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Right where the paved roads end for other cyclists, fun and adventure are just beginning for you. With a cyclocross or gravel bike, you'll be fast and flexible all year round. You no longer have to switch to a mountain bike, as used to be common in autumn and winter. After all, the latest cyclocross and gravel bikes convince at both light off-road terrain and on paved roads with a performance comparable to that of a road bike. Furthermore at our topic page you will also find nice parts for tuning, functional apparel and optimized shoes for clipless pedals. » Read more
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A cyclocross bike is an off-road racing bike. It has wider tires (usually 33 mm) with studs and more ground clearance thanks to a lower bottom bracket drop. In addition, the derailleur system has a special Cyclocross ratio and a wide range of gears. Many Cyclocross bikes today have a more simplified 1x drivetrain. Most current Cyclocross bikes have modern disc brakes.
A gravel-Bike is a special road bike, which is designed in such a way that you can ride it also off the tarmac, for example on gravel roads. Gravel bikes can be equipped with relatively wide tires (e.g. 40 mm), some are also equipped with especially nimble 27.5-inch wheels (650B) instead of the usual 28-inch wheelsets. Gravel bikes are designed for high riding comfort, which is why the saddle superelevation is considerably lower. For bikepacking tours lasting several days, most gravel bikes have many mounting points for cargo racks respectively panniers and luggage bags.
One of the main differences between a road bike and a gravel bike is that the latter can accommodate wider tires. Tire widths of 40 mm are easily possible, often even much more. This makes it possible to ride on forest roads just as well as on gravel roads and sand tracks. In addition, unlike cyclocross bikes, there are also gravel bikes with a suspension fork, even though these models are currently still the exception. While the 1x gearing has not yet been able to gain acceptance on road bikes, more and more gravel bikes with 1x11 or 1x12-speed shifting systems are entering the market.
Furthermore, many people will notice the often special road handle bars shape featuring an especially low drop and reach as well as the flared drops at the ends of the handlebars. These special features allow more control on trails.
Cyclocross bikes are primarily light and have an aggressive frame geometry, whereas gravel bikes are generally designed to be comfortable and durable. Because of these differences, there are hardly any cyclocross bikes, but some gravel bikes with steel frames. Steel tubes look more aesthetically appealing, but are slightly heavier overall than tubes made of aluminium, carbon or exotic titanium. In order to make it possible to make multi-day gravel tours, most gravel bikes have not only mounts for fenders but also many eyelets for carriers and bottle cages. The geometry of a cyclocross bike is competition-oriented, while on a gravel bike you should sit more upright and comfortable.
This breed of bike comfortable due to its geometry, which allows great adventures, extended tours lasting several days and daily commuting. A Gravel-Bike is particularly robust and reliable and therefore usually equipped with a mechanically actuated shifting system instead of an electronical one. Thanks to the wide tires, a gravel bike is fast, safe and comfortable on forest tracks and gravel roads. A bike designed for gravel use, unlike a conventional road bike, has mounting points for luggage carriers and fenders.
Despite all the benefits a gravel bike offers, it does not necessarily have to be more expensive than other bikes. Of course, as with road bikes and cyclocross bikes, there are also very high-priced gravel bikes, which have a particularly high-quality configuration. However, since gravel bikes are primarily designed for comfort and reliability and therefore not every gram counts (which usually accounts for a high additional price) in terms of frame and components, some gravel bikes are comparatively affordable. They are more often made of aluminium or steel than carbon and are rarely equipped with the expensive electronic derailleur systems often found on cyclocross and road bikes of the upper segment. No excuses anymore, get ready for adventure!
Cyclocross: A Child of the Road Bike Sport
Frame and Tires of a Cyclocross Bike
Gravel-Bikes – More than just an Adventure Trend from Overseas
Drivetrain and Brakes of Gravel and Cyclocross Bikes
Mud Party, Snow Gravel and Ice Cross – How to Have the Most Fun, Even in Winter!
Cyclocross and Road Bike – A Comparison
The Best Way to Buy a Gravel Bike or Cyclocross Bike Is Right Here Online
You wonder: What is cyclocross anyway? First of all, cyclocross is a cycling sport that has its origins in France at the beginning of the 20th century. Road cyclists wanted to start training even before the start of the season and so they swerved to off-road. The fast ride over forest tracks, through meadows and over gravel roads turned out to be a very effective training. This conditionally and technically demanding training increased the performance for the road races in the competition season.
From a recreational sport discipline where cyclists chased each other over sticks and stones, it has evolved into a cycling sport of its own. It quickly spread from France to Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg and above all to Belgium. Accordingly, there are many names for this off-road cycling discipline: Besides today’s most widespread term “cyclocross” (short: CX), these names are also common:
Cyclocross races are characterized by relatively short circuits, with the race duration being less than one hour. So when the cyclocross riders go to the start with their special bikes, clipless shoes and sometimes particular race bodies maximum action is guaranteed. The courses usually consist of sections with very different surfaces, which follow each other directly: Forest soil, dirt roads, grassland, gravel, sand, mud and even ice and snow in the winter.
And if this wasn’t demanding enough, additional challenges are added. Cyclocross courses are full of steep climbs and descents, and also of obstacles. These hurdles can only be overcome if the athlete shoulders his cyclocross bike. For example, ditches are bridged or steps are climbed before getting back on the saddle.
A sport within the world of cycling that is very attractive for spectators, means also a lot of fun for hobby cyclists. With a CX-Bike you are fast on almost every surface: On tarmac you keep up with road bike riders and in easy terrain you can compete with mountain bikers. It is clear, however, that this is only possible because a cyclocross bike has some special features.
The close relationship of the cyclocross-bike to the conventional road bike is easy visible. Not only is a road bike handle bar (drop bar) used on the cyclocrosser, but the frame of a cyclocross bike is also based on the aggressive geometry of a classic road bike. However, a rather short top tube and head tube result in a shorter wheelbase and a rather flat steering angle. These features allow for optimal control on steep descents. Since you will also ride over roots, branches and stones more often with a cyclocross bike, the ground clearance is greater compared to a road bike: the bottom bracket is a considerable bit higher.
Another important feature of cyclocross frames is caused by the special tires: The rear end and fork of cyclocross bikes are designed to allow the use of wider tires compared to road bikes. Classic road bike tires have little to no profile (slicks) and are usually between 23 and 28 mm wide. Cyclocross tires, on the other hand, usually have a width of 33 mm. So, they comply the official upper limit for competitions set by the International Cycling Union (UCI).
Almost all cyclocross bicycle frames allow the use of 35 and 37 mm wide or even more bulky tires, as well. Depending on the surface to be ridden on, these have different studded profiles. This means that optimum grip is always guaranteed, whether in mud, on slippery grass or on fine gravel stones. The folding tires or clincher tires used on cyclocross bikes are ridden either in the classic way with tubes or tubeless with a tire sealant. This requires not only special tires and valves but also compatible rims. CX professionals also like to use tubular tires in competition.
Anyone who rides a cyclocross bike does not ride just any ordinary bicycle - he wants to be one thing above all: fast! And this without being slowed down by any obstacle for longer than necessary. That's why cyclocross frames must be nimble, light and strong. No surprise that the materials used are almost exclusively. Mostly you can either choose the particularly light, strong and, depending on the layer, shock absorbing carbon or stiff aluminium. In contrast to classic road bikes, however, cyclocross bikes are designed for robustness. Instead of thin-walled aero frames, reinforced tubes with a cross-section suitable for higher loads are used.
While cyclocross bikes have a relatively long tradition in Europe, gravel bikes (sometimes written: gravelbikes) are a rather young breed of bicycles. The gravel concept comes from the USA, because on the one hand there are less tarmac roads and on the other hand the desire of many road cyclists to be able to move around more freely had grown. They wanted to be able to explore the world beyond smooth tarmac roads, far away from traffic. This desire has developed into a very individual cycling culture. In addition to a specific bicycle, passionate gravel bike riders also rely on functional yet hip cycling apparel and bicycle shoes that embody casual style despite their clipless function.
A CX bike is not designed to maintain a certain speed for as many kilometers as possible at an optimal cadence. What matters is high acceleration from corners and the ability to overcome many short, very steep climbs.
A cassette gear ratio of 11-32 teeth, which is particularly popular for cyclocross derailleur systems, makes it possible to ride both downhill and uphill. The steps between the different cogs are greater than, for example, with a typical road bike cassette with 12-25 teeth, which should be light and stepped as closely as possible to the desired cadence of the athlete. In cyclocross, the larger gear steps are even desired because they allow for a faster acceleration on a short straight.
Almost all currently available cyclocross bikes are built with only one unguided narrow-wide chainring. A single, medium-sized chainring with 42 teeth instead of 46/36 is very popular setup among cyclocross riders, because it simplifies the drive train and reduces the risk of malfunction. With a 1x11 or 1x12 derailleur system on the cyclocross bike, the risk of shifting mistakes or chain dropping is reduced. Maintenance and adjustment of the front derailleur are also eliminated. In order to ensure the widest possible gear range, cassettes with 11-42 or even up to 10-52 teeth can be used.
While cantilever brakes were used in the early days, today you can virtually only buy cyclocross bikes that have hydraulic or mechanical disc brakes. Mountain bikes were the forerunners in this development. Compared to rim brakes, disc brakes allow for higher and better doseable braking power and good control even in the wet and the use of tires and rims with different widths without any problems.
The rims of wheels for rim brakes should not exceed a certain width. Finally, it must be possible to bring the brake arms close to the brake tracks without touching the tire. However, particularly wide tires should only be mounted on wide rims with a large inner width. Since the brake discs are mounted on the hubs, the rims of today's cyclocross wheelsets can be almost as wide as you like.
With the subtle crunching of snow and quiet buzzing of the chains, a small group with their cyclocross and gravel bikes announces their arrival. Hikers and walkers briefly stop in disbelief and occasionally make comments like: "Look at these brave guys, they're still riding on their bicycles", "You guys have spike tires, don't you?" or "It's icy up ahead, you won't get any further." – but of course you will!
In this chapter we want to dispel some of the myths surrounding winter biking with off-road road bikes. We also provide you with tips on the right setup for your bike and the right gear to make you feel at home even at minus 10 degrees, in mud and snow, and how to train optimally for upcoming challenges.
Gravel and cyclocross bikes are still versatile, nimble and fast in mud or light snow thanks to relatively narrow knobby tires. But in general, cycling in the cold season and especially in wintry terrain almost always requires a little more time and serenity. Not your thing? You want a fast pace (a high average speed) or prefer to do a crisp interval workout? If there is a lot of snow, it is advisable in this case to rather ride more roads or if they aren't ploughed, to switch to an indoor trainer. Can't get enough of adventures in frosty winter wonderlands? Here are some tips for your bike setup.
Your bike's tires are the most important component for winter biking. Contrary to what most people think, you can ride well on mixed winter terrain without studs. Especially on snow, the wider the better. But if you are considering buying wider tires, please check the maximum recommend tire width according to the manufacturer of your bike or frame. Furthermore, when choosing the right cyclocross and gravel winter tires, it is important to use a rubber compound that remains soft even at particularly low temperatures and features an optimized tread pattern. Either way, before you start touring, you should first check the air pressure. Depending on the conditions, you can use less air pressure to increase the contact area or grip on softened ground and distribute the pressure better on snow. A 43 mm wide gravel road tire, which is usually ridden on the road with 2.5 bar at the front and 3 bar or more at the rear, rolls well over loose snow at 1.6 or 1.8 bar (at approx. 70 kg rider weight). If the ground is rather hard to firmly muddy, the pressure can be raised slightly again.
You will also notice that the rear wheel slips more quickly even on slight climbs. To avoid this, simply select a lower gear and increase your cadence for high speeds. If necessary, you can also consider buying a cassette with a wider gear range.
In addition to a well-tuned bike, winter graveling and cyclocross riding also depends on the rider and his or her equipment. For the rider, it is generally considered good technique training, because on the wet and slippery surfaces, especially in curves, you have to shift your weight differently and set the braking point optimally – by the way, this also applies to descents! But even if your gravel bike is well tuned and you are technically skilled, freezing is no fun for anyone. For sufficient warmth in the cold season, wear clothing according to the multi-layer principle and the basic idea that it's better to wear too much than too little. What is possible for the body and limbs is unfortunately difficult for the hands, feet and head - the warmest part of the body.
But don't worry, with special winter cycling shoes, helmet caps or neck warmers and thick, waterproof gloves, that's no problem either. Your cycling wardrobe for the cold season could look like this:
|Part of the Body||5 up to minus 5 degree||minus 5 degrees and below|
|Head/Neck||windproof softshell under helmet, multifunctional cloth, optional helmet visor in case of precipitation||windproof storm cap, insulated neck warmer, optional helmet visor in case of precipitation|
|Upper Body||Baselayer: Insulated shirt or longsleeve
Jersey: Longsleeve jersey/ zipped longsleeve jersey
Shell layer: Windproof bike vest, Softshell cycling jacket or waterproof and windproof bike jacket
Tip: You can also use a light rain jacket as an intermediate solution.
|Baselayer: Merino longsleeve
Jersey: Insulated longsleeve jersey
Shell layer: Water and windproof insulated winter jacket
|Hands||Fleece gloves or softshell gloves, optionally combined with waterproof overmitts||high insulated wind and waterproof winter gloves|
|Legs||Shell layer: Bib-tights with wind protection or water and windproof winter bib-tights
Optional Baselayer: insulated underpants
Tip: You can also use tight fit rain pants as an intermediate solution
|Baselayer: Baselayer: insulated underpants made of Merino wool
Shell layer: water and windproof winter bib-tights
Closed cycling shoes with shoe covers or waterproof shoes optionally with shoe covers
|Thick wool socks e.g. made from merino wool
Waterproof and additionally insulated winter shoes
Regular hydration is essential for optimal performance on longer bike rides. This also applies to cyclocross riding and graveling in winter. In addition, warm drinks help to prevent chilling. To prevent your hot tea from turning into a bottle of ice after a short time, you can also use an insulated water bottle for cycling or an insulated bottle with a mug for a cultivated break.
To make it easier for you to answer the question whether your next bike will be a road bike or a cyclocross,
here is an overview of the similarities:
The differences between cyclocross and road racing bikes:
If you want to fulfill your dream of a super light cyclocross bike with a carbon frame or a comfortable long distance bike for extended adventure tours, BIKE24 is the right choice for you! In our shop you can not only buy the best CX-bikes and gravel bikes the market has to offer, you also get great customer service.
Before purchasing, we will be happy to assist you in choosing the right model and the correct frame size. After the purchase we are still available for all your questions, for example concerning the final assembly after you have unpacked your new bike.