffness etc

C T says:

Those tires though! I love the G Ones! I’ve been running a size 35 and just picked up some 38s for events with softer stuff. Like the upcoming Pecan. I’m not sure how much of a difference they will make but every bit helps I guess.

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