Cyclocross Vs Road Bike Speed


There are of course massive benefits to riding both road bikes and cx bikes. But when it comes to raw speed, which is faster?

On flat surfaces, a road bike is faster than a cyclocross bike. You can hit speeds of around 55 kph on average while riding a road bike whereas a cyclo-cross bike mostly stays in the range of 48-50 kph.

However, of course terrain will have a big impact on the speeds of the two types of bike. The above numbers would be very different if the two were ridden across grass, or a mud trail.

In this article, I’ll do a direct comparison of the speeds of cyclocross and road bikes on different terrain, and also take a look at the features of these two bikes linked to speed.

Cyclocross vs road bike for speed

Which Is Faster – A Cyclo-cross Bike or A Road Bike?

Road bikes can be termed as lean and mean speed machines.

There is no place for fenders due to the skinny tires and there usually aren’t any rack mounts.

A gearing range enables powered descent of up to 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour).

On a road bike, you may not have the gearing range to grind your way up a steep climb while sitting, so be prepared to do a portion of it out of the saddle. 

A cyclocross bike, on the other hand, is not built for speed. It is an excellent option that is ideal for commuting.

Due to this, its design is a lot more comfortable and relaxing than a road bike, and its components are more durable because they are similar to the ones used in mountain bikes. 

On a straight road with no bumps and potholes, a road bike will hit speeds that a cyclocross bike will have trouble catching up to.

However, if the terrain is a little rough then a road bike won’t match up to a cyclo-cross bike, as it will surpass it quite easily. 

The speed of these two bikes is quite subjective and depends upon the rider as well as their environment.

Another factor is the purpose for which the bike would be used.

Generally speaking, a cyclo-cross bike isn’t that far behind a road bike, so unless your main aim is speed and agility, you can choose either of these and it will make for a great experience. 

Here is a rough guide of approximate speeds that might be possible on both a road and cyclocross bike on different terrain:

TerrainRoad Bike SpeedCyclocross Bike Speed
Downhill road (flat surface)80 kph55 kph
Flat road55 kph48 kph
Uneven road35 kph42 kph
Gravel trail25 kph38 kph

What Is a Cyclocross Bike?

A cyclocross bike, also known as a cyclo-cross bicycle (abbreviated CX Bike or CXB), is a bicycle designed specifically for the physical demands of a cyclo-cross race. Cyclo-cross bicycles are similar to racing bicycles, which are used in road racing.

The main differences between the two are their frames and the wider tires found on cyclo-cross bikes for an increased range.

Cyclo-cross bikes, like gravel bikes, are inspired by both road and mountain bikes. As a result, they function admirably and make excellent riding companions on various terrains, including muddy, sandy, and rocky paths, as well as asphalt, mountain, and natural trails.

The invention of cyclo-cross racing preceded the creation of cyclocross bikes. This is because cyclocross bikes were designed solely to race efficiently in the sport of cyclocross. 

Cyclo-cross bikes are becoming more popular among consumers due to their versatility: they have the design and aerodynamic incentives of road bikes, but can accommodate wider tires, have braze-on for fenders and racks, and are tough even for excursions and some off-road use.

Features of Cyclo-cross Bike 

The following are the main features of these bikes:

  • They have a tire width of 33m, with its short head tube, steeper head, long top tube, and seat tube angles; the geometry is perfectly tailored for a racing position. As a result, the riders’ posture is lowered and lengthened throughout the length of the bike and over the front.
  • When the rider wants to sprint up a steep incline, the horizontal top tube comes in handy.
  • You can easily carry the cyclo-cross bike on your shoulder, to walk through rugged terrain. 
  • The large bottom bracket provides for enhanced heel clearance, which prevents the bike’s wheel from colliding with obstacles.

What Defines a Road Bike?

Bicycles designed for fast travel on paved roads are referred to as road bicycles.

They have a sleek appearance, lowered and curved handlebars, tiny wheels and thin tires, a small seat, and a back wheel with several cogs, or gears.

Road bikes are typically lightweight, making them easy to ride. It is due to these features that they are sometimes referred to as racing bikes.

To distinguish road bikes from racing bicycles, some of these bicycles have been named “sportive.”

Bicycles invented to take you as fast as possible on paved terrain are known as road bikes. The name of the road bike comes from the terrain it is suited for: the road.

The pedal-free, all-wood draisines and velocipedes of the 1820s have given way to modern road bikes.

For many years, bikes were only used by the elite. However, as technology improved and mass production techniques took hold, bikes eventually became a widely used transportation model worldwide.

The road bike hasn’t altered much throughout the years on the surface.

Instead of a complicated full-suspension mountain bike, it’s a classic bicycle that is nearly identical to the ones that people used to use in racing competitions back in the day. 

Features of Road Bike 

  • Tires come in sizes ranging from 20mm to 28mm. Your riding experience will be better if the tire is thinner as in this case. 
  • The frame was designed for high speed with a steeper head tube, a lower bottom bracket, and a seat that keeps the rider low on his bike. The saddles of road bikes are typically small and thinly cushioned. They are really good for long rides since they provide ample support while riding.
  • For improved capability on paved or muddy roads, road bikes come in a variety of wheel sizes.
  • Road bikes may feature a bottle holder, but they lack extra features like mudguards and pannier rack mounting nodes for transporting luggage. 
Cyclocross bike on grass cx track
A road bike would get nowhere near the speed of a cx bike on a cyclocross track

What is the Difference between a Road and a Cyclo-cross Bike?

I had a road bike for years before I ever got a cyclocross bike. I suppose that’s probably because cx bikes have only become more popular in the last few years.

I’ve always been struck by the similarity between the look of the two bikes, despite them seeming to operate in a different way.

Here are some of the key differences between road and cyclo-cross bikes:

1. Geometry

Cyclo-cross bikes have a laxer geometry, with a smaller-angled head tube, a higher-than-ground bottom bracket, and a longer wheelbase.

This build keeps the bike’s pedals from touching the ground or the front tires on rough terrain. The cyclist remains upright with this design, making the ride more comfortable. 

In comparison, the head tube of a road bicycle is steeply angled, with a lower bottom bracket and saddle.

When you ride at breakneck speeds and take tighter turns, keeping the center of gravity low allows the bike to respond faster to your demands.

Moreover, the low wheelbase further makes these fast moves easily achievable.

Both bikes are designed for distinct terrains, and their geometry varies accordingly to accommodate and provide efficient performance.

2. Weight

A cyclocross bike rider will need to carry the bike on a steep hill, impossible to cycle up at some time during their ride. To fulfill this necessity, the frames are built using light aluminum and carbon fiber.

In contrast, road bikes are built with a light frame and narrow tires. They are lighter than cyclocross bikes because they have a smaller frame, designed to provide an enhanced speed when riding.

3. Tires

 On a cyclocross bike, the tires should not be wider than 33mm. They do, however, always have clearance for bigger tires up to 40mm. Since the wider tires allow for a more stable riding experience.

On the other hand, the width of road bike tires can vary from 20mm to 28mm, with 23mm being the most common size.

They’re made this way to improve the bike’s aerodynamic qualities, which means less tire contact with the ground and higher speed.

Whether you opt for cyclo-cross or a road bike, your choice eventually depends on the type of terrain you’ll be riding on.

4. Brakes

Cyclo-cross bikes are equipped with disc brakes, in addition to the usual cantilever brakes.

Disk brakes offer an advantage over other brakes because they provide consistent and robust resistance, particularly in wet conditions or on very rough surfaces.

The majority of cyclocross gear levers are on the left handlebar, which is practical for the rider, and the cable is routed over the head tube for added safety.

In comparison, caliper brakes are featured on a road bike. While they perform admirably on paved surfaces, they wear out rapidly and occasionally fail to respond quickly enough in wet and muddy conditions.

Unlike cyclo-cross bikes, the back brake lever is on the right, and the front brake level is on the right handlebar.

5. Comfort

 Cyclocross bikes are designed for comfort and flexibility rather than speed. The saddle is lifted, giving the rider a more comfortable, erect, and controlled riding posture.

The handlebars are also slightly elevated to reduce the risk of back strain.

By contrast, speed is crucial on a road bike, and the faster you can ride, the better the bike. That’s why a road bike’s components are positioned low, reducing gravity, improving aerodynamics, and boosting overall speed.

However, this puts a strain on your neck and back, which can be extremely unpleasant and can further aggravate existing health issues.

6. Handlebars and Gears

 Cyclocross bikes have low handlebars with a slight difference in width.

This difference is a little more extensive than the one present in road bikes, which ensure a comfortable and firm grip over challenging terrain. For optimum comfort, cyclocross bikes have tall handlebars.

On the flip side, road bikes are all about riding against the wind. Therefore, narrow and low handlebars keep the rider’s posture low and improve the bike’s overall speed and agility.

This video offers the five key differences between road and cx bikes:

Wrap up

Depending on an individual’s demands, either bike is perfect.

The road bike is the best choice if you enjoy casually racing your friends down the road at high speeds in your spare time. However, it’s important to note that if and when the brakes fail for any reason, it can result in dangerous falls. So, make sure you’re wearing the appropriate safety gear.

For racing enthusiasts, a cyclocross bike is a must-have gear. Assuming you’re a frequent traveler who enjoys taking long rides on your bike, this bike is sure to provide outstanding service on a variety of terrains.

Martin Williams

Martin has been tearing up all sorts of trails on a range of bikes ever since he was young. He once cycled across France, and once fell into a canal on a hybrid. He writes about everything to do with cycling on our site. You can find out more about him at bicycle2work.com/about-martin-williams/

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