Gravel or Cyclocross? The New AC388 and GRA02

Cyclocross and gravel riding are the latest trends in cycling and like many people you may be trying to discern the differences between gravel bikes and cyclocross bikes. They will both generally have wider tires than a road bike, they will both be likely to be running disc brakes, they can both have knobbly tires, and they will both be looking great.

AC388 cyclocross frameset

Figure 1 The new AC388 cyclocross frameset

The other issue is that gravel bikes, being newer to the bike scene, bear more than a passing nod to cyclocross bikes. That is why we felt we should tell you about the differences between our new cyclocross frameset the AC388 and our new gravel frameset the GRA02.

GRA02 gravel bike frameset

Figure 2The new GRA02 gravel bike frameset

Carbon fiber construction

We will start by telling you something that is the same on our two framesets. They are both constructed using Toray T700 carbon fiber. We use Toray T700 as we have found a great material to use for constructing bike parts. Toray is the world’s leading manufacturer of carbon fiber, what they don’t know about carbon isn’t worth knowing.

It allows us to build you light bike frames, light frames that are also strong and stiff. Strength is even more important when you will be riding offroad a lot of the time. You need a bike that you can rely on to get you around, over, and through things. A bike that you are not going to worry about as take that slightly sketchy line, as you know your bike will laugh at the risk and not fall apart if you crash.

The next similarity is that both of our frames feature internal routing for both their cables and their hoses. We say hoses as both of these frames come ready to run the flat mount disc brakes of your choice. To allow you to get the best braking performance from your flat mount brakes, we have also outfitted each frame with thru axles.

Both use a 100 x 12mm axle on the front and a 142 x 12mm on the rear. The thru axles help to both stiffen whichever frame you pick, and they also help you to build a super stiff wheelset. A super stiff wheelset is the perfect compliment to our frames, as it will help to guide all your power into overcoming whichever terrain you are riding.

Getting to the bottom of it

The final similarities are that both framesets use a BB86 bottom bracket. We have designed an oversized bottom bracket areal on both frames to help with stiffness and to help the chainstays be wide enough to accommodate the thru axles.

Then to finish both frames we have gone with a tapered head tube to help maximize front end stiffness and also to help with steering precision. Both of these frames are designed to be ridden offroad, so we want you to know that where you point the bike is exactly where it will go.

Getting tired?

Now that we have gone through the similarities it is time to go through the differences. The big one for many people will be wheel clearance. On the AC388 frameset, you can clear a 700 x 38mm tire, which is greater than the size allowed by the UCI for cyclocross races. If you are racing cross legal tires, it will mean you have a load of mud clearance for those particularly muddy courses that crop up during winter.

The GRA02 has a bigger tire clearance. You want that extra cushion for when you are doing ultra-mileage tours on unpaved roads. The GRA02 can run 700 x 42mm wide tires, and because it has been designed to be the ultimate gravel bike, it can also clear 1.95” tires in 650b size. People quite often run 650b tires on gravel bikes as a wide 650b tire will generally have the same ride height as a 700cc tire. It just has the added benefit of having more air inside it, which means you have more comfort for no loss of speed.

Wheelbase length

To help clear the wider tires, you will find that the GRA02, like most gravel bikes, has a longer wheelbase than the AC388. The shorter wheelbase on the AC388 is better for racing, especially on twisty and technical race courses.

The longer wheelbase on the GRA02 will make the bike feel more stable and help avoid you tipping over on fast descents if you have a fully loaded bikepacking set up on board the bike with you. The longer wheelbase is created by the fact that the GRA02 has longer chainstays than the AC388, this is quite a simple way to help us build in tire clearance.

To keep the stable feeling going you will see that the GRA02 has a mellower head angle than the AC388. You probably won't be able, but if you look at the geometry charts, you will be able to see it. The steeper angle on the AC388 is of great benefit when racing through gloop and you will only need small movements to turn the bike around corners.

When you are riding a really muddy course and having to hop over obstacles, you will be wanting to keep your pedals out of the way, that is why the AC388 has a slightly higher bottom bracket than the GRA02. The GRA02 lower bottom bracket height will again make your bike feel more stable and secure, especially when you are on your bikepacking trip through the Andes.

So as you can see that although there are similarities between our cyclocross frame and our gravel frame, they also have differences that set them apart and allow them to be the best in their respective genres.

It is also worth noting that because they have similarities you could use your GRA02 at a cross race and you could use your AC388 to bikepacking. They both though will not be as good as a dedicated gravel or cross bike, but if you fancy trying something new, then either of these framesets will not hold back your adventurous side.

  • Feb 20, 2019
  • Category: Articles
  • Comments: 0
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