Don’t you just hate it when the biking season ends after the summer and fall? You have to sit around mentally conjuring fake races, where you’re always the winner, of course. There’s just no challenge or excitement in that. If this sounds like you, or a sense of motivation you wish you had – consider taking up cyclocross!
Right now, you might be saying: “I’m interested keep going…” and I will.
What it is: Cyclocross, sometimes referred to as CX, CCS, cyclo-X or just ‘cross by gnarly dudes, is a type of racing, where you ride your bike, but are also forced to quickly dismount to get over hurdles, or climb steep hills. Cyclocross racing is comprised of many short laps around a track that’s about two miles long. The course can feature pavement, wooded trails, grass, hills, and of course obstacles. Unlike the traditional racing that you may be all about, ‘cross racing ends after a set period of time, typically around a half hour to an hour, instead of reaching a destination or completing a number of laps. So who wins? Everyone! But really the person that completed the most laps in the designated amount of time.
Best Time To Go: Although you may be able to find local cyclocross races throughout the year, the peak time to ‘cross is from September to February with the World Championships in late January.
Getting Down n’ Dirty: If you’re new to the sport it’s definitely recommended to get some practice in before you get started on the cyclocross racing circuit. If you happen to live in California, SoCalCross is a great organization to get involved in. They hold many events during the year like the LA Bike Fest: Spooky Kross Weekend in October and the Cross After Dark: CXLA Weekend, which goes through Los Angeles Historic State Park in November. They are also the only ones who host International Cycling Union (UCI) events in the whole state, as well.
Furthermore, they hold Early Bird Cyclocross Rides and Happy Hour Tours during the month of September. Held in different cities—last year was in Pasadena—the two functions are a great way to get more involved in the cyclocross community and get accustomed to what you’re in for. Both events take you to “clinics” where you can learn more about the sport, the type of bikes available, and provide rentals for a small fee. SoCalCross also lists numerous clubs on their website that you can join, so you can be part of a ‘cross gang, and maybe even get some fresh ink to go with your new passion.
Inside Skinny: Although road or mountain bikes can be used for cyclocross, you’ll be spotted as a noob instantly. Cyclocross bikes are different in a few ways: the tires are wider and knobbier to be able to grip the wet and muddy slopes, most have cantilever brakes that clear off mud better, and the rear end is often longer to accommodate the wider tires. When first starting out don’t worry about dismounting and mounting your bike like a champ every time. This will get extremely tiring, and taking part in the early bird rides will help you pick up the proper style.
Unlike traditional bike racing—pushing hard from the start is essential. Where you would usually coast throughout the race, and then pick it up for a big finish: in cyclocross if you don’t lead from the start, it’ll be hard to come out on top.
Finally expect to fall—a lot. Riding a bike through tough terrain is hard enough, but then carrying it and jumping over hurdles can be a recipe for taking some dramatic dives. Don’t get embarrassed though, everyone’s been there, and half the fun is laughing about how crazy it all is.
Cost: The bike itself could be pretty expensive, and run you a few thousand dollars. However, you could find bargain ones for a few hundred, depending on how tricked out you want your bike to be. Races and event prices can vary by organization, but most typically seem to be in the $30 range.
Learn More: If you’re still interested in becoming a cyclocross superstar, check out some of the resources below:
Last year’s clinic: http://socalcross.org/events/happy-hour-tour-hits-velo-pasadena/
Spooky Kross Weekend & Cross After Dark: https://www.facebook.com/SoCalCross/ events
Angie Picardo is a writer at NerdWallet, a financial literacy website where you can find advice on saving for your next adventure and answers to important questions like, “am I saving enough?”