You might have seen a lot of cycling media telling you need a gravel bike. You might now be trying to work out what is the difference between a gravel bike and a cyclocross bike. Nicely we have the answer for you and you will be pleased to know it is not all just marketing. 

This article will tell you the difference between Cyclocross Bike or a Gravel Bike, which allows you to better understand their differences. Then as a guide for you choose Cyclocross Bike or a Gravel Bike.

The Quick Guidance about this article

  • Quick description
  • what is cyclocross bike
  • what is the gravel bike
  • Bike Geometry difference
  • Cyclocross VS Gravel Frames
  • The different of Tyres and Wheels 

A Cyclocross Bike or a Gravel Bike?

Cyclocross bikes and gravel bikes look similar. They both look like road bikes but with meatier tires. Whether you need a Cyclocross Bike or a Gravel Bike depends on your needs. If you are a professional racer, Cyclocross Bike may be more suitable for you. Gravel Bike has a wider use scene.

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.

Cyclocross Bike

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. 

What are gravel bikes?

Gravel bikes are a road bike type that can also be ridden on non-technical off-road sections, such as gravel tracks, canal towpaths, and flowing singletrack.

As a result, these bikes are stronger than road bikes and can fit wider tyres and sometimes come with a variety of mounts for going bikepacking or touring.

Is that not just the old cyclocross bike then? No. Cyclocross bikes are a different breed from gravel bikes although like all things there is a crossover point. You might be worried that the cycle industry is just trying to dupe you into buying a cross bike but paying more for it, so read on, and you will discover why cyclocross and gravel bikes differ.

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.


Bike Geometry: The difference in Bike Geometry is one of the main differences

The geometric frame is different between Cyclocross Bike and Gravel Bike.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.

If you think about how you use a gravel bike and a cyclocross bike, you can see why they may need a different geometry.

With a gravel bike, you will be planning long days in the saddle, possibly multiple days. You will be out in the wilds and the routes you pick might like to throw a few little surprises at you. You might load the bike up so you will need a stable platform on which to ride. You want a bike that is not going to throw you off as you ride along rough country roads.

Cyclocross is all about racing around a muddy winter field. You will be looking at spending an hour on and off your saddle — jumping hurdles, whipping the bike around corners, avoiding furrows, dealing with ice and snow. This bike is designed to be raced fast through a sprint style event.

(The 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.

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.

This means that cyclocross bikes tend to have more aggressive angles than gravel bikes. One is designed for endurance and the other for sprints.

Part of the evolution of gravel bikes is muddied by the fact that entry-level cyclocross bikes used to come with water bottle mounts and fender and pannier mounts. This was designed to make them a better purchase. Commuters could buy them and then dip into cyclocross at the weekend. These mounts are now generally found on gravel bikes, and there is one big difference you may notice between gravel and cyclocross bikes that helps if you are a commuter.

Standover height on cyclocross bikes

Cyclocross frames come with a frame that is designed for shouldering. That is why cyclocross bikes look like they have a bigger front triangle than road bikes. They also used to have a higher bottom bracket height, for clearance when offroad. Putting these together means that the standover height on your bike is taller than a standard road bike. So people would size down for standover height.

You don’t want to do this as your top tube would be shorter. Your other issue would be your stack height. Cyclocross bikes as they were really race bikes have always had a low stack height.

What is stack height?

Stack height is an important measurement in bike fitting. It measures the vertical distance from the centre of your frame’s bottom bracket to the top middle point on your frame’s headtube.

what is the Stack Height

Stack height on gravel bikes fits commuters

You will have seen pro riders with slammed stems. They are getting their stem as low as possible and not adding anything to the stack of the bike. Some may even be lowering the stack. These people though have masseuses, chiropractors, and doctors on call. They also ride a bike for a living. You probably do not. Imagine you are sat at a desk all day, would you be as flexible as a pro rider?

The answer is probably not. That is why stack is important. Can you bend you fit a low stack height? Most of us can’t. Cyclocross bikes were designed to have a low stack for racers. If you ride a smaller bike, you are making this stack even smaller. You probably want to take up yoga if you do this.

Gravel bikes go for a bigger stack. How do they do this? They have a longer headtube than you find on cyclocross bikes — a pretty neat but straightforward fix. You will now be sitting up slightly more than with a low stack. You are then putting less strain on your spine and hips. You should have less lower back pain, and it can help alleviate groin pain. No one wants pain in their groin. You might even find you are a more efficient cyclist.

A higher stack is great if you are a commuter.

The head angle is different.

Gravel bike versus cyclocross head angle

ICAN X-gravel bike head angel

That is not the end of the story around the head tube of your bike frame though. Your cyclocross frame will be engineered for racing. It is designed to turn at speed. A gravel bike is designed for comfort and possibly for fully laden touring.

You will, therefore, need a different head angle for both of these bikes. The cross bike will have an angle of around 72-73° for snappy turning. You will then find that gravel bikes have a shallower angle. The shallow angle will make them feel much more stable, particularly if you are descending with your gravel bike fully loaded. You don’t want to tip over with a months’ worth of supplies on your bike.

Matched to this head angle, we will also see that gravel bikes have a shorter top tube than cyclocross bikes. The shorter top tube will give you a slightly higher up seating position and stop you feeling as stretched out as a cyclocross bike may make you feel. Again this is about adding stability and long ride comfort. It is okay to be stretched out on a for an hour race, but you will probably feel a whole lot different about that after an 8-hour gravel ride.


Like the top tube, a gravel bike and a cyclocross bike will have different length chainstays. This time the longer tube is on the gravel bike, and the cyclocross bike has the shorter chainstays. The cross bike has short stays to bring a racy feeling, and the gravel bike long stays for stability.

 If you need the stability for touring, you might also be after heel clearance. You do not want to be kicking pannier bags on every revolution of your pedal stroke. You will not have the issue of pannier bags during a cross race, so cyclocross bikes will be looking at having 425mm long chainstays.

You will see that gravel bikes have chainstays heading out to around 460mm in length. This longer length also gives road vibration a chance to damped by the time it hits you. You can then be both comfortable and stable all from a correctly designed rear end length.

You will also now see that some gravel bikes that are designed for mega-endurance events are bringing their chainstay lengths back in. The reason is that these bikes are designed to use the enormous saddle packs and frames bags that are currently de rigure. These bikes are designed for speed. This is what we meant earlier when we said there was cross-pollination.

 You will also be wanting to look at tyre clearance while you look at the back end of your bicycle.

Gravel bike tire widths

The UCI set a limit on cyclocross tyre width. To race cyclocross at a UCI event, your tyres can be no wider than 33mm. Cyclocross frames were then designed with this as the maximum clearance. You can fit a 33mm and get a bit of mud clearance, and that is it.

For gravel cycling though the UCI holds no sway. The more people rode gravel, the more they realised that tyres are what brings comfort to gravel bikes — the wider the tyre, the comfier the ride. Sure, they might ride slower, but you are out riding and want to look at the scenery anyway. Don’t you?

You will now be able to find gravel bikes with clearance for up to 2” wide tyres. Perfect if you accidentally go off down a proper mountain bike trail. There is something else that gravel bikes, and cyclocross bikes, are taking from mountain bikes — tubeless tyres.

ican x-gravel tire size

Having to stop and fix a puncture is never fun. By going tubeless, you can help to eliminate that danger. You can still get punctures but they will mostly self-seal, and you should be able to carry on a ride having only lost a few PSI in your tyres. You can also safely ride lower pressures in your tyres, bringing more comfort to your ride again.

Going tubeless is excellent and with the right wheelset and tyre choice setting up can be done in minutes.

Bike Frame: Do You Want Comfort or Stiffness?

The Cyclocross frame is lighter because it often needs to be “carried and run”. The Gravel frame is usually heavier because it needs rigidity to increase the load.

The simple Cyclocross frame does not reserve mudguard and shelf mounting holes, but the original intention of Gravel is to carry equipment to cope with the harsh environment of multi-day riding. Generally, in addition to the common bottle cage holes, the underpipe and There are water bottle holes at the outer end of the front fork, and there are mounting holes for luggage racks at the rear of the tee; the wheelbase of the Cyclocross frame is shorter, the frame geometry is more aggressive, and the position of the bottom bracket is also higher than that of the Gravel Bike frame. height of.

In terms of frame geometry, Cyclocross bikes usually use a head tube angle of 72-73° for faster steering. The head tube angle of a Gravel Bike frame is usually around 71°. The use of a gentler angle will help improve more stable handling. , Suitable for long-term comfortable travel and riding.

Since the Gravel Bike frame has a longer head tube and a shorter top tube, the chainstay length will be longer than the length of the Cyclocross frame. Most of the Gravel Bike frame usually have a length of about 465mm; and Cyclocross The frame is usually about 425mm in length.

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 carbon gravel 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. 

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.

The Bike Tyres and Wheels are different

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.

(ICAN X-Gravel Bike Wheel)

Bike Gears

Cyclocross generally uses more gear ratios of 46/36 chainrings with medium rear flywheels, such as 11-28, etc., which require more small gear ratios to cope with climbing; while Gravel Bike needs a wider gear ratio to cope with the moment For changing mixed roads, the mainstream adopts the SRAM Force 1X system, while the dual discs generally use 50/34 pressure plates and 11-32 rear flywheels. There are also some brands that match 48/32 or 42/28 chainrings.

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 Conclusion

Through this article, do you understand the difference between Cyclocross Bike or a Gravel Bike? When you want to buy a bike, you must have a decision in mind. The following video introduction can also let you know more about Cyclocross Bike or a Gravel Bike is different.

Click Here To Learn More