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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
:confused: I am in the market for a new bike (currently have an old, heavy, full suspension MTB) and am extermely confused as to which route to go (cyclocross or road). I ride recreationally on hard/medium packed gravel trails, with little mud and no major obstacles but very hilly. As well, I would like to join a group of friends who ride pavement on weekends. My fear is ending up with a bike that is ok for both purposes but not really good at either one. I am looking at Pinarello (road FP3 and Cross), Colnago (C-50 and Cross Prestige) and Specialized (Roubaix Expert and Tri-cross). My biggest concern is really enjoying the pavement and investing in a bike that will not cut it in a few years should I become more than a casual rider.
 

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Buy a road bike with larger than normal tire clearance. Buy a second set of wheels. Put 'cross tires on one wheelset, and road tires on another. Viola - two bikes for the price of one.

Trust me - if your roadie friends hold any kind of decent pace, you will be working twice as hard as them on 'cross knobbies. You want road tires for riding on the road.

If hardpack is dry, road tires will work fine. But at the first sign of moisture, things get exciting in a hurry!
 

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The Pinarello and the Colnago bikes are fairly high end products. For a first time buyer you may be better off with a more budget oriented bike.
The Specialized Tri Cross kind of fits your purposes - they supply a kind of pavement, mild dirt hybrid tire with it.
As Crispy notes you will be working harder on the road - but you won't be fighting knobbies with the Tri Cross tires. It is smooth as cross bikes go when used on the road.

Further - if you get into the sport you can use your first bike as a barometer to gauge what you do and don't like about the bike with a reasonable cash outlay. The point is very few people think their first bike is the perfect one. If you decide to get a pure road bike - the Tri Cross can readily be used as a commuter, foul weather bike.
 

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Been there done that

I was in the exact same spot last year. I went from a heavy hybrid to a cross bike. I chose the cross bike because most of the riding I did was on limestone paths with some pavement. After a while I found that I was riding on pavement more and more. I changed out the tires and wheels and swapped the 46T big ring for a 50T. With the "road" setup I am able to hold my own on the fast group rides. I have also put the wider tires on to ride when the roads were not fully dry or when my ride has unpaved sections.
 

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I recently picked up a tricross. It fit my needs pretty well. Guy at the LBS told me they were originally designed as a true cyclocross yet ended up with a frame that is more road oriented. The tires are definitely more road biased of any of the 3 other bikes I rode.

I would ride all your choices and pick whatever fits best.
 

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Crispy is right - two different wheelsets will dramatically change the character of whichever bike you chose. I ride a 'cross bike on the road quite a bit with a road wheelset on it. It's plenty fast for group rides.
 

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crispy010 said:
Buy a road bike with larger than normal tire clearance. Buy a second set of wheels. Put 'cross tires on one wheelset, and road tires on another. Viola - two bikes for the price of one.

Trust me - if your roadie friends hold any kind of decent pace, you will be working twice as hard as them on 'cross knobbies. You want road tires for riding on the road.

If hardpack is dry, road tires will work fine. But at the first sign of moisture, things get exciting in a hurry!
This is good advice, but I'd tend to go the opposite way, but with the same results: I'd look at a good quality (as good as OP can afford) cross bike, but budget enough to get a decent second set of wheels with dedicated road tires on them. I'd say $250 would be adequate for the second wheels+tires, something like an OP/Ultegra or Aksium grade wheelset with good quality road specific tires and lightweight tubes. Better yet would be $350-$500 for some lighter weight decent wheels.

OP: by the way, I notice some responses mentioning the type of tires that come with the bike. Don't pay any attention to that unless you really are not going to change the tires or wheels to go road riding. It would be much (much, much) better to get an all around or real cross tire for off road use and either change the tires or wheels for the times you know you don't need tread - like when you go road riding with your friends. The tire will be a tremendous hinderance on the road even if it's a so-called all around tire. You really will need road tires. Really try to budget for the second set of wheels, you'll be glad you did and they don't need to cost a fortune.

The reason I recommend this is that it is darn hard to find a "road" bike with clearance enough for decent size (say 32) tires, while that is what cross bikes have. It is much easier to but a narrow, smooth tire on a cross bike than a wide tire on a road bike.

I have a good friend who rides a lot (~5-8K miles /year) and he has a high end Italian road bike and a Salas cross bike. He told me last year he rides the cross bike (w/ road tires) far more often than the road bike, but 99.9% of his riding is on paved roads, and not commuting, but long road rides. It could be a fit thing in his old age, I have no idea, but it is telling that he is very satisfied with his cross bike for road riding.

Also as pdh777 mentioned, don't really worry too much what you'll want a few years down the line. First, I do believe that with the proper tires, cross bikes on the quality level you're talking about will be very satisfactory for both road and off-road use you're talking about. I don't believe you'll be 'harmed' at all by the compromise - again assuming real road tires on the road. Second, it is impossible to predict what you'll want a few years from now, so don't waste time over-thinking it. Get what you think will meet your needs now. If you need to change in the future, deal with it then.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
As this is the first time on any forum, I apologize in advance if I am not following proper etiquette; however I feel compelled to say thanks to everyone that has replied thus far. The advice I am receiving is definitely bringing me closer to a decision - heavily leaning toward a cross bike with 2nd wheelset for the road. Once I get over this hurdle, the next will be deciding which brand :)
 

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I agree with Camilo - it will probably be easier to find a cross bike with appropriate tire clearance than a road bike.

I think most cross bikes come with cantilevered brakes. I would recommend normal road brakes over cantis just for their superior stopping power, but I am not sure if there is a cross bike out there that comes with road brakes.
 

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A cyclocross bike is a road bike.
Slightly longer chainstays and slacker head tube. (for the most part).
I don't have different wheels, I just change out the tires if needed. It takes about 5 minutes.

Cross bikes are pretty much the same as a touring bike.

Don't worry so much about the cantis. Mine lock up on the road. I don't buy the idea that they are not as strong at pivot brakes. If set up correctly they work just as well.

That being said, after 3 years of riding my cross for everything even fast group rides I am building up a more aggressive bike and saving my cross rig for racing, fire roads and trails.
I always find myself short on time and cannot always clean my crosser after a dirty ride. This makes riding on the road sort of miserable listing to the crunching of dirty gears and chains.
 

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pigpen said:
A cyclocross bike is a road bike.
Slightly longer chainstays and slacker head tube. (for the most part).
I don't have different wheels, I just change out the tires if needed. It takes about 5 minutes.

Cross bikes are pretty much the same as a touring bike.

Don't worry so much about the cantis. Mine lock up on the road. I don't buy the idea that they are not as strong at pivot brakes. If set up correctly they work just as well.
Lots of the cross bikes I looked at before I built my own had aero road wheels on them. As has been mentioned, it will be hard to find a road bike with clearance for wide tires. My cantis work very well. Buy the cross and a second set of tubes and tires.
 

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I got a CX bike and switch tires. I just got through a period of great weather, so I had 25c Contis on for road and distance riding. I put the knobbies on last night after a week of rain, so I can enjoy the muddy back roads tomorrow.

As a road bike it feels great. I built it up light (18.4lbs) with disc brakes. Last weekend I ran a really fast circuit around the city on bad roads (My Paris-Roubaix fantasy). The bike felt great all day (I was hitting 17-38 mph on city streets). I run a 50/34 12-27 compact crank.
 
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