I missed a few club rides through September & October last year and a few club members have asked me what I was up to. The answer is cyclocross racing!
For those who have never heard of cyclocross, it is a cycling discipline which takes place in autumn and winter on a short multi lap circuit (approx. 2 miles) featuring wooded trails, grass, hills and obstacles which sometimes require the riders to dismount and carry their bikes. Races last between 40 minutes to an hour, depending on your age category.
Why would you want to take up cyclocross racing?
It is a great way to keep you fit over the winter months as you will be riding at high intensity for one hour or less and give yourself a full body workout by jumping off your bike, lifting it up and getting yourself over various obstacles etc…
Also, it does wonders for your bike handling. All of this sliding through corners, fishtailing in the mud, skidding on gravel will teach you not to panic when things go a bit sideways and help you develop the skills needed to keep things upright when disaster strikes both on and off road.
Do you need a cyclocross bike to race?
No. In the races I have entered I have seen a few people competing on MTB or gravel bikes. As long as your bike is equipped with knobbly tires and your frame has enough clearance for mud (assuming the course is muddy!) you will be fine.
Am I fit enough to race?
Cyclocross is probably the most accessible form of bike racing there is and with races lasting 40-60 minutes (depending on age and level), you don’t need huge amounts of endurance. If you’ve ridden fairly regularly throughout the summer, you’ll be fine and will build specific fitness with each race you do.
And don’t worry about your finishing position! Cyclocross is known for its inclusive and welcoming attitude and it can be as competitive as you want it to be. Because of the multi-lap format, even if you’re not at the sharp end of the field, you’ll find your own races within the race, battling with riders of similar ability and against the challenges of the course.
Where can I train?
We are lucky to have a few parks on our doorstop (Bushy Park, Richmond Park & Home Park) all featuring some good cyclocross course features. Esher or Ham Common woods are also good alternatives as well Swinley Forest, a bit further out.
What do I need to enter a race?
There are many regional leagues you can join, and our club is affiliated to the Central League (https://centralcxl.org.uk/) which is the league I competed in this season. You don’t need a race license to enter, and entry fees are less than £20.
I hope that has given you a good insight as to what cyclocross is all about and maybe tempted you to join me for a race or two next season ?