Cyclocross also know as CX, CycloX or cross is predominately a winter season sport and is a relatively new cycling discipline to the UK. A bit like cross country for mountain bikes it usually is held at a venue with multiple terrains, including on and off road section and is done in laps. There are usually different races for all ages of riders, so you get fair times according to category. It is a really big sport in Benelux and the USA who have been doing it for ever more. The big different between it and cross country mountain biking is the bike itself. Even XC MTB bikes are heavy, the beauty of cyclocross is that the bike looks like a road bike and weighs much less, with the added features of knobbly tyres for grip and disc brakes as the bike rims get wet and muddy. The clearance is also larger on a cyclocross frame to allow for mud build up.
A friend of mine in the club was doing it last year and he was writing up a report of how it went and I thought “This sounds interesting.” I started out on a mountain bike 20 odd years ago and it thought if I got a cyclocross bike through the Bike To Work scheme I could use it for commuting but also for going off road with the kids and I could do a bit of cyclocross in the winter if I fancied it. So I bought the bike and had a go at cyclocross and found it brilliant, a really good laugh. It’s quite hard work and challenging but once you get into the skills of it, riding along a muddy path, skidding all over the place, it really is good fun! I’ve done a couple of races now and I’ve got another race this weekend and it’s just so different from time trialing, that can be very intense and your on your own on the road but with cyclocross you tend to be riding in groups and competing against 2 or 3 riders of a similar standard to you and overtaking each other throughout the hour of the race. It just really pushes you to try that bit harder and finish in the centre of the field, it’s good. The cyclocross bike that I bought is also probably my favourite bike at the moment too.
The clearance on a road bike for mud is just not there plus you need cantilever or disk brakes so they don’t get clogged up with mud. A lot of people ride mountain bikes to try it out for the first time, it’s actually a really relaxed discipline - you’ll turn up to a race and you’ll see really top riders but you’ll also see complete beginners on rusty old mountain bikes as well. It’s very welcoming and at a lot of events you can just turn up and sign in, you don’t have to have entered in advance. It’s very different to road racing, where you’ve got to have a licence and it’s separated into categories. In cyclocross you can have a rusty old mountain bike and it’s fine, you’re not going to win but you’re going to have a lot of fun!
In America and Belgium it’s absolutely massive and they have big crowds that turn up to watch. They basically get drunk and throw chips at the riders! One great thing about it is the circuits tend to be quite short and winding so if you go to watch it you can see all the riders go past and then cut across and see them come up the next part of the course - it’s great for spectators.