Are you kidding me ? Why would anyone in their right mind deliberately take their pride and joy into a field or down a muddy trail, never mind the problems with punctures, getting stuck in mud, the hours needed afterward to fettle your beloved back to its shiny self ? After all it only takes a grain of dust to mess up my perfect gear shifting ! Madness !!
So, welcome to Cyclocross !!
So I am not advocating you take your road bike “off road”, no not at all…unless you’ve been bissfully unaware of developments, the world of cycling has gone mad for cyclocross (or CX)…and its more utilitarion cousin, the gravel bike. Now I am not going to talk here about the differences and pros/cons of Cyclocross versus Gravel versus 29er’s, etc, but what I will tell you is that this type of riding is not only a huge amount of fun, but will improve your bike handling skills and is a fantastic way to keep riding when the weather prevents your normal road cycling regime.
What’s the fun of it ? For a start, CX bikes are built for throwing around mud and sand (and snow!). At a technical level they have competitive geometries, wider wheels and disc brakes, but in essence they enable you to ride fast through most conditions and hit similar top end speeds to road bikes when you get back on the tarmac, ie perfect for mixed surface riding.
So I asked the Gemma Melton (@gemmamelton) the Queen of Suffolk’s cyclocross scene to tell us a litle more about the fun of mud…i mean cyclocross.
Gemma started by saying, “It’s an alternative to being on the turbo in the winter. You can go really fast on a CX bike, the early season races in September are usually the driest and the fastest ones to try if you aren’t keen on running or getting too muddy! You can improve your cornering and handling skills and when you next find yourself in a wet road race, you will be fearless! No one takes themselves to seriously – fall off no problem, covered in mud, who cares? You can practise in a park, in a large garden, in the forest, down some dirt tracks, it gets you out and about in places you may not normally ride. A little bit of mud never hurt anyone – it’s actually softer to land on! There’s a lot of cleaning of bike and kit to do but it’s well worth it for meeting new people and training hard during the winter months when motivation might otherwise be low”.
Gemma continued, “Thinking about trying it? Borrow a bike if you don’t have one and try riding on a bridleway, in the forest or around a grassy playing field. Dismount and remount are tricky, don’t worry if you can’t do them, they come with practice and there’re some great youtube videos out there. In a race situation you will just naturally get on and off as quick as you can so not too loose too much time. Be fearless – what’s the worst that could happen – hit it hard and your bike will get over it/ around it, through it.”
So, there we have it from the expert. Cyclocross isn’t just for winter riding, but as long as we continue to have rain and mud, for me it’s a winner.
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