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Is gravel swallowing up cyclocross?

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like : "Unbround Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Is gravel swallowing up cyclocross?

Old 10-24-20, 04:57 PM
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LNKFixed
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Is gravel swallowing up cyclocross?

I'm considering getting into CX and I've just been sort of casually shopping around for bikes in the sub $2000 (US) category. But as I'm looking at manufacturers, most of them that specify models as being cyclocross bikes are generally above that price range. Is there really much of a difference between a gravel bike and a cyclocross bike, and for under $2k should I be looking at these lower end gravel bikes? or am I pretty much just overthinking this and low end gravel bikes are low end CX bikes?

Last edited by LNKFixed; 10-24-20 at 04:58 PM. Reason: My text was grey...
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Old 10-24-20, 06:31 PM
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they used to sell cx bikes that would only clear fairly small tires, because all the racers used small tires. Now gravel bikes take much larger tires. You can still use smaller tires if you want to race cx. Not sure that's really necessary though.
I'm not sure there are any production CX bikes now, probably a few.
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Old 10-24-20, 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
they used to sell cx bikes that would only clear fairly small tires, because all the racers used small tires. Now gravel bikes take much larger tires. You can still use smaller tires if you want to race cx. Not sure that's really necessary though.
I'm not sure there are any production CX bikes now, probably a few.
So I'm guessing gravel bikes as we know it now have similar enough geometry to be competitive in a cyclocross course?
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Old 10-24-20, 09:55 PM
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Originally Posted by LNKFixed View Post
So I'm guessing gravel bikes as we know it now have similar enough geometry to be competitive in a cyclocross course?
Not completely though any road bike with room enough for the mud will keep you competitive. A true cross bike is a performance road geometry with a taller bb and ever so slightly longer chain stay. A gravel bike is usually more of an adventure road geometry and isn't quite as agile as a cross bike is meant to be. But it can get down to splitting hairs and unless you're losing first by seconds a gravel bike is more then good enough. But a number of brands do still make dedicated cross bikes. Cannondale still has the CAADX line which for 2020 still came in Tiagra as 1200, 105 around 1600 and I think ultegra just cleared 2k. Kona still has the Jake which comes in a couple price points typically. Felt I believe still has a cross. Its a niche sport and outside of small areas where its really popular its not common to see the bikes stocked by shops.
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Old 10-25-20, 05:00 AM
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Specialized still makes the CruX which is an all-out cyclo-cross bicycle.
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Old 10-25-20, 08:19 AM
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https://bikeinsights.com/

Go to this sight and plug in the different bikes frames and you can see the difference in real time. I found this to be very inlightling but you will still need to go to the sight and see what tire clearance, mechanicals, tires, hubs, etc. This will at least give you an idea of what changes you would make if you wanted.
Hope this helps, Frank.
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Old 10-25-20, 09:58 AM
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Canyon Inflite is a great cyclocross bike, AL versions sub 2k with good components.
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Old 10-25-20, 03:54 PM
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Cross bike models are still out there from all of the usual manufacturers, but theya re made in much lower quantity than gravel bikes lately.
You can race a gravel bike in Cyclocross, and some do, but they will not be as quick handling as a cross bike
Cross is as big a sport as ever, but gravel has brought a bunch of new people in to the point that gravel riding is possibly bigger than Cross now
Bike Differences:
- A cross bike will have a higher bottom bracket and usually less clearance for wider tires
- A cross bile is stiff while a gravel bike is built with much more compliance to be comfortable for a much longer ride. A cross bike starts to get uncomfortable after an hour or two compared to a Gravel bike.
- Cross bikes are designed to be ridden at a near sprint continuously for 45 minutes while a gravel bike is meant to be ridden for events that last many hours and possibly at a pace a little below sprint level.
- Cross events often are won on bikes designed for lots of quick maneuvering to avoid obstacles and be most competitive while Gravel events tend to favor bikes that have a bit more laid back geometry and are designed for many hours in the saddle
- A gravel bike generally will have higher stack and a bit slacker steerer angle.
- You can find a lot of used good cross bikes but few good used gravel bikes because gravel bikes have really only been made in large quantities in the past several years.
- Since the gravel category has literally exploded in popularity you will find a lot more gravel bike models available than cross bike models
- Gravel bike models are evolving fast and change every few years while cross bikes have had relatively few chances in the past decade (except for new Shimano components)
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Old 10-25-20, 10:45 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
You can still use smaller tires if you want to race cx. Not sure that's really necessary though.
UCI rules limit tire width for CX races.

Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
I'm not sure there are any production CX bikes now, probably a few.
Wha??? Specialized, Kona, Santa Cruz, Cannondale, Trek, Fuji, Felt, Giant, Scott, Ridley, All City, Colnago, Jamis, Tommasini, Bianchi, etc., etc. all make production CX bikes.
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Old 10-26-20, 03:01 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
i'm not sure there are any production cx bikes now, probably a few.
lol
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Old 10-26-20, 03:20 PM
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Since cyclocross, by definition, is a racing event it makes sense that bikes sold in this category are specifically designed with racing in mind and therefore may not have as many options at the lowest end of the price spectrum. Every major manufacturer I can think of produces a UCI level carbon fiber CX race bike in the $2500-$7500 range. Many have a lower priced alloy versions in the $1200-$2000 range. You aren't likely to find a CX specific bike priced much below that range.

Most CX bikes make decent gravel bikes (to a point), but are designed with more limited tire clearance since the UCI (currently) limits CX tires to 33mm. Many CX bikes can fit larger tires, but not some of the massive clearance you'll find on gravel bikes. You also won't find all the extra bottle and rack mounts on most CX bikes because they aren't needed for racing, and many CX bikes are sold with narrower range 1x gearing that is more suited to CX courses.

There are usually some geometric differences between CX and gravel bikes. Gravel bikes tend to be more slack and have lower BB heights, whereas CX bikes tend to be more upright, more aggressive with higher BB's. The lines are getting more blurry these days as the "gravel bike" market expands.
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Old 10-27-20, 07:17 AM
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Originally Posted by LNKFixed View Post
So I'm guessing gravel bikes as we know it now have similar enough geometry to be competitive in a cyclocross course?
It depends what you mean by competitive. Certainly not in CAT1-2. But CX often is more about having fun on whatever you are riding, rather than being like a road bike race.

Some mis-information here from people who read a lot but don’t ride CX.

CX bikes used to be the all around bike. Now Gravel is in fashion (for good reason I would say). This has allowed CX bikes to get more focused and racy – so there is no longer a need for a CX bike with fender and rack mounts, nor as much a need for a non race CX bike. At the same time, they have adopted a lot from gravel racing. CX bikes have gone through a lot of changes recently.

You can of course use a gravel bike for CX, but they are going to be crap (in comparison) in the tight hairpin turns, in rapid acceleration, in climbing, and of course there pedal strike and sloppy steering. Then again, CX is casual fun, run what ya brung – so we have people ride just about anything. My favorite was a 50 year old Schwinn Tandem. Worked well when you team mates are handing you whiskey shots on ever lap. ;-)

You can have fun on CX on anything. If you want to podium, a good CX bike is best – although I’ve seen people podium on a XC hard tail (granted, it was probably a $5000 bike, but still).

Geometry wise, a CX bike compared to gravel will be a lot more agile because of:
Shorter chain stay
Steeper head tube angle
Higher bottom bracket
More aero position (Lower stack/head-tube height)
Cross bikes have changed very fast lately with the influence of Gravel, cross bikes have similar tire clearance (CX calls it “mud clearance”), can be even more cush in the rear, although the front tends to be stiff for very precise steering. Some of them even have a longer top tube with shorter stem from mountain biking. My CX bike from 5 years ago is much, much different than one made in the last couple of years.

UCI rules do not limit the tire width For CX races for anyone I know. But then again, we are not competing at a national level. CX is casual fun. We CX with mountain bike tires if we want.

Yep, there are still plenty of CX bikes out there.
+1 on AL Canyon Inflite

P.S. “Since the gravel category has literally exploded in popularity” LOL – my daughter literally uses the word literal wrong every day. I mean, she literally told me that she literally died at work yesterday, she was so bored.
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Old 10-27-20, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
P.S. “Since the gravel category has literally exploded in popularity” LOL – my daughter literally uses the word literal wrong every day. I mean, she literally told me that she literally died at work yesterday, she was so bored.
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Old 10-27-20, 08:34 AM
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that's a good point about CX bikes no longer having mounts for fenders and racks. I always thought it was a bit weird to have a race bike that had rack mounts, like my Macho Man. Although it's so heavy I would think you would be at a disadvantage racing it.
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Old 10-27-20, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
UCI rules do not limit the tire width For CX races for anyone I know. But then again, we are not competing at a national level. CX is casual fun. We CX with mountain bike tires if we want.
The rules do limit tire width. Local promoters (and non-sanctioned races) may not enforce the rules. As of 2014, max tire width for sanctioned races is based on rider weight. Most racers still fall into the 33 or 35mm limit, but clydes can go as big as 40.
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Old 10-27-20, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post
It depends what you mean by competitive. Certainly not in CAT1-2. But CX often is more about having fun on whatever you are riding, rather than being like a road bike race.

Some mis-information here from people who read a lot but don’t ride CX.
CX bikes used to be the all around bike. Now Gravel is in fashion (for good reason I would say). This has allowed CX bikes to get more focused and racy – so there is no longer a need for a CX bike with fender and rack mounts, nor as much a need for a non race CX bike. At the same time, they have adopted a lot from gravel racing. CX bikes have gone through a lot of changes recently.
You can of course use a gravel bike for CX, but they are going to be crap (in comparison) in the tight hairpin turns, in rapid acceleration, in climbing, and of course there pedal strike and sloppy steering. Then again, CX is casual fun, run what ya brung – so we have people ride just about anything. My favorite was a 50 year old Schwinn Tandem. Worked well when you team mates are handing you whiskey shots on ever lap. ;-)
Some very important points here for the OP.
Except for this year (stupid COVID-19) I've raced CX for the last 4 seasons and realized in season 1 I'm never going to podium, like ever. But it's so fun I keep signing up for races in a category where generally come middle of the pack.
​So ​​LNKFixed when racing returns best to decide how competitive you want to be, sign up to race and "run what ya brung" to see where you place. Then decide on the new whip.
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Old 10-27-20, 03:08 PM
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The rules do limit tire width. Local promoters (and non-sanctioned races) may not enforce the rules. As of 2014, max tire width for sanctioned races is based on rider weight. Most racers still fall into the 33 or 35mm limit, but clydes can go as big as 40.



Weknowdis. However, if you are not doing nationals or Cat 1-2, no one cares. CX is laid back. Its much different than road. But again, I stated: "UCI rules do not limit the tire width For CX races for anyone I know." Never had an issue with our races, and I've never heard of anyone here in the CX racing forum having a problem with tire size either. But yes, of course - at the higher levels things are going to get tighter.

@LNKFixed could do a CAT5 with a mountain bike, and no one would care*. Gravel bike with 40mm tires - no problem. Just show up, run what ya brung, and have fun. Please, if I'm wrong - if you know of a CAT 5 race that limits tire size as you stated, show me the web site.
(*and read the rules just to make sure your race organizers are not unusually uptight for a CX race, lol).

Last edited by chas58; 10-27-20 at 03:25 PM.
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Old 10-27-20, 03:24 PM
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Shoot, I did my first season of CX on a Trek 660 with the skinniest knobbies I could find and old school centerpull brakes. It was fun.
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Old 10-27-20, 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by chas58 View Post

Weknowdis. However, if you are not doing nationals or Cat 1-2, no one cares. CX is laid back. Its much different than road. But again, I stated: "UCI rules do not limit the tire width For CX races for anyone I know." Never had an issue with our races, and I've never heard of anyone here in the CX racing forum having a problem with tire size either. But yes, of course - at the higher levels things are going to get tighter.

@LNKFixed could do a CAT5 with a mountain bike, and no one would care*. Gravel bike with 40mm tires - no problem. Just show up, run what ya brung, and have fun. Please, if I'm wrong - if you know of a CAT 5 race that limits tire size as you stated, show me the web site.
(*and read the rules just to make sure your race organizers are not unusually uptight for a CX race, lol).
This.
I've been racing CX since 2014 in a fairly large series in the midwest that has fields of 100+ racers. We have no rules on tire sizes. Run whatever you want. We see fat bikes and MTB's in the Cat 4 and 5 races every weekend, and there are a few MTBers that regularly podium in the Masters fields. That said, the majority of racers seem to stick to 33mm CX tires, though with the explosion (not literally) of gravel tire options I'm seeing more larger sizes at races.

Our series also overlaps with USA Cycling's Midwest Regionals and Illinois State Championship races. The 33mm UCI rule may apply to those, but I've never noticed anyone checking tire widths. I have heard of checks at Nationals.

Here's what I found on our local series website:
​​​​​Q: Can I use any size tire? I heard the UCI has a width limit.
A: All CCC categories are amateur races so you can race the tire that works best for you. If you are a pro your mechanic should have it figured out for you. If you’re on a fatbike and not in the Cat 4/5 race you may be “doing it wrong”.
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Old 10-27-20, 03:51 PM
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Originally Posted by bOsscO View Post
Some very important points here for the OP.
Except for this year (stupid COVID-19) I've raced CX for the last 4 seasons and realized in season 1 I'm never going to podium, like ever. But it's so fun I keep signing up for races in a category where generally come middle of the pack.
​So ​​LNKFixed when racing returns best to decide how competitive you want to be, sign up to race and "run what ya brung" to see where you place. Then decide on the new whip.
Same. I will likely never see the podium in my local series. There are some seriously fast guys, even in the masters fields, but it's still a ton of fun. I sprinted elbow to elbow flat out with another racer last year for 20th place. He got me right at the line, and his teammate tossed both of us beers after the finish.

I really miss CX racing.
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Old 10-27-20, 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by msu2001la View Post
Same. I will likely never see the podium in my local series. There are some seriously fast guys, even in the masters fields, but it's still a ton of fun. I sprinted elbow to elbow flat out with another racer last year for 20th place. He got me right at the line, and his teammate tossed both of us beers after the finish.
I really miss CX racing.
Yeah, I miss it too.
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Old 10-27-20, 04:31 PM
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Originally Posted by msu2001la View Post
If you’re on a fatbike and not in the Cat 4/5 race you may be “doing it wrong”.
If you're a cat 1 on a fatbike, you aren't doing it wrong.

Might work better on a faster bike though. I have heard of courses that didn't penalize mtb enough so MTB's were faster.
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Old 10-27-20, 04:49 PM
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The idea of a cyclocross bike as an all purpose bike goes back a long way, I had an old Cannondale from the 90s that was just such a bike and the surly crosscheck is another example. But now, gravel bikes are probably a lot better at being commuters or training bikes. It’s no surprise that a bike with a wider gearing range and easier posture is going to be a winner. That’s the same reason that mountain bikes killed off department store 10 speeds.

Cyclocross racing is such a simple and easy event. It’s local, it’s small, it’s in your city park or the fairgrounds. In that sense, I think cyclocross racing is not going to go away anytime soon. It’s just too much fun. If you want to race a calendar of gravel bike events, you have to travel.

My local cyclocross events enforce the bike rules in the higher classes, but in the lower classes it’s run what you got. People bring mountain bikes or gravel or whatever.
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Old 10-28-20, 07:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Rolla View Post
The rules do limit tire width. Local promoters (and non-sanctioned races) may not enforce the rules. As of 2014, max tire width for sanctioned races is based on rider weight. Most racers still fall into the 33 or 35mm limit, but clydes can go as big as 40.
This is not true, at least not in national or international rules. The UCI (international sanctioning body) prohibits tires wider than 33 mm for all racers. USA Cycling (United States national sanctioning body) has no restriction on tire width whatsoever. If some local association or racing series has this weight-based rule, well... that’s fine I guess, but it’s not a rule I’ve ever heard of or encountered at any race and it certainly isn’t a USAC or UCI rule.
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Old 10-28-20, 07:52 AM
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I've never heard of a weight based tire width rule. How does this work? Do riders have to weigh in before the race then get a tire check?
My local series doesn't have a "clydesdale" category, so no one is stepping on a scale. I cannot even imagine how complicated (and unnecessary) this would be to enforce.

At my series, everyone either races in their USAC category fields, or you can race in any Masters category up to your age (i.e. if you're 50 years old you can race in M45+ or M35+, but not in the M55+). We also have a separate field for single speed (zip tied SRAM shifters are allowed).
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