Ride bikes. Have fun. Feel good.

An introduction to Cyclocross

Our very own club member John Rogers, who many of you will know from putting in some astounding times at our evening 10s Time Trial events, despite it being only his debut TT season, has also had an accomplished Autumn, swapping the TT aerobars, skinny tyres and smooth(ish) tarmac, for the drop handlebars, low PSI, grass and mud.

Having placed impressively at Coombes Farm, Pippingford, Somerhill in Tonbridge & East Brighton, who better to ask how more of us could get involved in this exciting off season cycling sport!

What is Cyclo-cross (CX)?

Cyclocross racing takes place outside on grass, mud, gravel, even sand! Competitors complete as many laps of a course within a set time.

Throughout the autumn and winter it happens on farms, in parks, manors and school grounds. Each course is unique and exciting.

The weather has a big impact on the course conditions and how slippery it gets. The technical courses tend to include sharp turns, steep banks, tree roots and other obstacles and riders are often forced to dismount and run with their bikes, especially over the wooden boards.

Who might CX appeal to?

It is open to anyone from children around 10 years old all the way to veterans of cycling, so anyone can get involved and give it a try. It is in age groups so it keeps the racing close and competitive.

How did you get started in CX yourself?

I got involved as I entered a CX century ride over the South Downs Way in July with my brother-in-law, Joey Chasseaud.

He was getting ready to enter the CX races and as we both had the bikes prepped from that event they were already set up well to get into cyclo-cross when the winter series started in September.

We entered the first event and I absolutely loved it, so kept racing the local events of the Sussex League! It’s also a fun way of training over the winter months without involving the turbo full time.

What is it you love about CX?

I really enjoy the great atmosphere at the race events and the relaxed feel. Everyone is there to enjoy the course and have fun, and they each ride at their own pace. It can be as intense as you want it to be, but even going full gas, it’s only an hour. Finally, it’s also a great way to improve bike handling skills in a safe environment – falling on grass doesn’t hurt so much!

What equipment do you need to give it a try?

To get started in cyclo-cross at regional level you can enter with a cyclo-cross specific frameset or a mountain bike which most people can access.

Cyclo-cross bikes benefit from similar geometry to road bikes so they are very familiar for road but have greater clearance for wider, treaded tyres and either canti-lever or disc brakes so they are still effective in poor conditions.  A road bike with larger tyre clearance would be capable though.

During lockdown I injured my back and decided to take up cycling as an alternative to running.
I was fortunate to find a CX specific bike when I was looking locally for a road bike and found a 2012 Boardman CX Pro, so it is very affordable to get the correct bike.

I changed the tyres, currently running Baby Limus tubeless, and effectively it was ready to race. It’s amazing how little pressure (20psi in muddy conditions!) you can run to help improve the grip.

I recommend a good pair of offroad shoes since you are un-clipping regularly and need good grip.

Do you need a dedicated CX bike?

Mountain bikes will do and some people are really competitive on these bikes, particularly carbon frames.  If you were to get more serious about racing then a cyclo-cross specific bike is recommended and higher levels of racing are specific about 33mm tyres so mountain bikes lose their advantage, but for giving it a try a mountain bike is more than suitable.

A road bike that has larger tyre clearance and some grippy wide tyre would be capable though.

When does the CX season happen?

The main cyclo-cross season is from September through to around February, including regional and national championship series.

There are summer series too, so keep on the look out for events on the British Cycling website and through the various leagues for more information.

Do you need a race licence to get involved?

To be involved in cyclo-cross racing you are required to have a race licence. This can be included as part of your British Cycling membership if you opt for a silver or gold licence.

Alternatively though you can easily purchase day licences which cover insurance for the specific event.  This just means paying a little extra for entry to the event but is less commitment if you want to try it to start with.

Having British Cycling membership does also mean you are eligible for collecting racing points recognised on their website, so it has advantages if you want to be more serious about racing across multiple seasons or for championship series through British Cycling.

How do members go about finding a local race to enter or watch?

British Cycling is a great place to check for local races as a first port of call to see races to enter or for spectating.

For the National races they will make excellent spectator events but as it is free to view the races, anyone can go see and cheer on the racers.

The site has regional and national organised events in their search engine which means the races are held to a specific level of regulations to keep racing fair and enjoyable.

www.londonxleague.co.uk is a great place to visit too as they have a provisional calendar constantly being updated with the upcoming races and results linked to the page. This covers London, Sussex and East Kent CX league races so it is perfect for us at EGCC.

Other places to check are participating clubs who might advertise on their websites. From doing the racing this season I have seen a number of local clubs who have organised races and training sessions, such as Southborough and District Wheelers.

We would like to say a massive thank you to John for his time sharing his knowledge on CX which hopefully was of interest to some of our Brilliant members.

The London X league website also has some fantastic race reports which give a great insight into each course. These can be found here:

Coombes farm
Pippingford, Nutley
Somerhill, Tonbridge
East Brighton

You can find further information at:
www.londonxleague.co.uk & https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/cyclocross

#eastgrinsteadcycleclub #surreycycling #cyclocross #CX #britishcycling #londonxleague