Cyclocross (CX) bikes are a cross between road bike geometry and handling and mountain bike knobbly tyres and strength. Originally designed for CX racing they are becoming increasingly popular for commuting on rough roads and winter training. CX bikes have better mud clearance than road bikes and usually come with either cantilever brakes or disc brakes. The gearing is similar to a road bike but often has a smaller chainset to cope with steep hills and obstacles on CX courses.
Cyclo-cross races typically take place in the autumn and winter (the international or "World Cup" season is October–February), and consist of many laps of a short (2.5–3.5 km or 1.5–2 mile) course featuring pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles requiring the rider to quickly dismount, carry the bike while navigating the obstruction and remount. Races for senior categories are generally between 30 minutes and an hour long, with the distance varying depending on the ground conditions. The sport is strongest in the traditional road cycling countries such as Belgium, France and the Netherlands.
Cyclo-cross has some obvious parallels with mountain bike racing and criterium racing. Many of the best cyclo-cross riders cross train in other cycling disciplines; however, cyclo-cross has reached such size and popularity that some racers are specialists, and many prioritise cyclo-cross races over other disciplines.
CX bikes are similar to road racing bicycles: lightweight, with narrow tires and drop handlebars. They are typically differentiated by their greater tyre clearances, lower gearing, stronger frames, cantilever brakes and more upright riding position. They also share characteristics with mountain bicycles in that they utilize knobby tread tyres for traction and increasingly, disc brakes. They have to be lightweight because competitors need to carry their bicycle to overcome barriers or slopes too steep to climb in the saddle.
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