There are many different types of sports and activities that you can enjoy when you choose to ride a bike. There are road races, for example, which have been popular almost since the invention of the bicycle. However, there is another option that you might want to consider if you are looking for something that is a true athletic challenge. It is called cyclocross, and we will be delving deeper into this sport to see what it is and what it offers, so you can decide whether it might be something you want to try yourself.
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How Long Has Cyclocross Been Around?
Because it has started to gain a lot more popularity in the crowd outside of the hardcore fans and racers in recent years, there are many who think that cyclocross is a relatively new type of racing. However, that’s not the case. In fact, this manner of racing was first developed in the early part of the 1900s. It was used as training for road racers and it was a way to ensure that they kept in shape during the off season – the fall and the winter.
Not only would this type of training help them to stay in shape, but it was also proving to be a great way to vastly improve their skills and their overall fitness. As time passed, some of the participants of cyclocross decided that they no longer wanted to focus on road racing and they began to pursue cyclocross as their preferred type of race. Today, you will find that there are some racers who only do cyclocross, but – just like when it began – there are others who are interested in using it as a means to keep themselves in racing shape during the off season. If you want to ride and compete year round, and you have the fortitude to do it, you are going to love cyclocross.
Today, you will find that this sport is enjoying a popularity that it has not seen before. It is very popular in Europe, as well as Australia, the UK, and the United States. There are events and races held around the country and around the world for racers of all levels. It can be fun for spectators, as well as racers.
Of course, if you don’t know anything about cyclocross, you might be wondering what makes it different from other types of races other than the time of year when people are racing. Quite a bit, actually, as you will see below!
What Makes Cyclocross Different?
One of the first things that you will notice about cyclocross is that the events tend to be held during the fall and the winter. This means that depending on the location where you will be racing, you might have some inhospitable grounds. It could be cold, frozen, muddy and wet, and generally in terrible condition. This is normal for these racers, and it is where they thrive.
Getting off the bike is something that you are going to see with these types of races, as well, which is something that helps to set it apart from mountain bike racing. In fact, running and hauling your bike with you is one of the key elements to cyclocross. If a racer is strong, they are going to have an advantage with these types of races. The sections where you need to run may include obstacles, such as muddy areas that would bog down a bike. The rider is going to need to dismount in certain areas and will need to carry their bike up impossibly steep inclines, over obstacles, and more. Make no mistake about it – when you are in cyclocross, you are going to get dirty.
The length of these races can vary depending on the category of the participants. Most of the time, they are going to take between 30 minutes and an hour to complete the race, and the courses themselves may be between 1.5 and 2 mile loops. There is also always a final lap at the end of the race. They might have some paved areas, but you will find that they often have off-road surfaces and can take you right through the woods.
One of the other things that makes cyclocross different is the fact that there is a pit area where they can change out their tires and make fast repairs if needed. Sometimes, racers will have more than one bike at the race just in case they need to switch them out. This is something that you don’t see with mountain bike racers.
Do You Need a Special Bike and Equipment?
One of the common questions that many people ask when they start to get interested in cyclocross is what type of equipment they are going to need. Do they need to have a special bike, or will any bike do? You have a couple of options. If you already have a mountain bike or a road bike and you are on a tight budget, you can make some modifications, so you can use it for cyclocross. You are going to want to make sure that you have tires that are at least 1.25” to 1.5” wide, for example. You also need to make sure that you have quality pedals for off road riding – not road pedals.
Of course, you might also simply want to pick up a bike that was built specifically for cyclocross. A cyclocross bike is similar to a road bike, but there are some changes to the frame, and it is better for racing off the road. These bikes will typically have wider, knobby tires for the terrain they have to deal with, and they will have cantilever brakes, which can provide you with better stopping power. The frame itself tends to have a design that ensures that the tires are going to be able to keep spinning without jamming, even when they are covered in mud. The bottom of the frame for the bikes is usually higher, as well, which will make it easier to clear obstacles.
You will also notice that these types of bikes are lightweight. This is very important because riders are going to be carrying them quite a bit during the races. If the bike is too heavy, it is going to start to weigh the rider down and slow them down. Even though they are light, they still tend to be quite durable.
What about the clothing that you are going to be wearing? While there will be quite a bit of resemblance to the type of equipment you would expect from road racing or mountain bike racing, due to the time of year, there tends to be more warm clothing involved. After all, if you are out there in the freezing rain, you want to make sure that you have at least some protection to keep you a bit warmer. There are many different types of clothing available, and different riders are going to have different preferences.
You are also going to need to have some special shoes. Mountain bike shoes are often used because they can provide a good amount of traction. You will also need to have toe spikes, which can be helpful when it comes to getting up some of the steep and muddy hills that you might face. Additionally, due to the weather, you should also have some full-fingered gloved, unless the weather happens to be mild and dry.
Why Consider Cyclocross?
Now that you have a better understanding of what cyclocross is and how it works, you might be wondering whether it is right for you. If you are considering cyclocross, but you haven’t ridden a bike in a while, keep in mind that if you want to be truly competitive, you are going to need to be in good shape. You can – and should – start training as soon as possible. Get in touch with others who are interested in this sport, either in your area or online and learn from them.
Those who are willing to commit to getting into good shape, and who are ready to take their cycling to the next level will find a lot to love about this sport. Even though it might seem tough, cyclocross is a lot of fun. It is challenging, but well worth the effort that you put into it. This type of racing is going to make you stronger and fitter, and whether you ride on a road or mountain bike, you are going to appreciate how much of a better rider it can make you.
What if you like the idea, but you don’t want to race? You can still train like a cyclocross racer to get those benefits, but you don’t have to race if you don’t want to. It’s all up to you.
If you would like to get involved, it is a good idea to first start learning more about the sport and how people train to race in cyclocross. Keep learning and connect with people who are into the sport, and then you can start to find events in your area. For the first event or two, you might only want to visit as an observer. This will give you an idea of what the races are like. They tend to be fun events, even when you aren’t competing.
After you are more comfortable, you can then sign up for an event and race! It could become your new favorite sport, and it will certainly be one of your favorite ways to stay in great shape. If you are still hesitating, check out some events and see how much fun everyone is having!
Why Is It So Popular?
By now, it should be easy for you to understand why cyclocross is different from other types of racing, and you should have a good idea as to why so many people are starting to get into it. This type of racing is different, it’s fun, and it is challenging. It has the potential to continue growing in popularity for both the competitors and those who love to watch races.
Brad grabbed up his first bike when he was a kid and never looked back. He is an avid BMX rider and mountain biker.