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Can You Ride Cyclocross On A Road Bike? Road Bike Vs Cyclocross Bike

Can You Ride Cyclocross On A Road Bike? Road Bike Vs Cyclocross Bike

We filmed a video recently where we
compared the differences between road bikes and Cyclocross bikes. While we were
writing the script, it occurred to us that with the new breed of so-called endurance
road bikes, the differences between the two are now much, much smaller. So, we
wondered, and some of you did too in the comments section, whether or not you
could ride Cyclocross on a road bike. So, we thought we would give it a try.
This is a Canyon Endurace road bike with Cyclocross tires on. Now, I did ask
Canyon, who’ve kindly lent me this bike, whether or not this was able to ride
Cyclocross. They said that when this bike was designed, it did not have
Cyclocross in mind in the slightest. It is not what it’s been designed for. But
they also said it is a blooming good bike. So, sounds like a challenge. ♪ [music] ♪ This average-looking urban park is
Cyclocross. Racing around an unloved area of grass and dirt, open and accessible to
all. In fact, there was actually a race on this very patch of ground just a few weeks
back. So what better place to put the Endurace through its paces than with a lap
or two of an actual Cyclocross course? We’ve got a really steep climb, loads of
muddy, bumpy grass, and a fair few slippery corners. Now, the first thing
you’ll notice, I’m sure, when you venture off-road on your road bike, is the pedals.
Now, yeah, you can run double-sided mountain bike pedals and use
mountain bike shoes with your road bike. But to my mind, road pedals just feel so
much better. They are what should be on your road bike. But as soon as you
start trying to clip in on bumpy terrain, it becomes much, much harder. In fact,
it makes us all into Matt Stephens. I’m in. Now, we are quickly into our first obstacle which is this dirty, steep little
climb that I would just about ride on a cross bike, with a 42 chainring
and a 28 cassette. But, strangely, you might think, on this, which
is a bike designed to go much faster, the bottom gear is actually a lot lower.
And so, the steepness of it isn’t a problem. What is, however, is the
fact that it’s muddy and also frozen. Don’t worry. I’m there, I’m there. ♪ [music] ♪ I’m in, I’m in. Then there’s the comfort. Now, as I said, these tires are quite
narrow for Cyclocross, nowadays anyway. The UCI legal limit is 33, but I
would choose 35c wide tires for general riding, and a lot of people go much wider
than that. The reason being that you get much more grip and you also get a lot more
comfort because you can run them slightly softer without risk of puncturing. But
with these ones, you have to run them much harder because they are that bit narrower.
So, I’ve got 50psi. And so, on this bike, even though it’s been designed with stacks
of virtual compliance to be smooth as butter on the road, here, on
bumpy grass with narrow, hard tires, it’s quite hard work. ♪ [music] ♪ Okay, so we’ve just got a few slippery
corners and a little descent to come. Nothing scary, but it is gonna test out
the handling of this bike. Because road bikes are a little bit twitchier than
Cyclocross bikes, the back end is a bit shorter. And so, while that means
that it climbs brilliantly on the road, it’s a little bit harder to control
when the going is slippery, and so when you’re starting to slide. Then
similarly, the front end makes it slightly harder, too. The front wheel is tucked
quite far underneath, and so for a start, you can hit your feet against the tire on
slow speed corners. But also, when you do start to slide, it is a little
bit more nervous. And if you get a bit nerdy about it, it’s actually because the
head angle on road bikes is about a degree steeper than Cyclocross bikes. So, It
makes this bike feel rather similar to an old school cross bike, which is actually
pretty good fun. And it’s definitely not all bad with road geometry as well
because it has a lower bottom bracket. And so, what that means is that when
you do get to lean the bike over in corners, if you do have loads of grip, the
bike feels much more secure and also much easier to change direction. ♪ [music] ♪ All right, one lap down. How are we
looking? Well, pretty good I think it’s fair to say. The clearance isn’t the
issue that I thought it would be, not today anyway. I think it wouldn’t
take much more mud for me to be quickly grinding to a halt. But, here and now,
I am absolutely fine. And we’re at the geometry there and that was one of the
big questions I had. And to be fair, this bike is really quite capable
off-road. It’s not too nervous, although you would quickly find the limits
if you’re pushing hard off-road. Actually those limits will be more quickly
felt when you’re going slower in really technical terrain I’ve found. And then
there’s the fact that I haven’t been able to go anywhere near that big chainring
because it’s a 52, and 52t chainring, I mean, you’re going really quite fast
and I haven’t been going very fast. But, to be fair, the biggest difference I
think, between this and a cross bike, is actually the tire width. These tires
are just a little bit too narrow for my taste. Something a bit wider will unlock
loads more potential and also be much more fun riding off-road. But there is one
thing that we haven’t touched on yet today, and that is strength. Is a road
bike strong enough to be ridden off-road or, quite frankly, will you break it?
Well, we put that question to two of the manufacturers that you see here.
Firstly Reynolds, who make these rather gorgeous-looking wheels here. And they
said that these wheels are perfect for Cyclocross or gravel riding despite the
fact that they’re pretty lightweight. And they also said that actually they
exceed the UCI’s minimum strength requirements for road by 100%. So, they
are twice as strong as they need to be. Then we also asked Canyon, who allowed
us to use their lovely bike off-road, and they reiterated once again that
it is not designed for Cyclocross. But, in terms of strength, it is as strong
as a cross bike. Ultimately, though, what about our original question?
Can you ride a road bike off-road? I suppose the answer does appear to be
yes, you can. Now, if you want to see more videos like this, the first thing you
need to do is subscribe to GCN because then you’re always in the right place. To
do that, you’ve just got to click on the globe, wherever that may be. And then
more content for now. Well, how about checking out that video where we talked
about, at the beginning, comparing the differences between road
bikes and Cyclocross bikes. If you want to get to that,
you’ve just got to click up there. Or to actually get some technique for
off-road, why not learn from the undisputed master, Sven Nys. He’s got
some of his best Cyclocross tips in that video just there.

100 thoughts on “Can You Ride Cyclocross On A Road Bike? Road Bike Vs Cyclocross Bike

  1. I've been beaten by a man on a cervelo triathalon bike in a Miller school cross race, disc rear and all. Bike doesn't matter.

  2. hello all,
    does anybody know what is the maximum tyre size or width I can fit on my old alex R450 /13,9 mm inner and 19,6 mm outer width/. At the moment I have got 25mm tyre. Is any limitation for rims-tyres width. I would like to go for something bigger. Bike has still got plenty of tyre clearence.

  3. the earliest cyclocross races were just pros putting the biggest tires they could on their road bikes and racing in the off season. If you look back in archives you can see lots of photos of pros with centerpull brakes and the exact same set-up as they'd use on the road!

  4. A roadbike can do anything you want it to do. I went on a cycle tour holiday to Scotland with my Trek Domane 2.3. 25 kilo's of luggage, no problem. Only fast downhill a bit unstable but can't expect much more from a alu frame can you…

  5. I have a 2015 Giant Defy Advanced, with those tires, could my bike be suitable for "gravel grinding" as they say? Not full on CX…what width are they? Thank you
    Rich Williams USA

  6. The volume of the music is a bit high on this one. I did enjoy that Darude Sandstorm snippet at 4:51 though, wonderful composition.

  7. so what i take from this is that a road bike is freaking bumpy off road and you should have a full suspension mountainbike when you go offroad

  8. Shows just what a rip off the bike industry has become over the past 15 years or so. You don't actually need a different bike for every application despite what the marketing says – its a bicycle for gods sake

  9. C'mon Si, you've changed the tires but not the pedals? Who would leave the road pedals on there, when going off-road? Who are you trying to fool? Kinda stupid, nobody can take this serious, I'm sorry!

  10. Si, I think we need to take you out again, those 'drifts' don't quite cut GMBN standards! Get that leg out in front and lean it over… 😉

  11. I ride a Specialized Crux with a 50/34 by 11/32 setup as a gravel grinder and road bike. On road I swap in a set of Zipp 202 disc wheels. No issues whatsoever, including high speed sweeping corners. Would love your opinion.

  12. Fixed gear is also fun on the trails. Nothing like slamming turns and dodging rocks without the option of stopping. Makes for quick decision making! Also, the chain slap is never an issue…

  13. Cyclocross started as guys riding their road bikes in the muck in the road racing off season (winter), did it not?

  14. I built up a road bike from an old mountain bike frame, albeit a single speed with horizontal dropouts.  I live in Wisconsin half way between the Trek headquarters in Waterloo and the Kettle Moraine mountain bike trails near Palmyra.  In its original form, the Bianchi B.U.S.S. was a mountain goat, but after the transformation the bike only likes the road.  I've tried many times to ride it off road, but the big gear 53-18 just doesn't work for that.  I guess if I had a flip flop hub or a bike with gears, then it would work.

  15. It looked like you had plenty of clearance to put 35mm tyres on. Do you think this frame would have fit 35mm tyres?

  16. I want a way to commute to my house and through my neighborhood,but I want to ride on trails. which bike is the bet for road biking and a little offroading?

  17. Dear GCN (or Endurace Owners), as the canyon chat does not have a clue… what maximum width tires could you fit on that endurace?

  18. I mainly ride a Carrera road bike; and on my commute have them option between a shorter distance with a short hard packed trail, or a longer route on tarmac. with a bit more care my Carrera with narrow tyres can take on the trail very well.

  19. I mainly ride a Carrera road bike; and on my commute have them option between a shorter distance with a short hard packed trail, or a longer route on tarmac. with a bit more care my Carrera with narrow tyres can take on the trail very well.

  20. I had the same thought and did about the same with an endurance frame, given similar geometries. Specifically, I want the bike to be for mixed surface, endurance and gravel. My concerns was robustness of a bike made for the road to be used off road. Some of the off road trails we use, such as in the Belgian Waffle Ride, are really mountain bike trails. So I would want to be sure that the bike is made to withstand this. I have heard that some delay on CARBON gravel bikes being delayed is because there is some investment to get the right fiber layup to be robust enough. But then again, I would think they already had that down from mountain bikes and CX bikes. In any case, it leaves me with concern that there are layup and strength differences on road and gravel and CX frames such that I would want to be careful with the mixed use. In my case, I feel that I resolved it by buying a titanium endurance frame. It should be able to take about anything, especially given that I´m 155 pounds.

  21. ok, so you're using a top of the line road bike. What if I have an old specialized allez sport? can I turn that to a cross bike?

  22. I did one cyclocross race on a road bike (with nobbly tyres) about ten years ago, before I got my CX bike. The mud just absolutely caked up in the forks, stays and the brake calipers, as there was just not enough clearance for the level of mud it picked up.

  23. Here are some important points you have not mentioned

    1. The supposedly narrow tires in your test would be fine if they were dedicated cyclocross tubulars which can safely run < 30 PSI. That's why the 32mm UCI tire width limit doesn't affect professionals as much as amateurs who can't spend a fortune on tubulars.

    2. Probably the biggest issue with most road bikes is a sloping frame which makes it impossible to shoulder the frame.


  24. How much performance do you give up riding a gravel bike (equipped with road tires) when your buddies are all riding high performance road bikes? I've been wanting something more versatile and comfortable. For example, Cervelo C5, Trek Domane or Specialized Roubaix. Will I really be slower on these bikes? Will it be harder for me to keep up with my buddies on their R5's, Madones and Tarmacs?

  25. This video and comments (including GCN response) about tire clearance is confusing on top of wrong on top of confusing. The 33mm tires pump up to 30mm in measured width and that's too tight for the frame….which is designed for 33mm tires, meaning it has 4mm extra clearance on both sides??? Could somebody clarify this for me? Simply, what tires fit in this bike as measured and how much extra clearance is on each side? Simple enough question without the combobulated confusing explanation so far.

  26. Can you ride a road bike offroad? Yes, but in the same way you can go hiking in dress shoes. It is possible, but also uncomfortable and not fun, and you really should use a gravel or cross bike.

  27. I'm stuck between a Canyon Endurace and a CX/gravel bike but I don't know if I'll stick to 100% road. I could ride 200km on a friend's road bike and I loved it but I couldn't imagine riding 3.000-4.000km per year in the traffic every day of the week. Sunday morning rides were lovely but riding on a Tuesday after school can't be that lovely.

  28. just came here to check the tyre width as Toying with the idea of selling the roadie and the cx for one bike option (sacrilegious I know)…. have to say though, what on Earth is he on about with the tyre width. most have mentioned the tyres 20,000 times without A, mentioning their actual width (assume 33'), B, being positive about the fact 33's are UCI legal and C, being realistic about the pressure in those tyres… 50psi harsh? nit picking at it's finest! ran slick 28's at 80/90psi over muddier conditions than this without niggles. ok, for a full blown race day you'd want psi options obviously, but if you're​planning to take it all that seriously you wouldn't be entering on this bike would you. come on fella

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