Road Bike Vs Cyclocross Bike – 5 Key Differences

There’s more than just chunky tyres that separate these two bikes.

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While they share similar traits like drop handlebars and wheel size, take a closer look and you can see how and why the two are very different beasts. From pedals to geometry, we explain the key variations in their ride feel, components and purpose.

Watch more on GCN…
How to set up your CX bike 🎥
Road bike vs gravel bike 🎥

Photos: ©Tim De Waele /

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PuroYO says:

The cx bike has a warning on the krank arm, “this bicycle is to be equipped with a clip-on pedal”, and then I am riding my bike with regular pedals, those without clip-on crap, as a commuter cycle 😛

Luis Gerardo Hernandez says:

is a 29er mtb with a funny handlebar

Jose Ponce says:

the rear derailleur cable is missing a cable end and I can’t even.

jdvumbc says:

Just buy a CX and extra wheelset for the road. Its more fun.

Rejor111 says:

I’m actually thinking of getting mountain bike pedals for my road bike. Seems a lot more useful to me than road bike pedals.

Bikejon says:

I switched from road to CX in 2011 and it’s been great. I primarily ride on the road and unless you race it’s a sensible choice. A change of wheels (and tyres) and you can do two completely different rides on the same bike.
I use a compact chainset, which works well across mixed terrain.
I’m competitive on Strava on my CX so it’s hardly slow. Mega comfortable, great brakes, tons of clearance for wide tyres (even with ‘guards). What’s not to like?

Kimon Froussios says:

We were just talking about this topic at work today!

mike x says:

most carbon CC/road & hardtail frames are max weight 1.4kg. 2.5kg-3kg weight thicker guage carbon frame would be nice option built with thicker carbon for extra strength & carrying pannier racks on bumpy roads. carbon fibre rack to save weight also

Vitellius Vega says:

My Name is on the tire! Thumbs UP!

CJKnight Racing says:

Can you please do a video on riding a cx bike on the road. Can it compare to a road bike?

Mike O'Malley says:

1x or 2x? any thoughts?

fatarsemonkey says:

Got myself a Norco threshold rival, relatively cheap and has all the bits I was after. I love simplicity. I will probably go full road once disc brakes become the norm.

Soundtallica in Chains says:

Unless you’re racing or like twitchy geometry, a road bike is completely unnecessary. CX bikes are as light as road bikes these days, so with a swap of gearing and tires they have no disadvantages on pavement. But then they can still go off road where normal road bikes can’t. CX bikes are just soooo much better. I find myself completely ignoring my lightweight road bike whenever I’m not in a race, and once I stop racing I’m totally getting rid of it.

Joseph Henry says:

It looks like the Bottom Bracket is much higher on the Cross bike than the road bike. Why is that?

Jp Lombard says:

Of course the best difference is that water bottle

usman syed says:

what if i like mountain bikes and riding on dirt but i want to lightness of a roadbike?

Ser Garlan Tyrell says:

I ride a Cyclocross bike, only I replaced the 35c chunky tires with 28c slicks and put some dual sided (flat/SPD) pedals on it (which I prefer to road specific shoes anyway). And it came with a 50/34 x 11/32, which is just fine (99% of the time) for road use. And the hydro disk breaks made all the downsides totally worth it!
I’m now waiting for more aero bikes to get disk breaks and have clearance for 33c tires.

Klwir Qldf says:

what about the differences in Time Trial bikes and Triathlon bikes? I thought that they would be the same but they are very distinct.

Ryan Burney says:

you forgot to take off the green packaging cling wrap from the sram RD on the trek… #jerryoftheday

Hugh Wallace says:

Spoke to a guy (ex XC racer turned roadie & quite fast) yesterday about CX bikes on the road. His experience is that a CX bike is great for commuting & winter training & really comfortable averaging 15mph but makes trying to average 18mph very hard work. Trying to stick with a fast chain gang was hard going. He described doing one of his usual hills 2 mins slower than normal while putting out 80W more power! It is all in the frame geometry. Now that you can get disc brakes on a road bike I’d suggest sticking to one of those if you mainly ride on the road. I’m putting my money where my mouth is & am off to buy a new road bike today! Merry Xmas to me.

mjv1967 says:

42/32 Wick Werks chainrings will change your life. Spin to win!

Mark Worsfold says:

you idiot cantalivers are goooooooooooooooooooooooooooood

m/ Jack The Ripper m/ says:

my tyres are 700×20 and you said its “normaly it would be a 23-25”

Jonathan Howson says:

is a cyclo-cross bike better for a loose chipping covered tarmac and cobble surface? I ride 20 miles a day on my winter Road bike along a canal path in Manchester, and I am top 2% on strava for most segments but would be interested to get a cx bike if it is faster. Cheers in advance.

daniel mrgr says:


jay, sr green says:

don’t compare road bike to xc mtb. we’ll knew that road bike is more faster than mtb in a race. So please you GCN stop comparing road bike to mtb this is nonsense!!

neirboca says:

Cyclocross bike for commuting or a endurance road bike?

György Mohl says:

Is there any practical explanation, why cyclocross bikes still exist? I mean: we have MTB now, why don’t we just use those? (apart from the fun and different style)

david131092 says:

ones an orbea and ones a trek?

ian docena says:

Next is gravel vs roadbike aye

go_alex says:

i would love to see a speed comparison between road and cx bikes

shane pearson says:

#trqueback when are you guys (gcn) doing a video on fixed gear/singlespeed not just road bikes out there you know 😉 thanks

Arnaud Gagnon says:

You failed to mention three key differences:
-1 Bottom bracket heigth. Cx have higher bottom bracket to make “bunny hop” easier
-2 Top tube form. Cx bikes have a flat top tube to be more confortable on the shoulder when carried.
-3 Cable. While the more expensive bikes simply pass the cables into the frame, not all do. On older/less expensive cyclo cross bikes, the cable pass on the top of the top tube to avoid being “pinched” when you pass the bike on your shoulder.

Anyway, a more interesting comparison would’ve been cyclo-cross vs gravel bike. Now that is something not a lot of people

callum.w says:

What were those wheels on the road bike called

J ay says:

What are the main differences between a gravel and a CX bike then?

crazybadger617 says:

I would have thought the CX bikes would have had more low end gears? From what I am seeing, an endurance bike set-up with a compact 50-34 front and a 11-32 casette in the back would give more low end gears for those really steep climbs. Is there a reason for this? I’m asking because I’m thinking of getting a bike to explore the local farm/gravel roads in my area (already have a good road bike for the asphalt), but a lot of them go up some nasty steep, twisty hill roads. Should be fun with the right bike but I prefer staying in the saddle and cranking out the cadence on a steep incline than having to stand up and pull funny faces in a higher gear 🙂  Any suggestions?

Esox Lucius says:

You have missed 3 little differences: 1. top tube shaped so it would be easy to carry the bike on your shoulder, 2. cables (if not internally routed like the ones you are showing) are on the top tube, so they wouldn’t catch all the mud from the front wheel, 3. more clearence between the crank and the ground.

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