So i have a cyclocross bike, but most of my friends have road bikes. I am interested if people think that a road bike could be used to race cyclocross.

I'm thinking that with a pair of nobbly tires it might work.

EDIT: This is a just thought experiment. I have a CX bike which i use for road in the summer and cross in the winter.

  • A cross bike with slick tyres should be a pretty reasonable and comfortable road racer - the only problem might be the lack of high gearing, so you'd be in 48/12 doing 41km/h at 80 RPM when the bunch is pulling in 53/11 and getting 49 km/h at the same RPM. Upshot is you'll be doing 95 RPM to their 80 RPM for the same speed. On the flip side you will probably have some better low gearing for the steeper climbs, and possibly hydraulic disk brakes for the descents.
    – Criggie
    Jul 7, 2017 at 6:27
  • @Criggie So not the question
    – paparazzo
    Jul 7, 2017 at 9:05
  • @Paparazzi yup, hence why its a comment related to the last edit in the question.
    – Criggie
    Jul 7, 2017 at 10:32
  • 1
    I might be pretty old, but I'm pretty sure that cyclocross started by guys riding their road bikes off-road with slightly knobbier tires. I'm pretty sure you can do it. You might make a sacrifice here & there in your "ultimate performance" by not having the exact "right" bike for the task, but if you're looking to save some cash by using one bike for two tasks, there's nothing wrong with it at all. A set of sturdier wheels with off-road tires and potentially with different gearing and you should be just fine.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 7, 2017 at 12:16
  • Thats what i was thinking @FreeMan Jul 7, 2017 at 15:26

4 Answers 4


Depends on your road bike, but for the most part no.

Reasons against

Many road bikes are limited to tire width of 25 or 28mm. Because cycle cross is off-road you need to find tires with knobbies. This really isn't possible for such small tire sizes as most knobby tires available start at around 32mm or large. Even if you could find knobby tires this small, The tight tolerance between the tire and the brake caliper will mean any mud would clog and slow the wheel from moving. Finally, most rode bikes have a much lower bottom bracket and twitcher handling. The lower bottom bracket will mean a lot a pedal strikes especially on off camber sections and the faster steering will make this type of road bikes harder to hold a line in rough sections. Cyclocross bikes also tend to have lower gearing, a much slacker front geometry and longer wheel base so that the bike hold the line better. The higher BB not only reduces pedal strikes but also makes it easier to initiate change in directions by shifting weight, despite the slower steering.

Reasons for

Some road bikes slacker geometries and more tire clearance (e.g.,older, endurance and adventure road). I had one steel bike that could clear 35 mm tires, this one could have been used on dry courses. The bottom bracket will still be too low and the handling likely a little too twitchy, but these would be much more suitable than what most manufacturers currently sell as race road bikes at the moment.

Note that many cyclocross series do not follow UCI regulations and are happy to let you race whatever bike you bring.


I am unsure of the equipment provisions that the UCI puts on cyclocross racing, though with that not being considered it is possible yes.

A lot of people have converted older steel frames and road bikes into cyclocross bikes with great success. One thing to consider though is that the newer cyclocross frames generally have wider clearance for larger knobby tires than road specific frames have. So you may run into some clearance issues depending on how large of tire you would like to run.

The geometry on cyclocross bikes is also a tad bit different than that of a road bike, but would likely not be a game changer for basic use.

For it to be used for cyclocross racing depends on how loosely you are using that term and whether or not it fits in with the UCI's rules and regulations.

If you do intend to use it in UCI sanctioned events the rules and regulations for frames and forks can be found here

Other rules regarding cyclocross racing can be found here

  • 2
    Older road bikes often have a lot more tyre clearance than "modern" road bikes. An 80's steel bike could be perfect for cross, albeit slightly heavy.
    – Criggie
    Jul 6, 2017 at 20:42

There are several differences between a CX bike and a roadbike. Tire clearance, your current frame may not have enough clearance between the rear stays to allow a larger tire with knobbies. Most CX frames use either cantilever or disc brakes. Cyclocross routes can be muddy. The mud tends to collect at the crown of the fork if a road style brake is used. Because the terrain of a cyclocross course can be varied and unpaved the gearing lends itself somewhere between a traditional mountain-bike crankset (42-32-22) and a traditional road compact- double (50-34), cyclocross is typically (46-36). The frame is generally a little more robust to deal with the uneven terrain. The frame design tends to be an open triangle to facilitate carrying on the shoulder to clear larger obstacles. So in essence you could use a road bike. but there is the risk of damage, some of which could be mediated by dismounting and shouldering the bike.


Most cyclocross races have tiers or classes. There's often an A grade and a B grade, right down to the Tyro or Noob class where the equipment requirements are minimal - in the order of "if you have a 2 wheel bike with working brakes, no obvious dangers, and a helmet you're good to ride in the beginner's grade"

For time reasons, sometimes the grades are run on the course together, so C grade and Newbies might mix it up, leaving the course nicely chewed up for the higher grade riders.

Locally there was a guy riding a raleigh 20 and the only difference was he had fitted knobbly tyres and removed the fenders for clearance. He didn't win but was not last, and he beat out nicer bikes too.

You can often even ride a mountain bike in a tyro-class CX races - The only thing often excluded is bar-ends.

If you're just trying out CX then go ahead and ride what you got. If you find that you like the sport then consider a better bike.

  • 5
    Actually, a number of races have permitted entries with fewer than two wheels. Jul 7, 2017 at 4:52
  • 5
    @ChrisStratton - "Can I run around the course holding this pair of handlebars?", "So long as you wear a helmet and pay the entry fee..." Jul 7, 2017 at 8:06
  • 4
    Frankly, I'd pay to watch a unicycle on a cyclocross track! :D
    – FreeMan
    Jul 7, 2017 at 12:18
  • @FreeMan I know a guy who might just do that.....
    – Pete
    Aug 2, 2017 at 9:01

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