What is Cyclocross?
Cyclocross is a mass start race format where racers do laps around a mostly offroad course. The courses include sections where a rider is forced to dismount and carry their bike over a barrier, up a stair set, or through an otherwise unrideable portion of track. Other common obstacles include sand pits, deep mud, challenging off-camber sections and novel obstacles. This might sound similar to XC or Short Track but the main difference is the bikes used are more similar to road or gravel bikes, and the sport was invented decades before mountain bikes existed. A Brief History
A French cyclist and soldier named Daniel Gousseau is often cited as the rider who started cyclocross racing. He organized the first French championship in 1902. Cyclocross was supposedly inspired by “steeplechase” running events which were also popular at the time. The church tower in the next town often being the most visible landmark to designate as the finish line.
Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Spain, and Italy all began to host races in the early 1900's. Octave Lapize claimed that his 1910 Tour de France victory was due to off-season cyclocross training which caused a huge increase in the sports popularity. The first UCI-authorized cyclocross world championships was in 1950.Race Season
Cyclocross (often abbreviated to CX) is typically a fall and winter sport. The World Championship takes place in late January. Conditions range from early season dust and sand to late season mud and snow. There have been various attempts to introduce CX as a winter Olympic sport. Bikes
Cyclocross bikes are not mandatory for amateur cyclocross racing. Most North American race series encourage you to "run what ya brung". I've seen fixed-gear flat-bar bikes, enduro bikes, and fat bikes all racing each other. But a rigid, drop bar bike with narrow knobby tires is the "right" bike for most courses. You might get heckled a little more if you bring your full suspension bike but it's all in good fun. Similar to shifts in the geometry of XC race bikes "gravel" bikes are also starting to get more slack, relaxed, and dropper posts are becoming commonplace. That being said, the top racers in the sport are still on narrow tires, steep head angles and no dropper posts. Partly due to a belief that traditional cross bikes are faster and partly due to conservative UCI rules.
A modern UCI legal CX race bike next to a modern gravel bike. As gravel bikes have gained popularity they have also increased in numbers at CX races. Wider tires, slacker angles, dropper posts. Sounds familiar.Culture
Amateur cyclocross racing is often low pressure and high fun. Handups are a key part of CX racing with spectators offering you trackside refreshments. I've personally been handed beer, whiskey, a donut, a slice of bacon, and a dollar bill all in one race.
This fun-loving attitude reaches its peak in the singlespeed category. This category is popular in part because the bikes are cheaper to maintain in the mud. The best way to learn about SSCX culture is to read into SSCX World ChampionshipsWho to watch
If you catch the bug and decide to venture into World Cup cyclocross fandom you'll want to catch up on the Wout van Aert vs. Mathieu van der Poel rivalry
You'll also want to follow the Olympic XC champion Tom Pidcock
and world champs winning machine Pauline Ferrand PrévotWhy should I care?
As an avid mountain biker who takes pride in my ability to ride heinous rooty sections and hit "sick" jumps it's always an ego check when I roll up to a cyclocross race and see someone on a fully rigid, drop bar, high post, skinny tire, cantilever brake, cyclocross bike going full-gas down a steep section into a 90 degree axle deep rut with not a sign of hesitation. Sure, that would be easy enough on a 160mm travel enduro bike with the seat dropped, but it seems like experienced cyclocross racers can hit things at almost the same speed as a mountain bike with none of the technological "crutches" that we are used to in mountain biking. It's always a rush trying to figure out how to rail a rut on an unfamiliar bike 30 minutes before your race starts.
Simply put, it's good to mix things up. It might even help your mountain bike skills. It's fun to learn new ways of riding. It's fun to race around with your friends in the mud. The races are short and intense so it's a great way to get a sweat (and a grin) going on those miserable winter days. The races are usually very affordable compared to mountain bike events and the community is welcoming and eclectic. I'm of course biased as someone who already enjoys the format, but I honestly can't recommend it enough. What do you think? Is cyclocross something you would try?
Limiting yourself to only our beloved mountain biking is just limiting your fun with 2 wheels.
Ride all the bikes - and don’t be a dick about other people’s choices.
My take is that Cross is ALL ABOUT competition. Not everyone is into the competitive aspect, but everyone in Cross usually is.
There is always someone to chase and there is always someone chasing you.
Try it and don't blame us when you get hooked.
"So you'll want to do a max effort out from the start, everything you can manage for about a minute to not get left behind... And then just maintain that for the next hour and a bit until the finish"
FYI - I'm a mountain biker who was super into Enduro from like 2013-2019 and now super into cross. You never know till you try it!
CX is crazy fast.
And world class CX racers like Pidcock or vdP usually easily win the MTB races they enter.
Basically an XC race with funny bars... But are horrific.. but both somewhat enjoyable at times.
I much prefer enduro though as i'm old and fat and at least in enduro I may get trounced by the fast guys, but i get the pleasure of fun trails while being trounced
CX seems to be very different in the US, because over here it was just sadomasochism.
Don't get me wrong, there was a great vibe and I couldn't have hoped to ride with a more welcoming crowd, but anyone racing was taking it seriously and the pace was outrageous!
I finished the race very exhausted, very humbled, and very inspired to be better.
And it still is; 5 of the 6 winners this weekend's World Champs are attached to top road cycling teams....it's a breeding ground for road cycling. Very few top XC riders come from Cyclocross; in fact none of the current Top 10 mens/ women's rankings took part.
Evie is the 'outlier'; the only recent champion to have not gone to a road team, but a MTB team.
If your in good mtb shape, can halfway run and have decent skills because you really do have to have skills, your golden.
Props to the Utah CX Series, lots of fun.
Being a hipster in Denmark would rather consist in riding a mountain bike IMO
I enjoy my 170mm coil bike and I enjoy my SuperSix Evo, but I don't enjoy my gravel bike (now just my winter commuter) and I didn't enjoy my CX bike/racing.
Tons of people love CX, I'm just not one of them.
#2 don't freaking do it!
#3 g* d*mn m*ther f*cker, you're getting the hose
But here is coverage from this year's on the Radavist.
1st: f*cking's not boring (unless you've never done it properly, as well ass CX)
2nd: "boring as a swiss" would be more appropriate, 'cos everybody knows that it makes sense.
3rd: offroad is fun ANYWAYS, whatever the sort of machine you use and whoever you are!!!
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