Cyclocross has been popular in Europe for decades and is starting to take off in Australia and New Zealand.
For anyone out there looking to get involved in this fun and challenging cycling discipline, here are all the tips and tricks you need to know and master before entering your first race.
Most of the racing is done in fields or paddocks with obstacles varying in difficulty and style. You may come across stairs, sand traps, STEEP hills and very tight turns. The key skills we have identified, with our mates the Commonaeros, will help you get through the course unscathed and at the front of the pack.
In addition to these basic skills it's worth noting that courses are generally fast given the races are only between 45mins and 60mins in duration. Getting used to riding at a high intensity is a great way to condition yourself for the demands of Cyclocross. The courses are also short in distance (normally 2-3km in length), so learning to handle your bike in tight situations is going to be a huge plus for you.
See also: The door to Cyclocross with Penny Hosken
This technique is most commonly used to clear small barriers and obstacles. It requires you to clear both your front and back wheel off the ground and enables you to remain on your bike and carry as much speed through the course as possible.
If you are new to Cx, start with a small branch as your obstacle and build from there. As you become comfortable with a small level of clearance, try increasing the level required to clear, as well as increasing the speed at which you attempt it.
Mastering this technique will also give you a lot more kudos from the rowdy crowd and keep the heckling to a minimum.
Mounting and dismounting
This technique is also used for clearing barriers but it is reserved for the bigger ones, or if there is a succession of them. At first this may take some time and practice but is essential as almost every course will require you to get off your bike at some point.
Planning ahead and getting off your bike early is the key. Dismounting this way will enable you to carry as much speed as possible through obstacles and also give you time if you are having trouble unclipping from your pedals.
All the action for this skill happens at the back of the bike but it is essential you keep a firm grip on the bars and top tube as they act as your connection to the bike and will create a stable platform for you to get back on.
This is another skill that pays to start easy and progress up. Start with no obstacles and get used to hopping on and off your bike. As you get more confident increase the speed and difficulty of the obstacle you are trying to clear.
Many of the obstacles you face in Cx racing will be too difficult to simply jump or run over. Steep hills and stairs are common place and require you to carry your bike. The best way of doing this from a speed and safety point of view is 'shouldering'.
This technique requires you to dismount your bike and carry the bike on your shoulder. The top tube of most Cx bikes are flatter than a normal road bike, making this technique more comfortable.
Mastering this technique is more than simply throwing the bike over your shoulder. Shouldering correctly enables you to control the front end of the bike by holding onto the drops, enabling you to run at full speed whilst still having total command of your bike.
Check out Bret from the Commonaeros - he makes it look super easy! A bit of practicing and you'll have these fluid moves nailed in no time, too.
Now that you are armed with the basic skills for any Cyclocross race it's time to get out and practice. Practice makes perfect!