Cross is Here! Some Thoughts on Trying out Cyclocross

Rocking her Brodie Roam over the Summer, @seekaytri has expanded her cycling resume to include commuting and now cyclocross! With many trials and tribulations of learning a new sport, she still came out on top! Want to learn more about Cyclocross in the Lower Mainland? Check out the Vancouver Cyclocross Coalition!

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As you may have gathered from my last post, I’ve switched gears recently. I’ve needed to have some fun after a disappointing triathlon season and I’ve also wanted to dial back the endurance (aka time commitment) going into the fall season. I was seeking something with quick, punchy, and fun. Conveniently, along came cyclocross!

Start line!

Cyclocross start line!

#crossiscoming

I started to see this hashtag #crossiscoming everywhere on social media, along with advertisements for FREE skills and drills sessions offered by two local bike shops:ChainLine Cycle and The Lions Cyclery. Sign me up!

I was able to attend one of these and learned some essentials: overview of the history of cyclocross; mounting and dismounting styles; hopping barriers with the bike; adjusting tire pressure (LOW tire pressure is best), maneuvering through tight corners, etc. It wasn’t pretty but I managed to get through the basics. If you don’t have cross clinics in your area, I’d suggest watching some youtube videos, then finding yourself a nice big patch of grass to practice in.

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Skills and drills practice on the grass!

Equipment:

It’s probably advantageous to have a dedicated cyclocross bike, but the nice bit is you don’t need one! Lots of people try out cross using their mountain bike or, like me, their commuter bike (with fenders and reflectors still on, please note). When I bought myBrodie Roam bike for commuting, I did have an inkling I might want to try cross some day, so I specifically checked to make sure the bike had clearance for a set of cross tires (also useful, but not necessary). Check! Please also note the running shoes. You don’t need to be clipped in for cross, although you should definitely make sure your laces are tucked in and won’t get tangled in the pedals/chain.

One thing I did splurge on was a long-sleeved cross jersey from Ten Speed Hero, because hey, if you’re not going to be fast, you might as well look amazing, right? The striped jersey has turned out to be my absolute favourite and is ideal not just for cross but also for spring and fall season riding. I’ll be giving it a full review later this month, but let me say here that the light-weight material on the sleeves makes it particularly well suited to racing hard in fall weather.

Races:

We’re lucky to have a local race series called Knox Mountain Cracker Cross, where you can race for the low price of $6 (plus your CyclingBC license).  My first order of business was to volunteer so I could scope things out. Meanwhile I loaned Brodie to my friend Alison so she could race (heh, heh, pro tip: send your friends out first!). That way Brodie would surely remember all the skills for when I raced the following week, right?

Meanwhile, I observed, cheered loudly, and took lots of photos. Here are two of my favourites:

Alison & Brodie Bike

Alison & Brodie Bike

Sheila on her Surly

Sheila on her Surly

When it came time for me to race the next week, Sheila (pictured above) kindly led me on a warm up lap so I could do some course recon (thanks, Sheila!). During the race itself, I discovered cross was both harder and easier than I had anticipated from watching. First, I did not go nearly as fast as I had imagined (do you see a theme to my recent blog posts?). Cyclocross does not look especially fast and so I had underestimated the effort it actually took. Lesson learned! But at the same time it was easier than I thought: none of the things I had feared — namely being run over by the front of the pack lapping me — actually happened. I discovered that yes, I did get lapped, but I could tell when the fast racers were coming and did my best to stay to the right as they overtook me. So I did NOT get smushed, fall off, or accidentally block riders lapping me. Success! What is more, the front of the pack riders often shouted encouraging things as they went by — just one of the things that makes cross really welcoming to beginners. Thanks y’all! Because cyclocross consists of a circuit that you repeat for 30 minutes (longer for regional races), you never get left behind or lost. And if you needed to, you could bail at any time. All of those things make it an easy sport to try out and work your way in to, which is something I really appreciated about it. Plus, cross does wonders for your bike handling skills.

Breathing and working much harder than anticipated!

Breathing and working much harder than anticipated! Photo credit: Darian Cheng

I discovered after that I’d finished 3rd woman at that first race, which was a boost of encouragement and I’m excited to be participating in as many cyclocross races as possible this fall.  Oh yeah, and I’ll be ditching the running shoes soon too for SPDs and finally putting those cross tires on the bike. #crossishere

via/ seekaytri blog post

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