Sometimes it can be hard to motivate ourselves to get out on the bike in the depths of winter. And with good reason. The race season seems an eternity away, it's cold and often raining which results in unpredictable road surfaces not to mention frozen toes.
Cyclo-cross however can be the perfect motivation to keep your bike fitness at its peak over those gloomy months as the races typically take place in autumn and winter.
Sound like your cup of tea? Be sure to check out Helen Wyman, 7 x British Champion's top tips for surviving your first Cyclo-Cross event.
Competitive cyclo-cross events consist of multiple laps of a short (3.5km-3.5km) course which features varying terrain including pavements, wooded trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles. The rider must expect to be on and off the bike a lot and get very very muddy. Races typically last between 30 and 60 minutes.
The majority of races will host all categories on the same day - under 10's, under 12's, youth, junior, senior and vets categories will all take to the start line at different times making it a brilliant day out for the whole family.
Cyclo-Cross events are renowned for their lively atmosphere. There is something about finishing 60 minutes of gruelling exercise, caked in mud, polished off with beers and frites that results in ear to ear grins.
You do not need to be a member of a club in order to participate in a Cyclo-Cross event, although you will need a one day licence to cover the insurance side of things.
Want to find the perfect event for you, we have it covered. Check out the Total Women's Cycling guide to your first cyclo-cross event.
Similar in appearance to road bikes, cyclo-cross bikes are light with narrow tyres and drop handlebars. Differences include lower gearing, stronger frames and disc brakes and nobbly tyres.
If you are concerned about the cost of purchasing a new fleet of cyclo-cross bikes for the family though, fear not, the rules are really quite relaxed so you can race on anything from a mountain bike to a purpose built cross bike.
Where to buy a cyclo-cross bike:
Due to the fact that cyclo-cross has seen such a rise in popularity over the past number of years, there are a huge number of cyclo-cross bikes on the market. All of the major brands such as Trek and Scott have cyclo-cross offerings in their lines.
The price of a cyclo-cross bike starts at about £500 while a higher end bike will cost over the £3,000 mark. One of the most popular offerings on the market is the Verenti Substance CX1.1 Sora which is available for £600 from Wiggle.
What to wear? Cyclo-Cross Clothing:
You’ll need MTB-style shoes with a grippy sole, so that you can run in the mud. Close-fitting cycling clothes are best, so that nothing flaps about or gets caught.
As cyclo-cross is a winter sport, you’ll need to dress for the weather. In the early season, you’ll probably get away with a short-sleeved jersey and shorts. For colder races you’ll need knee warmers or cycling tights and a long-sleeved jersey.
You’ll get hot racing, and there isn’t time to take off clothing while you’re going round, so experiment until you figure out what works for you.
Check out our guide to the top winter cycling clothing for some more inspiration.
Benefits of cyclo-cross:
The hard and fast nature of cyclo-cross racing means it is a great way to maintain focus and fitness through the winter while the technical nature of the riding gives you the opportunity to improve your bike handling skills and ability to mix tarmac and trails. But most importantly, it is great fun. Covered in mud on a cold winter's day you are sure to be grinning ear to ear having completed a cyclo-cross event.
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