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Hello road people,

I’ve always been a huge fan of cross bikes because of their versatility but I've never owned one. A mountain biker first, I found serious road riding 2 years ago. The Cannondale I have been riding has treated me well. I commute 60-80 miles a week and spent my lunch hour climbing the hills around Boulder. And of course there are the long road rides with friends which ultimately turn competitive. Lately though I’ve been drawn to the numerous fire roads I pass tooling around.

My question is this: how do cross frames perform as road bikes? Are there significant disadvantages with geometry, components, ect.?

I’m thinking compact cranks, canti brakes and 2 wheelsets.

Any advice would be helpful. Thanks
 

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Sounds like a winner

If what you want is a competent road bike that will also serve you well on fire roads and well-packed trails, then the cross bike is for you. Not as fast as a straight-on road bike, but pretty close, and certainly better when you leave the pavement.
 

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They do ok

Professor said:
Hello road people,

I’ve always been a huge fan of cross bikes because of their versatility but I've never owned one. A mountain biker first, I found serious road riding 2 years ago. The Cannondale I have been riding has treated me well. I commute 60-80 miles a week and spent my lunch hour climbing the hills around Boulder. And of course there are the long road rides with friends which ultimately turn competitive. Lately though I’ve been drawn to the numerous fire roads I pass tooling around.

My question is this: how do cross frames perform as road bikes? Are there significant disadvantages with geometry, components, ect.?

I’m thinking compact cranks, canti brakes and 2 wheelsets.

Any advice would be helpful. Thanks
I trained throughout the winter on a Redline Conquest and it worked well. It's pretty heavy (close to 27lbs with fenders), and it was slower all around compared to by road bike, but it did it's job. The slack head tube angle makes the steering pretty slow and the long wheelbase makes for sluggish handling, but they're a lot more nimble than a mountain bike on fireroads and smooth singletrack.

You might have to experiment with the gearing. A triple crank might be best with something like a 12-25 or 27 cassette. I did some cross races on mine and I never changed the gearing to something taller, so it's spins out pretty quickly on steep descents. Depending on how steep the offroad riding will be, you may or may not be able to go with a double and a good, all-around gearing setup.

If you are riding with a group, the bike can definitely hold you back unless you're a lot stronger than your riding buddies (or get a super nice, expensive bike). I'm one of the faster riders on my team, but I got dropped frequently on team rides while riding my cross bike.

Basically, as an only bike, it gets by ok for fast road riding. It largely depends on how nice of a cross bike, since you can drop about $1000 for 25-26lb bike or over $3000 for a sub-20 pounder.

Just going off of my personal experience.
 

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FastInMyMind
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agreed - sorta

I was in the same boat as OP... at least I thought I was. I rode a cyclocross bike on the road primarily for a year. Cyclocross is not as fast on a road as a road bike. It was mentioned that your long 'fun' rides turn competetive. You will not be competetive on the cyclocross bike unless you are stronger than the rest of the field. There is not a huge difference, but there is enough that you will eventually get dropped because of the bike.

On another note - those fire roads you are seeing that look so fun - I got bored with them in a hurry. My opinion, for what it's worth, is ride the mtn bike trails and/or ride the roads.
 

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When my car died last summer, I commuted for months on a Major Jake, just adding lights and changing to road tires. Absolutely no disadvantages in that role, but that particular bike isn't one I'd choose for all-day road riding (but it could work for someone else, I suppose; it's just a little too short in the cockpit for me to ride for several hours). I've done multiple-day tours on a Bianchi Axis, and that worked out perfectly for me.

Like you, I find those side roads too hard to pass up, and that's why 'cross bikes are the ideal type for me. I like pretty wide-range gearing, typically 48/34 with a 12-28 or 12-27 (depending on 8- or 9-sp), since I don't always know what sort of terrain I'll be getting into. Component level is usually 105; it's always done the job flawlessly, and running Ultegra has never proven to add any benefit.
 

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Professor,

I think you should consider a Surly Cross-Check - you can get a frame & build it up a zillion different ways - as a single speed, or geared - also, you can get one fully built for very little money. I just got one and purchased it with road tires . . . surlybikes.com

Happy riding,

Steel_SSer
 

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Cross bikes are the perfect bicyles in my eyes. I train on mine, race occasionally on the road, bomb fireroads, light singletrack and commuting, ALL WITH ONE BIKE! To the argument that it will weigh some ungodly amount, I can assure you that it would take some work to get your bike that heavy. My Cannondale was 22 lbs w/ pedals bone stock, now it is around 19 with road tires and some more bling parts.
 

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Cross bike for road

When considering a cross bike that performs well on the road you really have to check out the geometry. There doesn't seem to be a real consensus as to what makes good cross geometry. Some have higher bottom brackets and slacker seat angles than a comparable road size, some are lower and steeper. Recently I decided to sell my old cx bike (an IF planet cross. got it second hand and I'm now realizing it is too small for me) and in my own research of the brands readily available at my local shop (giant, c'dale, redline, bianchi and raleigh) I decided on the bianchi cross concept since it has the most conventional road like geometry in terms of bottom bracket drop w/a 72.5 degree head angle in a 52. Bianchi even says on their page for the '05 bike that if you can only have one bike for both, that is it. The axis has the same geometry, if you're looking for something more economical or w/rack mounts.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
cyclewvu said:
When considering a cross bike that performs well on the road you really have to check out the geometry. There doesn't seem to be a real consensus as to what makes good cross geometry. Some have higher bottom brackets and slacker seat angles than a comparable road size, some are lower and steeper. Recently I decided to sell my old cx bike (an IF planet cross. got it second hand and I'm now realizing it is too small for me) and in my own research of the brands readily available at my local shop (giant, c'dale, redline, bianchi and raleigh) I decided on the bianchi cross concept since it has the most conventional road like geometry in terms of bottom bracket drop w/a 72.5 degree head angle in a 52. Bianchi even says on their page for the '05 bike that if you can only have one bike for both, that is it. The axis has the same geometry, if you're looking for something more economical or w/rack mounts.

The geometry issue is something I have been researching the past few days. Because this bike is going to be my road/ cross/ commuting bike I'm going to splurge some. My target is around $1700 for frame and fork. I'm considering going custom to get a nice neutral geometry. I figure for that price I can get in the door with a Soulcraft or a Sycip and then snag up a used Alpha Q. I should also add that I'm a materials weenie- I really dislike aluminum.
 

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Cross bikes- great all around

The frame geometry is a non-issue. The slightly longer wheelbase and slightly relaxed angles just give a non-twitchy ride- it's still a performance feeling.

Although you said you don't want aluminum and a compact set-up, I would check out the Bianchi Axxis cross bike. It's weird- with a tripple and DeoreXT rear der, it's a frankenbike, not a cyclocross racer- but you could climb a cliff with it. The carbon fork that comes with it seems to soak up abuse, but 28mm tires... well, it's hard to say which is more significant.

I'm riding a Cannondale Optimo frame with steel touring fork, and tight double (39/47) with parts buildup to take a lickin'. I think I've got less than $900 in to the bike, yet I still really LIKE riding it.

Go for it. If your bike is usually dry, there are lots of great steel frames made by small shops that just rock. If you ride in saltwater (snow), Al isn't that bad.

Meat
 

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Professor said:
The geometry issue is something I have been researching the past few days. Because this bike is going to be my road/ cross/ commuting bike I'm going to splurge some. My target is around $1700 for frame and fork. I'm considering going custom to get a nice neutral geometry. I figure for that price I can get in the door with a Soulcraft or a Sycip and then snag up a used Alpha Q. I should also add that I'm a materials weenie- I really dislike aluminum.
Can't go wrong with either of those builders. I'd go with a steel fork and a roadie bb drop (approx 7cm). I wouldn't trust a carbon fork with the kind of forces cantis put on 'em--especially a used carbon fork.
 

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geometry can make a big difference

dogmeat said:
The frame geometry is a non-issue. The slightly longer wheelbase and slightly relaxed angles just give a non-twitchy ride- it's still a performance feeling.

Frame geometry can be a big issue if you are looking for on road performance out of a cross bike. My IF had 72/71.5 seat & headtube angles with a bb drop of only 57 mm, while comparably sized cannondale road bike has 74/73 w/a bb drop of 72 mm. A centimeter and a half of BB drop difference! Pair that with a significantly slacker head angle and longer wheel base and the result in a stable ride offroad, but a tall feeling slow turning descender on the road. At the casual level, any cross bike will be fine on the road and an enjoyable ride, but check the geometry. It can be all over the map with cx bikes. Consider what you want out of it, a race or trai riding rig? a higher bb for you. touring? the lower the better. Want it to feel like a road bike? check the head angle.
 

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More Cowbell!
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Professor said:
The geometry issue is something I have been researching the past few days. Because this bike is going to be my road/ cross/ commuting bike I'm going to splurge some. My target is around $1700 for frame and fork. I'm considering going custom to get a nice neutral geometry. I figure for that price I can get in the door with a Soulcraft or a Sycip and then snag up a used Alpha Q. I should also add that I'm a materials weenie- I really dislike aluminum.
There is a Cyclocross discussion forum here with lots of good advice to be had.

First piece of advice is to get two wheelsets. One dedicated to road with slicks and one for "adventure" with knobbies. You can also get specific on cassettes too -- like 12-23 or 12-25 on the road and 12-27 on the dirt.

Next, on the dirt, your tire volume will mean way more for vibration damping than frame material. A well made Al frame will work great. However, if you like steel, the Lemond Poprad is a very nice off the shelf steel bike. If you get the high zoot version, it comes with a carbon fork.

I highly recommend "traditional" 32-hole, 3x laced, loose bearing hubs, box rim wheels for the dirt wheelset at least. They are durable, field serviceable, and repairable by any bike shop. I race and am fairly competative and those are the only kinds of wheels I race on (well, except they are tubulars).

Size the bike via top tube. I don't know if you already have a road bike. If you do, try to match the top tube length in a cross bike.

Get a compact crank. A 36x50 would be good for the type of riding you advertise. If you're afraid of hills, do a 34x50.

If you plan on racing, visit the Cyclocross forum and get lots of race specific advice.
 

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Great for commuting and general riding

Mine work great as commuters. One of my two crossers had plenty of eyeletts. Both frames have long chain stays which make for a more comfortable riding bike. The higher bottom brackets make the bike a little questionable when bombing down hill without racks or packs.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
cyclewvu said:
dogmeat said:
The frame geometry is a non-issue. The slightly longer wheelbase and slightly relaxed angles just give a non-twitchy ride- it's still a performance feeling.

Frame geometry can be a big issue if you are looking for on road performance out of a cross bike. My IF had 72/71.5 seat & headtube angles with a bb drop of only 57 mm, while comparably sized cannondale road bike has 74/73 w/a bb drop of 72 mm. A centimeter and a half of BB drop difference! Pair that with a significantly slacker head angle and longer wheel base and the result in a stable ride offroad, but a tall feeling slow turning descender on the road. At the casual level, any cross bike will be fine on the road and an enjoyable ride, but check the geometry. It can be all over the map with cx bikes. Consider what you want out of it, a race or trai riding rig? a higher bb for you. touring? the lower the better. Want it to feel like a road bike? check the head angle.
Good call on the bb drop- that is something I have been overlooking.
 

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Lexicon Devil
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I've been riding a Redline Conquest as my all-purpose racer since September. This was due to a lack of funds, rather than a desire to just have one bike. I sold my Specialized Allez as it was too big for me and I was also tired of the thing, so I went out and got a Conquest for the upcoming 'cross season. It's a great bike for club rides, occasional road racing and scheissy-weather training, but I can't wait tiL i get a new real road bike.
 

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Got myself a Lemod Poprad around Thanksgiving. I wanted something I could do just about whatever I wanted with, and this was the bike. With slicks it goes down the road just fine, and since the roads around here all eventually turn to gravel at some point, it makes those sections all the better. On the trail it is a blast. Not for every trail, but I am sure I ride it where some would not.

No, if I was training for some sort of road racy thingy I probably wouldn't say it was the best bike. But, really, how many people is that really true for. My LBS has said that cross bikes are something they are starting to get asked about more than ever. I even took my bike to them so a guy could do a test ride. This is in Texas, where cross is very fringe (most people I talk to on the trail don't even know cross exists).

I love the bike, never thought twice about it. Great decision, especially if you have to have just one bike.
 

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When I bought my Cannondale, I test rode a Bianchi Axis. I really liked it, but it just wasn't as fast feeling as other bikes. At the time, I didn't understand that it was because of the 28c tires and MTB gearing. All things that are easily fixable.

It depends on what you plan on doing though. I planned on doing a few tri's. The Cannondale was a far better choice for that. But just for training, quick club rides, and commuting, the Axis would have been the choice.
 

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I have a Ridley Xnight that I just built up for my road/ cross bike. The angles are EXACTLY the same as I had on my previous road bike (Time) and I'm almost positive the wheelbase is a little shorter (from the way it fits in the cab of my truck). Unfortunately, I travel A LOT for work so I haven't gotten a chance to test it out in a road race, but it more than holds its own on the rides I do around where I live. I do agree that it's less about the bike and more about the engine. I also know that Trebon uses (or at least used to use) his cross bike for road races...so like I said, it's about the engine moreso than the bike.
 
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