If you’re reading this, you’ve have either painfully experienced several cyclocross races or are wondering how to jump into this wonderful, addictive, and, more importantly, crazy discipline of cycling.
The basics go something like this (and, as many of you may know, even the basics don’t sound like a bike race or a particularly sane undertaking, for that matter). A cyclocross race is a circuit typically contested on local parks and sometimes on private lands. The course is mostly grass mixed with a variety of dirt road, pavement and trails. Beginner races last about 30 minutes, while professional events can go on for up to an hour.
Within that circuit, riders encounter wooden barriers so high that they must dismount the bike, hills so steep as to be almost unrideable, and sands pits that completely suck the momentum from tires.
Some courses also have natural obstacles such as fallen trees, rocks, or creeks where participants must again jump off the bike, carry it to the other side, and then jump back on without damaging the bike or themselves.
I know I don’t paint a very pretty picture, but it’s really not all bad because by the time you realize how horrible it is, you only have two laps to go and your competitive instincts won’t let you quit. And, the change of pace and the high adrenaline associated with almost crashing every few minutes are very attractive.
Now that you’re aware of what you’ll be getting into, let’s talk about the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” to help you avoid all the painful mistakes I went through.
If you are still reading, then you were meant for this sport and I salute you.
The most important thing is to practice getting on and off the bike, so much so that you don't have to think about it.
At this point, if you have to carry your bike over a barrier or obstacle, you will grab the top tube with your right hand, lift the bike over the barrier, and gently put it back on the ground. If you drop the bike to the ground, a hard landing will typically cause the chain to fall off the front gears.
Now, let’s talk about sand pits. Sand pits are strange in the sense that speed can be your friend if your body is in the right position and your worst enemy if you’re leaning forward and putting weight on the front wheel.
Ultimately, a cyclocross race is a series of sprints that are interrupted by barriers, steep hills, and sand pits. Once you have honed your skills and feel ready for battle, sign up and enjoy the rush and camaraderie as you discover why more people are signing up for cyclocross races every year. Please feel free to email me about your experience, and you are always welcome to email me with questions about training and racing anytime.