We know what you're thinking. It's the end of the summer road cycling season, you've achieved new heights of fitness and personal growth on the bike. Now what!? What are you going to do with all that new found capability on your drop bar machine? Wonder no more! Cyclocross is the answer! Extend your season and push your personal boundaries by embracing the autumn two-wheeled muddy excess that is cyclocross!
The Aldergrove cyclocross course featuring the infamous Trapezoid of Truth
What is Cyclocross?
Check out this link for a thorough explanation.
Cyclocross is the mother of all this gravel riding buzz in the world of cycling these days. 700c drop bar road bikes, modified to be able to fit larger tires with tread patterns similar to mountain bikes are used to ride and race over varied terrain: grass, mud, sand, gravel, pavement, snow; the works!
Disc brakes, knobby tubeless tires and close ratio chain rings
Race courses can feature steep run ups, water crossings, man made barriers; basically whatever the course organizers have at their disposal or in their imagination - both naturally existing and fabricated into the race course. A lap is typically 2.5km – 3.5km long which is completed multiple times in the same fashion as a road race criterium. Races are typically held throughout the fall and early winter lasting for about an hour of high intensity fun!
Lianne Leblond destroys the field at the Donkey Cross
Training for cyclocross frequently features skills sessions that focus on bike handling skills that are so key to performing well in a cyclocross race. Also, cyclocrossers work towards developing the aerobic endurance required when maintaining a high output during racing by riding hard on gravel paths and trails. Training on surfaces that mimic what cyclocrossers will face in a race situation is a key aspect of cyclocross training.
Up! Up! Jeff Wong charges up a grassy ramp in Aldergrove
Weekly Cyclocross Skills Sessions and Race Preparation
For those intent on getting in some solid cyclocross skills practice and race preparation, keep an eye on the Gastown website Ride Calendar and TeamSnap for sign up info for mid-week, short, high intensity sessions. These will most likely be held on Tuesdays in the early evenings and will alternate between skills focused sessions and training focused sessions. These sessions will run for the cyclocross season from mid-September through to the end of November.
Do you need a cyclocross bike to participate in these sessions? No, not necessarily. A gravel bike will do in many circumstances. But, be advised that gravel bikes tend to have a larger bottom bracket drop more similar to road bikes and more minimally treaded tires suited to gravel hard pack which can make sharp cornering and slick conditions much more challenging. As a result, there's no getting around the fact that a cyclocross bike shod with a good set of knobby tires is the best choice!
Knobbies encrusted in the tell tale signs of a muddy cyclocross track
Ah, yes. It wouldn't be a blog post about cyclocross if we didn't mention tires! Tire choice is incredibly important in cyclocross. Cyclocrossers can become totally obsessed with their tread choices. Once you've raced a cyclocross course it's easy to understand why! Finding a balance between speed and grip can be more alchemy than science. Be advised that mid-week training sessions will require knobby cyclocross tires which are at the least rated for all-round conditions. Ideally, you'd have a minimum of two: an all-round and a full mud tread pattern.
Cyclocrossers charge up a muddy technical climb at the Queens Cross
Yes! I Want to Race! How Do I Have a Blast with the Gastown Cyclocrossers?
Cyclocross is an incredibly inclusive cycling discipline. There are racing opportunities open to literally any age and skill level of rider. Anyone can sign up and anyone is welcome. Many cyclocross events have a relaxed, carnival atmosphere with food trucks, beer gardens and heckling fans. This devil may care attitude married with the high intensity of cyclocross racing is the discipline's unique appeal and what wins many cyclists over to the muddy side!
Check out this link to see a list of upcoming and local cyclocross events.
First time racers are encouraged to complete a full season of Novice events to develop a feel for cyclocross racing and build their confidence. If you're interested in racing and want to connect to current Gastown cyclocrossers check out who is signed up for the training sessions on TeamSnap and reach out!
We are looking forward to seeing out there with a face full of mud!
Shawn Walsh ripping a corner in Beast Mode (note the horns) at the Pumpkin Cross