It’s true. We’ve gone a little cross crazy here. Last Thursday’s post was a primer on cyclocross, including resources to help guide you into this fast-growing sport. Today, I’m delving into the differences between cross and road cycling and some reasons to make this challenging (in a super-fun way) and fan-friendly sport a part of your fall and winter line-up, whether as a participant or a spectator:

Reasons to Ride Cyclocross

1) Cyclocross is friendly, and there’s beer: The sport is a known to be welcoming to all levels, so the barrier to entry is not nearly as high or as intimidating as for road racing. A celebratory culture that includes beer, food, sometimes outlandish costumes in the crowd and vigorous ringing of cow bells is a hallmark of the sport. To quote Cyclocross Magazine: “Cyclocross can be serious…and ridiculous.”

2) Races are short and intense: They comprise riding many laps of a short course of about 1.5 to 2 miles within about 30 minutes to 1 hour, with beginners covering the shorter distance. So you’re not going to spend long hours on the bike as you would  in many road races. The pace is slower than road racing, but pushing the pedals and steering over tough terrain and obstacles is a plenty challenging workout.

3) New challenges to conquer: While road cycling skills are beneficial to cross, advantages such as drafting do not apply. In this sport, vital skills include getting off the starting line and accelerating quickly, dismounting gracefully, efficiently carrying a bike while leaping over or running around obstacles, and remounting with equal haste. Striving to achieve all this in a smooth and seamless fashion opens new cycling frontiers.

4) A break from routine: Particularly if you’ve been following a regular training regimen all season, cyclocross can provide welcome variety that lends both a physical and a psychological boost. Shorter intervals of exertion and the kind of weight-bearing exercise that may be hard to come by during the regular season, are part of the draw.

5) If you fall (and you will) you won’t be smacking a tarmac at a zillion miles per hour. You’ll land on grass or a trail and depending on temperatures and weather conditions, that may mean encountering ice, snow, mud or a big puddle.  So…

6) … you get dirty! Google cyclocross and what you’ll find is an image gallery of mud-splattered cyclists carrying equally filthy bicycles. It’s like being a kid playing in the dirt without your mom yelling at you.

7) Sideline assistance: Course conditions gum up tires and gears, so you can hand your dirty bike to a (really devoted) friend or family member to clean off, while you grab and continue to race on a spare. The pros have special mechanics that handle this, a bit like pit crews in car racing.

8) Usable skills: Jumping on and off a bike? Hauling it around on your shoulders? That sounds a lot like traveling around the city and descending into the subway. If you use a bicycle for daily transportation, the skills developed in cyclocross are transferable.

Of course, hearing the call of the cow bell and pedaling a cross bike are two different things. So, stay tuned. In the mean time, if you’re trying cross for the first time this year, drop us a line and let us know how it’s going.

Top photo:  ©Meg McMahon

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