What is Cyclocross?
Some would lament the end of summer as we progress through September at an alarming pace. However, even though our carbon road steeds will see little other than the insides of the stable for the remainder of 2017, there is still a lot to look forward to this year. Not least the astronomically popular winter cycling discipline of cyclocross. It has emerged as a fantastic way to develop skills transferrable to the road and to get stuck into a new discipline, maintaining enthusiasm through the winter months. So, what is cyclocross and what do you need to get started?
Cyclocross could be considered a variation of the steeplechase raced on modified road bikes. Courses tend to traverse a mix of paved and non-paved, sand, dirt and muddy trails, littered with technical corners, sharp ramps and even the occasional staircase. Cyclocross demands a healthy mix of skills including cycling and running and requires superlative bike handling prowess, or an ability to learn, and fast. It is not uncommon for a cyclocross rider to swing out of the saddle and shoulder the bike to negotiate certain obstacles before hurling themselves back onto the razor-sharp seat.
The cyclocross scene is particularly strong in mainland Europe with some of the most successful riders hailing from Belgium and the Netherlands, but it has experienced a boom in the UK, US and Australia in recent years. A festival atmosphere is all part and parcel of the professional cyclocross calendar. Enthusiastic fans brave the weather to line the 1-3km courses for about an hour of brutally hard and fast racing.
Its growing popularity all over the world is giving rise to a whole host of new events for all levels of rider. A quick internet search will yield more results than you could possibly hope to fill your calendar with, but your regional league is a good place to start.
Cyclocross bikes look like a versatile disc-equipped road bike to the uninitiated. The differences can be found in the frame geometry and component choices. Frames tend to offer far greater clearance for the inevitable mud and grit, and the geometry of cyclocross bikes is designed to foster greater agility than their road cousins. The 2018 Specialized Crux has benefited from a refreshed race-ready design, maximising its responsiveness, agility and efficiency whatever the weather. Here are a few models from the new range:
Where gearing is concerned, many top-level cyclocross athletes favour a one-by setup with a single chainring at front paired with an 11-speed cassette at the rear, and wheels and tyres must be engineered to stand up to a real battering in all sorts of weather conditions. Have a look at some of our tyres here:
With the bike and components sorted, it only remains to prepare yourself for the winter campaign. The muddy and cold conditions and skilful nature of the discipline demand footwear that bridge the gap between road and mountain biking. Helmets are of course vital and yet not discipline specific, so a comfortable aero offering that provides a little ventilation for those intense efforts will come in handy. Finally, you’ll want a good warm and non-restrictive jersey for those cold hours in the saddle.
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