AKA cyclocross, CX, CCX, cyclo-X or ‘cross is a form of bicycle racing.
As Fall announces its arrival with golden leaves, the cool, crisp breezes begin to blanket frost across the northern states and we here in Florida begin to get excited. We celebrate the break of our annual heatwave and welcome the start of the cyclocross season! The origin of cx racing is often debated, but many agree that it likely started in Belgium.
Was it originally a friendly cross country race to the next town over where participants were encouraged to take short cuts across fields and over fences in an anything-goes-style competition? Or maybe its origins lay in France where army private Daniel Gousseau joined his horseback-riding friends through the woods atop a bike. No matter the story, it's a nice bit of whimsy to wrap your imagination around and there's no denying the athletic benefits and excitement of cx.
We're really just getting started here in the US and like many well-established European traditions, we're adding our own twists to this long celebrated race. We have our own share of hard-partying hecklers and loud mouths, but in addition many of our spectators are also competitors sticking around to cheer on other races.
What should one expect at a cx race?
Mud, muck, mayhem and lots of it. Most courses feature a 1 km to 3 km loop mix of off-road and paved, flat and rolling hills and involves a hybrid of athletic and aerobic challenges. The pace is physically demanding and the skill involved will no doubt improve your overall athleticism. Racers must pedal fast, in places they may need to dismount, pick up their bikes and run, or they could choose to jump (bunny hop) over obstacles, racers might encounter stairs, sand, dirt and mud. The chaos of it all is half the fun.
Participants often get bogged down with mud and grime pretty quickly and as a result are allowed to switch out bikes throughout the race (their pit crew cleans and preps the bike not in use for when the cyclist needs it next).
Racing season is typically from September through to January and ends with the UCI World Championships.
Races normally last between 30 minutes to an hour. A jury notes the lap times from the first two laps and calculate how many laps are needed to complete the race.
To be fully legit and compete in elite races, you will need a bike with drop handlebars, 700c wheels and tires no wider than 33mm. However, if you're not there yet, you can pretty much pick from a few options. The key is having a lightweight bike that won't get bogged down in the mud, that gives you what you need in climbs and won't let you down in slipper sections.
Here are your options:
Obviously this bike was built for this race, so if you're serious about this competition/training, this would be a good direction to look. You can use these bikes on the roads as well (they look an awful lot like a regular road bike to the lay person), so don't feel like you're getting yourself a one hit wonder. Your CX bike will likely feature mudguards, a lightweight body, drop handles, lower center of gravity and recently, many are sporting a single chain ring.
Modified Mountain Bike
If you're going to compete with your mountain bike, it's recommend that you lighten the load the best you can. Remove anything unnecessary, bottle cages, bags, bar-ends, even your front suspension if you're properly motivated. You'll also want to switch up your tire width for something about 1.25-1.5" instead.
How to join in:
So now that you have the essential details figured out and are chomping at the bit to give this a try, the next step is to get out there and compete! Racing cx not only helps you stay fit, but you'll also find that the skills you pick up on the track will help you become a better rider on the road and the trails.
We're lucky enough in Brevard to have a dedicated cyclocross park:
Rotary Park, 705 Osmosis Drive N SW, Palm Bay, Florida 32908
And don't forget to register for our race, coming up in November! Click here to learn more and get involved.
A glimpse at our CX event from 2013: Video courtesy of Graham Partain and his mad skilzz