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Home > Magazine > Bikes > What's Fun about Cyclocross?

What's Fun about Cyclocross?
September 25, 2012

It's bouncy but old farts can excel at it.

Trickiness with equipment can even take some of the bounce out -- via sewups and maybe a cushy frame.

It's SKILL oriented. There's a knack to it, technique. All the time. You need a feel for the corners. You need to know how to ride corners. Once you figure that out you get the tasty skill groove going. ...And you quickly catch and pass those who are maybe even TWICE as strong but who don't have the smooth skill down yet. ...Fun!

Sure, there's fitness...but there's an equal dose of skill required.

Compare that to other kinds of racing, like 10k running or bike time trials, say. Ha! ...Pure motorin' pays plenty. The power of youth pays the biggest dividends. It's a bit like the difference between technical skiing and a golf course.

Now, at the highest levels, kids also have more skill. But the oldsters can keep their hone in that regard longer than they can keep their raw speed and power.

Basically, a smart, skilled old 'crosser is still *in the game*. And that's good clean fun!

It's even a game that one can play. Take a tricky 'cross course: flow it with skill and you can keep your speed runnin' almost as if you were out riding on a street. ...Mess up and you're toast. You burn out. You're overshooting corners and starting and stopping, constantly having to power back up to speed. It's a waste of time! Argh!

So how is it done right, anyway?

Well, here's what I hear: You want to approach a turn wide then turn as much as you can early, before the apex. Same as in a crit! Keep your head up and LOOK to the exit: your body and bike will follow. Don't lean but STEER thru the turn. Pedal as much as possible, even no-power turning the crank keeps more traction. Let the front float and the rear slide if it wants. Reapply power as soon as possible.

...I wish I could do it! (Someday!)

The other trick is to run as low of pressure as you can. They say you want to almost feel the rim a couple times per lap with clinchers and definitely feel the rim every lap with sewups. They say a 170-pounder and run sewups at 24front/28rear. Whoa! Clinchers are more like 35. Makes a lot of difference. Sewups sure feel sweet out there! But I've been more like 30 with mine. Any less and the squish gets very weird. If I weight my front it can change the steering and squish to the side, like the rim is worming a different way than the tire. But the dudes say it's OK. Who knows, maybe I accidentally dropped it to 15, or something. I'll keep trying. They talk about a "half a pump stroke." There don't seem to be gauges that really are that fine, so I don't know how they tell. It's part of the fun, though. Caution on addiction, though: CX can be an arms-race like anything else. And tires are as much a part of it as with mtbike racing. Different conditions will beg for different tires if you let them.

Well, as long as you start with the bike you ride to the race on, you can't go wrong! Just take off the rack, fenders and kickstand and you're good to go! : )

I do keep pondering how to up the fun ante and reduce the spendy carbon arms-race aspect. Maybe making the race as part of a tour would do it: ride to the race and tent for the night. Weekend race rallies where everyone bikes to a campground then races the next day. Camp 2 nites then bike home. Would we still see as many $10k bikes and fancy specialized jive?

In Belgium it's about "gin and trombones" -- which is the name of a Van Diesel bike. Booze and music are good things in a sport.

I've seen plenty of beer at the CX'ing I've done. Good. And cowbells. But we need more music. Trombones. (Hey, there WAS a trombone at my first race, come to think of it!) And food and camping and regular clothes.

How 'bout it?

I suppose nowadays people are farflung and busy and only have half a day and so will drive. And since they have good jobs they'll have carbon. And regular people will wonder what the heck are those freaks up to. The sport will be cut off from them. And from those who are actually young and those who maybe don't have good jobs. Those who are moderate and who truly want to relax and conviviate during their time off.

Well, one never knows...

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