Using a CX bike as a road bike – good idea or not?

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  • Using a CX bike as a road bike – good idea or not?
  • Aus
    Member

    So I’m not a roadie but do enjoy the occasional ride.  When I ride, it’s not super fast or long but I do like the light feel and acceleration of my road bike (an old ti Airborne). I’m fairly light (67kg) and like light bikes.

    But, I ride on Kent country lanes which have a pretty mediocre surface so I find my bike skittish and feel the bumps.  So 3 qns;

    1) Would a CX bike (I like the look of a Ritchey Swiss Cross or Pickenflick) be much harder work / slower?

    2) Would a CX bike be much more comfortable both in seating position (I have a lower spine problem so more upright?) and comfort Vs bumps/rough surfaces?

    3) Some CX bikes are 1×11 which appeal for simplicity but my current 34 x 28T combo is useful on some local hills (eg Yorks Hill) … happy to lose at the other end though?

    Thanks

    Premier Icon DezB
    Subscriber

    Get  a gravel bike 🙂

    Premier Icon nwmlarge
    Subscriber

    I use my Whyte Glencoe for road duties, I have come from using a Specialized Allez.

    It is marginally slower to accelerate but it makes up for this as soon as they is a rough patch in the road or a kerb or drain to ride over.

    I have completed a 40 mile ride on it but nothing particularly impressive.

    The 1 x 11 does leave a little to be desired between cogs but for actual hill climbing it is fine as the big cog at the back takes up the slack missing with the smaller front cogs.

    Summary, if you are a casual road rider then yes a CX or Gravel bike would be a good idea.

    Premier Icon theotherjonv
    Subscriber

    As DezB alludes – define CX. In the past when that was the catch-all for a road bike that could be taken offroad, then yes, i’d say get one. But a proper CX bike by a proper definition will be racy, no eyelets for guards, no bottle mounts, etc. and will not be the tool it sounds like you need.

    The tool you need sounds like a gravel bike; and I rode one (not even a very good one) for two years on club runs and never felt particularly impeded by a bit of extra weight and a slightly more upright geo.

    Re 1 x 11 – makes sense again on a proper cross bike designed for cross racing around a muddy field in the sleet in January, but for a go everywhere do everything bike, not many people ever wish they had less gear ratios. You don’t have to use them if you don’t need to, but if you don’t bring them you’ll not have the option.

    Premier Icon lunge
    Subscriber

    You want a gravel bike I suspect. CX bikes are (should be…) steep angled, have a high BB and are very stiff. A gravel bike, or even an endurance road bike, will have a bit more comfort, room for big tyres and would generally for the bill. Also, I’m, not sure on 1x on the road but then I’m a Luddite who can doesn’t really buy into it on MTB’s so am likely not the best person to listen to on that subject.

    Premier Icon zilog6128
    Subscriber

    IMO you’d be mad to buy a “proper” road bike rather than gravel/adventure (as above, CX these days I would take to mean a proper CX race bike which you probably don’t want either) unless you are a hard-core roadie.

    Not only can they cope better with crappy road surfaces, they are more versatile in that you have the option of evading traffic & going off road. I also live in Kent & whilst the road riding is pretty good, a gravel bike opens up so many more awesome options! Proper road bike is permanently affixed to the turbo these days, can’t remember when I last actually took it out on the road!

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    CX = CX bike within the rules of CX, gravel/rugged road bikes etc are more versatile and less optimised/compromised towards doing CX

    Have a giant defy which is slowly making it’s way back from Oz and a Canyon grail here now, the grail is light for what it is, quick when it needs to be and solid when it gets rough, if it was road only I’d swap the tyres for something faster rolling and that would be about it. I was out with a mate on the bank holiday, he popped out from behind me thinking it was drag from the bike slowing me up and then reckoned we were about the same speed.

    Premier Icon alibongo001
    Subscriber

    I had a Specialised Allez that died after about 10 years and replaced it with a Arkose.

    Obviously the size of tyres you can add increases on a Cross bike and the disc brakes are a real benefit compared to rim brakes.

    The only issue I have is the gearing can be a bit low – spinning out happens often where a road bike would not

    Premier Icon weeksy
    Subscriber

    Depends what you want and need speed wise. On a 9 mile flatish section yesterday i averaged 29.8kmh, on a Parkwood on 2.35 Maxxis Aspens. TBH, i don’t really care if i can do 28 or 33kmh, both are sufficiently fine…

    So i’d expect on a CX bike to have 1-2kmh more than that…. 30kmh is good enough though isn”t it ? For the comfort i’d take a bigger tyred bike every time.

    JoB
    Member

    to muddy the waters a little further you needn’t even look at CX bikes, there are plenty of – for a better term – adventure road bikes that compared to racier road bikes have higher front ends, slightly more relaxed angles and room for fatter tyres, the Specialized Diverge being quite a good example of the breed

    some of them might be described as trendy touring bikes, some of them might nudge into gravel bike territory, the whole area is a little fuzzy edged

    Aus
    Member

    Ah – interesting to learn the distinction between CX and gravel, but makes sense.

    Out of interest, the Ritchey Swiss Cross (I suspect the clue’s in the name!) appeals aesthetically and I have a Ritchey P29er which is lovely … assuming it had 2×10 gearing, where would you put it on a scale of gravel Vs CX (or fit for my riding)?

    https://www.bicycling.com/bikes-gear/a20024028/cyclocross-8/

    aP
    Member

    It’ll probably be fine, although exactly what anyone means by a CX bike now is a bit open. I think of CX bikes as race oriented, probably with limited tyre clearances – but then I raced CX starting in the mid 90s so my viewpoint is biased. If I was going to buy a ‘capable drop bar bike’ I’d look more at something that had the capability to run big tyres and also 650B, with flat mount brake mounts and some useful fixing points.

    I know someone who won an E1/2 road race on his CX bike, I’ve ridden both of mine – custom steel and full carbon fibre – on all sorts of things from CX races, 3 Peaks, road rides, club runs, off road (Surrey Hills and the Lakes), for light touring, road and CX sportives, Paris-Roubaix, etc etc

    Premier Icon Bez
    Subscriber

    Short answer:

    1. No

    2. No

    If you can get yourself in the right position for road riding, that’s 95% of your comfort and performance sorted; the rest is fine details whatever micro-genre of curly-bar bikes you’re primarily looking at. If you want more scope for maximising comfort, look for decent tyre clearance, a slender seatpost, and a good fork.

    IMO.

    JoB
    Member

    the Ritchey Swiss Cross you reference there is definitely an old school CX bike, it even has cantilevers 😉

    they’re a lovely bike to ride and you’ll have no trouble treating that as a fatter-tyred road bike and more than capable of tackling some off-road (although not as capable as a modern disc-braked fat-tyred gravel bike), it will be quite racey though (it’s a CX race bike) which might be an issue with your need for a more upright position

    fasthaggis
    Member

    What Bez  said ^^  🙂

    I’ve ridden and trained for the Fred last two years on a CX bike (CAADX so a proper one). Nice ride position, great brakes, comfy tubs / tubeless. Quite heavy compared to a top end road bike. Don’t think 1×11 is right for any serious roadying on mixed terrain, so changed the cross drivetrain to 2×11.

    Would say the position feels fine overall, esp the upper body, but have had problems with leg muscles getting sore and inflamed. I’ve never owned a proper road bike, though, so have no frame of reference to say whether it would be different. Think this is just a personal thing, an artefact of a big ramp up of training mileage compared to the short MTB rides I normally do.

    jonba
    Member

    1) Would a CX bike (I like the look of a Ritchey Swiss Cross or Pickenflick) be much harder work / slower?

    Much, no, but slightly. I use a Kinesis pro 6 as my winter roadie. It is slightly slower and a little heavier than my 7kg race bike. But it has guards and 28mm tyres on which probably accounts for some of that. By circumstance I did a 200km audax on it and it coped well.

    2) Would a CX bike be much more comfortable both in seating position (I have a lower spine problem so more upright?) and comfort Vs bumps/rough surfaces?

    No, it isn’t the CX bike aspect that would make it more comfortable. It is the set up. You might be able to achieve the position better on a different bike. Some CX bikes are very race orientated so aggressive. Maybe a gravel bike would be more relaxed. I notice a massive difference fitting 28-30mm tyres on a CX compared to the 23-35 on the road bike. Advantage of a CX is it can take fat tyres and guards.

    3) Some CX bikes are 1×11 which appeal for simplicity but my current 34 x 28T combo is useful on some local hills (eg Yorks Hill) … happy to lose at the other end though?

    One friend rides 1x. He has it set up so he can climb all the hills, he actually struggles more on the downs where we pedal off in the big ring and he spins out. Might not be a problem if you are on your own or relaxed about these things.

    My race CX is disc, uldegra, full carbon. It probably only weighs 1kg more than my roadie. I imagine they’d be pretty much matched on the road. However, with all the different sub genres that are appearing you might actually find a more comfortable roadie. Have a look at endurance (canyon) , marathon (rose), adventure road, gravel type bikes as they fit somewhere between cx and road.

    birdage
    Member

    If you’re just on the road I’d have thought a Ritchey Road Logic with 28mm tyres would be fine? I’ve got a P29er too and thought about getting a Logic for ages, bit too pricey new for me to justify though.

    I was never entirely happy with my tripster in pure road guise, always felt like it was lacking something (maybe that was me though). Now it’s shod in wider knobblies and does a bit of everything it’s great!

    Premier Icon curiousyellow
    Subscriber

    My situation is a bit like yours. Terrible roads around here.

    I’m running 1x and 33mm Clement PDXes on my CX bike which is my only “road” bike. The difference around my local 30km loop is a minute or so speed wise.

    Lot more fun though. Like Bez said, if you’ve got your position right then everything will be fine.

    swanny853
    Member

    I’ve been using a CX bike (Pro 6 until this winter, now Bowman Foots Cray) as my ‘road’ bike since my last road bike got nicked five years ago. Big slicks are brilliant (and if you listed to Compass cycles, faster). It’s a far more fun road bike than my Road Bike ever was.

    As said above, get a frame and position that fit you. Then you can fit the gears you want- I like 1x on mine but I find excessively close ratios annoying. Not everyone is the same though. Clearance for big tyres lets you chop and change to whatever suits you.

    Sounds like you need a gravel bike at the roady end of the spectrum. I have a spesh diverge that fits your bill.

    100psi
    Member

    I use my Giant Tcx as a road bike with slick tyres on the road and i don’t find it significantly slower than a road bike. It is slightly heavier but the comfort from wider tyres, d fuse seat post and disk brakes makes it a far more enjoyable ride on the country lanes.

    With a change of tyres and the removal of bottle holders I race it in the local cross league

    If I had to choose l bike this would be it

    Depends on the ‘CX’ bike, too.  My CAAD-X has 2x bottle mounts and mudguard eyelets, which makes it more versatile than some, but still a CX bike, I don’t really buy the ‘CX bikes are too stiff’ mantra, with the exception of the cheap alu frames people use for racing as a place to hang old road parts there’s no reason they should be any less comfortable than your average road frame.

    ‘Gravel’ seems to mean whatever you want it to mean, some bikes are CX bikes with more aggressive geometry and less mud clearance designed for racking up 100’s of miles on unsealed roads.  Then at the other end of the spectrum there’s older long distance touring/ITT bikes like Fargo, Vagabond etc. which have more in common with 29er MTB’s but with short TT’s and drop bars.

    I refer to my CX bike as a gravel bike whenever it’s go slicks on it, which is blatantly wrong as you could race those same slick tyres on a dry CX race course.

    As for being hard work and/or slower. It’s 6 of one and half a dozen of the other, yes it’s slightly slower, and it feels heavier, but when commuting for example it makes cycle path diversions (i.e. jumping onto the pavement or the twisty off road cycle path that runs parallel to the busy road) quicker, which means less time crawling along filtering past stationary cars.

    I suspect you’d be better served as jonba said, by one of the newer road bikes designed around 28-32mm tyres with comfy frames. Or the more racey gravel bikes like Trek’s Checkpoint.

    All that said, the roads round here are as shocking as anywhere else, and I still survive on 23mm tyres (which measure 25 on modern-ish rims).

    daern
    Member

    My gravel bike feels only very marginally slower than the road bike. It also fits better as I bought it more recently so knew what I wanted. TBH, if pushed I would probably sell the road bike and just keep the gravel one.

    Running 38c Schwalbe G-Ones, which are superbly fast rolling tyres on both road and dirt.

    Picked up a mint Whyte Friston in Jan and neither my HT nor roadie bike have had a look-in since.

    The seller threw in some 50 mile old Rouler tyres as well so I’ll give them or some others I have a whirl soon.

    On Ramblers with current 1x setup it’s nearly as fast as my road bike on the flat but a fair bit slower on the climbs.  Doesn’t bother me at all though.  I don’t chain gang.  I much prefer the opportunity to take in pretty much any piece of trail I want as the bike is supremely capable.  Have ridden a lot of N Downs ST on it and it’s bloody brilliant.  Sure the real steep stuff is off-limits and the fast footy/rocky stuff is hard on the arms/wrists/hands.   Those are the only negatives as everything is smile-inducing

    Will probably sell my CAAD soon ( but don’t want to).

    Turnerfan1
    Member

    What about a Ritchey Outback?

    Keeping the gravel tag and more road geometry than the Swisscross.

    Thanks,

    Max

    Premier Icon Stainypants
    Subscriber

    I use a GT grade (the roadier end of the gravel bike spectrum) with 28mm road tyres as my a road bike, i’ve done full ironman on it and big rides(100mile 6000m climbs) in the Pyrenees on it no problem.

    I actually have two one one lower spec set up a gravel bike with cross tyres and one with higher spec (ultrgra disc), light wheels, etc as a road bike as it seems to fit me perfectly its not the fastest but it comfortable for all day rides.

    Premier Icon hardtailonly
    Subscriber

    Since the OP has mentioned the Pickenflick as an option, and in the spirit of recommending what you have … get a Pickenflick!

    Now, just to qualify my views, like the OP, I have never been a roadie … the only drop-bar bike I’ve owned in recent years (before the ‘flick) has been a Saracen Hack, which I’ve occasionally (only occasionally mind you) shod with 28c slicks and ridden a proper road ride on. So, I don’t speak as an experienced road-rider.

    As winter has been so sh*te and longlasting this year, I’ve ridden the Pickenflick as a solely road bike until a couple of weeks ago … and really really enjoyed it. It has a more supple ride on 28c tyres than the Hack has on 35c tyres, and my road Strava segments and general average speeds are quicker than the Hack, even when that was on road tyres. Some of my segments compare favourably to ‘proper’ roadies I know, on ‘proper’ road bikes. It’s a perfectly decent performer on the road, quick enough for me, although I’m sure a 8kg carbon road bike would be a little bit quicker.

    The Pickenflick is meant to be a ‘proper’ CX bike (although was, I understand, designed principally as the ideal tool for the 3 Peaks CX race, which is somewhat different to the usual summer/winter CX series). But it’s not steep-angles & race twitchy, it’s very playful off road but also quite slack (HA is 70° I think on my small frame) and stable, and has tonnes of tyre clearance … I’ve got 700x42c knobblies on it with room to spare. So, its probably more a ‘gravel’ than CX bike.

    Mine is the SRAM Rival 22 version … I’d wanted the 1×11 but that was not available at the time. Be aware that there are no rack/mudguard mounts, so as a winter road bike, it’s not ideal, and as an adventure bike, you’re confined to using frame/handlebar/seatpack luggage. Also, you may want to size down … I’m normally a medium, but found the top tube length of that size way too long, so opted for a small.

    Notwithstanding some of the component quality issues (rear wheel went back for replacement bearings after a few weeks, the GXP BB lasted only 1k km’s), I really, really like this bike.

    Premier Icon YoKaiser
    Subscriber

    Given that it’s all about the gravel these days then looking around for CX bargains is a great idea. I did exactly what you are asking with my eBay Charge Plug. I slightly sized up to a large and fitted a slightly smaller stem than I would have otherwise with my road bike. I’m amazed at how good a road bike it is. Fitted with 30mm schwalbe s ones it was not much slower uphill and a whole lot faster downhill. Currently with 35mm marathon Supremes and it is great for our also abysmal country roads.

    Premier Icon rhayter
    Subscriber

    You’ll be fine.

    I’m a big fat lump and I ride a 2005 Kona Jake The Snake everywhere I’m not riding my mountain bike. On the road, in the woods, along the canal. It’s great.

    The Ritchey would be the classy choice.

    mooman
    Member

    I use a cannondale superx for most of my solo riding. It has 1×11 gearing 40T 11-25 for the road, or 11-36 for off road.

    1. On the road – It will be a bit harder work keeping up with a fast group, but for solo rides, or for social rides its not slightest problem.

    2. I ride mine on road with 28mm tyres – its lovely; I don`t feel the tyres make much difference in speed  – but they are much more comfortable. As for position on a bike; I like to be stretched out with a slammed stem for riding – so the stem etc is set up for that.

    3. I have 40T chainset, with an 11-25 when its on the road. Some of the steeper climbs can be a grind – but I get up them. When I had 11×36 cassette on it would spin up anything effortlessly.

    If I had to choose just 1 bike to do it all – it would be the SuperX.

    TiRed
    Member

    What the OP requires is a touring bike. HTH

    i have a 1×10 cross bike that I rode on the road with a narrow block and off road with a. 12-32. If you don’t mind the gaps the latter will see you up the Kent hills. My preference for two wheel sets is for tyres more than gears. I run a 38T on the front.

    I also have plenty of road bikes, including fixed. The 1×10 is fine. Choose some Schwalbe G One Speeds for gentle off road and road.

    kcr
    Member

    I’m the same as Jonba. Most of my riding is on a bike built around a Kinesis Pro6 frame. It does daily commuting duty, winter training, touring and I’ve ridden 400km Audaxes on it. It’s got mudguards for all year convenience and a lightweight Tubus rack to carry panniers when I need them.

    Ignoring the current marketing terms, if you’re not racing, I’d suggest what we used to call an Audax or “fast touring” bike in the old days.

    Premier Icon ransos
    Subscriber

    You want a Mason Definition.

    steve_b77
    Member

    I do and mine is definitely an all out CX race bike, it’s a KTM Canic CXC. It’s got 1×11 with 42t up front and 11-36 Out back. Roughly the same as 50/14 and 34/28 so standard compact gearing with a bit missing at the very top.

    I’ve currently got 30/32mm Specialized Roubaix Pro 2bliss on it set up tubeless and they’re seriously quick on the Cheshire lanes I ride. On my commute (52-60km depending on route) I can average 30kph.

    It’s just as comfortable as a road bike, if not more so, it’s just as fast and stops brilliantly due to the discs, even with diddy 140mm rotors.

    You can replicate pretty much any bike set up position with the correct choice of stem, bars, post and saddle.

    Premier Icon mintimperial
    Subscriber

    I’ve been using a Kinesis Pro 6 as my only road bike for several years now. I don’t do that much road riding nowadays on account of not wanting to increase my chances of dying under the wheels of a BMW or something, but when I do (mostly in winter when the trails are completely trashed) it seems to do the job just fine. It’s comfy enough, has mountings for actually functional brakes, can take proper mudguards, has space for relatively sensible sized tyres and can easily cope with a little bit of the National Cycle Network’s optimism towards what constitutes a suitable surface for cycling on.

    I have also done CX races on it, by the way. CX races are bloody horrible, don’t make that mistake.

    Premier Icon wallop
    Subscriber

    My gravel bike feels only very marginally slower than the road bike. It also fits better as I bought it more recently so knew what I wanted. TBH, if pushed I would probably sell the road bike and just keep the gravel one.

    Running 38c Schwalbe G-Ones, which are superbly fast rolling tyres on both road and dirt.

    Same here – the G-Ones are brilliant.

    stoddys
    Member

    So until I read the bit about your back I would say a real road bike.

    I have a giant anyroad with a massively high bar position, it’s soooo comfortable, 2 sets of wheels one for true gravel riding G ones again, one for road only rides with roadie mates.

    Yes I have to push harder with my roadie mates, but if speed is not top of the list and comfort is, gravel is the way to go over cross over road.

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