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What’s the difference between a cyclocross and a gravel bike?

Over the past few years, the gravel category has become one of the brightest lights in the cycling industry, with brands and consumers alike discovering the potential of wider tyres and an exploratory spirit. Gravel cycling can take you away from the beaten path, limit your interactions with distracted drivers, allow you to tackle a wide range of different terrain, and float back and forth between on road and off.

That cross-compatibility is a compelling sales proposition for riders searching for a new bike to add to the fleet. But the appeal of the gravel bike doesn’t lie just in it being a bike to add – its capability across surfaces means that plenty of riders are drawn to one as a single bike for all purposes.

You don’t have to think very far back to remember that there was once another style of bike that was seen in the same way.

Before the gravel category took off, cyclocross bikes filled a similar niche, and when ‘gravel’ began to emerge as a distinct category, many thought that gravel bikes were the same thing under a different name, cunningly devised by the industry as a means to sell more bikes.

But while there are certainly similarities between gravel and cyclocross bikes, it’s reductive to say that they’re the same thing. Let’s take a closer look at the two – where they match up and where they diverge.

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Includes paid promotion: Our second Field Test was done in partnership with Ride High Country, the tourism and advocacy group responsible for cycling within Victoria’s North East region. We thank them for their support in being able to produce this series.

What’s the difference between a cyclocross and a gravel bike?