Cyclocross or CX, as you will soon be calling it, is the cycling genre you NEED TO TRY next.
So what exactly is CX?
It can be many things, off-road trail rides with family friends to organised racing to full on adventure riding.
And what does a CX race involve?
Firstly it is traffic free. CX is all about venues that offer a safe environment with a dedicated (taped off) route. It involves laps of a circuit which are around 2.5km/1.5miles, so it’s good for your suffering children, family and fans to get repeated glimpses of you suffering. Suffering? Well yes, a little, CX is definitely fun but is also a challenge as can involve hazards requiring you to be bold with your bike handling or hop off, pick up and run with your bike – no, really it is. Obstacles in 2017 included 40cm wooden hurdles, sand pits and a snow alley (no really there was one).
CX courses also tend to avoid straight, flat lines so there are lots of twists, turns, ups and downs and off camber to keep you focused (and having plenty of fun).
Whereas road racing is split based on your category, CX races in the UK is age and gender split. Events cater for Under 8s through to the grand masters in Vet50+ with times from 15 mins for kids up to an hour for senior men.
The biggest CX league around MK is Central Cyclo-Cross League (CCXL) https://www.facebook.com/CentralCXLeague/ which in 2018/19 will cover a whopping 15 events running from September through to January.
4 of these are in Milton Keynes.
The largest fields in 2017 were in the Men’s Vet 40-49 – the reduced time of only 40 minutes compared to Senior racing makes a HUGE difference!
There are many grown ups flocking to CX but you must prepare yourself for the astonishing sight of the young kids, youths and juniors and the speed they cover these course! Not to mention how easy they make it look. We guarantee know you will find yourself saying “I used to be that quick when I was that age……” Every week.
I’m not sure I’m ready to race, is this still for me?
ABSOLUTELY! In addition to the organised races, Central League events offer British Cycling supported Go-Ride sessions that run throughout the day for kids to come along and try – either on their own bike & helmet or with British Cycling provided bikes & helmet.
And for grown-ups who are keen to dabble in the world of CX but might be initially intimidated by the word “race” there is a dedicated Novice event on all race days. This is 30 minutes long, has no league table and is purely for those wanting to try out the sport or just ride with less stress than being in a full on race where some are taking it seriously. The Novice event is very relaxed and no pressure time slot to simple enjoy your cycling. Velobants is not too proud to admit that our first CX experience was in a Novice event.
We at Velobants tower would also point out that the reality of Cyclocross is that it is a sport that thrives on hundreds of people showing up each week in the full knowledge they will not win. This might sound weird but it is the truth and also the charm of CX. There is definitely a more social and friendly aspect to cyclocross compared to other forms of cycling and while at first you might think why enter if I can’t win? Well the thing is, after a few races you begin to find “your own race within a race”, by that we mean you will soon become familiar with a number of your fellow riders (and their behinds) that you are “competing” with for each week. Believe us before you know you will be super proud of your placings and find yourself sprinting for 38th, 58th, 89th place, etc like nothing else in the world matters!
Then once over the finish line when you’ve regained the ability to speak you’ll be joking away with your fellow racers like you’ve been battling for years.
Will I get muddy?
Err….that’s part of the charm. Summer CX is a “thing” but it is the much poorer cousin to the real CX season through the winter. As adults, you don’t get many chance to go out and play in the mud, well HELLO that’s CX once the winter kicks in. It’s like being a kid again. Yet it’s a sport!
Plus if you’re slipping, sliding your way round, so is everyone else!
Do I need a specialist / new / another new bike ?
Short answers: no, no and technically you always need another new bike!
The rules of CX are quite generous, you can enter a CX race on almost any kind of bike, bar a time trial bike, as they are just weird. So that means the hybrid you have in the shed, your mountain bike or if you are a brave soul your single-speed commuter are all permissible to ride.
Obviously once you get in to the sport and you will, you might want to invest in something more dedicated but it is NOT a requirement that you need a specific CX bike to do a cyclocross event.
There is the occasional down side to CX that can take it’s toll on your rear mech (that’s the bike that moves the rear gearing) and of course there are tyre fails now and again but as you’ll learn this is the “in” for that justification of the “new / improved / better” parts / bike / wheels that you couldn’t otherwise get approval for!
I was thinking of getting a new bike – should I get a cyclocross bike?
Here at Velobants we are an inclusive bunch and our bike stables include road bikes, single-speeds for some commuting / MK redway/grid roads HIIT , full-suss all-mountain bikes, hard tail racing mountain bikes to the jewel in the crown – the cx bike.
There is definitely a case to be made that “if you have to own only 1 bike” that is be a CX bike. Wait what? No really. Think about it. Drop bars, comfortable geometry, still kinda light, disc bakes and plenty of tyre clearance. Making it perfect for CX, swap the tyres (or add a 2nd set of wheels) and boom you have a great commuter option, all year round road bike.
So if you have cycle-to-work scheme about to open….get a CX bike on your shopping list. If you need any help choosing, give us a shout!!
Record it, Statto.
Someone told us that on your Garmin you need 2 data fields for CX, time and hear rate. Well that’s nonsense.
You only need time, so you can gauge your “final lap push” or consider a tactical stall to coincide with being lapped on the last lap to save yourself one extra lap of hell.
Also, your heart-rate is easy to measure. It will be at max from the moment you start until you finish, fall off, stop or require medical assistance. Fact. You will probably want to quit after 5 mins but there is something about CX that keeps you going and a sick sense of achievement when you look back at your average HR being at 90+% of your max for the whole race.
The CX Community
In 2017, Velobants was formed and we hit the the CX scene with a new approach to bring the fun, smiles and camaraderie to the CX scene. To be honest it’s always been there, as those who CX have a real shared bond, they know what other cyclists dont yet – that CX is the best form of cycling out there – fun, safe, a test of how far you want push yourself and it’s social.
Yes, social. CCXL has over 1,000 FB members and there is always someone needing help with something and there’s always many out there to help with solutions. This extends to providing assurances to new and apprehensive riders that really they will be fine.
There are also a raft of photographers out there, some even race, who have a perverted interest in capturing the pain of CX riders but believe us you’ll love this fact – although prepare yourself you will look a) slow b) fat (they always use a fat lens we find and c) like you are gurning. But you will never be prouder of yourself and use the photos to try to explain to your non-CX friends that really I HAD SO MUCH FUN! despite looking like your are trying to chew your own handlebars.
Still don’t believe us about this CX thing being for me, well go and check out some of our race day recaps from 2017, watch some of the clips. We guarantee once you do you’ll be itching to sign up…..
How do I sign up?
Central League races are entered via British Cycling’s website, the events are not yet up and open for entries but here is the schedule. For info in 2017, entry ranged from £5 (kids) to £15 (seniors) – pricing for 2018 is still tbc.
Until then, we suggest you follow Central League on FB and join the League Group:
https://www.facebook.com/CentralCXLeague/ – CCXL Page
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1933864710225202/ – CCXL closed group for league riders, request to join to keep up to date with race dates, entries, info or just to ask any questions you might have about getting in to Cyclocross.
And if you want the official word on Cyclocross from British Cycling, you can find that here: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/cyclocross
CX me up!
So what do you think? Are you up for CX?? Here is the FB event link to the very special Velobants round of CCXL, Saturday 22nd September 2018 @ Campbell Park, Milton Keynes – the UK’s only World Cup CX venue.