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.