Q: Do I need a special bike?
A: Cyclo-Cross (often abbreviated to ‘Cross) machines look very similar to road bikes, with dropped handlebars and thin tyres – however the latter have a knobbled-tread for grip, powerful brakes, low gears and better frame clearances to prevent clogging with mud, all of which adds up to make them easy to handle on the rough.
Q: What should I wear?
A: Clothing is similar to that of road racing. However, since cyclo-cross is a cold-weather sport there is an emphasis toward warmer clothing such as long sleeves, tights, knickers and arm and leg warmers. In the warmer races there is a very strong preference for skinsuits for maximizing freedom of movement. The other advantage of skinsuits is that they are tighter, preventing the jersey from getting caught on stray tree branches during some singletrack sections of the race course. Mountain bike shoes are adopted, as they allow the competitors to run, unlike their road racing counterparts and their degree of traction (compared to smooth bottoms found on road racing shoes). Toe studs are used to aid in running up steep muddy slopes and in the adverse underfoot conditions.
Q: What are the courses like?
A: Cyclo-Cross races are usually multi lap events, held on short (typically less than a mile and often less than half a mile), grassy courses, generally in public parks or on school playing fields. Less technically demanding than Mountain Biking, Cyclo-Cross often requires riders to dismount to clear artificial obstacles ñ often wooden boards. The ability to swap smoothly and quickly from riding to running and back to riding in one fluid motion is a key skill for advanced riders.
Q: What are the races like?
A: Cyclo-Cross is generally an autumn and winter sport. Massed starts make for exciting races, usually no more than an hour in length ñ and shorter for juniors, women and veterans. There are usually free-to-enter races for younger riders. Some organisers are now starting to run summer series, which are proving very popular. The short lap lengths mean that better riders often lap some of the slower competitors, but thatís not the end of the race ñ you can still submerge yourself in the action, enjoy your own private battles and forget whether you are first or a hundred and first ñ thatís the beauty of the sport: itís what you make of it that counts.
Q: Where can I find out more?
A: By visiting these sites: