N-1; Cx on the road

Hi, I am thinking of reducing the number of bikes I have and buying a new bike that I can use both as a road bike and on dirt/gravel roads. My main usage of the bike will be the latter, but I also want to be able to use it for a road race or three during the season. I have been looking at different gravel bike options, but would it be better to go for a cx bike? Will a cx perform better as a road race bike and be more race oriented (stiffer, better acceleration, hold speed better etc) ? Some of cx bikes I have been looking at are the Cannondale Caadx 105, Specialized Crux E5 and the Focus Mares 6.8 (all with 2x).
Any thoughts and advice are much appreciated!

If I had to get rid of my bikes and keep just one it would be my Crux. I use it as a CX bike, and on the road during winter or poor weather. For what yuo want I’d be swaying towards a CX rather than gravel bike. In my view “gravel” is something made up by the bike industry to sell more stuff we don’t actually need. Think of a gravel as a CX touring bike. Only real differences are that a gravel bike will typically have slacker geometry and maybe a bit less clearance.

CX bike definately gets my vote.


Don’t gravel bikes tend to have larger clearance rather than less? fwiw I’m casually looking at a new winter bike that will do some off road, the occasional cx race, maybe some audax. I’m coming down more on the gravel side. Some of them are taking up to 47mm tyres on 650b wheels, and have mudguard and rack mounts.

For one bike does all, I’d personally be looking beyond 3 races a year as deciding factor, but that’s just me.

I think GCN did one of their tests recently as CX v Gravel, and the gravel bike came out on top for speed, might be worth looking up too.

The Shacket

This is the kind of nonsense that’s coming out of the “gravel scene”.

Sorry, but I just don’t get “gravel”.


@AndyGajda I’m not into the ‘scene’ but I do love gravel!

@phatlip I’ve done that very same thing, I have a lovely full carbon Marin Cortina that I use for long distance road, gravel events and occasionally cyclocross. It is actually marketed as a cyclocross bike but it does all things very well.

Points to consider:

riding position - endurance focussed or race aggressive
tyre clearance - up to 35 for CX or greater 38-40 (and even more) for gravel
hydro discs?
rack and or mudguard mounts
2 x 11 / 1 x 11 (I would argue 2 x 11 covers all bases and I haven’t lost a chain yet)
if 2 x 11 ensure mid cage mech for larger cassettes (32/34)
Tubeless compatible rims
Strongly consider a spare wheeset sp you can swap between tubeless road and gravel/cx

Below is a picture of my CX bike kitted out for a 400k ride :slight_smile:


I think if you aren’t going to race CX then a gravel bike is easily the way to go. I just built a gravel bike and if I replace the 38c Gravelking slicks with a 25c Conti GP they are very similar. The geometry between the three bikes is interesting if you really look into the differences. My main piece of advise is pay attention to the front end geometry/specs. The HTA, front center, rake and trail will all interact to make the handling what it is. For example, ride a bike with tons of trail and it feels like a gyroscope diving into corners…

The stack, reach of all three while different can be equalized by different combinations of post SB, stem lengths and angles so fit between can be duplicated easily. I say this as many seem to shy away from cx/gravel bikes due to the higher stack. Especially gravel as they are generally a bit higher.

The wheelbase of CX and gravel bikes are a touch longer than road but, again the front end is where you’ll feel the difference on the road.

As far as stiffness, acceleration and holding speed, I seriously doubt you would notice any difference. Maybe slightly but, wheels/tires go a long ways to affecting all three. I don’t want to say there aren’t differences just that the geometry and how that affects handling is way more important and noticeable than a top shelf Venge, Crux and Diverge frame.

Thanks for your thoughts!
My main reason for the post was to try to find out which bike would most resemble a road bike, but still be able to ride on gravel and dirt roads. I have two bikes I am planning on selling, a Specialized Sequoia and a custom steel road bike. For some of the money I hopefully will get I want to buy the bike that will work well in the absence of these two.
As I said, the main use will most likely be on dirt roads, but it would be great to be able to use it on a couple of road races also without being dropped by the pack because of the bike. I have not tried a CX bike before an do not know how bike the difference will be in relation to a road bike.

Per @Macy recommendation here’s GCN take on it:

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The concept of gravel bikes are one of the best things to ever come out for people who just love riding. I woudn’t get hung up on the label, it’s more giving us options for big tires and such.

My road frame and gravel frame are both the same, a BMC Roadmachine. One has comfy tires and 1x, the other has 28s and a compact groupset. The gravel bikes is awesome for basically everything from overnight trips and bikepacking, to the gravel and single track trails, and the road bike for the rest.



The 3rd link is bike plus 2 wheelsets. Pretty sweet and maybe an option.

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I have a Cannondale supersix evo roadbike, and a Canyon inflite AL cx bike that I also use during the european winter for racing cx, but also as a “roadbike”. In the summer I use it for gravel events, and…if I can only pick one bike, this would be it. I love it, funny enough I am not really that much slower on it looking at strava segments, than my pimped out cannondale. Will I do something like the Marmotte sportive on it? Maybe.

CX bike on the road

Same ride on race bike

CX bike in road mode is perfectly capable of race pace👌

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It varies from model to model and brand to brand, but a CX bike is generally closer to a “Road Race” bike geometry compared to a “Gravel Bike” geometry.

The CX bike will likely have steeper head tube and seat tube angles. It may also have a taller BB for clearance, that might well be the biggest difference from a typical road race bike. The wheelbase is usually close to a climbing/crit bike geo, which means faster turning and more agile handling.

The Gravel bike will likely have slacker HT and ST angles, as well as a longer wheelbase for stability on rougher surfaces.


FWIW I’ve got a caadx sora 9 speed with canti brakes and I’ve raced CX and a number of chain gangs and group rides with no problems other than my fitness.
Easy to swap between 23 and 35mm tyres is great, although the bike feels larger than my same sized road bikes


This past season, I ran a pair of Stans Avion Pro wheels wrapped in 25mm Schwalbe Pro One’s on my TCX for my club rides. I also used it on a few solo training rides. At the time I had a Cervelo S3 as my road bike. My position on the TCX was identical to the S3 but with the stem I had on the S3, it put the bars lower by 3cm.

Between the 2, ride data showed there was a 2km/h speed delta on average and a 1kg weight delta but I never once felt sluggish or slow on the TCX. Neither bike was setup 1x and I’m not quite sure I would have a do-it-all 1x bike.

After that experience, I contemplated N-1 and looked at what was out there for a lightweight all-road type bike. Only one bike stood out above the rest, the Open UPPER but I can’t afford such luxury.

This is all true, what I’m not convinced of is that those small variations convey a genuine enough benefit.

FWIW dirty kanza was won recently by both male and female competitors on a cannondale slate, which is proper road geometry but with a small lefty fork.

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The Open’s are a lot more offroad oriented than anything I would consider all around personally. Like I said, I use a pair of BMC Roadmachines for a road bike and an all around bike. To get a really off road bike like the Opens I built a vintage Marin MTB with drop bars.

The geometry of the Open UP/UPPER is not ideal for a nimble road racer but it’s very close to the Exploro which is identical to a Cervelo R3 which is considered the average man’s road race. The Exploro LTD was another option at the time but I prefer the traditional tube shaping of the UPPER vs the Exploro’s more aero shaping.

I think the bike would be a very capable allrounder and only riders at the pointy end of performance would benefit from something more specific to road racing or gravel racing etc.

I had to look at the C’dale line. Some interesting similarities and differences that I did not expect. I grabbed 2 sizes in each model (gravel / road / cx)


Wow, I need to sit and work through that on a laptop rather than an iPhone. But as you allude to, some odd numbers in there.

I checked out a salsa warbird 56cm for comparison

HA 72!
Chainstay 430mm
B.B. drop 70mm
Trail N/A

Overall wheelbase is 1030.6mm

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