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Cyclocross riders climbing a hill at Canada Heights.

Cyclocross, what’s that and why on earth should I do it?

Some have the opinion that Cyclocross or CX is the most masochistic way to spend time on a bike, you’ll be cold, wet and filthy riding roadish type bike around a muddy field peppered with things to make this as difficult as possible. So why is it becoming ever more popular?

Let’s start with what is cyclocross?

Best answered by looking into the roots of the sport; cyclocross, cross or CX started around the 1900s in the flatlands of northern Europe as a way for professional cyclists to maintain fitness during the winter months. You can imagine that it didn’t take any time before a bunch of pro riders started to race each other and hey presto, another cycling discipline was born.  

The modern sport sort of holds to these roots retaining a whiff of agricultural flavour, the 2-mile courses will include many surfaces, from tarmac, sand, gravel and mud. The hurdles survive as a ghost of the original fences while the steep banks and climbs are arguable the ditches on the past. Modern courses make full use of every available slope and indent adding a load of corners and every way imageable to ride up, down or across any available slope.

Sounds like you have to be a ‘toned’ and skilled athlete to enter a race?

Err, actually no – anyone can enter a race and most competent cyclists will make a reasonable stab at it riding anything with knobbly tyres, overcoming the challenges, surviving the off-camber, finishing exhausted, elated and usually determined to do more, better.

It’s true, that to race CX well does requires a degree of fitness and some pretty advanced bike handling skills, gaining both of these is one of the attractions of the sport. The satisfaction felt when riding a difficult section well is, well, pretty damn satisfying, not forgetting of course those bike handling skills transfer into your everyday riding as well.

CX is an intensive bout of full-on exercise, you’re on full gas the whole way from the whistle to the flag, if you don’t finish utterly exhausted, well come back next week and try harder! Far more satisfying than a gym workout!

Races are laid back, friendly affairs, a friend of mine recently completed his first-ever bike race the other day. He rode his gravel bike, enjoyed the anticipation of preparation, the nerves on the start line, the satisfaction of riding a difficult section, enjoying the continuous support from the sidelines. OK, he finished last but he finished with such a big grin on his face it was no surprise that he immediately signed up for the next race.

So if you’re feeling brave, want a challenge, get fit, don’t mind getting a little incy wincy bit muddy, meet a whole new world of like-minded nutters, and have a load of fun doing it, take the plunge and try Cross.

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