Sunday morning at 7:00 am, and it’s a gloomy rainy day. Even the rooster is sleeping.
Noise outside! What’s just happening?
Some mad bikers just riding like hell. Are they mad? In this muddy wet road who rides a road bike, but something is different! Why the tires of their bikes are knobby? But the bikes almost look like road bikes. What’s wrong?
Road bikes with knobby tires, riding in the rain, doing bunny hops, carrying the cycles, what is that?
It is a CYCLOCROSS!
A cyclocross race is a hybrid race of mountain bike racing and road racing. It is one of the toughest forms of bike riding full of obstacles.
For most of the riders, it is the most exciting form of racing also because it is not only just cycling but also a combination of cycling, carrying, stunt actions, running, and climbing.
This form of racing was actually invented to keep the road bikers and the mountain bikers fit during winter and autumn. Almost all the forms of exercise Cyclocross includes. So, this form of racing was accepted by the professionals.
Later many of the riders quit road racing and mountain bike racing and adopted Cyclocross all in all, and Cyclocross became one of the most famous forms of racing in the countries of Europe and America.
Nowadays many Cyclocross events are being arranged by the same arrangers of the road race and MTB race.
Although, it’s a known form of racing it is quite different from other formats. Many people just know the name Cyclocross but not the actual format and origin.
As a biker, if you want to make your name known to find your answer below, what is Cyclocross? Learn to ride and to win.
Origin of Cyclocross
Not just like other races, Cyclocross is a form of bike race which have its own interesting historical background.
In Europe’s early 1900s during winter, bikers used to bet among themselves to race to the next town on their bikes. Those races were just friendly personal events.
The bikers used to apply almost all tricks like cutting through the fields, jumping through the fence, climbing uphill carrying the cycle, and taking rough shortcuts to reaching first to the goal.
Sometimes those races were called “STEEPLE CHASE” cause the only landmarks the cyclists got on their ways were the steeples. The actual motive of the races was to add some more fun on-road racing and keep the body in shape during winter.
In 1902 in France, Daniel Gousseau who was army personnel and secretary-general of the French cycling union was the first man to arrange Cyclocross as an official event named French National Cyclocross Championship.
Then Geo Lefevre originated the event Tour De France, and in 1910 Octave Lapize after winning the Tour De France championship, the game Cyclocross started to spread over the world.
Belgium in (1910), Switzerland in (1912), Luxembourg in (1923), Spain in (1929), Italy in (1930) arranged individual Cyclocross events.
Cyclocross was first internationally arranged in 1924 in France. Then in 1950, the first world Cyclocross championship was arranged in Paris.
In the US the bike racing format Cyclocross became popular in the 1970s. The US National Cyclocross Championship started in 1975 in Berkley and then continued in different places.
What is Cyclocross?
Cyclocross is the format of the race which consists of more and more variations in tracks. It is the form of a race held’s almost in every kind of weather. Either it is sunny, gloomy, or rainy.
For master level racers the time limit of the game is 1hour and for the intermediate and beginners level, the time limit differs from 20,30, or 45 minutes duration. This game consists of several laps in a short course of time.
The time duration of the first two laps is counted by the judges and the average of the total duration becomes the time limit for other laps. Most of the time lap duration becomes 6/7 minutes.
The lap distance is most commonly 2.5 to 3.5 km or 1.5 to 2.5 miles. The starting and end of the lap are always plain. Laps are 3m wide as per the UCI rules.
The lap consists of a variety of terrain mixture of short steep climbs, asphalt, hardpack dirt, grass, mud and sand, and some of the parts the rider have to carry his bike.
The laps also consist of a pair of planks at a distance of 4m not high more than 40cm. riders can bunny hop the plank barriers or just carry the cycle and jump of the planks.
The race consists of almost all the kinds of barriers a biker has to face in other race formats. The race format is so well planned that every part of the biker’s body has to go through a process of exercise.
Cyclocross also helps to improve road biking and mountain biking skills.
Cyclocross vs Road Bikes
Cyclocross bikes are a hybrid of mountain bikes and road bikes. By the structure, they are quite similar to road bikes. They have down handlebars like road bikes they have knobby tires like mountain bikes. They are just a blended mixture.
Cyclocross bikes are hybrid of MTBs and Road bikes but in the first look, they are very much similar to road bikes. They have the same drop handlebars as road bikes, the same brakes, and gear shifter, and mostly almost the same frame design.
The question is, why Cyclocross bikes are unique?
If we keep both bikes face to face and raise the issue of Cyclocross vs road bikes we will these differences:
The most striking difference between the road bikes and Cyclocross bikes are the tires.
The road bikes mostly have 23mm to 28mm wide tires, and it’s likely to be completely smooth but low rolling resistance whilst forming a long time act in the track.
Cyclocross bike tires are much wider. They measure between about 32mm and 35mm wide. They also come in lots of different tire patterns to cope with a wide variety of terrains and conditions as the race is full of barriers.
The other big differences between these two bikes are the brakes. Cyclocross bikes have wider tires as they need more mud clearance. So, they have quite a noticeable difference in their brakes.
Road bikes always tended to have cantilever brakes, which both either side of the wheel and then pivot inwards now. Although they are perfectly functional, the majority of them just don’t really work that well in cross bikes.
So, cross bikes were some of the first to adopt disc brake technology because of the greater power the greater modulation, and the greater mud clearance.
Nowadays, some new road bikes also adopting disc brake technology to take advantage of the better braking and also for the increased tire clearance.
Road bikes and cross bikes have a difference in pedals also. The pedals used in road bikes are just made to be on the bike and they are individual.
Road bikers just have to be on their bike during the race. So, the pedals are made to keep the rider’s grip of the shoes in place.
But in Cyclocross the riders have to ride and also run, and because the track is sometimes muddy, road bike pedals can make the riders slip out during the race.
Except for using road bike pedals, In Cyclocross bikes have mountain bike pedals which help the rider to keep a good grip on their bikes.
Mountain bike pedals also have a hole in both sides of them so the mud doesn’t stick to the pedal and keeps the grip of the rider strong always.
The measurements of road bikes and cross bikes on a close look very different from one another. Road bikes are made to be speedy and cross bikes are made to be stable.
The road bikes are higher than cross bikes. Following the aerodynamics, the road bike frames are made higher to cut through the wind and go faster. Higher frames help the rider to get smooth turns during the race.
The distance of the top tube to the head tube of the road bikes is more than the cross bikes to keep the riders position more down following the aerodynamics.
The cross bikes are shorter in height as they need more ground clearance and stability. Their structure doesn’t follow the aerodynamics, because in the Cyclocross race aerodynamics actually do not have any function.
Cross bikes top tubes are also shorter than the road bikes to keep the rider stable through hard conditions and to take the hard turns easily.
There is a big difference between the gearing system of road bikes and cross bikes.
The road bikes tend to have bigger front chainrings. 50 or a 53in size so that you can pedal at speeds of 50, 60 even 70 kilometers an hour.
Cross bikes never have to go that fast so they have much smaller chainrings generally 36/46 combination paired with 1128 cassette in the back.
Some cross bikes actually come with a single ring setup. Many people just love that simplicity as they have work with only one shifter.
Choosing the perfect shoe for Cyclocross is very important. As the Cyclocross race is not similar to other races. The rider has to do more than just cycling on the track.
The rider has to climb, has to run, and has to ride so wearing a common shoe can create chaos for the rider.
Road bike shoes are also not perfect for Cyclocross as they are made with some metal grip to stick to the pedal. Running is so far but walking is quite disturbing with those shoes. In contact with mud, they can also slip out from the pedal which can occur accidents.
There are specialized shoes for Cyclocross available which are with a strong grip to the pedal and the ground at any circumstances.
Mountain bikes shoes and other running shoes are used on Cyclocross.
Benefits of Cyclocross
Cyclocross is not just a race. It has unbelievable health benefits and many other benefits. The benefits of Cyclocross are:
Cyclocross races were actually invented to keep the racers of other formats of racing especially mountain bike and road bike racers fit during the season of winter.
The varieties of obstacles of this race keep busy the rider from head to toe. It helps the rider to maintain athletic fitness as it is.
It also circulates the blood through the whole body and keeps the body cells energized.
The riders in Cyclocross go through hard terrains and had to face obstacles more than any other races. They had to burn more and more calories so, in the season of cold winter, Cyclocross by burning extra calories helps the riders to keep their body weight in control.
The race Cyclocross starts and ends with smooth tracks like in road biking and then continues the track with many obstacles as a mountain bikers faces.
So, by performing Cyclocross the racers can improve their skills in both mountain biking and road biking.
X bikes are the bikes which do not have any suspension but have to go through more ups and downs. So, the Cyclocross bikers have to be at the peak of their balancing.
Practicing for balance improvement in CX helps the rider to improve their balance in other races like mountain biking, road biking, and other formats also.
For a cyclist, mental stability is important more than anything. Cycling for hours is not as easy as it looks. More and more mental support is needed to complete laps after laps in the cycle.
To enhance mental stability nothing can be more helpful than CX. This race contains more hard situations than any other race format. A mentally unstable man can never complete this race.
This format of the race keeps the biker in so much pressure that his mental stability becomes strong than the strongest.
Problems of Cyclocross
C-cross doesn’t just have benefits it also has some possible problems. The problems a Cyclocross participant might face are:
As CX tracks are full of obstacles any wrong step can cause a serious accident. Cross racers have to be careful that any racers as they have to go through unusual tracks.
Mostly in the turnings, the mud pit, and the downhills, the rider has to be more and more careful.
Cause the race is not smooth, at any time at any place for some unwanted reasons the rider can get broken bones, which can send him to the hospital. This can even cause a rider to quit his career.
This one is the most major problem of Cyclocross are dirty bikes. As the bikes have to go through muddy pits and wet grass fields it becomes dirty as hell.
Sometimes it gets so much dirty that washing becomes a hassle.
A good cleaning session to the bike chain becomes necessary after this a cyclocross event.
Workout’s for improving Cyclocross
CX is a format of racing which needs the most less training, but as this game nowadays became an international event and world championship is also arranged in this format.
Practicing more and more for this criterion of race can give you an identity. So, here are some workouts for your improvement in Cyclocross.
Warm-up for at least 15 minutes on your bike.
Complete 4 x 10-minute microburst intervals with 5 minutes of rest between sets in your local cyclocross course, with one burst being 15 seconds ON (150% FTP) and 15 seconds OFF (50% FTP).
Repeat continually for 10 minutes.
Warm-up for15 minutes with a solid 5-minute tempo.
30 seconds riding, 30 seconds coasting, 30 seconds running fast, 30 seconds coasting. Take 12 minutes to complete the interval, then ride 10 minutes easy.
Repeat every 12 minutes.
These are the two most easy and important workouts to improve your Cyclocross skills. Here’s a cyclocross youtube video to help you out more.
Taylor is an outdoors & sports equipment specialist, sports author, bike traveler, bicycling and skating expert, and smoke-free ride activist. He is also a regular reviewer of outdoor sports gadgets and accessories. About safety gear and biking facts he analyzes and gives his feedback to outdoorxsports. Writes and tests to help him, you, and us.