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I want a bike that is fast on the road but can also go offroad. By offroad I mean mostly gravel and a little dirt but no mud or very little. Cyclocross bikes caught my interest but they seem expensive. Can I buy a road bike and change a few components to make it more suitable for offroad? About 100km is as far as I'll probably ever go. I'm not a cyclist but I am a runner. I'm worried that the gears are too big or how should I say it, I'm afraid I won't be able to go uphill with a road/cyclocross/gravel bike.

  • How much of a hill are you wanting to go up? Road bikes are fine up the kinds of hills you find on roads and more. Some amateurs going up ludicrous hills; ex-pro going up a fairly ludicrous hill); the last 8km of the Colle delle Finestre are gravel with an average gradient over 9% but described in the video (around 5:00) as "perfectly do-able on a standard road bike." The rider's usually the limiting factor! – David Richerby Jan 14 '18 at 13:40
  • Remember there are consumable parts (aka wear parts) and permanent parts which should last the life of the bike. Changing tyres and cassettes is fine and allows you to tweak the details. So consider a cyclocross bike with disk brakes and tyre clearance for a large (~35mm) width tyre. Then buy some slick road commuter tyres to complement the slightly knubbly ones the bike will come with. – Criggie Jan 15 '18 at 8:10
  • Edited title to make clear it’s not a product recommendation request. – RoboKaren Jan 15 '18 at 22:13
  • The main decision to make is whether you want something with or without suspension. Suspension really sucks energy, but it makes some off-road (or poor-condition on-road) situations tolerable. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 15 '18 at 22:19
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    It the hills are too steep you may cyclo-cross bike on your shoulder and run. As a runner you are at advantage here. – gschenk Jan 17 '18 at 7:57
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It sounds like what you want is a gravel or adventure bike.

There is not a distinct category, and different manufacturers use different names, but the basic attributes you are looking for are:

  • Road bike style frame, ISO 622 rims, drop bars
  • Clearance for up to about 40mm tires
  • Disc, linear pull (V) or cantilever brakes
  • Slacker steering geometry
  • More relaxed body position

There is a blurry line between this type of bike and a cyclocross bike. True cyclocross bikes have recently moved to 1x11 drivetrains. Unless you live in a very flat area you should opt for a bike with a double front chainring.

There are offerings from many manufacturers with aluminum and carbon fiber frames (and some steel) at a variety of prices. You can also look for a used bike.

  • Cyclocross bikes tend to have more aggressive cockpit, compared to “adventure” bikes which tend to be more upright. A more upright position is probably best for more casual riders. Of course there are exceptions to the rule by manufacturer. – Rider_X Jan 15 '18 at 18:45
  • I'll note that you said nothing about suspension. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 16 '18 at 22:31
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    @Daniel R Hicks OP stated: 'fast on the road but can also go ... mostly gravel and a little dirt'. My interpretation of that he/she is not talking about rough surfaces. They also mentioned a cyclocross bike, so they are thinking about a 'road bike' style - hence my suggestion of a 'gravel' bike which does not feature suspension. – Argenti Apparatus Jan 16 '18 at 22:39
  • @Rider_X Agreed, thanks for adding that point. – Argenti Apparatus Jan 16 '18 at 22:42
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Gearing can be changed, though sometimes it's hard/expensive. Some adventure road bikes and almost all tourers have a much wider range of gears, but tend to be heavier than road bikes.

The available width for tyres on a road bike can't be changed, and will limit your off-road use. Gravel is very variable; some is hard on road tyres while in other areas you need a bit of width in your tyres so you don't sink in.

Starting from a cyclocross or adventure road bike is a popular approach for getting such a bike. I didn't do that because I wanted the long chainstays of a tourer (panniers + big feet). For a maximum of 100km and not racing, any of these bikes will be fine. If you're worried about speed, choose your tyres for the type of ride. Be warned though, you might think now that 100km is your maximum, but you might change your mind. A year ago that sounded like a lot to me, and I decided to buy my tourer. I did 230km yesterday.

  • Why is the width of tyres limited on a road bike? I plan on having disc brakes anyway. Is it because of the forks? – DavisS Jan 14 '18 at 13:40
  • @DavisS Yes, limited by the forks and the width between the chainstays. – David Richerby Jan 14 '18 at 13:48
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    General advise is to buy the bike in the spec you want. Planning on immediate changes as soon as you buy the bike is generally expensive. – Criggie Jan 15 '18 at 8:07
  • @Criggie I agree (except tyres; you seem to save nothing compared to buying a bike plus another set of tyres and fitting them yourself). But you don't always know what you need, and going in thinking you need a custom built or rare bike just to combine a big cassette with light weight and wide forks could also be very expensive. – Chris H Jan 15 '18 at 8:59
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    Actually (@DavidRicherby) I was surprised to find that on my tourer the limit is the seatstays not the chainstays – Chris H Feb 26 '18 at 16:55

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