If you are a cycling enthusiast in Europe, chances are that you have not only heard of Cyclocross already, but attended a few of these events as well. The events really are that popular in Europe. Recently, Cyclocross has garnered a lot of attention in the US too. Whether you are hearing the term for the first time, or you are simply looking for more information on Cyclocross before signing up for your first event, read on as we discuss the basics about everything that you will need to know.
Cyclocross (CX) or Cyclo-cross is a unique type of bicycle race that is a cross between an obstacle course and a gravel or dirt cycle race. Cyclocross gets its name mostly because of that very fact, as it requires more stamina, strength, and endurance than an ordinary bicycle race. Each cyclocross racer must traverse a difficult terrain (dirt roads, hills, etc.), alternating between cycling and carrying their bike over terrain that cannot be crossed while riding a bike.
Video Showing what a Cyclocross Race Looks Like
The Obstacle Course: Cyclocross Tracks
A typical Cyclocross course will either have a few or all possible types of obstacles to slow down the CX racers. These tracks generally consist of hiking and biking trails, hills, sand, gravel, tarmac, grasslands, mud, steep pavements and more. There is no set standard for the obstacles themselves, although there is a preference for them to have natural origins as much as possible.
As far as the length is concerned, official CX tracks are generally between 2.5 km to 3.5 km, but the number of laps vary depends on the particular race, the age of the competitors, the weather conditions, the size of the tracks, etc.
The Cyclocross Bicycle: A Bike Like No Other
Just as with any other extreme sport bicycle, the CX bicycle is no ordinary pedal-driven mountain bike either. As these bikes must at times be carried by the rider, the bicycle’s total weight holds tremendous importance. You cannot ride all the way, so it needs to be light enough to be carried across obstacles such as hills, mud pits and pavements, multiple times per loop.
Even the fastest racing bike in the world would be useless in a Cyclocross race for this very reason. On that note, let us now briefly go over the main features of a CX bike that make it ideal for these fun, but extremely challenging, cycle races.
Features of a Typical Cyclocross Bicycle
- Significantly and intentionally shortened frame reach.
- Much taller bottom bracket, as compared to road bikes and even most dirt bicycles.
- High mud clearance and superb traction, with knobby tires that provide grip on muddy, sandy tracks.
- The total weight should not exceed the 17.5–19.5 lbs. range.
Cyclocross Bikes Are Not to be Confused with Gravel Bikes
They may look quite similar, but there are subtle differences between cyclocross bikes and gravel bikes. However, gravel grinders can be used to compete in Cyclocross bike races. However, a gravel bikes is not the most ideal choice, since gravel bikes do not have as much traction on their tires, and the reach is generally a bit longer.
What Do You Need to Get Started with Cyclocross Races?
Let’s get started with the basics first, and we have prepared a handy list for you to follow next:
- A cyclocross bike is recommended, but a gravel bike will do, if you are only interested in racing on gravel tracks.
- It depends on your level of expertise, but dedicated Cyclocross racers buy their pedals and tires separately.
- Waterproof, grippy cycling shoes.
- Well ventilated and properly protected head gear, aka a cycling helmet.
- Full-sleeved, water-resistant clothing, made from breathable fabric to keep your skin protected against cuts, scratches and scrapes.
- Padded cycling gloves and padded bib shorts.
If you are planning to race in colder climates, be sure to wear additional layers of clothing underneath, which are adequately water resistant as well.
Do You Need Cyclocross Insurance?
The short answer is quite obvious and the same as it would be for any other extreme cycling race; yes, you do need Cyclocross insurance. Admittedly, it is not as dangerous as some of the other extreme cycling sports, but if you race your Cervelo Aspero Apex 1x ($2,800 – $ 3,000) or All-City Cosmic Stallion Force 1 ($4,000) without insurance, that’s just a risk too high for most people to take!
To find more information on Cyclocross insurance, how much it costs and what these policies cover, pay a visit to the following article on Cyclocross and Gravel Grinders: https://velosurance.com/blog/cyclocross-and-gravel-grinders/. This national insurance agency for cyclists around the world also has more information and guidance regarding how to get started with Cyclocross racing right on their landing page.
People ride and carry bikes over obstacles, mud, sand and gravel because it’s a lot of fun, highly competitive, and a race fit only for the fittest cyclists around. It did take some time to catch on in the United States, but now that it has, we expect CX racing to gain massive popularity pretty soon.
Thanks to Our Guest Poster
Our Guest Poster is Grace Murphy, an experienced reviewer and journalist.