Hopefully you’re reading this, and you’re not exactly sure of what you just saw. You were minding your own business, giving the poochy-pants a good walk in the park, and you came upon a tragically beautiful mess of crazy people. Perhaps it would be safe to say that:
You know you just saw boyz and gurlz on bicycles, hoping on and off, running—on purpose—with bicycle on shoulder, up a steep hill, in the rainy month of November. You stumbled upon spectators: they were drinking coffee, making their welly boots look oh so hot, and they looked entirely pedestrian.
You are also pretty sure you recently heard people ringing cowbells and yelling “hup! hup! hup!” (or was it hop?) at the top of their lungs. You heard mumblings of “run up”, “dismount” and “pit-area”. You didn’t know what that meant, but you wised up and checked out the MFG Dictionary.
Finally, you felt the softness in your rear last Sunday, and decided it was time to do SOMETHING other than watch football, in your sweatpants, with a glass of Chianti, for the eighth week in a row.
And so here we are: You’ve found us! Congratulations! Consider this our personal invitation to come out to a dirty, sweaty, muddy, competitive, event called cyclocross, where your 45 minutes of effort makes you famous the next day.
What is cyclocross?
Cyclocross is a bicycle-related sport combining the fitness of road riding, the technical bike handling skills of mountain biking, and the finesse of running all in a 45-60 minute event. Typically, cyclocross-specific bikes are used (looking like a road bike, but with a wider, knobby tire, and good mud clearance at the brakes). Mountain bikes can be used, too.
Where are cyclocross events held?
Typically, cyclocross events are held at city parks. The race will consist of a 2.5 kilometer loop featuring grass, pavement, mud, sand, and some natural and man-made elements, where getting on and off the bike will be necessary.
How do I race a cyclocross race?
Bike: Get a bike! That’s a good start. Borrow a bike, rent a bike, free a bike…but just bring a bike with you to the race. Some folks you’ll meet at cyclocross races will have very specific equipment. Think of bowling. Some will have the shoes; some will not. Some will have the wrist guards, others will definitely not. But you are still there, to have fun, and does it really matter if you have the uniform? That’s not for us to decide…it’s really up to you.
Clothing: You’ll be riding your bike as fast as you possibly can for 30-60 minutes. It will most likely be cold, raining, or muddy. Or cold, raining, and muddy! Think comfort. And making it look good, too, counts for something.
Helmet: Yes, please. This isn’t Antwerp, this isn’t Amsterdam. We wear helmets in the USA.
Strategy: Go fast and make it last. Seriously. You can’t possibly sprint for a 45 minute race. You might try, though. The key is fast-paced sustainable action. Sometimes it’s faster to run sections. Sometimes, staying on the bike is the only option. Coast less often. Corner smartly. Own your place in the race.