18

Next year i would like to commute by bicycle. I need to buy a new bike, but i don't know if to buy a roadbike or a cyclocross bike.
I live in a more rural area where not every road is tarred perfectly and there are several "gravel highways", expecially on the shortest distance to my workplace (about 20 km). Now there are several solutions:

  • Buy a roadbike and stay on the roads, where the distance is significantly longer (about 25 km).

OR

  • buy a cyclocross bike and ride on each kind of street.

Personally the problem is not the distance, but the time i need to commute, especially in the mornings.
So, is a roadbike that much faster than a cyclocross bike so that it's worthwhile to take a longer distance to commute and be even faster?

  • 2
    Sounds like whatever you decide you won't go too far wrong. 105 is a good groupset too. Depending upon the frame (geometry, material....cost!) of the road bike you might not find it is that much quicker than cx – PeteH Dec 10 '14 at 11:19
  • 5
    Just because a bike is marketed as a "road bike" doesn't mean that it can't handle a bit of gravel, esp. if it has at least 700x28 tires (though a CX bike would likely be better at it). As for component trim, even the lower end stuff (e.g. Sora) is quite good these days and are a bit less flash than 105; as usual, you need to set them up properly in either case. – Batman Dec 10 '14 at 14:05
  • 1
    @OblTobl - Tire pressure is a more significant determiner of rolling resistance than tire width. Running 25-30mm tires will not significantly slow a bike. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 10 '14 at 22:34
  • 1
    On the shortest ride how much is gravel? How much hillier and windy are the gravel roads compared to the main roads. Straight gravel roads will hit speed a little bit, windy roads a lot more). You would need to gain 20% more speed on the sealed road to make up the distance, I find I loose about 5-10% on my MTB on straight gravel compared to sealed roads, however recently graded roads can knock speed by 50%. – mattnz Dec 10 '14 at 23:40
  • 1
    @Trengot - The larger volume means you can run a lower pressure and get the same contact patch size. Larger volume tires need less pressure. Lower pressure also means more suspension, which can be faster on rougher roads. My 700x35 at 75 psi (15% sag) are much faster over B roads than 700 x23 at 110 psi. The difference is measurable and repeatable. – Rider_X Dec 11 '14 at 23:55
31

TL:DR Get the CX Bike, you'll love it! You get three bikes in one, without trading in any noticeable performance on the road. This answer is subjective and based on personal experience, you have been warned:

I have a CX bike that is used as a do-it-all bike, and I love it. For almost all aspects that concern any non-professional cyclist a CX is as good, or even better when compared to a "true" road bike, with some nice added benefits. Here's why:

I use it to commute because:

  • It is fast. It is light. And robust. You can get a second hand one (or similar) for 400$.

  • It has enough space for comfortable road tires (28 wide fits with ease)

  • Offroad performance is still great without the use of noisy/bouncy knobby cross tires (I use 700c x 28 Schwalbe Delta Cruisers, a perfect allround tire with enough grip on gravel while still fast and comfortable on the road. 25% of commuting is on gravel/ hardpack sand. In 3000km on these tires not a single flat, plus they are quite affordable!)

  • Enough room for mudguards in rainy weather, due to the frame spacing and the cantilever brakes.

  • In rainy weather, the brakes are designed to keep functioning and not clog up with mud, leaves etc. It is true that canti's are slightly less powerful in dry conditions compared to modern road brakes. But they have proven very reliable under all conditions. Discs would be even nicer.

I use it for long vacation trips

  • again because of the comfortable tires

  • The possiblity to carry quite some stuff on a seat post mounted rack, without worrying about damaging the bike or cracking the frame, since CX bikes are built for strength and durability.

I use it for riding with my friends (who all ride very expensive shiny carbon bikes) because:

  • We are not pro's, we ride fast, but always for fun. The 700g weight difference (if that) between my bike and theirs does not matter to me. How much beer we had last night has a much bigger impact on how fast I am.

I even use it for light MTB duty because:

  • I have a set of old pretty beat up off-road only wheels for the bike with CX tires, swapping wheels takes only 1 min. thanks to the canti brakes.

  • The bike is very fast on grassy/forest singletracks, as long as there are not too many braches, steep climbs or large drops you can easily keep ahead of most "real" MTB's. Of course this is only within reasonable limits, I am not saying a CX bike can do any seriously challenging terrain.

  • In deep mud, the thinner CX tires cut through the mud and ride on the solid surface beneath the mud, where the MTB's float and lose traction. Up to about 3 inches of watery mud on top of a more solid surface a CX bike will be faster than wide MTB tires.

On top of all this, here in Europe CX is pretty much a niche market. Most road bikers won't touch a CX bike, because they think they are slow (not true, as long as you don't race for a living). High end new CX bikes are all that leave the shops, those bikes then end up on the second hand market after a few years, where nobody seems to want them, thus you can get a much nicer bike for your $. All parts are interchangeable with road bikes too, apart from the brakes, so upgrading is always an option.

All in all, CX bikes are just more rugged road bikes that seem to get very little attention by the mainstream road crowd. Too bad for CX manufacturers, but good for us no-nonsense bikers who are looking for a 3-in-1 bike solution.

  • How is it 3-in-1? Or do you mean 2-in-1? Mountain and road? – user171453 Jan 12 '18 at 13:29
  • Also is CX a niche market in Europe? Cycling is more popular in Europe. I would CX is a niche market in general, all over the world. – user171453 Jan 12 '18 at 13:30
  • 4
    CX = mountain, road, and touring. One might call it a hybrid bike but that’d be an insult. – RoboKaren Jan 18 '18 at 5:23
11

If you are going to use your bike mostly for commuting, I would like to suggest you go for cyclocross.

The reasons are:

Motorist Hazard: There are always ignorant motorist who think they can save a lot of time by ignoring checking blind spots, appropriate speed at junction, quickly overtake without leaving sufficient space for cyclist. The less time you spend on the road, the less chance you get trapped by those motorists.

Safety: Going at speed higher than 20 mph (30 kmph) on a road with bicycle is a hazard itself. Imagine having a front tyre blew off while travelling at speed higher than 20 mph, you will have an idea how little control you have over the bike if accident was to happen over 20mph speed. What I mean is you do not need to have a road bike to go at speed between 20-30mph for safety concern, CX will do just fine. People like to go faster than 20mph on bicycle and think it is perfectly safe because they never have an accident, in which I think might just be pure luck.

Road hazard in rural area: (e.g. Oil spilled, pot holes, dead animal carcass ...) You need Braking Power, Stability when doing Emergency braking (skidding), Maneuverability (swerving)... Most of those listed, Cyclocross can offer more than a Road bike.

Thus, I see very little reason for you to choose a Longer distance, opting for Higher Speed and taking chances with Motorist.In commuting, the first priority is safety, then enjoyment (be it higher speed, better scenery, challenging trail) comes secondary.

Unfortunately for me, I learnt it the hard way until I got my best path to work place (avoid most of the road with junctions, motorist are scary with road rage at busy time, especially when you travelling to work/leaving work place)

  • 4
    +1 for 'In commuting, the first priority is safety, then enjoyment'. Thanks for the answer. – Obl Tobl Dec 10 '14 at 13:34
  • No problem, Blam. I just made an edit. Never know that I cannot remove the down-vote if the post is not edited. – Nhân Lê Dec 10 '14 at 14:26
  • 3
    What does 30km/hr have to do with a CX bike or Road Bike? – sjakubowski Dec 10 '14 at 23:17
  • 3
    30 km/hr is not 'racing' I average that speed on my commute to work on my CX bike and I am only a ~185W FTP rider. – sjakubowski Dec 11 '14 at 3:39
  • 1
    Can you point to the specific section that gives you such impression? I will try to improve. What I mean is 1) you don't need to race for commuting, safety wise, and thus 2) the advantages of road bike over cx vanish – Nhân Lê Jan 18 '18 at 17:43
5

Another factor to keep in mind is the maintenance issue. Riding on gravel roads will flick up dirt on to your chain much faster than riding on sealed surface. You will need to do cleaning and maintenance more regularly and chain and drive train wear will occur quicker. You might find that the total amount of time (riding + cleaning/maintenance) will be less if you stay on the road.

BUT - for me the key issue is safety. Choose your bike to suit the safest route. Look at traffic level, typical car speeds, road condition/width, intersections etc. If you have a cycling club in your area - ask them, they'll know.

5

You might consider opting for neither and instead look for a so-called "gravel" or "adventure" bike. Both are relatively new categories, but either could be described as an "all-road" option. They're really road bikes that are meant for paved and unpaved roads.

Their advantages over contemporary road bikes include more clearance for larger tires and fenders, better accommodation for racks, and often, a more upright riding position. The advantage over contemporary cyclocross bikes would be a lower bottom bracket, more stable handling, and improved comfort.

Some examples include: the Surly Straggler, Raleigh Tamland, and All-City Space Horse.

My personal experience is with riding a Surly Cross Check (similar to the Straggler) with quality wheels and larger tires (700x40c Clement MSO, mostly) on thousands of miles of pavement and gravel roads. It's not appreciably slower than a road bike over long distances, and is far more comfortable and versatile.

Good luck.

  • +1 for the "gravel" bikes. I personally am in the market to buy one of these because they support disk brakes, fenders, and rack mounts which I have on my current commuter bike (Kona Dr. Dew). – Brady Dec 15 '14 at 22:19
4

I had a road-bike and swapped it for a cyclo-cross. I'm never going back to a road-bike. For me, the cyclo-cross is just as fast if not faster. The cyclo-cross feels more stable and I feel like I have more control at speed so am prepared to go faster. With the wider tyres I'm not so worried about hitting a bit of rough road or a grate as it'll fly over without jolting me about. It's a little bit comfier... so it's easier to keep pedalling if the surface isn't perfect.

After getting the CX I bought thinner road tyres for it, but after putting 32mm back on for some offroading, I just found I felt so much happier on the bike that I didn't want to bother putting the road tyres back on. And, I think I only got faster with the slightly wider tyres, not slower.

Overall, I can't think of any point where the road bike was better than the CX. The CX does everything the road bike did and a lot more. I wouldn't think of fitting panniers to a road-bike for carrying extra stuff, but with the CX I have.

The only thing I would have liked is disc-brakes. I bought my CX a couple of years ago, just before they were starting to ship with disc-brakes. On my mountain bike, I've got disc brakes, and they are great. I wouldn't consider getting a new bike that didn't have discs.

  • thanks for writing about stability and speed. If i buy a cx, it's definitely with discs! i don't worry about some more weight. – Obl Tobl Dec 11 '14 at 9:39
2

I have BMC pro road race bike from 2003 and bought a steel CX bike for commuting a couple of years ago. Commute is about 22 kilometers with some small and more or less straight gravel sections (only couple of 100m) and about 300 hm in total. I bought the CX bike as a frame set and built it up as a "full commuter": - Mud guards front and rear - Front hub dynamo and good front and rear light - 25mm continental 4 seasons road tires.

I started doing the commute in the summer on my road race bike but once it started to get colder, darker and wetter I built up the CX bike and since then only used that one.

The CX bike is a actually not a real CX bike. It is marketed as a CX bike but it is actually an adventure bike. It is a steel Genesis Croix de Fer. It is much heavier than the road race bike (7kg vs 12 or more).

Yes the road race bike feels lighter and is a dream to ride on nice roads, however the difference is speed is very small. I've used the CX for road cycles with friends as well and it was ok. I might not choose it for a race day (not that I have any).

I did the commute for about 2 years, now I changed jobs and only have a 3km route on cycling paths. I use the commuter.

Now in autumn I sometimes go out for a 30km road ride in the evening when it is already dark. Obviously I use the commuter. It's great for this "training" purpose.

My CX bike with the steel frame and fork, the lights and other commuting spec is very heavy but still a fast ride - just does not feel as nimble as a real road race bike. The tires make the biggest difference in ride feel. Road race tires on a CX bike - it will feel alot like a road race bike.

Bottom line is that a similar spec Road and CX bike will feel similar and for an allround commuter and road bike I would definitely go with the CX.

I didn't necessarily want disc breaks but the bike I wanted only came with disc mounts. So I went for mechanical disc breaks which I clearly do not recommend. At the time the step up to hydraulic breaks was nearly 500 Euros (ultegra 11s hydraulic group instead of 105 10s mechanical), so it just wasn't worth it for me. If I ever need to replace the sifters, I'd upgrade to hydraulics without looking back. The mechanical brakes work, but feel very slushy, don't have a lot of power (actually worse than a decent rim brake). I tried different discs and pads but the performance was below average.

Sorry for so much text, CX bikes a great. Use them!

  • Thanks for this detailed comparison! My way to my workplace is nearly the same – Obl Tobl Oct 28 '16 at 9:35
  • So ... it's the CX bike as fast? That's what the question asks :-) – andy256 Oct 28 '16 at 10:55
1

I don't really like the title. It is more about selecting a commuting bike.

A cyclocross can handle gravel and road hazards and is still built for speed. On the open road cyclocross does not give up much. For the same price level bike cyclosross would be barely heavier, little wider, and a little taller. It would also be geared a little lower.

If you could put 32mm tires on the road bike it would have very little advantage over a cyclocross with 32 mm tires.

I commute on a cyclocross with 35 mm tires and have a second set of wheels with 28 mm tires to ride it as a road bike.

A gravel or light touring bike is also an option.

With disc brakes coming out on road bikes you can push up into 28 and 30 mm tires on some road bikes.

  • the question is mainly about the speed of both types of bikes. I don't want to spend hours and hours commuting, expecially not in the morning. So the question is more about the faster solution. Maybe i phrased it a little bit wrong. – Obl Tobl Dec 10 '14 at 15:21
  • If you're spending hours and hours commuting, you're not going to fix that with a faster bicycle. The difference in speed between a BSO and a time trial bike is going to be 10kph to 40kph at best, so hours on the BSO will still be about an hour on a TT bike. – Móż Oct 31 '16 at 1:03
0

I appreciate this is an old post now but I can share some potentially valuable experience. I regularly commute 19 miles each way around Manchester UK to work. I've done this on my Greg Lemond Chambery road bike & my Planet X XLS CX bike. The Lemond is mainly Al with carbon fibre seat & chainstays, the XLS is full carbon, but the XLS is still noticeably heavier than the Lemond?? The disc brakes aren't much more effective on the CX bike (on the road) than the Ultegras. Over the ride distance the Lemond was typically about 10 minutes quicker (= 20 minutes per day) and after a few days the difference starts to stack up because the CX requires a higher level of effort. Unfortunately after an RTA the Lemond is unrideable. I may swap the cassette out on the XLS to see if having closer ratios helps. Weight matters a lot on climbs but on flattish terrain it is much less important - as established by Isaac Newton (a keen 17th century time triallist)

  • 1
    Ten minute differences over 19 miles seems like something is wrong with the planet x bike; bikes should be nearly the same especially in city commuting. – Batman Jul 10 '16 at 12:26
  • 1
    Especially since it seems to be a consistent difference, rather than a one-off. But Frank doesn't say whether this is over a 10 minute commute or a two hour one, so it's hard to tell whether it's a huge problem or just a major one. I think we'd benefit from more detail, and quite possibly a whole new question "I bought a slightly different bike and it's much slower, what should I look at to fix it?" – Móż Jul 10 '16 at 21:35

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.