Main Difference Between Cyclocross Vs Gravel Bike You Should Know

As the name suggests, a gravel bike is designed for rough and tough use. A gravel bike is good for off-road riding, whether it is on rough forest roads, gravel roads, and bumpy forest roads. It also rides well on smoother paths like tarmacked roads and cobblestones, making it an excellent all-purpose bike. You can be sure of a firm grip on whichever track you are on while being comfortable its seat. 

On the other hand, a cyclocross bike is also designed for on-road and off-road racing, including grassy trails, sandy roads, and even muddy roads. Their design is geared towards maximizing your speed.

To a casual rider, you might not notice a difference between the two types of bikes. You might be oblivious to the capabilities of each and be confused as to which bike to pick that will best suit your needs. In this article, we will look at the main structural differences between these two bikes. This way you will be well-informed when you decide to purchase a bike.

Main Difference Between Cyclocross Vs Gravel Bike You Should Know

Cyclocross Vs Gravel Bike : The Basic Differences

1. Weight:

A cyclocross bike is designed for speed and cannot be weighed down as this will make it challenging to handle. Cyclocross bikes are made from lighter materials like carbon fiber and aluminum. This makes the bike easy to maneuver and easier to carry over obstacles encountered on the terrain.

Gravel bikes are ideal for a variety of work, including carrying items. To this end, they are heavier to carry bags and other equipment. Gravel bikes are also designed to withstand the weight from added accessories like extra attachments.

2. Frame Design:

A cyclocross bike is designed for competition and high speed, and to this end, maneuverability is essential. The frames of a cyclocross bike will thus be made out of light material like aluminum and carbon fiber frames.

This makes the bike able to accelerate faster, even off-road, and easy to carry over the shoulder when a race is done. The frame angles are wider, 72-degrees and over, to provide for quicker and tighter turns when racing.

Gravel bikes are perfect for more than racing. It can be used even for shopping and for carrying a range of luggage, and so the frames will be heavier to provide stability and comfort. The degree of angles on gravel bikes is less than that of cyclocross bikes, around 70-degrees, so that the bike is steady. The chainstays and wheelbase on a gravel bike are also longer so that the bike is steadier.

3. Brakes:

Gravel bikes are great for multipurpose use, whether it is on dry grass or muddy roads. As such, they should have brakes with high stopping power to enable quick reaction on tricky roads. Gravel bikes use disk brakes. They are heavier than cantilever brakes, but the stopping power protects the tire rims from damage.

For a long time, cyclocross bikes have used cantilever brakes. These are light and do not add extra weight to a bike designed for high speeds. Many cyclocross bikes are however making the switch to disk brakes because of their great stopping powers and quick reaction. These breaks are suitable for tricky terrain.

4.Gear Ranges:

A cyclocross bike has a narrower gear range because they are meant for riding on short courses without much variation in elevation. A typical cyclocross bike has a 46/36 chainset and an 11-28 cassette. These ranges are suitable for quick acceleration and mastering low slopes.

Gravel bikes are used for more than racing, and thus a wider gear range is required. This makes it easier to climb even steeper slopes found on varied terrains. A typical gravel bike features a 50/34 chainset and an 11-32 cassette. An 11-36 cassette with a 48/32 chainset gives a wider gear range and increased capabilities to gravel bikes.

5. Tires:

The tires on a cyclocross bike are geared towards high speed. A cyclocross bike used for racing should be able to move at high speeds within a short period. As such cyclocross tires will have thinner tires. Regulations stipulate that the tires should not be wider than 33 mm and so the tire clearances are smaller in width.

This way they are wide enough to withstand muddy road conditions without slipping but still maintain the high acceleration capabilities. Part of the optimization for racing on cyclocross bikes is the lack of mudguards and racks because these will add extra weight to a bike meant for racing.

Gravel bikes are designed for comfort, and so they have a wider wheelbase. A typical gravel bike will have tire clearances of 40mm or over. Wider tires can fit into a gravel bike without brushing against other components of the bike. A gravel bike also has eyelets for mudguards because it is made for all-purpose use.

6. Accessories:

A gravel bike is designed to handle longer riding expeditions. To this end, they have accessories like water bottle compartments and eyelets where you can attach mounts for carrying luggage like trunks, riding gear and grocery.

Cyclocross bikes are designed for speed and cannot be encumbered by too many accessories. There might be a water bottle mount, but there are no extra eyelets to mount other items like gear. Or items needed for activities like camping or backpacking.

Advantages Of Cyclocross Bikes:

  • The large tire clearance allows the user to switch to wider tires which are optimized for off-road use.
  • Bikes with cantilever brakes work well even when covered with mud.
  • There is a large clearance between the tires and the hind frame which prevents the tires from getting stuck in the mud. This is useful since cyclocross bikes do not have mudguards.
  • The frame on a cyclocross is shorter, which enables you to maintain a relaxed posture suitable for long rides.

Disadvantages Of Cyclocross Bikes:

  • They do not have eyelets for extra mounts and are thus not suitable for carrying extra luggage.
  • The frame geometry of a cyclocross bike makes it difficult to handle when going down slopes at high speeds.

Advantages of Gravel Bikes:

  • They have attachments for mudguards which make gravel bikes suitable for riding in any weather.
  • Disk brakes are safe and work even when the bike is loaded with luggage. They are also conducive for riding in rough weather.
  • A gravel bike is capable of attaching multiple attachments, whether it is for a bottle of water or for grocery or larger luggage.
  • A gravel bike will handle luggage without its stability being affected.
  • The relaxed seat angle of a gravel bike keeps you comfortable and does not exert too much strain on the muscles.

Disadvantages of Gravel Bikes:

  • The several attachments capable of being placed on a gravel bike may weigh down the rider especially on rougher terrain.
  • Mudguards trap mud encountered on the terrain and make it harder to clean.
  • Gravel bikes are heavy and not easy to carry around obstacles or if stuck.


Both gravel bikes and cyclocross bikes have major points to speak for both of them. The choice of a bike largely relies on what you want to accomplish with your bike. Whether you want a bike that can race in any type of weather without tipping over. One that is easily portable and can handle on-road riding, then the cyclocross is the bike for you. If you want a bike that is versatile and can handle any terrain, then choose a gravel bike. It is excellent whether on-road or off-road and one that gives you the capability to carry a range of items. Both bikes are highly versatile, and you cannot go wrong when you pick either. Or better yet, buy both!

References: Rotor Bike , Ribble Cycles

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