Are you a person that loves exploring nature with your bike but also enjoys the occasional city ride? You only need one bike to do all that and still get the best of both worlds. A cyclocross bike or a hybrid one would be the perfect bike for you. But which one? To help you decide, in this article we present information about each of the two bikes and the differences between them.
What Is a Cyclocross Bike?
A cyclocross bike, also known as a “cross bike” or a “CX bike”, is a type of bike used for cyclocross racing. Cyclocross is a racing discipline that takes place on various terrains, including mud, grass, sand, dirt, and even snow. Before becoming a sport on its own, it was initially created to help bike racers stay fit during winter. In addition to the challenging racing terrains, obstacles are included. Every year, there are many cyclocross competitions taking place around the world.
Originally, cyclocross bikes were lightly modified road bikes made for speed while on and off-road riding. Nowadays, there are various models with unique features and designs that are created for cyclocross racing and differ from road bikes. In addition to cyclocross training and racing, riders can also use CX bikes for other purposes. Since cyclocross bikes are versatile, they can be used to explore different biking terrains. Furthermore, cyclocross bikes are a great option for long-distance riders, backpackers, or riders who love high speed. Some cyclocross bikes are suitable for daily transport as well.
What Is a Hybrid Bike?
As implied by the name, a hybrid bike is made of a combination of features from different bikes, mainly road bikes and mountain bikes. As a result, you have a bike that selected the best of both bikes, creating a unique design that can be suitable for various terrains. It offers excellent visibility and control. In addition, hybrid bikes are known to be quite comfortable — a feature they take from mountain bikes. Moreover, they are easy to carry, like road bikes.
Hybrid bikes are mainly used for commuting. However, due to their versatility, they can be used for everything, from riding on the streets to exploring parks and medium hills. Some hybrid bikes feature mounts for mudguards, back racks, and water bottles, making them the perfect bike for trips.
Difference Between a Cyclocross and a Hybrid Bike
Since you know what each of these bikes is and the general similarities between the two, let’s dig deeper into their components and find out the difference between hybrid and cyclocross bikes regarding their frame, weight, brakes, wheels, and gearing.
When comparing frames on a cyclocross vs. hybrid bike, the first difference we come across is the frame material. Even though both bikes use aluminum frames, cyclocross bikes are also known for using carbon fiber frames. On the other hand, hybrid bikes often use steel frames as well. When it comes to the frame geometry, both bikes include upright positioning that makes the bike more comfortable and stable.
Cyclocross frames and handlebars are designed specifically for competing. Cross bikes feature drop bars, making the bike aerodynamic and easier to ride. We recommend choosing a cyclocross bike if you enjoy fast races with obstacles. Otherwise, hybrid bikes offer a more relaxed ride due to their flat handlebars. Even though they make the bike heavier, flat handlebars give you a more comfortable ride than a cyclocross bike. Hybrid bikes often feature riser bars as well, providing a better vision and good control of the bike.
The frame material affects the weight of the bikes. In general, both cyclocross and hybrid bikes are lighter than other bikes. With aluminum being a lightweight material, it stands between the two other materials used by these bikes—steel and carbon fiber. While steel is less expensive than other frame materials, it is also a strong and heavy material. As a result, hybrids with steel frames tend to be heavier than cross bikes.
On the other hand, carbon fiber is on the higher end of frame materials. As a more expensive material, it is also extremely lightweight. So if you are interested in a light and easy-to-carry bike, we recommend you choose a cross bike with a frame made of carbon fiber.
Braking systems can vary depending on the model of the bike, but brakes on cyclocross bikes and hybrids usually differ from each other. While hybrids commonly use V-brakes and occasionally caliper brakes, you can find cantilever brakes and recently disc brakes in cross bikes.
By using V-brakes, hybrids provide safety by allowing to suddenly decrease the speed. The bike will stop instantly, even by the slightest pull of brake cables. V-brakes are not expensive and are easy to set up and maintain. Meanwhile, caliper brakes apply pressure to the braking rim depending on how hard you pull the lever.
On the other hand, cantilever brakes used on cyclocross bikes are similar to V-brakes in providing fast stopping but are more complicated to set up. They are ideal for extreme conditions since they will not get filled with mud or waste when the terrain is muddy.
Nowadays, disc brakes are being used in most cyclocross bikes and some modern hybrid bikes as well. Disc brakes provide more control on the bike, especially when the weather is wet. They require less squeeze to the brake lever, ensuring comfort while braking. However, they are more expensive and harder to maintain than other brake types mentioned above.
Both cyclocross bikes and hybrids usually have 700c wheels. Since the UCI (Union Cyclist Internationale) does not allow wider tires than 33mm for cyclocross, most cross bike tires tend to have that size. However, if you’re not riding for a cyclocross event, there are wider tires available. Hybrid bikes use tires between 35-45mm. The benefits of wide tires include more stability, resistance, and comfort.
While cyclocross tires are knobby and have a similar texture to mountain bike tires, hybrid bike tires are smoother. Both tires offer traction and grip, but cyclocross tires are more suitable for races and more effective when encountering different bumps along the way.
The gears of a cyclocross bike and a hybrid can vary from model to model. Cyclocross bikes usually have two chainsets. The inside ring is usually 36t, while the large ring is 46t. The cassette is 12-27t. However, a cross bike with one chainring is generally preferred for races and muddier terrains since they are simpler and easier to maintain. In that case, a 40t chainring with an 11-32t cassette is typically used. The gearing in a cross bike is usually low since riders need lower speed for off-road riding.
On the other hand, hybrid bikes have a wider variety of gears available. They usually have three chainrings (44t, 34t, and 24t). As a result, there is a wide range of gears that you can choose from depending on your riding. Meanwhile, some hybrids feature one single chainring. They are usually used for casual riding since there is only one gear you need to control.
How to Decide Which Bike to Choose
When choosing between hybrids and cross bikes, there are several aspects you need to have in mind. In addition to the differences we went through above, you need to also think about how you want to use the bike and consider your budget.
First of all, you need to know what you want to use this bike for. If you intend to ride on moderate hills, ride through the city, ride on roads with mild obstacles, or commute, go for the hybrid. But if you are someone that loves exploring high mountains, or if you want to race on different surfaces that may also include obstacles, then definitely choose the cross bike.
When choosing between the two bikes, you need to have in mind that cyclocross bikes are more expensive. If you do not want to spend too much money on your bike, consider choosing the hybrid one.
Even though cyclocross and hybrid bikes have similarities, it is the differences you need to pay attention to when choosing between them. Although in general both are considered light, cyclocross bikes are often lighter. Their frames are usually made of different materials from each other. Furthermore, while cyclocross bikes use caliper brakes, you’ll mostly find V-brakes in hybrids. In addition, cyclocross bikes have lower gears than hybrids. And if you are on a budget keep in mind that cross bikes are more expensive than hybrids.
Since we went over the main differences between them, you can now decide on which bike to choose. Whatever choice you make, we’re sure you’ll have fun riding your new bike!