For the last couple of years new type bikes are gaining popularity – gravel/adventure bikes. The bike is outfitted with road bike-type drop handlebars which allow a choice between multiple hand positions, mounts for mudguards, bike racks and multiple bottle cages. When building the frame manufacturers usually account for extra baggage weight, so the frame is made stiffer. These bikes are made for adventure/tourism rides and long days in the saddle through unpredictable terrain.
Cyclo-cross bikes combine speed, durability and stability; they're fast as an arrow on the tarmac and as lively off-road. Cyclo-cross bikes are getting more popular every day as dynamic and action-filled races are organized. Courses include features like mud, sandpits, barriers and steps or slopes too steep to ride, forcing riders to run, as well as some easier and more comfortable sections. The course usually is around 3 kilometres long and race lasts for about an hour. Cyclo-cross bikes are made for this exact application – to ride fast but to also allow to carry it if the course requires it. A more durable frame, powerful disc brakes and all-terrain tyres are the fundamental outfit.
At the first glance Cyclo-cross and gravel bikes don’t seem so different, but the purpose of the bikes are drastically different and that affects their overall build. UCI is regulated that Cyclo-cross race bikes can’t be equipped with tyres wider than 33mm. Gravel bikes do not have this limit and Merida gravel bikes can take tyres up to 44mm (1.7 x 29”) with ease.
One of the most important differences can be found in the geometry of the frame. Gravel-type bikes have a longer wheelbase fork rake, and the angle of the headtube is less steep, which amounts to a less aggressive, more stable ride. The headtube is lower for Cyclo-cross bikes, which allows to trade comfort for more dynamic handling and speed in short one hour Cyclo-cross races, but will be tiresome on the road for a long period of time. Additionally, the frames of gravel bikes are usually made stiffer and heavier to support for extra baggage weight.
Both bikes are great and versatile companions on the tarmac or commuting around the uneven city road surfaces, or even doing fast cross-country rides. If priority is speed and dynamic handling, Cyclo-cross will probably be your best bet, but if you are looking for comfort and stability with extra versatility, the gravel bike should be your bike of choice.