There's still time to dabble in some cyclo-cross fun this season. If you are thinking about getting yourself a little dirty, then we have good news. Most of your road or mountain bike kit is pretty transferable. Aside from the bike itself, you don't really need to buy much, if any, specific kit to go cyclo-cross riding.
One of the major differences in kit between road riding and cyclo-cross is your choice of shoes and pedals. If you are brand new to the discipline, then it is probably worth opting for flat pedals and a pair of old trainers (although this may be slippy) as you familiarise yourself with the new style of riding. Cyclo-cross is challenging, so be prepared for a lot of mud, technical sections and an abundance of dismounts.
As you become more confident on the cross tracks, you'll probably want to try clipping into the pedals. It's best to leave your road pedals and carbon soled road shoes at home, and opt for a mountain bike pedal instead. MTB pedals are double sided which makes them a lot easier to clip in, and they have a higher tolerance for mud which is crucial to this messy sport.
So let's have a look at a few of the most popular mountain bike SPD pedals for cyclo-cross...
Shimano M520 SPD
Shimano offer an extensive range of SPD pedals, starting with the M520 which are perfect for beginners.
They are duel sided, and the open cage design makes them easy to shed mud. The adjustable spring tension allows you to dial in the right level of clipping in/out force that suits you. The Shimano range of SPD's are renowned for their durability and longevity. This is all down to their sealed cartridge bearing system that, and high quality build. The M520 are a great introductory pedal with a reasonable price tag. The perfect jumping off point into their higher end performance range.
Crankbrother's Eggbeater SPD
If you're looking for the ultimate mud clearing pedal, then it has to be the Eggbeater model from Crankbrothers.
These pedals are lightweight and minimal, with a 4 face entry for your cleats. Their slim and simple design make them ideal for whipping away the mud, and prevent annoying build up of grim. These pedals are highly popular in race environments for their 4 point entry system. It allows you to clip in faster that if you only had a 2 point entry (duel side).
Time Atac MX
The Atac MX range from Time have been proven to be a solid and reliable SPD pedal over the years.
If you're not as keen on the small "egg beater" style of SPD, then there are a number of options which have larger platforms. Having a larger surface area can be better for beginners who are still learning to clip in, as the additional platform offers a little more reassurance under the foot.
The Atac MX2 pedals are constructed from a composite body with an oversize steel axle, and have been designed to effectively clear the build up of mud. However the the larger platform comes at a weighty price of 420g, that's over 100g than the previous models mentioned.
If you're investing in a SPD pedal, you'll need the right type of shoe to compliment. Traditional MTB clipless shoes have a recessed cleat, which is great because you don't end up waddling around like a penguin when you're not on the bike.
In cyclo-cross riding, you'll no doubt have to dismount a number of times to overcome obstacles. For this reason, you need some hard-wearing tread to provide traction when you're running up those muddy banks.
While some brands do offer CX specific shoes, a regular MTB shoe will do just fine. Here's a few options for you...
Mavic Crossride SL Elite
These Mavic shoes are ideal cross shoes as they have a slim profile, they are breathable and they have ample traction on the sole to grip into the mud.
I've been wearing these shoes for both cyclo-cross and MTB, and I love them. The fastening system comprises of two Velco straps and a ratchet strap over the top of the foot. With these three points of closure, it's easy to dial in the perfect fit.
Shimano WM53 SPD
Just like their range of pedals, Shimano offer a decent selection of women's MTB shoes too. The WM53 SPD shoes are great for trail riding and cyclo-cross, and they won't break the bank either.
They have a triple Velcro strap fastening system, and are constructed from tough, stretch resistant synthetic leather. The soles are durable with the essential profile for wearing off the bike, and in the mud.
Fi'zi:k M6B Donna
Fi'zi:k have been hard at work this year with the release of their brand new women's specific saddle, but they've always produced quality performance footwear.
Their M6B Donna shoe is the MTB sister of the RB5 women's road shoe. The teal and purple SPD shoe is fitted with a micro-adjusting BOA system to keep tension in place at all times. With a carbon reinforced mid-sole and plenty of grip underneath, these shoes will keep you standing and pedalling throughout your cyclo-cross ride.
With both shoes and pedals, it comes down to what combination works best for you, and your style of riding.
The most important thing is to get out there, have fun and embrace the mud!
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