Cyclocross is booming in the Pacific Northwest, and for good reason—it’s a fun, welcoming community and an awesome workout. CX is the perfect way to maintain fitness through the fall, improve handling skills, and stay connected to friends and teammates. With local races kicking off in early September, it’s time to get started so you can begin your season on a high note. Here are a few steps to help you prepare.
Prep your gear.
If you put your bike away after the wet, muddy races of the 2014 season, no doubt that bike will need some love. Get it tuned so it’s ready to shift smoothly and respond to rapid accelerations. Even the dry, fast courses of early season CX have plenty of twisty turns—a well-tuned machine will respond with power as you punch it out of corners and out of barrier sections.
If you’re brand new to CX, it’s time to find a bike! Don’t feel like you have to spend a lot on your first CX bike, focus on finding a bike that fits you well. The most important thing is comfort! If you’re comfortable on your road bike, find a CX bike that fits similarly. Some CX racers like a compact feel and choose to ride slightly smaller set-ups. Ideally, you can find a bike that leaves you room to tweak your fit as you learn what feels best.
Once you’ve found a bike, get yourself a comfortable pair of mountain bike pedals and shoes— a pair you feel comfortable running in for short bursts. And last but not least, find CX-appropriate tires that you can trust in grass, mud, sand and gravel.
Start running, just a little.
You don’t have to be a track star to be a strong CX racer, but you do want to get through the running sections without getting totally gassed. Incorporate short runs into your warm-up routine, or get out for a 10-minute jog a couple times per week. Start the process early and build speed gradually through the season.
Haven’t run in a year or more? You’re not alone! Start with a 20-minute walk/jog combo, interspersing 1 minute of slow jogging with 3 minutes of fast walking. Make sure you’re in good running shoes, and don’t be afraid to take advantage of the local trails—trail running is more specific to CX, not to mention easier on the body.
Hone your skills.
The only way to be smooth at barriers is to practice barriers. Again, and again, and again. Be consistent with your practice, but know when to call it a day—practice while you’re fresh to engrain quality technical form.
Watch videos of the pros, take a one-on-one lesson, or just get out and practice 1x per week. With enough repetition, you can turn an area of weakness into a performance edge.
For the newbies who have no idea what I’m talking about, fear not. Just know that you’ll be learning a variation of this, and what could possibly be more fun? Join us for the WWCX Festival on August 29, you’ll be well on your way after that.
CX is all about being one with your bike, and one of the best ways to establish that connection is riding trails. Find trail networks that provide just enough technical challenge so you go home fired up, feeling more confident and excited for your next ride.
· get comfortable riding in and out of the saddle
· practice looking through the turns
· get the feel for guiding your front wheel
Trails are a fun and efficient way to hone your skills and elevate your fitness level. Don’t be afraid to treat yo self with a stop by your favorite pub or coffee shop on your way home! After all, ‘cross is also about having a lot of fun!