What are the differences between a cyclocross bike and a gravel bike?

29 November, 2018

Today we analyze the differences between two bicycle models that we have in Santafixie. On the one hand, the Altamira XC 1.1 Cyclocross Bike from FUJI and on the other hand the Basso Palta Gravel Bike.

At first glance they can seem very similar, even many people can confuse one of Cyclocross with one of Gravel or vice versa. Indeed a Gravel bike can be used for Cyclocross (not in UCI competitions) and a Cyclocross bike can be used on gravel roads without any hesitation. They are sister bikes and that is why they are very substitutable with each other. But there are differences, and it is advisable to know them before deciding on a Cyclocross bicycle or a Gravel bicycle.

We start with the Fuji Altamira XC, which we know perfectly at Santafixie since we’ve been riding it around for the past year. It is a responsive and fast bicycle, technically for Cyclocross, that is to say, it was born for competition.

It is built with a very light carbon frame and fork (950gr) and aggressive geometry. It is very compact, and the bottom bracket is slightly higher than a traditional Gravel bike. This is because it is designed to be ridden in a cyclocross circuit, where there are many fast turns, where you have to keep pedalling, and sometimes you even have to carry it on your back when there is no other choice.

As for the components, a selection comes from the SRAM brand, such as Force 1 hydraulic brakes, the PF30 bottom bracket and the cassette, which perfectly respond to both braking and acceleration.

The rims are made by the brand OVAL, and we have been very surprised by their lightness. Despite being aluminium they are even lighter than some carbon rims.

And as is usual with this price range, it is assembled with through-axle hubs on both wheels which gives more safety, stiffness and helps avoid the typical noises associated with the brake discs in the long run.

Although it is a model designed to go through muddy terrain, it holds itself extraordinarily well on both gravel and road terrains. Fitted with relatively narrow tyres, which is comfortable for rolling on the road, and if you change them for some smoother ones, it will seem that you are almost on a road bike.

And now, let’s talk about the drivetrain. If you want to use it as a Gravel or Road bike the relationship will fall short. It’s normal with a single chainring. If at any time you would like to use it for long routes on the road, with large flat areas or mountain passes with significant ups and downs the best is to change the cassette, install a second chainring, or the third option: be stronger. In our case we opted for the first option, installing a SRAM cassette with a larger capacity and thus be able to cope more easily with climbs with more slope. Another modification that we made was to mount some smooth tyres, specifically some tyres that we love for their grip and hardness: The Challenge Paris Roubaix.

With these two changes, we could say that we have two bikes in one. When we go by trails, tracks, mud, we fit the standard tyres, and when we tour by road we fit the Challenge Paris Roubaix tyres. Even so, if you come from the Mountain Bike world and you cross over to a Gravel or Cyclocross bicycle, it will seem so fast that even with knobby treadded 700×33 tires you will have the sensation of flying on the track.

The good:
Accelerates decisively.
Quality SRAM components and “durable” but that can be short on long routes.
Through-axles.
Lightness.

The bad:
Being made for Cyclocross, penalises you on long distances if the factory configuration is kept.

As for the Basso Palta Gravel Bicycle, it is a bike made from scratch in Italy for gravel use. Having been designed for this purpose, and not adapted from a Cyclocross bicycle, it is a very good bicycle, comparable to the FUJI Altamira.

What stands out at first sight are its eye-catching lines and a design that makes it one of the most beautiful bicycles in the world, from our point of view.

Being a Gravel bike, it is designed for long routes and for that reason, comfort and versatility are the main focus, versus the weight or the response of the bike. For example, it is fitted with wider tyres, which give more feeling of composure, and the front fork is displaced forward, which gives us more stability and less nervousness when riding.

At the component level, it is also assembled with a SRAM groupset and we offer two different options: the SRAM Rival Groupset plus Michrotech aluminum wheels or the SRAM Force 1 Groupset with carbon wheels. Both combinations are exceptional and we do not believe that you will fall short with the standard build.

There are some aspects that can be improved, in that model we’re also missing a second chainring or a slightly higher capacity cassette to be able to climb long or steep inclines with greater ease.

Regarding the frame, it is made of carbon and is manufactured by Basso in its facilities in Italy. The Palta comes built and adjusted from the facilities of Basso. This means that when you receive it you will be ready to go. You will not have to take it to any workshop to adjust brakes or the gears. You will simply have to mount the pedals (not included) and the handlebar, but we do recommend to have it checked before the first ride, to make sure everything is fitted well.

The good:
Comfortable and stable
Looks great
Quality in finishes
Made in Italy

The bad:
Single chainring

You can find both bicycles on our website:

Fuji Altamira CX 1.1 2019

Basso Palta

And which one do you prefer?

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