What are the main differences between a gravel bike and a cyclocross bike? Essentially, a gravel bike can be considered as an evolution of the cyclocross bike, but with its own characteristics based on its use and type of track.
How did this evolution develop? First of all, recent technical innovations have promoted a wider perspective in frame designs. Above all, the use of disc brakes, which led to another very important innovation, namely larger tires. Another aspect that was also affected by the introduction of disc brakes was the possibility to load luggage.
For those who use gravel bikes for cycle tourism, the possibility to carry bags today has been doubled thanks to the fact that the use of disc brakes has freed up space at crucial points of the frame.
So why not simply modify a cyclocross bike?
Because the intended use is different. The cyclocross rider doesn’t need wide tires because they do not allow effective acceleration when cornering, something necessary considering that the classic cyclocross courses are full of curves. But perhaps when running on muddy and grassy grounds one doesn’t even feel that need. A “gravel” route is totally different, it has straighter tracks and is intended for longer rides compared to the classic cyclocross distances which amount to about an hour.
In conclusion, what is the main difference between the frames, a part from the tires and any eventual luggage racks? In general, gravel bikes have a less aggressive geometry, with higher handlebars and a more relaxed seat tube inclination. This, of course, is the case of standard gravel bikes. If, on the other hand, we take into consideration a made to measure bike, it is necessary to start from the biomechanical position of the individual, the rest just follows.
What material are gravel and cyclocross bikes made out of?
Nowadays, almost all cyclocross bikes are made out of carbon, due to the lighter weight and the more effective ability to absorb vibrations compared to aluminium. However, gravel bikes have revived the use of noble materials such as steel and titanium due to their greater comfort. These two worlds are slowly intermingling: some cyclocross bikes in titanium and steel are beginning to appear on the race fields, whilst some gravel bikes in carbon have been made. As always, there is never a best solution, but it is simply a question of personal preference