Winters coming - Cyclocross on the CruX
We all know riding buddies who are essentially amateur meteorologists. They talk of low-pressure systems, storm-cells from the east, whisper in hushed tones about the forthcoming westerly. In the run-up to almost any group ride from October until April the great British weather is talked about more than any other subject. There’s even websites to feed the interest.
It’s no surprise really. Cycling exposes you to the elements more than most activities, putting you at the mercy of howling gales and sudden downpours. Even when it stops raining the trails are inches deep in mud and corners on country lanes require careful negotiation.
Winter can really test your resolve. As the days get colder and the mornings get darker it can be more and more difficult to prise yourself out of that comfy bed and head outdoors. But at the same time, you’re a cyclist, right? It’s what you do, and it’s what you need – it keeps you sane. This is where cyclocross comes in – a way of getting your riding fix throughout the depths of winter without the risks of icy roads and frozen fingers.
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What is cyclocross?
The sport of cyclocross has its roots in the traditional road-racing season. Well, the off-season to be more accurate. When European racing dominated the professional calendar the riders needed a way to maintain fitness and, like us amateurs, get that bike fix through the quiet months of winter. Long before off-season training camps in Tenerife and the Tour Down Under, cyclocross developed. Short, sharp races off-road, normally around a park or in a farmer’s field, they helped riders to keep form and morale up for spring. Nothing prepared them for the cobbles and bergs of Belgium better than a winter of slipping and sliding around after each other for an hour every weekend.
Cyclocross, or ‘CX’ as it’s often abbreviated, is huge nowadays – in Belgium and the Netherlands there are massive events every weekend, live on national TV and drawing huge crowds. The sport’s popularity has jumped the Channel to the UK – there are race series and stand-alone events in most towns and cities all the way until March. If you’re interested be sure to ask our in-store staff – many of them ride CX and they’ll happily tell you the where, when and why.
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Typically held in a local park, and lasting an hour or so, CX offers a quick blast of bike fun without lasting so long that your fingers fall off. With seven or eight laps of a circuit with small climbs, descents and obstacles, cyclocross tests bike-handling skills while kids and friends can watch on as you (hopefully) stay upright and upfront. It is friendly, exciting, frankly pretty silly, and a brilliant way to spend a mucky hour or so each weekend before retiring to the warmth of the pub.
It’s easy to spot the CX riders in your club. When the club weathermen start talking about those storm cells they’re the ones with a glint in their eye.
OK, I’m convinced. What next?
With muddy conditions, intense levels of activity, and plenty of dismounting and remounting of the bike, cyclocross demands a lot from both bike and rider. It used to be that riders would simply pop a set of chunky tyres on their race bike and get going, but a specific cyclocross bike will make the whole thing a lot more fun and be durable to keep you coming back for more. Leave the lightweight carbon bike for summer. Nimble handling, a lightweight but strong frame, disc brakes and wide tyres are the calling cards of the CX bike.
All Specialized CX bikes come with 1x drivetrains, doing away with the front mech while having a larger gear range on the rear cassette. Cyclocross races are short and sharp affairs, and don’t have long climbs or descents, so there’s less need for the number of gears offered by traditional systems. This means one less thing to worry about when changing gear and one less thing to get clogged with mud – not to mention a reduced number of moving parts to go wrong in the heat of the action.
The 2019 CruX E5 Sport is the ideal bike to get you out there and get after it. A durable E5 Premium aluminium frame and FACT carbon fork is light, rugged and responsive. Hydraulic disc brakes, SRAM Apex 1X drivetrain, sturdy Axis wheels and 33mm tyres add up to a nippy machine, perfect if you’re just getting into cyclocross or exploring the road less travelled.
The CruX Elite steps things up a little to deliver a no-nonsense approach to the discipline of cyclocross. The FACT 11r carbon frame comes in at a svelte 900 grams for a 56cm. A light frame won’t win a CX race on its own though, and the CruX Elite combines stiffness and compliance in all the right places. CX races are often won and lost in the corners and over the barriers, and the CruX Elite geometry is designed for easy shouldering. The low bottom bracket and sharp front-end handling offers stability and speed regardless of the terrain. Tubeless ready 33mm tyres give you all the traction you need while the ample clearance reduces the muck build-up. There’s no use having a lightweight bike if it’s caked in a couple of kilos of mud.
Our range-topping S-Works CruX is a purebred racing machine – it’s really that simple. A cyclocross rig that really flies, it boasts confident handling and impressive top speed - it’s no wonder it has bagged multiple CX World Championships.
Because the CruX is designed to make riding on rutted slippery surfaces easier, it’s perfectly suited to the British winter. Get the CruX and you might find this could be the only bike you ever need.
There’s a world of CX fun waiting for you at the Concept Store. Be sure to check out the full CruX range and if you see us at any races come and say hi. If you beat us in the race we’ll see you in the pub.
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