You guys. It is the middle of August and as far as I’m concerned that only means one thing: cross is coming.
Have you heard of cyclocross? Have you ever tried cyclocross?
If the answer to either of those questions is “no”, that’s ok. We can still be friends. But you should probably learn more about cross because it, really and truly, is the best thing ever.
I mean, doesn’t this look like fun?
Ok, maybe not.
Cyclocross is a mixture of mountain biking and road racing and it’s pretty much the most fun thing you could possibly do on a bike. No, seriously. It is a damn blast. It also hurts. A lot.
Cyclocross races are circuit-style events that happen on short (2-ish mile) courses that cover pavement, dirt, sand, snow and pretty much anything else. Races are 45-60 minutes long and obstacles on every lap force riders to get off their bikes, throw them on their shoulders, and run like hell. And yes, sometimes the weather sucks. But that’s exactly what you want. Rain and snow and mud? That’s not “bad” weather. That’s “cross weather”.
Cross season begins in the early fall and runs through the end of December. You know, the time of year that those of us who live in places that get real, bona fide winters want to hang up our bikes and hibernate under down blankets. But we don’t do that because it’s cross season and cross is worth going out in the cold for.
But the best part of cyclocross, as far as I’m concerned, is the community. It’s the people that hang out in the freezing cold to ring cowbells and heckle their friends. It’s the handups that are given to the riders as they go flying by – everything from beer to bourbon to bacon. It’s the fact that you see the same people at the races every single weekend. And you’re all out there suffering together.
Cross is probably the easiest, most beginner friendly cycling discipline to get into. While mountain bike races can be long and lonely for beginners and road races are downright terrifying, cross races are just (really painful) fun. You may feel like you’re in no-man’s land if you get dropped (been there, done that … many times) but the reality of circuit-style racing is that you’re never out there by yourself.
Another one of my favorite things about cross? It’s one of my very favorite things to shoot, especially late in the season when things get sloppy.
All that to say, cross is coming. And while I promise that this won’t become a cyclocross blog, there will be plenty of talk of dirt and mud and blood. Because I may be a little bit obsessed and I think you all should be too.
Want to try it? Many bike shops and local cycling clubs offer free clinics this time of year to teach you everything you need to know before your first race. Things like how to dismount and remount your bike and the proper form for a bacon handup (this is important stuff, you guys). A hardtail mountain bike will get the job done for your first few races but once you become addicted (and you will), you’ll want to upgrade to a cyclocross bike.