By Darren Cope
By now you’ve most certainly heard of it. You have maybe even seen it, and some of you probably have friends who do it. What is it? Cyclocross of course! It’s also the fastest growing segment of the sport of cycling, and a whole lot of fun! If you’ve come this far, hopefully you’re prepared to learn a bit more about what cyclocross is, how it can benefit you as a roadie, and what to expect when you start to race.
What is Cyclocross?
(a.k.a. “Why are those roadies all riding around in the park?”)
Cyclocross, also known as ‘cross or cx is often described as “mountain biking on a road bike.” This description seems to please most non-cyclists, who often walk away with a silly grin (or very confused look) on their faces. However, we committed roadies will want some more details. Cyclocross is similar to mountain biking in some ways in that it takes place on a variety of surfaces, not just asphalt. However, it is almost always much less “technical” than mountain biking; you are unlikely to see rock gardens or drop-offs on a cyclocross course for example. You’ll learn more about what to expect from the course and terrain in the “What to expect at your first race” section, below. On the other hand, cyclocross is similar to road cycling as well, since the bikes look (especially to non-cyclists) a lot like a typical road bike, with drop bars and rigid suspension, while races are organized more like criteriums than a typical mountain bike race.
History of Cyclocross Riding
(a.k.a. “Who came up with this crazy idea?”)
Although precise history of the sport is hard to find, a French soldier named Daniel Gousseau is often credited with “inventing” the sport of cyclocross in the early 1900s. Gousseau would often ride his bike on rough terrain and over obstacles as part of his training. Other road riders realized the potential of the activity as training, and soon races were being held.
The popularity of the sport increased throughout the early 1900s, as a way for professional road racers to maintain fitness throughout the fall and early winter months after their road racing calendars were complete. France was one of the initial “hotspots” for the sport, and the first French National Cyclocross Championships took place in 1902. The popularity of cyclocross really exploded after Octave Lapize, the winner of the 1910 Tour de France, cited off-season cyclocross riding as one of the reasons for his success in the Tour. The first Cyclocross World Championships was held in Paris in 1950.
In North America, cyclocross caught on slightly later than it did in Europe, and the first USA Cyclocross National Championships were held in 1964.
Cyclocross Racing, According to the Pros
(a.k.a. “We can always dream, can’t we?”)
To get a good idea of what cyclocross is, we can look to the professionals. Watching a pro cyclocross race is like watching poetry in motion. The smoothness of the dismounts and remounts, the speed at which muddy off-camber corners are taken, and the pros’ unbelievable ability to ride through any kind of mud-pit is what separates pro cross racers from the rest of the cycling world.
The current UCI World Cup series is dominated by a few names. Sven Nys (Belgium) is a dominant racer who has had a phenomenal career focused specifically on cyclocross. Nys has won many important races, and dominated the Superprestige series, coming first overall every season since the 2001/2002 season (excluding the 2003/2004 season where he was second.) However, a couple of younger riders are looking to challenge the experienced Nys; namely, Zdeněk Štybar (Czech Republic) and Niels Albert (Belgium). Look for these two riders to battle it out over the next few years in the upper echelon of the sport. Some of the best North American riders include Ryan Trebon, Jeremy Powers, Barry Wicks, Jonathan Page and Geoff Kabush.
How to Participate in Cyclocross Amateur and Local Races
(a.k.a. “We all know we can’t be pros”)
Since most of us will never be professional cyclocross racers (if so, you should be looking for advice elsewhere!) you may be wondering how to get involved in the sport. The good news is that local and regional series abound in North America and in many other parts of the world. If you’re not sure where to look, first try a simple web search with the words “cyclocross” and your area. If, in the unlikely event this doesn’t turn up the results you want, the next best thing to do is to talk to local cyclists and bike shop owners. If there’s a cyclocross series around, it shouldn’t take too long to find someone who knows about it. Find out who organizes the series, and get in touch. Most organizers are thrilled to introduce new riders to the sport and will go out of their way to help you get racing.
How does Cyclocross benefit road cyclists?
(a.k.a. “But . . . I’m a roadie”)
You may be wondering how you as a dedicated roadie can benefit from the sport of cyclocross. There are many reasons, some compelling, and some just fun!
The first great reason for a roadie like yourself to test out the cyclocross waters is simply because cyclocross is a great change of pace from the day to day road riding scene. Tired of hanging out with the same guys, meeting at the same coffee shop, and riding the same old road routes over and over? Cyclocross allows you to take a break from all that, and get to know a whole new group of cycling fanatics. It may also allow you to beat up on some of the strong men on the road who may not be quite as strong when the rubber leaves the asphalt. Cyclocross will also give you a new appreciation for those parks that you fly by in the peloton and barely even notice. Who’d have known that such a little patch of grass could cause such a world of pain?
A second great way that roadies will benefit from cyclocross is most noticeable for those of us who live in areas that have a distinct winter season. To a pure roadie, the approach of winter often causes a reduction in road miles and intensity and a move into hibernation mode. This is often due to decrease in daylight, and the inclement weather conditions often associated with the winter months. However, having a fall/early winter cyclocross race series to train for is extra motivation to keep pounding those pedals well after the temperature drops and the nights get longer. In fact, it’s so inspiring that you have to be careful of overtraining and not getting proper rest between the seasons! For those who don’t have a distinct winter season, cyclocross provides a nice break from year-round road riding, even if the weather allows for it.
Improved Bike Handling Skills
As a roadie, I think it’s safe to say that many of us like to stay within our comfort level when it comes to technical bike handling. Of course there’s generally a good reason for this, as pushing your limits at high speeds on the road can result in a painful learning experience! However, cyclocross provides a fun and encouraging environment in which to push your comfort level a bit at a time. Because cyclocross is performed on softer surfaces than road races, and because speeds are considerably lower in most cases, it’s easier to push up against (and sometimes beyond) your bike-handling limits in a safer environment. A season of riding slippery off-camber grass corners will certainly help you find the limits of bike and body, and this learning experience will be directly transferable to the road once summer comes around. Those of you who race crits (or are considering it) will definitely benefit from this increase in bike-handling skill. One advantage of being a beginner in cyclocross is that it’s no problem to take things easy in your first few races, and then slowly push your limits as the season progresses. If you start off easy and gradually push your comfort level, it’s guaranteed that you’ll see a marked difference in your bike handling after a season of cyclocross!
Maintain Existing Fitness
You’ve worked hard all spring and summer to get your fitness to the highest level. However, many people lose much of this hard-earned fitness once fall/winter rolls around, and find themselves back where they started come spring. By racing cyclocross even at a non-competitive “easy” level, you’ll do wonders in maintaining your fitness so you can start off the next season stronger and faster than ever before.
Not only will racing cyclocross help you maintain your fitness, it can help you improve your fitness. Since cyclocross involves very intense effort and some serious muscling on some of the steeper climbs or through mud pits, you’ll develop more power, strength, speed and intensity, which is certainly going to be evident when you’re back on the road. After all, power meters are now almost “standard issue” for serious roadies, so a fun way to increase power in the off season should be too! If you’re a time trial rider, you’ll have a good feel for the short, intense effort that’s required in cyclocross. However, one main difference is that you won’t be putting out a constant effort as you do in a time trial; instead, your effort level will be ever-changing as you mount/dismount, run up hills, slog through mud, and hammer on the grass.
Weight Bearing Activity
Since cyclocross involves running, jumping and shouldering (a.k.a. portaging) of your bike, it also falls into the category of “weight bearing” exercise. As many of you know, weight bearing exercise is recommended by many experts (and probably your doctor) as a part of any well-rounded workout. Weight bearing activity helps to increase bone density and prevent injuries later in life. It also strengthens muscles and tendons in the joints to keep them running smoothly both on the bike and off.
Since it’s a weight bearing sport, cyclocross will build upper and lower body strength, which for some roadies (myself included!) is certainly not a bad thing! Don’t worry about putting on too much mass; cyclocross won’t make you look like a body builder. It will tone and firm your muscles, not bulk them up.
Of course the real reason to ride cyclocross is a benefit not just to roadies, but to everyone. What reason is that you ask? The best reason of all—because it’s a whole lot of fun! After all, what could be more “flahute” than slogging through mud with your bike on your shoulder when the weather is near freezing and all your roadie buddies are at home putting the third coat of Bike Lust on their road bike? You’ll be out playing in the mud with a big grin on your face, which should be more than enough reason to give the sport a try.
What to expect at your first race (a.k.a. “How to spot the rookies”)
Now that you know a bit about the sport, lets take a look at what you can expect if you show up ready to race at your local ‘cross series this fall. In general, ‘cross courses are set up in public parks, although in some cases may take place on private land as well.
Cyclocross Course Layout
Cyclocross courses generally consist of repeated laps of a short (1-4 km) course. Official UCI sanctioned race courses must be between 2.5 and 3.5 km in length, but local or non-official races will often be slightly shorter or longer than this. Official UCI regulations state that at least 90% of the course must be rideable, with the other 10% (or less) being barriers, stairs, run-ups, etc. that are not passable on the bike. Local races will tend to have similar proportions, although often much more than 90% of the course is rideable. Courses that meet UCI regulations must be at least 3 meters wide in all places to allow for passing. This is the regulation that is most often ignored in smaller races, and you will find some races that include narrow single-track or tight sections on sidewalks. These sections add to the excitement, so unless you’re in a UCI race, enjoy it!
Courses will be delineated differently depending on how each race organizer chooses to mark the route. Most commonly, you will see the course clearly marked using tape, fencing, flags, pylons, or a combination thereof. If you’re not sure, talk to the organizer to ensure you understand the system in use.
Since cyclocross is tough on gear, and, unlike a road race, you don’t have a team or neutral support car following you, pits are common. Like in NASCAR racing, riders can pull into a pit to replace a wheel or swap bikes. Top racers will have multiple bikes, and during particularly muddy races will switch bikes every lap. Their mechanic will then clean the bike, and switch it off for the dirty one as the racer passes the pit on the next lap. At the elite level, these bike swaps are seamless hand-offs with no loss of speed, but this takes a lot of practice and a dedicated support staff! In smaller races, the pit tends to be less structured, and you may instead see a pit containing just spare wheels which the riders will change themselves in the event of a flat.
If during a race you have a mechanical issue, you must continue on the course (riding if possible, or running if not) in the direction of the race (not backtracking) until you reach the designated pit area. You may then make the wheel or bike change or any necessary repairs and resume racing. Many larger races have “double pit” zones, which let riders access the pit from two points on the course, thus avoiding long sections of running in the event of a mechanical breakdown.
Most men’s races go for an hour, with women, masters and juniors often running for 30 or 45 minutes. Organizers will use the first few laps of the race to determine the average lap time, then calculate how many laps can be completed in the allotted time. When the winner finishes this calculated number of laps, all other racers will finish when they next cross the finish line, regardless of the total number of laps they have completed. For example, slower riders may do seven laps and finish just behind the winner who has done eight in the same amount of time. In some cases, lapped riders may be asked to leave the course to avoid confusion or prevent possible unsafe conditions. This is especially true in UCI sanctioned races, where, according to the rules, “Each rider lapped before the final lap must leave the race the next time they cross the finish line” and “a rider who is lapped on the final lap shall be stopped at the beginning of the finishing straight line.”
Cyclocross courses tend to cover a wide variety of surfaces, with most courses having the majority of each lap on a grass surface. However, all courses will also have a mix of gravel, asphalt, mud pits or sand pits. Turns are often sharp and twisty, with many of them occurring in “off-camber” situations. Since races are often held in small venues, courses often twist and turn around themselves, and wind up and down hills from multiple directions.
Course design may also include barriers (a.k.a. planks), which are man-made obstacles that require you to dismount your bike, hop one (or more, since barriers often come in sets of two) wooden barriers, and then remount your bike, all while maintaining as much speed as possible. Barriers are generally made to the UCI maximum height regulation of 40cm, and double-sets should be spaced no closer than 4 meters apart to meet UCI regulations. Of course many non-UCI races will make barriers shorter to help new racers feel comfortable. Bunny-hopping barriers (i.e. jumping barriers while still on the bike) is allowed under UCI rules, and some pro cyclists use this to their advantage. However, bunny-hopping barriers may not be allowed in a smaller race series as it can pose a safety issue. Besides, very few riders (even at the pro level) can consistently bunny-hop 40cm barriers when their heart-rate is maxed out, so don’t feel bad if you can’t (or aren’t allowed to) either!
Some courses contain flights of stairs, which you’ll be forced to run up. For short sets of stairs, you may wish to carry the bike as you do over a barrier. For longer flights of stairs, you’ll likely be better off portaging (shouldering) the bike. Be mindful of stairs that are of non-standard height or depth, which may cause you to misstep, which can be quite painful at race pace with a bike on your shoulder!
Almost all cyclocross courses will contain at least one run-up. A run-up is a short, steep section of hill that is unrideable, and thus must be run. In most cases, this is a result of the steepness of the hill, the muddiness (and thus slipperiness), or the presence of a barrier at the bottom which forces a dismount. Some run-ups may result from the combination of two or more of these reasons. In general, you’ll want to portage (shoulder) your bike on run-ups, although on shorter run-ups, you can push your bike beside you as you run. Try both options during your warmup to see which is fastest given the specifics of the course.
One key thing to keep in mind before you dismount at the bottom of the run-up is that you’ll want to shift to the gear you’ll need at the top. You don’t want to have to remount and get up to speed in the wrong gear! Again, determine your gearing choice during your warmup laps of the race course if at all possible.
Courses will sometimes incorporate corkscrews, which are sharp, twisting spiral turns that force riders to maintain speed and control. They will generally be taped or fenced off to ensure riders follow the course.
Some courses (particularly at bigger races) include fly-overs. These structures allow a course to cross over itself, and consist of a set of ramps forming a bridge over another section of the race course. Many fly-overs are steep, and require speed to climb! Since courses are often created in small parks, fly-overs allow organizers to cram more course into a smaller space by crossing it over itself.
What else should you expect at a ‘cross race? Well, since they occur in the fall and early winter, expect the worst as far as weather is concerned. Wind, rain, snow, ice, freezing temperatures, mud pits, and frozen solid turf are all fair game, so be prepared! See the Clothing section below for more information on how to dress for ‘cross in different weather conditions.
Cyclocross is a very spectator friendly sport. Your first experience may be like an immersion into a new culture, with rabid fans screaming things like “Hup, Hup!” and ringing cow-bells in your ears as you race past. Since courses consist of such short laps, and often wind around a small area, spectators will see a lot of action in a short race, unlike road races where standing on the roadside for an hour nets the spectator a five-second glimpse of the peloton as they zip by at high speed. Watching a cyclocross race is a great way to see what it’s all about!
Getting Ready for a Cyclocross Race – Essential Tips
It’s a good idea to arrive at the race with lots of time to spare. Make sure you have pre-registered if necessary, or arrive well before your race for day-of registration. Ensure you have your race license, payment and any other necessary paperwork to get signed up. Once you’re registered, the race organizers will give you your race numbers, and instructions on where to pin them. In most ‘cross races, numbers are pinned on the left side, since they would interfere with shouldering the bike if they were to be placed on the right side. However, the race organizer will know best for each race.
Some riders bring a trainer or set of rollers (and wheels fitted with smooth tires to use with them) for warming up before a race. This is fine if you cannot pre-ride the actual race course, or need a longer warmup than pre-riding allows. However, the ideal way to warm-up for a ‘cross race is on the actual race course. This will give you a preview of any tricky sections, and allow you to test different approaches to each section. Also, always bring a floor pump for last-minute tire pressure adjustments (see Tires, below) after pre-riding the course, since sometimes the only way to determine optimal tire pressure is by riding the course and trying it.
Remember to be eating and hydrating as well as possible for the race. As this is a very personal topic, you should determine what works best for you during training sessions, and stick with it during races.
An Explanation of Cyclocross Riding Techniques
(a.k.a. “OK, let’s do this then!”)
There are a few techniques that are unique to cyclocross, although some are similar to those used by mountain bikers (who, by the way, may well kick your butt on a ‘cross course, even though you can drop them like a bad habit on the road). The two most distinct techniques in cyclocross are the dismount and remount.
Since cyclocross often forces you off your bike (either to hop a barrier, run up a hill, or simply to navigate a nasty corner that is unrideable), the first skill to learn is the dismount. When you approach a dismount, move both hands to the hoods. Stand, weighting your left foot, and unclip your right foot. Then, swing your right foot back and over your rear wheel. As you are swinging your leg over the bike, move your right hand from the hoods to grasp the top tube (for a barrier) or down tube (if you are about to portage the bike). Next, bring your right foot between your left leg and the bike.
Hit the ground on the right foot, unclipping the left as your right comes through. If you do this with some forward momentum (ideally lots!) you will immediately be running without losing much speed. Bringing the right foot between the left and the bike forces the left foot to unclip, and prevents you from tripping over your own foot. However, many riders faster then me bring the right foot outside the left, timing the unclip of the left foot so that they don’t trip themselves up. Try both methods and see which works best for you.
To practice dismounts, work through the above steps a few times at low speed. Just swing the right leg over and through, then back over and clip back in. Repeat until this feels natural, which may take a while initially. Stick with it, as this is a key skill in cyclocross! Once you’re perfectly comfortable doing this, move to actually dismounting.
Go slowly at first, increasing speed as you gain confidence. It’s best to practice on grass, both because it will most closely emulate race conditions, and also because it will hurt less if (or should I say when) you happen to fall. If you are carrying too much speed into your dismount, feather the brakes with your left hand while dismounting, but be careful; grabbing a fist-full of brake while in mid-dismount will certainly pitch you head over heals! For this reason, some riders will reverse their brakes, hooking the left lever to the rear brakes rather than the front. I find this unnecessary, and tough to get accustomed to when switching between bikes.
Some riders unclip their left foot while still coasting rather than at the last moment.. However, this can be dangerous, as your foot could slip off the pedal, or, even worse, accidentally clip back in, leaving you attached to the bike when you aren’t expecting it. I prefer to unclip the left foot as the right is coming behind it just before the dismount.
Remounts are just as important as dismounts, and have even more potential to go wrong, especially for guys! Unlike dismounts, it’s best to practice remounts at speed since the more momentum you have, the easier it is! Push the bike along beside you as you run, with your hands on the hoods. Once you’re running at a decent pace and the bike is steady, jump, pushing off strongly with your left foot. Your right leg will come up over the back of the bike. The left leg doesn’t need to come high off the ground, although I find exaggerating the “kick” tends to help me maintain momentum rather than flailing the left leg or doing the dreaded “double hop” stutter-step. Try to come down with your weight on the inside of your upper-right thigh, and then slide down onto the saddle. This will prevent painful landings on more sensitive parts of your anatomy. Once you hit the saddle, clip in as smoothly as possible and put the power to the pedals.
How to Handle Cyclocross Barriers
Once you’ve got the dismount and remount down pat, the next logical (and relatively easy) step is to practice hopping a barrier or two while you’re running. Set up some homemade barriers (planks, PVC piping, even some sticks that you find at the park) or find a log or stump you can jump over. Practice riding towards the barrier at full speed, dismounting, smoothly jumping over the barrier, and remounting, all while maintaining as much speed as possible. When dismounting for a barrier, grab the top tube with your right hand, and keep your left hand on the hood. As you approach the barrier, raise the bike straight up beside you in preparation to jump the barrier. If you find this difficult, another option is to “pivot” the bike away from your body by using your right forearm as a lever against the nose of the saddle, and thus not have to lift the bike quite as high in the air. You’ll still need some upwards lift to clear the barrier of course! Either way, try to keep the bike away from your body rather than holding it close to you to prevent your legs getting tangled up with it.
Portaging (Shouldering or Carrying Your Cyclocross Bike)
Sometimes you’ll come across a particularly long hill that you can’t ride (either it’s too steep, or muddy, or you’re forced to dismount by an obstacle at the bottom), or a long section that is otherwise unrideable. Rather than dismounting and pushing your bike, you’ll likely find it advantageous to dismount and then “shoulder” the bike. To do this, simply dismount as described above. However, as you are coming off the bike, grab the down tube about mid-way down with your right hand. Then, pick the bike up, resting the top tube on your right shoulder, while sticking your right arm through the frame.
At this point, many riders wrap their hand under the downtube and between the front wheel, grabbing the end of the left handlebar. Other riders will wrap their hand over the top tube and grab the stem. Either way, while the bike is on your shoulder, your right hand will stabilize the front end, and control the fore-aft position of the bike and keep the wheel from flopping around as you run. This should allow for comfortable running without the saddle hitting the back of your head. Once you do this enough, you’ll learn to position the crankarms so the pedal does not jab into your spine with every step. Also, try to remember to keep an upright (not hunched over) posture while running, which will help with breathing and avoid lower back pain.
Some riders will put padding on their top tubes to make shouldering their bikes easier. This is a good idea if you bruise easily and don’t want to look like you’ve been in a fist fight after your race. Inexpensive hot-water-pipe insulation makes for a great tube pad, and can be duct-taped on to prevent it from sliding around. Incidentally, this padding is also great to prevent damage when you have to ship your bike to a race in a bike box or bag.
Dealing With CX Sand Pits
Some race courses will contain short sections of sand. In some cases, it will be hard packed and fully rideable, in other cases it may be partially rideable (or rideable for the first few laps, only to be chewed up to the point of unrideable later in the race), or it may be fully unrideable from the start. The unrideable sand sections are no-brainers. Simply dismount, shoulder the bike, and run. However, if the sand is rideable, a bit more thought is required. Just before you hit the sand pit, try to gear up a gear or two so that you don’t find yourself spinning madly and going nowhere when you enter the sand. Unweight the front of the bike to let it find its own way through the sand. Keep light on the saddle, and keep constant power to the rear wheel; intermittent or inconsistent pedal strokes will cause the rear to spin out.
Of course you may hit a sand section thinking you can ride it, and quickly find out you cannot, or you may lose your rideable line and end up in a spot you don’t want to be. If this is the case, dismount and run before you lose too much momentum. Remember that momentum is your friend, and having to dismount after slowing down greatly will cost you much time and effort in getting back up to speed.
How to Get Through the Mud
Mud is similar to sand in that it can be rideable in some cases, and not in others. On muddy courses, it pays to focus on problem sections during your warmup reconnaissance of the course. For each section of mud, ride it in different gears, and try different lines to see what works best in each situation. This is, of course, after you have determined that it’s rideable at all! Keep your plan flexible. Courses can change dramatically during a race due to precipitation, changes in temperature, or effects of other racers on the course. This is particularly true of frozen muddy ground when the temperature is near the freezing mark. The ground may warm up, or the thawed layer may become exposed, thus causing a dramatic change in conditions from one lap to the next.
In muddy conditions, always try to keep pedaling in a relatively high gear (not spinning) so that there is always some power going to the rear wheel, giving it some more “bite.” Similar to sandy conditions, try to keep constant power so you aren’t lurching and spinning your way forward. Keeping your weight back ensures that the rear wheel doesn’t slip out, which means hard out-of-the-saddle efforts might be counterproductive in the mud.
Snow and Ice on Your Cyclocross Bike
Snowy and icy conditions can be a lot of fun on a ‘cross bike, but can also be extremely difficult. Since there is a huge variety of possible conditions you may encounter (everything from a light skiff of powder on top of frozen ground to 6 inches of wet snow), it’s impossible to give many pointers. However, like riding through sand and mud, try to keep constant, smooth power going to the rear wheel, and keep your weight back to prevent spinning out. In deep snow, try to stick to the established track which will inevitably get cut into the course after a few laps rather than fighting your way through the deep stuff, which will take much more energy.
(a.k.a. “This is going to hurt, isn’t it?”)
Training techniques for cyclocross can vary greatly. Many road-focused riders simply “ride the wave” of their summer fitness to get them through the fall ‘cross season. However, for those that wish to be competitive, it takes specific training; in fact, training for ‘cross may even detract from focusing specifically on road riding and racing if you wish to take the sport seriously!
The best way to train for cyclocross is to find a local park that incorporates as many possible course design elements as possible. The ideal training park would have lots of flat grass sections, some gravel/dirt trails, asphalt, a steep hill or two, smaller hills to create some nice off-camber turns, a sand pit and a mud hole. Of course few parks will have all of these, but you’d be surprised how many parks have “cyclocross course” written all over them. Ideally, this park would be a short (5 km) ride from your home, so you could ride to the park as your warmup, do some drills, and then ride home.
As a beginning cyclocross racer, the best “bang for your buck” (assuming you have some fitness already from all those road miles in your legs) is to practice dismounting and remounting your bike, as well as shouldering the bike while running. These are the most “unorthodox” maneuvers in cyclocross, so constant practice is required to ingrain the movement into muscle memory.
Cornering in a ‘cross race will cover just about every conceivable condition you can imagine. Uphill, downhill, off-camber, wet, dry, pure mud, sand; practice all of these at all speeds in all conditions. With enough practice you might be prepared for what a ‘cross race has to offer!
Steep hills, stairs or barrier sections may require you to run during the race. As such, it’s a good idea to do some running as part of your cyclocross training. Keep your runs quite short and fairly intense to match the efforts required in a ‘cross race. However, it’s important to note that if you don’t run regularly the rest of the year, you’ll want to be careful not to go too hard when you start out. Start with a 10-15 minute jog and only increase after you stop feeling pain from these runs. Remember that any running (slow and short) is better than none to get your body accustomed to it, so don’t go too hard. You can run on the road, or in a park while carrying your bike, or a mix of both. Keep the “carrying your bike” miles very short, but enough to get your body used to the position and what’s required to keep the bike in a comfortable running position. I prefer to find a steep hill (but not too steep to ride) and alternate riding up and running up, remounting at the top and riding down each time. Ten of these repeats in a row at race pace will leave you hurting!
Since cyclocross takes place in late fall/early winter, it may be tough to get in enough saddle time to accomplish your training goals due to limited daylight. As a result, you may find yourself doing some of your cyclocross training indoors on rollers or a trainer. This is fine, as long as you make the most of your workouts. Remember that cyclocross races are short events raced at a high intensity, so you’ll want to train accordingly. Thus, there’s no reason to grind away for 3 hours on the trainer when you could be doing short intense workouts that would benefit your cyclocross racing more. If you’re concerned about “base miles” for the next road season, don’t be; forget about that until cyclocross is over. A rest or change of pace will probably serve you well!
Equipment You’ll Need for Cyclocross Riding
(a.k.a. “Just how much is this going to cost me anyway?”)
Bikes used for cyclocross look very similar to a road bike at first glance. However, upon closer inspection, you’ll notice quite a few minor differences. First, frame geometry can be somewhat different than on a road bike. In general, the geometry is a bit more “relaxed,” with slacker angles, since aerodynamics play less of a factor at the lower speeds typical of cyclocross, and because ease of bike handling is of key importance. “Compact” geometry, now very common on the road, is less common in ‘cross, as it doesn’t allow as much room for shouldering.
Cables on a true cyclocross bike will often be mounted along the top or side of the top-tube, rather than the bottom to allow for easier carrying. As well, derailleur cables may sometimes be mounted on the top tube to prevent them from getting plugged with mud under the bottom-bracket where they often run on road bikes.
Since cyclocross bikes are lifted frequently, a light weight bike is very important. As such, frame material is generally carbon on higher-end race bikes, although many excellent bikes are made from aluminum, steel or titanium as well. Many aluminum bikes will contain some carbon, especially in the rear triangle. This type of “hybrid” construction allows for a bike that is a bit more comfortable to ride than a full aluminum bike (which tends to ride a bit “harsh” in bumpy conditions), but not as expensive to purchase as a full-carbon frame.
Bottom bracket height is a contentious issue in the sport of ‘cross. In the past (before clipless pedals were common,) all ‘cross bikes had high bottom brackets. Since cyclists often took the first few pedal strokes after remounting on the “wrong” side of the pedals, their clips and straps would drag on the ground. Bottom bracket height was increased to account for this, keeping clips and straps clear of the ground. Higher bottom brackets also allow for more clearance of roots and rocks on trails, which is an issue on some ‘cross courses. However, with clipless pedals in common use, many modern ‘cross bikes do not subscribe to the “high bottom bracket” theory, and have bottom bracket heights similar to road bikes. After all, a low center of gravity is key both on the road and on the ‘cross course, and obstacles are generally taken while running, not riding. You will still find ‘cross bikes with high bottom brackets, and some with road-bike height. Test-ride a few of each if you can, and see which you prefer.
Frame size should be the same as your road bike, although if you are in-between sizes, a smaller frame is easier to maneuver on technical terrain. Try to duplicate the fit of your road bike as much as possible, keeping in mind that the stack height of mountain bike shoes and pedals may be significantly different than your road setup, so you will likely have to adjust your saddle height accordingly.
A cyclocross fork will have clearance for mud and wider tires (up to 35mm), and posts for mounting cantilever brakes. Fully-rigid forks are used rather than a suspension fork as is typically used in mountain biking. The fork is generally constructed of carbon or steel to minimize vibration and to soak up the many bumps typical of a ‘cross course.
Similar to the fork, stays on a cyclocross bike will generally be more widely spaced and of a simpler design in order to allow for clearance of wide tires and mud. You’re unlikely to find the super-tight clearance and wavy aerodynamic shaped stays common on modern road bikes on any cyclocross frame!
Keep in mind that as a beginning cyclocross racer, you don’t need to have a cyclocross-specific bike. (For those of you who are constantly looking for just the slightest excuse to buy a new bike, please skip the rest of this section.) Many beginner cyclocross racers have enjoyed the sport while riding their mountain bike or slightly modifying an old road or touring bike. If you are thinking of using a mountain bike, by all means use whatever you have. However, if you have some options, look for a rigid (or at least hardtail) mountain bike with a “normal” diamond frame that you can fit your arm through (e.g. not a “Y-frame.”) If possible, lock out your suspension as well if you have the option. You may be required by race organizers to remove bar-ends or other accessories for safety reasons, so make sure to verify this with the race officials.
If you have a touring or commuting bike, it may also work for cyclocross. If the bike has clearance for knobby tires, you’re in luck, and you can be ready to race with only a small investment in some 700c cyclocross rubber (see Tires below.) Test out your bike in muddy wet conditions before racing to make sure the brakes have enough stopping power and don’t get clogged with mud (old-style steel rims common on older bikes do not play nicely with wet conditions, for example.) Another option is to look for used cyclocross bikes. Like most race bikes, they are often easy to find when serious racers upgrade every year or two. However, because they can be treated to tough conditions, always make sure any used bike you purchase has been well maintained and is still structurally and mechanically sound. If in doubt, have your favorite mechanic take a look at it before you buy.
After you’ve done a few races, you’ll likely decide that a cyclocross specific bike is in fact worth the investment, but many riders start off using one of the above options. Please do keep in mind that for some races, you will be required to ride a cyclocross bike, not a mountain bike or modified touring rig. Always be sure to check with the race organizers or commissaire well before the event if you are unsure of the suitability of your bike.
As a roadie, there’s an added advantage to having a cyclocross bike; they make excellent road bikes as well. By having a cyclocross bike in your stable, a quick switch of wheels (or just tires) turns it into an instant “rain bike” for the road, or a winter “beater” to save your fancy road bike from the salt and grit of winter roads. The lower gearing of a ‘cross bike is not much of a disadvantage in rainy or wintery conditions, when it’s a good idea to be taking it a bit easy anyway!
In the past, cantilever brakes were the most common type of brakes used on cyclocross bikes. The main advantage of cantilever brakes over a typical road bike caliper brake is the increased clearance for wider tires and mud, which is essential for racing ‘cross. Many cyclocross bikes will have the brake (and shifter) cables mounted along the top of the top-tube, rather than along the bottom as is typical on a road bike. The reason for this is to allow for more comfortable portaging (shouldering) of the bike, as the design keeps the cables clear of your body.
Disc brakes have since become most common in cyclocross with newer bikes. In spite of their strong stopping power and excellent performance in muddy conditions are ideal for the sport, they were initially banned by UCI regulations until 2010. As such, most cyclocross specific bikes were sold without them until they also became common in the pro ranks. But as soon as they were allowed in the pro ranks, most mid to high level cyclocross bikes quickly also changed to feature disc brakes.
Some racers will use top-mount “interrupter levers” which are accessible from the tops of the bars to allow for braking from this position as well as from the standard positions allowed by a typical brake lever. These secondary levers can be quite useful on tricky courses, and are well worth considering if you are trying out the sport for the first time; they may increase your comfort in dicey situations by allowing you to apply the brakes without moving your hands to the hoods or drops.
Since ‘cross courses contain many steep or muddy sections, it is useful to have gearing that is lower than a typical road bike. As such, you’ll often see ‘cross bikes with a compact road crankset and/or a mountain bike or “high range” road cassette, often with a mountain bike rear derailleur as well. It is also quite common to see cyclocross racers with a single-chainring setup, which simplifies maintenance and decreases mechanical complexity, minimizing issues in tough muddy conditions. Another benefit of a single-chainring setup is decreased weight due to the lack of front derailleur and second chainring (although a “bash guard” is often used to prevent damage to the rings and to prevent the chain from dropping off.)
Almost any type of 700c road wheel can be used for cyclocross. However, since the sport can be hard on gear, it may not be the best idea to use your fancy low-spoke-count ultralight carbon racing wheels. A standard 32 or 36 spoke box rim wheel of high quality will work admirably in all conditions that you will encounter on a ‘cross course, and be tough enough to handle the abuse. You may see some racers with deep-dish carbon rims, which tend to be lighter weight and (some argue) cut through the mud a bit better. However, I suggest leaving these to the guys that can afford them (or are good enough to notice the difference!) and using something a bit more practical. Obviously, you’ll need either clincher or tubular rims to match the tires you plan on using (see Tires below).
There are a few major considerations when choosing tires for cyclocross; type (clincher vs. tubular), tire pressure, tread pattern, and tire width. Below, we’ll consider each of these attributes and help you to decide what is best for you.
Tubular vs. Clincher
The first choice you will have to make is between tubular and clincher tires. Obviously, if you already have a bike and wheels, you will run tires that match with the type of wheels you already own. However, if you are looking to buy a new bike or wheelset, you will need to make a decision.
The main advantage of tubular tires is that they allow you to run at very low pressure, which (as you will learn below) is very advantageous in cyclocross racing. As well, you may find a better selection of cyclocross specific tread patterns for tubular tires, since they are more popular than clinchers for ‘cross. Other advantages are lighter weight and increased “feel” for the course, and a greatly reduced chance of pinch-flatting.
Disadvantages for tubulars are the increased labour in mounting/gluing/maintaining your tires, and the difficulty in swapping tires quickly based on conditions. For this reason, you will see some tubular riders with a large collection of wheelsets, one set up with tires for each possible set of conditions. This obviously raises another downside of tubulars—the cost, which for most is considerably higher than clinchers.
Clinchers do have some advantages over tubulars. Firstly, they are much easier to deal with; you can easily mount and swap tires, and you can change a tube to fix a flat. Another advantage is that clinchers tend to be much less expensive than tubulars, and don’t require you to own multiple wheelsets for changing conditions, since it’s much easier to just swap tires on one set of rims.
Disadvantages to clinchers include weight, lack of selection, and the inability to run at the very low pressures of a tubular tire. Weight is obviously a consideration, although perhaps not a big enough one to base your entire decision on. Lack of selection in tread patterns is less of a problem than it was, with many ‘cross-specific tread patterns now available for clinchers. The main disadvantage of clinchers is, of course, the fact that you can’t run at the same low pressures as you can with tubulars because you’ll risk pinch-flatting. This is the main reason most competitive riders use tubulars.
The objective in cyclocross is to run at the lowest possible tire pressure you can without pinch-flatting or damaging your rims. The reason for this is that a lower pressure allows for a larger “contact patch” and thus increases grip on the terrain. This increase in grip is critical on terrain typical of a ‘cross course. Also, lower pressure allows for a smoother ride by absorbing some of the bumps and vibrations of the course. Since you don’t have the benefit of suspension like you do on a mountain bike, this is a significant benefit. Riders with lower tire pressure will be less fatigued from vibrations, and thus able to spend more energy where it counts.
Choosing the optimal tire pressure can be tough, and the optimal pressure on one course is not necessarily the one you will want to use on a different course (or even the same course under different conditions.) If the course is fast and not very technical, you will want to run a higher pressure than you would if it was muddy, technical, or very bumpy. However, some courses will contain a combination of these conditions, so their proportions will help you decide the best pressure for the day.
If you’re unsure what pressure to run, try asking some of the experienced riders. Most will be happy to tell you what they are using, and you can gain their experience simply by asking. Of course, it’s always best to ride a few laps of the actual course with different tire pressures on each lap to get a feel for what works best for you given the conditions.
In general, clincher tires can be run between 30 and 50 PSI. As mentioned above, tubular tires have the advantage of being virtually immune to pinch-flats, and thus can be run at an extremely low pressure, often in the 20-30 PSI range.
Tire pressure also varies based on your body weight, although less so than on the road. However, if you’re a heavy rider, you’ll probably want to run your tires a few PSI higher than recommended by lighterweight riders.
Tires for ‘cross come in a wide variety of tread patterns; from mountain-bike-style-knobby to “file treads” which have a very fine tread pattern. Most entry level cyclocross tires will be a medium aggressive tread, which is a great multi-purpose tire. If you can only have one set of ‘cross tires, this is what you’ll want.
In muddy conditions, you’ll likely want a tire with knobs that are spaced further apart, or a tire with smaller, less aggressive knobs. These types of tires allow mud to release from the tire as it spins, rather than get packed in the tread, which essentially turns your tires into very heavy slicks!
Courses with lots of grass and dry conditions are ideal for a file tread tire, as they don’t require the same amount of grip as a muddier or more technical course, and thus you can get away with the lighter, less aggressive (and thus, more efficient) tire.
Most ‘cross tires are between 28 and 35mm in width. However, the UCI width limit as of 2010 is 33mm, so you may see fewer wider tires available in future. Again, if you can have only one set of “do it all” tires, you’ll want to find something in the middle of that range (32mm are quite common). Contrary to what you may think, you don’t want to run super wide tires for cyclocross. Wide tires increase weight and pick up more mud than a narrower tire. Also, since the low tire pressure allows a narrower tire to deform, it actually has a quite large contact patch. Thus, an even wider tire is not necessary.
In some conditions, (mud, snow, or sand) a narrower tire is an advantage because it allows the tire to cut through the mud and get down to a solid surface to grip. Also, by cutting through the mud, you’re pushing less aside, which makes for a more efficient ride. Narrower tires also increase clearance between wheel and frame, and thus don’t get clogged up with mud as easily as wider tires do.
Pedals and Shoes
Typically, mountain bike clipless pedals are used in cyclocross as a result of their superior performance in muddy conditions. Shimano SPD, Time ATAC and CrankBrothers Eggbeater pedals are the most commonly used varieties, although any high-quality mountain bike pedal will work. Keep in mind that a double-sided pedal is best, as it allows you to clip in to either side of the pedal after remounting, rather than having to flip it around to a specific side. The CrankBrothers pedals are even better for this, allowing four-sided clip in.
Mountain bike shoes are best for cyclocross, both because they are designed to work with mountain bike pedals (and accept the proper cleats) and because they have tread which allows you to run in them, unlike smooth-soled road shoes. Also, mountain bike shoes tend to be slightly less stiff than road shoes, making running easier on your feet. Another advantage of mountain bike shoes is that many of them have optional toe spikes which screw in to increase grip in muddy conditions. These spikes are often necessary for ‘cross courses that are slippery and muddy, especially on steep hill run-ups!
Despite the mud-clearing designs of modern pedals and shoes, the significant running and mud of a ‘cross course may render even the best setup unuseable after a few laps. This is where it’s nice to have a spare bike in the pit, and someone to clean the mud/grass out of your pedals for you! Another option is to lube your pedals and cleats with a light oil to prevent mud from sticking, but even this wears off quickly in sloppy conditions.
Water Bottles and Cages
Most true cyclocross bikes do not have water bottle cages. Since you’ll be lifting the bike often, and sliding your arm through the main triangle of the frame, they tend to get in the way. If you have a bike with bottle cages, consider removing them. Don’t forget to cover the bosses that the cages screw into with a piece of electrical tape to keep out the water and mud, and to make them easier on your skin should you happen to scrape up against them.
Since you won’t have bottle cages, the best strategy is to start the race well hydrated, and finish the race by immediately replenishing fluids with water and/or a recovery drink. Luckily, the short duration of most ‘cross races makes this strategy possible, even though it’s not recommended for most cycling events.
Choosing appropriate clothing for cyclocross can be challenging. Since races have the potential to be very cold, you’ll need more than your standard summer road kit. However, you’ll also be working extremely hard for the time you are racing, and thus don’t want to overdress. In general, you should perform your pre-race warmup wearing extra layers that are easy to strip off immediately before the start of the race. Ideally, you would have a friend or family member at the start line who you can pass clothing to just before the race starts. If you are really lucky, your friend will also meet you at the finish with these clothes so that you can put them back on as soon as you cross the line. Removing clothing at the start will ensure that your muscles are warm when the race starts, and that you aren’t racing in too many heavy layers. During the race itself, you should be wearing the least possible amount of clothing that will keep you warm, since you don’t want to sweat too much. It’s a fine line, and it takes some experience to know what to wear in any given condition.
Just like road riding, most riders will wear a base layer under their jersey or skinsuit. This can be a sleeveless tank-top style, a T-shirt, or a long-sleeved crew-neck style, depending on the weather. Regardless of the style, the layer should be light and wick sweat away from your skin to keep you dry and comfortable. Most riders choose modern “technical” fabrics generally made from polyester, but new ultralight Merino wool is another great option, especially for colder conditions.
Most cyclocross racers will wear a standard cycling jersey for racing cyclocross. This is particularly true if you race for a team, and need to represent your sponsors! Long sleeved jerseys are especially well suited for cyclocross, as they are warmer than short sleeved jerseys.
Shorts, Knickers and Tights
Standard cycling shorts or bibs can be worn for cyclocross, and “knicker” length versions are great for cooler conditions. In very cold situations, some riders choose to wear full-length tights, either on top of their shorts, or alone if they have a chamois built in (many cycling tights do not.) Bibs are preferable to shorts since they have more coverage on the lower back and also tend to fit better and provide more support. Some manufacturers make “winter weight” versions of knickers and tights specifically for colder conditions. These are nice to have when the temperature drops.
Some riders (particularly at the higher levels of competition) prefer to wear skin suits, which have several advantages over a jersey and cycling shorts. First, skinsuits eliminate potential skin-exposing “gaps,” and thus are warmer than shorts and a jersey. Secondly, skinsuits tend to fit more snugly than standard jerseys, which results in less snagging when dismounting, shouldering, and remounting the bike. Long-sleeved skinsuits are ideal for ‘cross, both for their added warmth, and because the long, tight sleeve allows the bike to “slide” smoothly up your arm when shouldering the bike. Some companies are now manufacturing winter weight skinsuits specifically suited for cyclocross, which use warmer fabrics to make racing in cool or cold conditions more comfortable.
Arm and Knee or Leg Warmers
Arm and knee/leg warmers are great additions to your cyclocross (and road-riding!) wardrobe. Since it can be tough to choose exactly what to wear in a cyclocross race, warmers allow you to fine tune your clothing selection without re-dressing completely if you choose incorrectly. They’re also well suited for warming up before a race, as they can be stripped off quickly before the start.
Some riders choose to wear cycling vests while racing. Since they are generally windproof, vests are a great option for keeping your core warm in windy or cold conditions while leaving your arms unrestricted.
In some very cold or wet races, a windproof or waterproof jacket can be very useful. It will keep you dry in the rain, and, even if worn only during your warmup, will allow you to at least start your race in dry clothing! In particularly nasty conditions, you may choose to leave the jacket on to race, in which case it should be a “breathable” fabric to help reduce sweat buildup (notice I said “reduce” not “eliminate,” since no jacket could possibly keep you sweat-free under the high-output conditions of a ‘cross race.)
Wool socks are king for cyclocross! Wool will keep you warm when wet, is very comfortable, and takes all the abuse you can give it. If you haven’t tried modern Merino wool, it’s much better than the scratchy, tough wool you may be familiar with. Many companies now make cycling socks of Merino wool, and these are particularly well suited for cyclocross. However, most good Merino wool hiking or outdoor socks are fine for cyclocross, and many are warmer than the cycling specific versions. If you choose to go this route, just make sure that they aren’t so thick that they change the fit of your shoes!
Booties (shoe covers) are another useful cyclocross item. They’ll help keep your feet dry (important during cold races) and keep wind from freezing your toes when the temperature drops. The ventilation in most modern cycling shoes is not ideal for cyclocross, so covering it up with a booty will greatly increase your warmth. Look for booties with open bottoms to ensure you can still clip in to your pedals easily and run when required.
Some people associate embrocation (warming balm) with cyclocross. The term “Belgian Knee Warmers” refers to the use of embrocation in the sport. Use of embrocation is quite common, although benefits are debatable. Embrocation works by increasing blood flow to the skin. This is, of course, opposite of the body’s reaction of restricting blood to the skin during cold conditions. Thus, embrocation makes you feel warm, but actually makes you cool down quicker, since the blood at the surface cools down more quickly than blood deep in your body. However, because cyclocross is such a high-output activity, embrocation is useful to keep you feeling warm for the first lap or two until your body catches up and starts pumping warm blood back to your extremities. One thing to keep in mind when using embrocation is to be sure to apply shorts and chamois cream before applying embrocation! Also, be sure to wash your hands well after use, since rubbing your eyes may result in an uncomfortable situation otherwise!
Depending on weather conditions, you may choose to race in short-fingered cycling gloves, light long-fingered gloves or winter weight cycling gloves. In extreme cold conditions, “lobster” style mitts (where fingers are kept together in groups of two) will keep you warm, but make shifting and braking less comfortable. Regardless of the type of gloves you intend to wear, make sure you have enough dexterity to shift, brake and maneuver your bike as you race. Also make sure your gloves have enough grip to ensure you aren’t sliding off the bars or hoods if conditions get wet and muddy.
Of course a helmet is not an optional piece of equipment for cyclocross, and you will not be allowed to start the race without one. It goes without saying that you should also wear your helmet while warming up. Most racers choose to race with a road helmet, although there is nothing wrong with racing ‘cross in a mountain bike helmet. In some cases, the visor may be advantageous in keeping sun, water or mud out of your eyes and face.
Under-the-helmet-wear will likely depend on weather conditions and personal preference. In warm conditions, a light cycling cap or nothing at all works fine, while a light skull cap or toque is invaluable when the temperature drops.
It’s a good idea to always wear glasses while racing cyclocross. They will help to keep mud and debris out of your eyes. Depending on sun conditions, you may choose to use dark lenses, yellow-tinted lenses, or clear lenses. Regardless, get lenses that block UV rays to protect your eyes. In some wet conditions glasses may decrease your vision by getting covered in water or getting fogged up. In these cases, pass your glasses off to a friend or family member on the sidelines if you don’t have a jersey pocket to stuff them into.
Post Race Gear
Be sure to pack a bag with post-race gear items, including a warm, dry change of clothes, your recovery food and drink, a towel and other items to wash up. Some races will have shower facilities available, so bring a towel, soap, shampoo, and other necessary toiletries if this is the case. If your race venue does not have shower facilities, a towel is still useful to wipe down after the race, and no-rinse sports soap is available to get some of the grime off.
Further Information (a.k.a. I’m hooked, now what?)
There is a wealth of cyclocross information available on the internet. Here are some great resources for you to continue your study in the world of ‘cross!
Cyclocross Magazine – http://www.cxmagazine.com/
Cyclocross World – http://www.cyclocrossworld.com/
CrossTube.net – http://www.crosstube.net/
Official UCI Cyclocross Regulations – http://www.uci.ch/
Cycle-Smart – http://www.cycle-smart.com/articles/
If books are more your thing, you have a couple of options (aside from what you’re reading now, of course!)
Cyclo-Cross: Training and Technique by Simon Burney, 1998. ISBN: 978-1884737206
The Complete Book of Cyclocross, Skill Training and Racing by Scott R Mares, 2008. ISBN: 978-0615224855
Cyclocross in the USA
In the United States, local cyclocross events are held in many states. A great resource is the USA Cycling website (http://www.usacycling.org/events/index.php?race=Cyclo-cross), which lists events by state. For the 2009 race season, all states except Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming had at least one race listed on the USA Cycling website.
Another great resource to find local cyclocross races is the Cyclocross Magazine calendar (http://cxmagazine.com/national-cyclocross-calendar-races-clinics) which lists events by region.
Cyclocrossworld.com also maintains an excellent event calendar, which you can find at http://www.cyclocrossworld.com/Calendar.cfm
The largest race in North America was CrossVegas, which was held in Las Vegas in conjunction with the annual Interbike cycling industry trade show. Many professional racers attended the race, including Lance Armstrong in 2008. It moved to Reno in 2018.
Popular cyclocross series in the US include the US Gran Prix of Cyclocross (http://www.usgpcyclocross.com/), the Surf City
Cyclo-X Series (http://www.cyclo-x.com/), and the Verge New England Cyclo-Cross Series (http://www.cycle-smart.com/events/neccs) among many others.
Hopefully these few resources, a quick web search, or some initial questioning at your local bike shop or club will turn up an event near you so you can get started!
In Canada, cyclocross is not quite as widespread as it is in the USA. However, there are several race series that draw lots of riders, and participation in these events continues to grow. For more information, check the websites listed below.
Alberta Bicycle Association: http://www.albertabicycle.ab.ca/
Saskatchewan Cycling Association: http://www.saskcycling.ca/cyclocross.html
Cyclocross Manitoba: http://cxmb.blogspot.com/
Manitoba Union of Cyclocross Riders: http://manitoba-union-cyclocross-riders.blogspot.com/
Manitoba Cycling Association: http://www.cycling.mb.ca/
Eastern Ontario Cyclocross Series – http://www.cyclocross.org
Cyclocross Ontario – http://www.cyclocrossontario.com/
Fédération Québécoise des Sports Cyclistes (FQSC): http://www.fqsc.net/
Bicycle Nova Scotia: http://bicycle.ns.ca/
Cycling PEI: http://cpei.ca/
Bicycle Newfoundland & Labrador: http://www.bnl.nf.ca/
I can’t possibly hope to provide resources to find local cyclocross events around the World, so hopefully the few links below will get you on the right track. Again, a web search or quick query at your local shop will point you in the right direction. Here are some places to start:
Cyclocross Australia: http://www.cyclocrossaustralia.com
UK Cyclocross: http://www.ukcyclocross.com/
Irish Cycling: http://www.irishcycling.com/
About the Author
Darren Cope is a cyclocross enthusiast and recreational road cyclist living in the Ottawa, Ontario, Canada area. Darren rides approximately 6000 road kilometers (3700 miles) per year, races ‘cross in the fall and dabbles at cross-country skiing in the Gatineau Hills when the snow gets too deep to ride bikes. Find out more about Darren at http://darrencope.com
About the Photographer
Shawn Warner is a photographer, designer and avid cyclist living in Perth, Ontario, Canada. In late 2009, Shawn took his long time hobby and passion for photography to the next level, starting Inspired Images: Photography & Graphic Design. He specializes in casual family portraits and sports photography. For more information go to www.inspiredphoto.ca
super through article.. minor quibble… Sven Nys is not the dominant pro he was in the past.. the last couple of years have seen the rise of Van der Poel, Van Aert, and Aerts
Graham Wilson says
LOVE CX… race every weekend from Sep to Dec here in IL – Two points Sven retired in 2016, and the dismount shown in the pic is not used any more – at the clinics we teach we do not bring the inner foot to the front – rather unclip and the hop off with the clipped in foot at the last micro second. Thanks
Jeff vdD says
I shared the following with RBR:
I loved your CX article, but don’t see a dateline on it. My guess, though, is that it’s pretty dated! Niels Albert a young gun!? [grin]
A few updates you might consider:
1. Updating “According to the Pros” to include more contemporary racers.
2. Updating “How to Participate” by adding BikeReg.com as a place to search for local races.
3. Updating the “Dismounts” section to eradicate mention of the “step through” … no new CXer should try this move, and even experienced CXers will see near-zero benefit despite the added risk of falling.
4. Updating “Remounts” to suggest that it’s more important to get power to the pedals first than it is to clip in.
5. Updating “Shouldering” to remove the bit about padding the top tube. I’ve raced more than 140 races beginning in 2012 and have NEVER seen this.
6. Updating “Bikes” to indicate that gravel bikes are a great entry point into CX.
7. Updating “Brakes” to indicate that almost all new bikes have disc brakes, and that the “interrupter levers” are a thing of the past.
8. Updating “Wheels” and “Tires” to mention tubeless.
9. Updating “Tire Width” to indicate that for most racers (that is, non-UCI racers), gravel tires in the 35mm-40mm range are becoming more common.
tom wojcik says
very thorough list – all valid comments!
Tom Wojcik says
agree with the above posts…reference to the big names who have left the sport 5 or more years ago definitely dates this article. How about Clara Honsinger? MVDP and Wout? Pidcock? Eli Iserbyt? That being said, CX is great – we have an excellent series on Vancouver Island called Cross on the Rock – we regularly see 400 racers out, and the best part is seeing the younglings (as the organizer calls them) racing. Kids start as your as 6 or 7 and come back year after year. Of course, both of their parents are also out racing. Way better than road bike racing, as with the short laps, there’s always another racer close by. Also, if you’re somewhat slow, it’s not as obvious (getting lapped is a common occurrence), and everyone has fun!