Cyclocross vs Gravel Bike: The Updated Comparisons (2021)

Updated on 03/15/2021
BY Jim Felt

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Cyclocross vs Gravel Bike The Updated Comparisons (2021)

In recent years, gravel bikes have become one of the most popular racing bicycles because of their potential for racers who prefer to challenge many roads with different surfaces. Cyclocross bike, also known as a cross bike, is a more specialized bike line for cyclocross terrain. However, these two bicycle lines are quite similar in appearance, making many people confused.

Cyclocross vs gravel bike, what are the factors that make the difference between these two models? Can we use one instead of the two and still have an unforgettable biking experience for rough roads?

There are many questions that bikers wonder when choosing to buy these 2 models. In the following article, let us take a closer look at the main differences that set them apart.


The Genesis Men's GS29 Cyclocross Bikes

The Genesis Men’s GS29 Cyclocross Bikes

Before stepping in to find out what makes the difference between cyclocross bikes and gravel bikes, let’s look at what makes the similarities of these two models.

It is difficult to tell the difference between a cyclocross bike and a gravel bike when placed side by side. Structurally, these two bicycles share many quite similar designs. Both have the geometry of a race bicycle, the same handlebars set up with disc brakes and drop bars. However, as we dig deeper, we will see a lot of things that make the difference.



The Salsa Journeyman Claris 650 Gravel Bikes

The Salsa Journeyman Claris 650 Gravel Bikes

A cyclocross bike is a sport bike that is especially popular in Western countries. Cyclocross bike is appropriate in muddy areas, quicksand, or small but steep hills. Cyclocross bike is more commonly used for racing. They are slightly taller than racing bikes and have plenty of space around the tires.

On the track, the organizers also put many obstacles to force the athlete to lift the bike or the bunny hop through if there is enough technology. Because of such a racetrack, a Cyclocross bike needs a large enough fork and swingarm space for the mud to escape.

The wheels are usually wider than a regular road bike, and especially modern models, almost all use disc brakes. The ability to run at very low pressures with less chance of flattening is still common for cyclocross.

Steel and titanium are still used occasionally on cyclocross bike, but it is still necessary to keep the bike in place so that they can move in segments meaning aluminum and carbon fiber still dominate.

A gravel bike is a new concept. The gravel bike is a convergence of the advantages of cyclocross, sports bike, and touring bike. This is an emerging model and is known to be used for the adventure with the most versatile hand-release system.

Gravel riding allows users to travel further into remote areas where there are no asphalt roads without having to worry about whether their fragile road vehicle can withstand this rough terrain or not.

Features to identify new generation Gravel models are usually narrower head tube angle, wide fork space, wide-body shell, most of which use disc brakes to achieve strong braking force and more stability in all weather conditions as well as terrain.

To learn more about this difference between gravel bike vs cyclocross bike can be found right here:

Watch video: Gravel Bike Vs Cyclo-Cross Bike | What Really Is The Difference?


The Cinelli Zydeco Cyclocross Bikes

The Cinelli Zydeco Cyclocross Bikes

Firstly, gravel and cyclocross bikes are so much different in terms of geometry. Let’s keep reading the information on gravel and cyclocross bikes below.

The gravel frame’s shape provides the rider comfort with a large wheelbase, low center of gravity, and proper steering angle for stability while riding. Any reduction or alteration of any of these factors can lead to loss of control and discomfort.

Besides, the longer vertical bar lifts the steering wheel higher while reducing the impact on your back helping to reduce back muscle tension symptoms. The design of the gravel bike category is a combination of different types of bicycles for long journeys to be light and comfortable.

Gravel bikes tend to be used as popular casual bikes because of their versatility, durability, and ability to load a light weight when needed, not like racing bikes.

Like most other RB series, the cyclocross bicycle is designed to be able to travel on a variety of road terrains: asphalt, paved roads, gravel roads, sandy roads.

Cyclocross bike frames are usually lighter to give riders the convenience of carrying their bikes or jumping over obstacles during the race. That means a small and sturdy frame design is a standard requirement of this bike.

Another difference in the construction of these 2 vehicles is eyelets. In the cyclocross frame, eyelets for mudguards seem quite redundant because they will create some inconveniences when you are racing. On the other hand, this feature is quite necessary for a gravel bike because it will keep you clean from the mud during your long trip.

In terms of turning angle, a cyclocross bike will spin about 73 degrees to help the riders pass faster and more precise turns. Due to the long-distance travel nature and less fast handling requirements like cyclocross races, a gravel bike’s head-tube has a narrower angle of rotation, only about 66 degrees.

The cyclocross bike geometry tends to be short and forward, making it easier for the riders to accelerate during sprints. Gravel bikes typically have a longer top tube and have a more upright silhouette to suit longer and less challenging rides.

To learn more about this a cyclocross bike and a gravel bike can be found right here:

Watch video: What Is The Difference Between A Cyclocross Bike And A Gravel Bike

Wheel & Tyres

The Santa Cruz Gravel Bikes

The Santa Cruz Gravel Bikes

Basically, the wheel size of a gravel bike is different from that of an off-road bike. Like touring bikes, the gravel bike wheel is designed for faster cycling with a curved steering wheel. The tire size is quite large (wider tyres) at about 35mm. Many models can also use mountain bike tires. This tire size can accommodate small riders.

The slate wheel measures 27.5 inches, and the tires are relatively long for the length of a regular bicycle wheel. Gravel bike tires are, to this day, not bound by UCI regulations, and bikers and manufacturers have fully taken advantage of this.

In fact, the common size of a cyclo wheel is around 700c. Mainly to serve the needs of riding on a variety of roads, Cyclocross wheels are designed with larger tire widths for good traction in a variety of terrains. The tire size of the cyclocross is regulated by UCI in terms of the maximum limit of 33mm.

Gravel cycling does not have tight twisty features like cyclocross course. Cyclocross riders should note this. Modern road bikes, including adventure bikes, road and cyclocross bikes, are well-designed with wheel and tyres for safety, but there are still differences.

You can check out this video to see ride cyclocross on a gravel bike:

Watch video: Can You Ride Cyclo-Cross On A Gravel Bike? | CX vs Gravel Bikes For Racing


The Extrbici Cyclocross Bikes

The Extrbici Cyclocross Bikes

As mentioned above, cyclocross races are often harsh and challenging in a short amount of time. Drivers must continuously shift gears to gain an advantage on different racing terrains. This requires the cyclocross’s gearbox to be to a minimum to ensure a quick and smooth shift.

The 11-36 gearbox is said to be ideal for a cyclocross race. The 46/36 chain link with the 11-36 gearbox makes for a perfect match that allows the rider to get faster speeds and the smoothest transition between jumps and sprints. Typically, riders will often use a 1X transmission because they are simpler and reduce the weight on the bike.

Turning to a gravel bike, you will not be limited in terms of the track or time. Having a wide gearbox will give you an advantage in the tour gravel. Therefore, gravel bike gears tend to be wider to suit a wide variety of terrain from short slopes to long muddy roads.

Currently, most gravel bikes use a 1X drivetrain system like a cyclocross one. The 42/38 chain allows the rider to comfortably conquer the winding long distances but still has plenty of energy to return. Some gravel bikes also use a 2X drivetrain, which is popular with a combination of a 50/34 and 48/32 chainset with an 11-34 gearbox.

You can check out this video to see which is best groupsets for your gravel bike:

Watch video: 1x Vs 2x Groupsets: Which Is Best For Your Gravel Bike?


The Norco Revolver 2 Gravel Bikes

The Norco Revolver 2 Gravel Bikes

Gravel bike brakes need to match the tires so classic rim brakes will not be used very often on this type of bike. Disc brakes are more suitable for a sports bike on rocky terrain while being easy to maintain and highly reliable.

The braking system of Cyclocross bikes is also available in many styles to meet the ability to travel on many different types of roads, even slippery wet roads full of mud.

Currently, cyclocross bikes tend to use cantilever brakes. However, recently, some cyclocross models have started to use disc brakes commonly.


The SSYUNO 700c Cyclocross Bikes

The SSYUNO 700c Cyclocross Bikes

A cyclocross bike will not normally have a water bottle mount because the nature of a race is so harsh and challenging, having a bottle rack can be quite frustrating.

Eliminating or limiting the storage capacity will help reduce obstacles during racing as well as ensure a lighter bike weight. However, some cross bikes are now equipped with mounts to support bikers during training sessions.

Gravel bikes, on the other hand, offer more storage options than a cross bike. Gravel bikes are often used for long-distance tours, so having a lot of storage is essential. You can store tire repair kits, or small wrenches or screws, to repair your bike if there’s a problem. In addition, there is enough storage for you to store water, food, or even some small bike replacements for long trips.


The Niner RLT 9 Gravel Bikes

The Niner RLT 9 Gravel Bikes

The geometry of a cross bike makes it great for quick acceleration in races. However, if compared to the gravel bike, the maximum speed of the cross bike is probably far behind. A shorter chain with a small gear, shorter size gives the cross bike a lot more rigidity to suit the rigors of the race. However, this is a major limitation for bicycles in speed races.

The speed of a gravel bike is comparable to that of a road bike. The wheel of a larger gravel bike is also an advantage that makes it possible to achieve higher speeds than a cross bike.

Under favorable conditions, a gravel bike can achieve a maximum speed of over 30 mph or even faster. However, since it still carries some of the design of an off-road bike, it is sometimes easier to spin out when cycling fast.

You can check out this video to see a gravel bike with full suspension:

Watch video: Is A Gravel Bike With Full Suspension Faster?


The Salsa Journeyman Claris 650 Gravel Bikes

The Salsa Journeyman Claris 650 Gravel Bikes

Cyclocross is a bike series made for high-intensity off-road races. A cyclocross racing usually lasts 30 to 90 minutes, thus requiring the bike to have a stiffer frame with hard brakes to be able to continuously turn and accelerate. This creates a great advantage for off-road racers.

The aggressive riding position is for cyclocross racing. Surely, it is a much more aggressive riding position than gravel racing. Meaning that gravel biking is more upright riding position than cyclocross biking.

While it can perform well in races, it is the size and design of the cyclocross frame that makes it uncomfortable to experience longer trails, beaten path and steep climbs.

The lack of mudguards and racks, along with the narrow wheel range make certain advantages in cyclocross races. The forward position helps to create more momentum during the race to help the bike accelerate faster. However, the forward position of the bike limited the experience on a road because it makes bikers feel more aggressive when moving.

Gravel riding brings more comfort to the road than cyclocross racing. The posture of a gravel bike with carbon fibre frames and vibration reduction design helps cyclists have a more comfortable experience on different types of terrain. Fatter tires and wider gear are suitable for full-day rides. Also, the upright riding position creates differences.

Overall, although cyclocross and gravel are the road bikes, cyclocross racing and gravel riding bring different feelings. Hence, when looking for road bikes, please not which type of road bike you want.


Although possessing many similarities in appearance, there are many sets the cyclocross bike and gravel bike apart. The above are the things you need to know to be able to make the necessary comparisons between these two types of bicycles. I hope my share will be useful to you in choosing and distinguishing cyclocross and gravel bikes.

Some further things that should be in your mind when purchasing the two bike types are bottom bracket, gear ratios, longer head tube, down tube, top tube, mounting points, longer chainstays, and so on.


Are cyclocross bikes suitable for gravel riding?

Of course, you can use the cross bike for doing a gravel tour, and the opposite is true for a gravel bike. However, for a better cycling experience, you should change a few parts for certain compatibility and improved comfort.

Which one has a higher max speed, cyclocross vs gravel bike?

Cross bike, although capable of higher acceleration, but its max speed cannot be as fast as a gravel bike. A gravel bike can reach top speeds of up to 30 mph or faster.

Are cyclocross bikes better than gravel bikes overall?

In general, a cyclocross has some limitations compared to a gravel bike. Storage constraints, smaller wheel sizes, less wide gearboxes, and shorter bike sizes are some of the disadvantages of cyclocross compared to gravel bikes. Gravel bikes have generally overcome some of the limitations of cross bikes and this is reflected in their adaptability in many aspects from races to road.

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The Author

Jim Felt

Jim Felt, a man with a genuine love of speed. A man who designed his very first triathlon frame for Johnny O’Mara – the star of Motorcross at “The O-Show” – then got big successes in 1990. In 1994, Felt incorporated with Answer Products to launch his brand, starting a 7-year relationship until 2000. In 2001, Jim Felt relaunched the Feltracing brand in conjunction with Michael Müllmann and Bill Duehring. Our product lines were then expanded into a full line of commuter bikes, cruisers, MTBs, MBX, even road and tri bikes. The total number of models were up to 140 distributed in 27 countries.



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