Racing mountain bike or road events can be intimidating but there is one discipline that you shouldn’t shy away from trying out. Cyclocross races are fun, exciting, challenging and you’ve got nothing to loose by participating in one this fall.

Perhaps the race speed, your perceived lack of fitness, not being on a club team or the competitive amateur peloton keeps you away from road racing while you shy away from mountain bike races because of the experienced field and technical courses. However, you love riding your bike and like to dabble in the odd gran fondo or charity event here or there but you continue to think racing isn’t for you. That could all change the moment you participate in your first cyclocross race and here are six reasons why:

It provides a welcome break from the road or single track

Maghalie Rochette is a pro mountain biker with Team Clif Bar but also rides a full ‘cross season

While ‘cross is the main focus of a growing number of professional cyclists, it is more often than not a complimentary discipline (except in Belgium) for road or mountain bikers. The crowd the races attract are people looking for a fun way to extend their season and test themselves on technically challenging courses. Riders who spend a lot of time on their ‘cross bike take it on trails, gravel, tarmac and anywhere else they feel like riding to switch things up when they need a break from their other bikes. A cyclocross race is a great change in pace from the riding you are probably use to on your road or mountain bike.

The fun atmosphere

What is really attractive about cyclocross races is the warm, welcoming and joyful atmosphere where everyone is out to have a good time. While racers in other disciplines can be straight faced and serious, those at ‘cross races are more likely to be laughing and smiling. Many fit cyclists take themselves too seriously, rarely will you find a ‘cross racer who does so. It’s no-wonder ‘cross races are fun. They bring together a bunch of spandex clad cyclists and give them a muddy course to play in on their bike. The beer flows freely and there could be a fun hand out to receive mid-race. Chances are once you’ve done a ‘cross race you will be coming back for more and you might meet a few new friends along the way.

Spectator friendly courses

Another big advantage of ‘cross is how easy it is to spectate. The courses are short and often zig-zag their way through parks making it easy to walk around and take in the races before or after your event. It also means that it attracts friends and family who can easily come and watch. Because races don’t last as long you don’t need to spend hours waiting for the race to come by or sink your entire day into doing a race.

It’s a different type of workout but still on a bike

Photo: Lauren Daniells

Cyclocross requires a different set of skills than mountain biking or road but because races are relatively short, they don’t necessarily require specific training to compete in. Races tend to last about one hour which is an approachable distance for riders of most levels of fitness. It’s not a constant effort since you’ll need to navigate the courses obstacles, mount and dismount while trying to hold as much speed through the courses corners and technical sections. It’s also a full body workout as you will be lifting, hopping on and off, and running your bike up stairs and over obstacles. It also prepares you well for the early spring gravel and adventure races that are becoming so popular. Honing your bike handling skills in a ‘cross race will benefit your fitness and skills as a cyclist in all sorts of ways.

‘Cross is a great way to extend your season

Cyclocross goes on even in the snow. Photo: Andrew Davidson

Fair weather cyclists lament the end of summer as the end of the riding season is right on the horizon. A ‘cross bike can completely reverse that attitude giving riders a reason to embrace the increasingly cold temperatures and extend their season well into the fall. If you are brave and properly dressed there is no reason you can’t keep riding right into the winter. If you are dreading loosing all your fitness over the winter, a couple of ‘cross races and off-season adventures can have you riding outside far longer than you expected.

You get to buy yourself a new bike

Mariposa Cyclocross

Mariposa Cyclocross Image: Walter Lai

While ‘cross races can be done on a variety of bikes including mountain, single speed or if you dare a road bike with lots of clearance and nobby tires, really it’s best enjoyed on a cross bike. They give you the ability to navigate the technical courses, keep speed on the less technical sections and provide clearance for wider tires. A cyclocross bike won’t only serve you well this ‘cross season but if you want to do some more off-the-tarmac adventures it can be a gateway to a whole new style of riding.


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