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.
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”.
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.”
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.
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” ?