In late summer and early fall a new slogan can be heard on repeat: "Cross is coming." Meaning another cyclocross season will soon be underway. Also known as 'cross or simply CX, cyclocross has garnered its following from its spectator friendly nature, as well as the wide demographic of riders that can be seen on the course. As more and more riders get into this fall sport, we asked local cyclocross enthusiasts, Jereme and members of the L5 Racing Team, to put together a few suggestions to help you get ready for your next (or first!) CX adventure.
It is true there are cyclocross specific bikes out there, but that doesn't mean you have to go out and buy a new bike to try this sport out. If you have a mountain bike or a bike that you commute on, chances are that same bike will work to for your first race. Just be sure that you have some good grip on your tires to keep traction on the off-road surface. After that, you can decide if you want to invest in a new cyclocross-specific rig.
A wide variety of bicycles can be used in this sport. Just be sure to give them a good cleaning after each event.
Before you head down to the event, you can check at your local bike shop to see if there are any 'cross practice nights in your town. If not, you can ride through grassy areas and around some trees to make sure your tires have enough grip to hold onto a dirt or grass surface. As with any sport, taking time to practice and get familiar with the feel of the bike in various conditions is key to feeling ready for a race. You can't plan for every condition nor every race, but through repetition you can at least feel more comfortable in how you and your bike will handle in a similar scenario.
First things first, you have to get to the race! Since you can use a multitude of different bikes for this sport, a versatile car rack is a must. If you have a hitch the SuperClamp bike rack is a great option that can transport a wide variety of bikes, doesn't touch your bike's frame and is easy to load. If you need a trunk rack the SUPERBones is a good option with its hassle-free strap management, cut-proof straps and ability to lock your bike to the rack and the rack to the car.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Now that you've made it to the race, it's time to pre-ride the course. Doing so is always a good idea to get a feel for what you're going to encounter during the race. You will want to pay attention to where steep grade changes happen, where the barriers are and how the corners are marked. There's typically time to pre-ride early in the morning, and then again around mid-day. So make sure you check the race schedule with your start time and look for indications about when the course will be open for pre-ride.
If you don't have time to pre-ride, make sure you have some time to watch one of the races before you start. This will help you see how others are riding, running and navigating corners.
As your start time approaches, it's important to make sure you warm-up before you roll up to the start. A good warm-up typically takes around 30 minutes; so make sure you leave yourself enough time to complete the warm-up before go-time.
Since most races are held in urban areas, it can be hard to find a consistent road surface to warm-up on. Bringing any stationary bike trainer, like a CycleOps Fluid2, is a great tool to have at any 'cross event. That way when you're ready to warm-up, you can set the trainer up next to your car, hop on and get your heart rate up before you toe the start.
Some, but not all, cyclocross events have warm-up tents already equipped with trainers to get the blood flowing.
Other Things to Keep in Mind
- Bring clothing for multiple weather conditions. You typically won't need much for racing, as 'cross events are fast and short. However, you will need some extra clothing for before and after the race, so plan accordingly.
- Remember to hydrate before the race. In typical cyclocross racing, athletes don't carry water or receive hand-ups due to the short duration of the race.
- Make sure to pack a tire pump. If you're a cyclocross newbie you likely won't be too concerned with tire pressure, but soon enough you'll appreciate the ability to change tire pressure after pre-riding the course.
- There is one certainty in cyclocross – there are no certainties. If you're a seasoned racer with a ritual that works for you, then use it. And don't forget to welcome newcomers with open arms – and a beer.
Last but certainly not least, always remember to HAVE FUN! There can be a lot of serious looking people at cyclocross races with multiple bikes, wheels and fancy clothing. Just remember that you are riding a bicycle on what is likely a beautiful fall day, and that should always put a smile on your face!
Jereme sporting some mud and a smile after 'CX Nationals.