I've recently started trail riding on my mountain bike and i love it, but my bike is really old (circa 1992 steel Trek with Deore LX). I really want to get a new one, but I'm also really attracted to cyclocross. Ideally i would just get two bikes, but I'm wondering if i could get just a 'cross bike and use it for trail riding.

How do i determine if a 'cross bike would work on the trails I ride? They're beginner / intermediate trails and I think a 'cross bike should be ok, but I have zero experience on a 'cross bike and don't really know.


5 Answers 5


Cross bikes are generally ok for less serious trails where you're looking for decent speed, without the need for serious climbing, suspension and traction.

You've got more clearance on a cross than a road bike, but the frame is a similar size and they've generally got 700mm road size rims, so they aren't as maneuverable as an MTB. They generally don't have suspension. Tyres are fatter and with more tread than a road bike, but they'll normally only get to about 32-35mm width - MTBs will go wider. The gear ranges reflect this too - you'll be able to go faster at the top end, but the lower end gears to tackle the serious inclines will be more favourable on MTBs.

In general use cross bikes are great for road use with a bit of off road, where MTBs would be the other way around - especially if you're going to be going seriously off-road.

The 'real cyclist' answer is to get both. After all, you'll always need another bike, right?

  • Some cross bikes have 650b wheels with even larger tires (42mm) - which is close to what mountain bikes had in the 1990s or early 2000s Mar 12, 2019 at 14:09

A few things I would try:

  1. Find a friend that has cross bike and borrow it to see if it will suit your needs.
  2. Most bike shops will let you demo a bike so try and get both a cross bike and a mountain bike.
  3. Ask the local bike shops if a cross bike would be ok for the trails you are interested in.
  4. Find local message boards, google / yahoo groups, local cycling clubs and see if they can offer any advice.

That's what I would try for now.


I ride my CX bike on more cross country styled trails, I leave the harder (downhill, jumps, berms) trails for my mountain bike.

I think riding the CX bike on the trails is better when going uphill or even flattish areas, but not as much fun being hunched over the handlebars when coming back down the trail. I really slow down a lot and take my time coming down (any trail) when on the CX bike.

If it is rainy and extra thick mud, the 35mm tires on the CX do not feel as stable as my 2" MTB tires.


If you do not want to downhill and ride hard single track without a lot of huge roots, hillock you can go with CX. If you want to have an option to ride more difficult tracks you can buy MTB.

I think if your trails are more or less flat you can choose by heart. Fun from riding usually depends on your friends and physical strength.


You could go with a 'monstercross' style bike. Generally a 29er, but with a narrower, lower volume tire than typically found with 29ers. Like a 40 or a 45 size tire would give you some added softness and volume to take the edges off the trail, but give you a fast ride. Front fork optional.

Or just a normal mtn bike / 29er with a high pressure tire like a specialized fast trak LK. a 2.0 tire can be light, fast and good on road, hard back, and the rough stuff. I have run these in the past at up to 80psi for the super hard trails, dirt roads and pavement, but lowered back to 32 - 35 for actual trail riding. It was a great all around option.

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