Do I Need a  Cyclocross Bike or a Gravel Bike?

Cyclocross Bike or a Gravel Bike?

Buyers Guide




ICAN X-Gravel

Do I Need a Cyclocross Bike or a Gravel Bike?

Cyclocross bikes and gravel bikes look similar. They both look like road bikes but with meatier tires. You'll also have one friend who tells you that the difference is merely marketing, but once you take a more in-depth look at both styles of bike, you'll find many differences. The main differences to keep in mind, though, are that a gravel bike will be less aggressive, more stable, and have larger tire clearance. Now its time to get muddy as we delve deeper into the worlds of gravel bikes and cyclocross bikes.

Quick Guidance

  • The difference between Cyclocross and gravel

  • Cyclocross versus Gravel Frames

  • Cyclocross Versus Gravel Bike Tyres and Wheels

  • The ICAN AC388 Cyclocross Bike

  • The ICAN X-Gravel Bike

What is the Difference Between Cyclocross and Gravel Bikes

They say cross is coming, but while it was busy coming, gravel sneaked in and took over the bike trade, which is why some people think it is just a marketing exercise. Cyclocross has been around longer than gravel, in terms of mainstream cycling, and I'm sure we'll be able to find people that tell you I'm wrong.

Cyclocross, or cross as it is abbreviated to, traces its roots back to the early 20th century. The belief is that roadies used to race from town to town, and sometimes people took shortcuts. They would head down fields, through woods, and jump over fences. They did this during the winter and used it as a fun way to stay in shape for the next road season.

The first races and French national champs were run in 1902. Cross bikes have then had a long time to evolve. So, have the courses, but the UCI now uses a formula. Cross courses will be between 2.5 and 3.5 km long. There will be obstacles, steep hills, and a mix of terrains. Obstacles, such as hurdles, will force the riders off their bikes and make them carry them. The race will be between 30 mins and 1 hour long.

Cyclocross bikes have then evolved to be aggressive race bikes. 

1903 Tour de France

The Gravel Bike

Gravel cycling is a much newer addition to the cycling pantheon. It is also worth knowing that gravel bikes have many other names. It can be an all-road, adventure, or any-road bikes. Gravel is hard to pin down exactly when everyone decided it was great; it was definitely in the last decade, though. The reason was the fact that people have been riding gravel trails and modifying their bikes for gravel routes for decades.

Gravel bikes take from touring, road, and cyclocross bikes to create the perfect gravel machine. The ideal gravel bike is different for everyone. Some people want to get out and race for 200 km. Others want to load their bike and go and cycle across a continent. Then there will be others who want to head down the odd canal towpath.

Gravel bikes then have a much broader remit than cyclocross bikes. The broader remit makes them an excellent choice for the average cyclist. You can use it as a commuter during the week, fast rides at the weekend, and then go on a bikepacking holiday during the summer—a quiver of bikes in one.


ICAN X-Gravel Bike

Cyclocross versus Gravel

Bike Geometry

Cyclocross racing is fast-paced action that can have sudden terrain changes and also can become tight and twisty. Due to this, cyclocross bikes have a more aggressive geometry than gravel bikes. You'll also be required to jump on and off your bike quickly. As well as you jumping off the bike, you may also need to jump, bunnyhop, the bike over various obstacles if you don't want to lose speed.

Cyclocross Bike Geometry ICAN AC388

Gravel riding generally will not contain the same tight twisty features that you find on a cyclocross course. You'll also not be having to bunnyhop your bike over things or continually have to be jumping off it. You'll generally be riding road style conditions, just with a slightly worse finish than most asphalt roads.

That means you'll be after a different style of geometry. You'll be traveling at more speed and possibly loaded, so you'll be wanting a more stable bike. A gravel bike will have longer chainstays and, as a result, a longer wheelbase. A longer wheelbase will make a gravel bike more stable than a cross bike. To add to the stability, your bottom bracket height will also be lower than that of a cyclocross bike.

Gravel Bike Geometry ICAN X-Gravel

Gravel Bike Geometry ICAN X-Gravel

Cross races are short, and as such, you can get away with a short stack. As gravel bikes are designed more for distance and longer rides, they have a taller stack. The taller stack puts you into a much more comfortable position. Generally, this position will be slower than the sprint position that you get on a cross bike.

Bike Frame: Do You Want Comfort or Stiffness?

Cross races are short, all-out blasts; this means that cyclocross frames are stiff. Comfort is not a thought that often comes to cyclocross frame designers. Building compliance into a cross frame will cost you seconds, and that can lose you a race. You want to know that every pedal stroke is driving you forward as efficiently as possible.

Cyclocross races tend to last around 30 mins to 1 hour. As such, most high-end cross bikes will not have water bottle mounts. The intensity of a cross race won't allow you to drink even if you wanted to. Cheaper cross bikes do tend to come with fender and pannier mounts. These bikes, though, are not true cross bikes and were more a commuter version of a cross bike. If you added these to an out and out race bike, you'd be adding weight and, as a result losing speed.

 ICAN AC388 Cyclocross Frame

Gravel bikes are generally not going to be used for short blasts. The longer you're in your saddle, the more you'll be looking for comfort. There will still be some stiffness in a gravel frame, but the engineers will have worked hard to ensure that the frame is also complaint. You don't want a bike that will shake you to pieces on a 100-mile ride.

Some gravel bikes try and make up for this lack of mounts by having every type of mount you could want. Some will come with fender and bottle mounts, but no pannier mounts as they are designed for bikepacking bags and lightweight, higher speed touring.

ICAN X-gravel bike

ICAN X-Gravel Bike Frame

You need all the mounts as you can never not have enough water. You'll also need to be able to carry a sleeping bag, tent or bivvy, tools, and food if you decided to go on a few day bikepacking trip. Fender mounts will also be a much-loved feature if you choose to commute on your gravel bike.

Cyclocross Versus Gravel Bike Tyres and Wheels

The UCI runs cyclocross races, and that means cyclocross tires have rules about width. That means the widest tire you can run in a cross race will generally be 33 mm. You can run wider in unsanctioned events, but if you want to race seriously, you'll need to follow the UCI rules. The UCI rules mean that most cross bikes are designed around a 33 mm tire width.

ICAN AC388 Bike Wheel

Gravel bikes don't have this 33 mm wide rule, and you'll now be able to find gravel tires that rival mountain bike tires for width. The reason for the extra width is comfort. The wider your tire, the comfier your bike will be. If you go tubeless, you can also combine this with low pressure for even more comfort.

Gravel bike wheels also come in 2 sizes. You'll find 700c wheels and 650b wheels. Cross bikes only come with 700c wheels. The reason that gravel bikes come with 650b wheels is that you can use wider tires than you can on a 700c wheel. The extra width will bring more comfort and, in another turn of fortune, also be the same height as a narrower 700c tire. That means the 650b tire will bring you as much speed as the 700c.

Get your best ICAN wheels here.

ICAN X-Gravel Bike Wheel

Bike Gears

The ICAN AC388 is the cyclocross bike that breaks all the rules. It has a higher stack than some cyclocross models but a lower stack than gravel bikes. If you're a weekend warrior, then this is the frameset or bike you need to get.

The ICAN AC388 is constructed from high-quality Toray T700 carbon fiber. As you'd expect, the frame is light. It is also stiff, but the ICAN engineers have worked hard to design a carbon fiber layup that also has compliance. The ability to do this with carbon fiber is why it is the material of choice for many cyclists. It's a lot harder to achieve with aluminum. With the AC388 frameset costing the same as an aluminum frameset, due to ICAN being a direct to the consumer sales model, you can have your cake and eat it.

The AC388 utilizes 12 mm thru-axles and a BB86. Both of these features are designed to help increase your power transfer. To make sure the majority of your effort is going to keeping the wheels turning. Where you point the AC388, it will go.

ICAN AC388 Bike Detail

The ICAN X-Gravel Bike

ave you ever looked at Salsa gravel bikes and wished that you could afford their Warbird? That is the inspiration for the ICAN X-Gravel. The X-Gravel comes in at the same price as a Salsa Warbird frame. The ICAN X-Gravel bike frame comes in at the same cost as Salsa's aluminum offerings.

Which means if you buy an ICAN X-Gravel, you'll still have enough money left to buy all the bikepacking peripherals that you'll need. You'll need a lot, and with a gravel bike not taking all of your budget you'll be able to get all the things that will help you out on the road.

The X-Gravel frameset is a beauty, especially in the rainbow colorway. It is not a case of fashion over function, though, and you'll find that the X-Gravel is constructed from high tech Toray T700 carbon fiber. The great thing about the ICAN model here is that we tell you what manufacturer's carbon fiber we use and don't try and hide it by giving it a marketing name.

Earlier, we talked about mounts, and the X-Gravel has them. You'll find three sets of cage mounts on the frame. There are rear pannier mounts, just in case you don't want to use bikepacking bags: Toptube bag mounts and three-pack mounts on the forks. Fork mounts are excellent and make carrying a lot of stuff so much easier.

The X-Gravel features 12 mm thru-axles and flat mount disc brake mounts. You're getting an up to date package that will allow you to have great braking. Excellent braking is one thing you'll be grateful for when you're descending an Alpine pass fully loaded.

The best thing for your mental health, though, is that the X-Gravel comes with a threaded BSA bottom bracket. You'll now not be bothered by a creaking bottom bracket. One of the worst things that can happen on a trip is a creaky bottom bracket. It can destroy the trip by slowly breaking down your mood, making it difficult to get on the bike in the morning. Say yes to quiet bottom brackets.

ICAN X-Gravel Bike Details

  • Sep 22, 2020
  • Category: Articles
  • Comments: 0
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