Could cyclocross be your next adventure?

There are tons of things you can do on two wheels. You can ride long, winding roads, ticking off the hills across the country; you could load up a touring steed like a snail shell and travel from place to place with all your belongings. You could speed down trails, or even pull some stunts at your local BMX park. Or you could even keep pedalling back and forward to work.

Perhaps one avenue worth exploring is cyclocross.

Why not let cyclocross be your next adventure?

CX is a type of bike racing that takes place in autumn and winter. Riders race on bikes with drop handlebars but knobbly tyres. These new age hybrids are fast, light and aggressive like road bikes, but able to cope with off-road conditions.  The race is usually around an hour long, over several laps, and when the bike can’t cope with a short section, you have to jump off and run.

Cyclocross bikes as commuting bikes

Cross bikes are becoming a popular commuting choice. If your ride incorporates some  off-road like sections, or you just want something tough and resilient that still feels slick and fast- a CX bike could be for you. What’s more, you could well have a lot of fun on it at the weekend.

I recently put together a review of the Pinnacle Arkose I’ve been testing.

The Pinnacle Arkose I've been riding

The Pinnacle Arkose I’ve been riding

Benefits of off-roading

My little CX adventure is really only beginning, I’m yet to try a race, but I’m leaning a lot already. Riding off-road is great for improving your handling skills. It’s not often on a ride to work that your path is suddenly filled with tree roots or a random boulder causes you to swerve suddenly – but off-road you have to think fast and act faster (if that’s possible).

The fitness required is different, too. There are some sections where you might be hardly pedalling for ages, just using your strength to keep the bike going the right way downhill, and other times you’ll be grinding away trying to force yourself and the hunk of metal through mud on an upward gradient. All this works new muscles in your body and it’s great for that ever elusive “core strength”.

Testing my limits with new  terrain has been fun

Testing my limits with new terrain has been fun

I love road riding– in the summer I race time trials so concrete and tarmac and I are good friends. However, long miles in the depth of winter can get monotonous – as can the daily commute if you’re used to riding round London’s roads. The chance to get out into the woods, get muddy and act like a child has been liberating and it makes a refreshing change. A new challenge is always a joy.

If you’re not sure where to start, do so gently with the off-road version of our Richmond Park Ride.

Taking it more seriously

I’ve yet to have a go at a race, so I asked professional Cyclocross photographer of cyclephotos.co.uk, Balint Hamvas for some insight. He said: “At a pro level, the intensity of the sport is what got me hooked – It’s such a hard sport. However, the races have a very friendly atmosphere and at local, amateur races, there is always a wide spectrum of riders: the best ones go for the win, but you can always find a few people who have similar level of fitness and you can duke it out for the 65th place.”

Racing can be as serious...

Racing can be as serious…

Or as un-serious as you want it to be (pics: Balint Hamvas)

Or as un-serious as you want it to be (pics: Balint Hamvas)

He added: “I had a go and I quickly realised that I’m much better at taking photos of people doing cross. However, it was great fun – the best fun I’ve ever had racing on my bike.”

If you think it could be for you, there is a London League of events here – but you don’t have to take it seriously, a spin around your nearest park could be just what the doctor ordered for you.

If you’re into photography, by the way, check out our post about the most photographic cycling locations.

Got doubts?

Of course, if you think the idea is crazy, I’d ask you what you’d say to your non-cyclist friends when they ask how you dare to ride the streets of London – have you ever told them: “you’ll never know how great it could be until you’ve tried it” , or “it’s not as scary as it looks” ?

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

7 Responses to Could cyclocross be your next adventure?

  1. Steve A 04/11/2013 at 6:59 pm #

    What other sport allows you to feel proud of finishing without vomiting? Yup, I’m a “lapper.”

  2. humancyclist 04/11/2013 at 10:14 pm #

    This really, really, really appeals to me. Unfortunately cleaning bikes is really, really, really, really not appealing! I guess that’s where the jet wash comes in.

  3. Michelle 05/11/2013 at 8:39 am #

    Haha… my other half has a portable jetwash… it’s great! Washed with a bucket after Sundays ride… took 3 refills (pic of pre washed bike is on Twitter @michellearthurs)
    Get a plug in jetwash and problem solved :-)

  4. Redmandale 09/11/2013 at 5:26 am #

    I hate to say this, as I agree with the bike wash misery comments – but using a jet wash is one of the quickest ways possible to damage your bike. The water gets into the sensitive areas – headset, bottom bracket etc. – too easily.

  5. Michelle 09/11/2013 at 12:11 pm #

    Redmandale.. you are of course right that it’s not great for the bike.. I usually keep the pressure low(ish) and hold at a distance for the frame – jet gets the worst off, then use a sponge on the derailleur/BB/cassette etc but admittedly buckets and handwashing are kinder to your machine. However when riding and I’m sure racing off-road, if you slide on mud and happen to land on the drive chain side it’ll do some damage too…

  6. Tony 09/11/2013 at 12:14 pm #

    These ‘new age hydrids’ have been around for several decades. I got one two years ago and use it on the road over winter. I simply have a second set of wheels with roads tyres so it’s an easy change. I use it in the woods or when I know I’ll have to cross several types of surface. You can get smoother 35mm tyres as well.

  7. Michelle 10/11/2013 at 12:42 pm #

    Tony – yes you’re right, I did mean to edit that – but in the end decided they’re less common than ‘mainstream’ styles of bikes so they’d be new age to lots of people – kicking myself now though, and it would be pretty harsh to go back and edit now ;-p
    I want to do that. A lot are disc brakes now which is a pain as makes wheel swapping tricky, not ideal as I use a Powertap which I’d want to use on winter bike. Still plenty with rim brakes around but on my last search I found with 2014 bikes wanting rim brakes cut down my options.

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