The leaves are starting to turn and tumble, its starting to become a wee bit nippier as you head out the door each morning, yes, winter is coming. But you hardy cyclists keen for more action and adventure during the colder months need not despair at the thought of endless cold road rides and sweaty indoor sessions, a new challenge awaits.
Stuck somewhere between a road cycling and mountain biking, cyclocross is a great way for people who are not so confident to get introduced to off-roading. Although it can be done at any time of the year, it is traditionally a winter affair, because as the weather turns it can be prudent to head for the woods to escape the worst of it.
Cyclocross was originally, and still is, a racing format. Cyclocross races consist of short laps, utilising terrain ranging from normal asphalt roads to off road trails, to grassy fields. Races are short at generally somewhere around an hour, and are considered by some to be the most accessible races to get into competitive cycling. With over 600 entrants across the age categories at this weekend’s Scottish Cyclocross League opener at Callendar Park in Falkirk, there is a wide spectrum of the cycling community represented, from total beginners to elite racers.
Although it was originally a racing format that doesn’t mean that some of the feature of cyclocross riding can’t apply to leisure cycling. A ‘true’ cyclocross bike resembles a modified road bike, with wider tyres and different geometry, the truth of it is that you can ride what could be considered cyclocross terrain on any number of bikes. Mountain bikes eat up the terrain easily, and the hardcore roadies can take on some of it if they’re brave enough.
In recent years there has been an upsurge in adventure style cyclocross events, tending to be longer than the standard format a race, focusing more on endurance and challenging terrain, rather than solely on the technical and aerobic ability of the participants.
This is good news for the leisure cyclist, who is less interested in lycra skinsuits, and more aroused by cafe stops and vistas for their instagram accounts! Applying a bit of inspiration from the terrain that the racers tackle, and the bikes they are wont to use, it’s only a matter of motivating yourself to embark on your own cross adventure.
Whether it’s just finding a more creative way to do your morning commute, cutting through the park, and riding down the stairs, or epic weekend afternoons in the hills eating up the miles and drinking in the views, there’s something to be taken from cyclocross for the masses, and who knows, you might like it enough to give the racing style that gave it its name a try.