1 November 2019 - News
Get Involved with Cyclocross this Autumn
If you have read our previous blog posts and are now eager to give Cyclocross a go then read on for more information. We will try and answer the main questions you may have about cross so you’ll be totally ready and more importantly, super excited, to give this great winter sport a go during the 2019/20 season.
What do I need to know before beginning Cyclocross?
The majority of cross races will feature all age categories on the same day with everyone taking to the start line at a different time. This makes cyclocross a brilliant day out for the whole family.
For the youngest age groups, the beginner's cyclocross races normally last for around 10 minutes (going up to 30 minutes for the older kids). After the first lap, it’s impossible to know who’s first and who’s last! There’s nothing to worry about if you’re at the back and no need to be embarrassed, all the riders finish on the same lap if they have been lapped or not.
This makes cross an amazing sport for beginners, there’s no apprehension about coming last because nobody will know if you’ve been lapped once or 4 times. The results are published later with actual placings for those who are actively racing rather than just out there to have fun.
Choosing your Cyclocross bike
Similar to road bikes, they have dropped handlebars and need to be lightweight so that you can dismount and run whilst negotiating course obstacles. Dismounting and remounting are integral bike handling skills during a bike race. There are also many differences between a road bike and a cross bike which we covered in our previous blog post - Cross is Coming
To view our range of Cyclocross bikes click here 👇
What do I wear/take with me?
Clothing for cross is very similar to road racing but it is a sport ridden in the cold-weather months so long sleeves, tights, arm and leg warmers are often seen in races. For the serious elite racers, there is even a preference towards skinsuits which offer more freedom of movement and less chance of getting caught on branches and other natural features on the course!
When starting out, the most important thing is to stay warm and dry but do remember cross is a tough sport so even if it is cold at the start you’ll be warm in no time. A lightweight, windproof jacket is a great way to keep warm before and at the start of the race but can be taken off and put in a pocket if you don’t need it.
It is likely there will be sections where you will need to run with your bike, so mountain bike shoes for those riding clipped in are preferred due to the extra traction underfoot. If you have flat pedals then a good pair of running shoes or trail running shoes with plenty of grip will be perfect. The professionals take their shoes to the next level including toe spikes to help when running up steep, muddy sections, similar to cross country running shoes.
Full-fingered gloves are best for grip in wet weather for both protection and to keep your fingers warm on particularly cold days. Some riders prefer not to wear gloves at all to make carrying the bike easier and to get better feedback from their bike/handlebars in the tricky sections.
Clear glasses are worth considering, they will shield your eyes from mud and other grit during the race. If it is particularly muddy then they can get too dirty to see out of so it is always best to decide on the day.
Stay warm when cycling
If it is super cold you may want to pop a thin headband under your helmet to keep your ears warm. When it’s not so cold, a thin headband will help keep any sweat from running into your eyes!
Don't forget your post-race clothing, once you’ve been riding around a muddy course in your local park, you might not be welcome back in the car in your riding clothes! Pack a hoodie and jogging bottoms or something equally warm and easy to put on by the car in case there are no changing areas.
Have a bottle of water ready for after you finish and you can also pack a flask of hot chocolate for some post-ride warmth and energy!
If cyclocross events become a regular weekend fixture a portable jet washer may be a worthwhile investment to get some of the mud off before heading home. A quick spray down and wiping the chain will be more than enough before a thorough bike clean back at home.
Techniques to Master
Cyclocross can be a very physically demanding sport so stamina is required in order to complete a Cross race. The good thing is that there is no set number of course laps to complete, you are free to ride at a pace comfortable for you and will still finish at a similar time to the race leader.
Although it is a tough discipline there are lots of techniques that you can learn and practice to make it a little easier and to get a little quicker once you’re hooked!
- 🚴 Riding on grass and gravel paths
Many courses are on grass fields so getting used to riding on grass which requires more strength than tarmac will be really helpful. Likewise, gravel paths are more unstable than roads and pavements so regularly riding along uneven paths will increase confidence
- 🚴 Riding off camber
It’s important to get tyre pressures right when riding on uneven, muddy ground or off-camber. Feeling confident and trusting that the bike will stay upright on a camber will help them tackle any cyclocross course
- 🚴 Carrying your bike
Knowing how to comfortably carry (shoulder) a bike will make obstacles and running sections far less daunting. Practice finding the balance point on your top tube that allows both wheels to stay parallel when you lift your bike. This will avoid hitting either of the wheels on the obstacle if you are climbing over something
- 🚴 Cornering
The best line can change throughout the race as the course becomes muddy and churned up in places. Keeping your speed up in corners will require picking the best line, looking ahead and through the corner to carry speed out and through the next section
- 🚴 Running dismounts
It is common to get off the bike when it is not possible to ride during a cyclocross race. Being able to dismount quickly, without stopping gives the rider a massive advantage over those who have to stop. It’s recommended to dismount on the left (non-drive side) and don’t forget to select a gear that will make it easy to pedal when you re-mount!
- 🚴 Running re-mounts
To get going again quickly try to remount your bike whilst running. Run with the bike in your right hand with your hands where they feel most stable on the handlebars, look forward to stay straight and swing your right leg over the saddle, quickly moving into your riding position. Don’t forget to get pedalling quickly, especially if the ground is muddy
- 🚴 Race starts
Races will often start in a wide area quickly moving into narrower sections. A strong start will give you space as the course narrows rather than being in a big bunch of riders
- 🚴 Bunny hops and wheelies
Being able to bunny hop or pick up your front wheel allows you to get over some lower obstacles and ditches without dismounting which can earn valuable seconds as you become more competitive
- 🚴 Single Track riding on local trails
Riding local trail centres and single track at weekends is a fantastic way to increase confidence on uneven ground and steep sections making the cyclo-cross course terrain feel less unknown. Don’t forget to include some steep hills too!
- 🚴 Ride at a local pump track
Pump tracks are a fantastic way to learn bike skills and gain confidence. There are more and more small, family-friendly pump tracks opening all over the UK so it should be really easy to find one local to you
How to find local clubs and races
We asked Frog Cyclocross rider, Ellie, how she first got into cyclo-cross and she told us that her dad got in contact with their local cycling club to see if she could join in and give it a try. She’s been hooked ever since!
So contact your local cycling club to find out if they have a junior team or club that your child can join. They will often hold skills sessions, group rides and of course be aware of all the local races and events to get involved in.
If you fancy just popping along and trying out a race then you can use this handy event finder to see when your next local event is taking place.
This winter give Cyclocross a go and become a World Champion in training!
Happy Racing Everyone 👊