Why you should try cyclocross this summer

cyclocross race

Published: 27th June 2022

Cyclocross is one of the most enjoyable disciplines in cycling and allows cyclists to get away from the very hectic UK roads. It’s also arguably the most accessible way to itch a competitive scratch while having fun and getting fit within a unique community.

These 30 - 60-minute races (depending on category) held on off-road courses in all sorts of venues, encourage a racing spirit and personal battle like no other two-wheeled pursuit. You’ll tackle all manner of conditions, a variety of courses, a range of competitors, not to mention testing your own abilities to the maximum.

But perhaps the most appealing and rider-friendly aspect of cyclocross is the comparative safety when put up against other two-wheeled disciplines. Road cyclists have to share their playground with many-ton motor vehicles, sometimes on fast roads and unforgiving surfaces.

Cyclocross, however, more often than not takes place in a local park, a long way from any cars, vans, lorries, tractors and their sometimes unfriendly drivers - the only other people you have to worry about on a ‘cross circuit are your fellow riders. What’s more, it’s a significantly slower sport (that’s not to say it’s any less exciting - quite the opposite, in fact!) and the surface is a whole lot softer should you fall off. Finally, if the worst does happen, you’re always surrounded by friendly CXers who will not only empathise, but be ready to help you at the drop of a hat.

Sure, cyclocross is traditionally a winter sport, but if you’ve marked 2022 as the year you start racing, rather than taking on time trials and events on busy roads, sign up to your nearest summer CX league and start turning those cranks. Get a head start, jump into ‘cross before the cold and muddy season, and you’ll become a truly tough bike rider in no time - it’s a no brainer.

above shot of cyclocross cyclist

The equipment

Although they look like road bikes, cyclocross bikes have a few fundamental differences to their road cousins. The most obvious change is the switch from smooth road-ready tyres to tougher, heavier, trail-tackling treaded tyres. These are crucial as they help the bike to grip in the mud and even in dusty summer conditions. There is also more clearance around pivotal areas of the bike so that mud doesn’t totally clog up the components.

Alternatively, a gravel bike will also do the job, especially in summer weather where the more aero setup will better hold its own. The majority of local leagues will allow you to race on a mountain bike as well, so if that’s the only type of bike you own, don’t worry, head down and tackle the course, and you’ll soon get the cyclocross bug and go searching for purpose-built machines.

cyclocross racers

Find a league

Once you’ve decided that cyclocross is the sport for you and your bike, the next thing to find is a summer 'cross league. This is far easier than you might think. Not only do many leagues have a presence on social media, but the calendar section on the British Cycling website helpfully lists all the upcoming events and allows you to enter ahead of time via the website. A simple search shows up upcoming leagues in Ayrshire, Berkshire, Yorkshire, Warwickshire and London, so there are plenty of places to get your racing fix from. To see the upcoming events, click here.

cyclocross racer in the mud

How to train

Training for a summer cyclocross race doesn’t have to be ridiculously involved, but there are things you will need to focus on and practise before pinning on a number. Firstly, make sure you are ready for the intensity of an hour-long race. Full action from gun to tape, you will need a good level of base fitness to tackle any race. Furthermore, although less prevalent in the summer months, a unique part of cyclocross is the running sections.

Whether your race has one or not, you will need to learn how to correctly dismount and remount your bike to take on hurdles that organisers will place on the course. It’s a tricky skill to master but it’s possibly the simplest way to improve your position in the space of 20 metres. There are hundreds of videos on YouTube explaining and demonstrating the various cyclocross skills you can begin adding to your arsenal.

cyclocross racers wideshot

Your first race

The biggest tip we could give on race day is to throw yourself fully into all things cyclocross and have as much fun as possible. A great community, everyone was a first timer at some point, so don’t be afraid to ask for tips from other riders and begin to build friendships with like-minded bike enthusiasts.

When you get to the start area, it’s time to put all the skills that you have learnt to good effect. In cyclocross, the sprint comes at the start as the pack battles for every inch of turf before the first corner. From the outside, it looks intimidating and hard to navigate, but like most bunches, when you're in the thick of the action, you only really have an awareness of the rider directly in front of you, and the riders to the left and right of you, so don’t be spooked.

After a couple of laps the intensity dies down a little and you can really start to learn who you are as a 'cross racer. The glory of the races is that no matter where you are, fifth or fifty-fifth, there is usually a rider ahead of you, so a race is always on.

Over time your handling and confidence will improve, until a challenge that had previously felt unobtainable becomes almost second nature. These skills can then be transferred to other parts of your cycling, like the commute to work and weekend group rides.

Then after the race it’s time to mingle. ‘Cross riders are a pretty grounded and friendly bunch, happy to engage in conversation with anyone post-race so venue permitted, grab a drink and a bite to eat, and dissect every pedal stroke under the golden summer sun.

end of cyclocross race

Cyclocross is the gateway to bike racing. Safer, more enjoyable and arguably more competitive than the other cycling disciplines across all abilities, racing ‘cross can quite honestly open up fitness opportunities that you may never have thought possible. From your first race with a baggy t-shirt and flat pedals, to years down the line bringing the next intrepid racer to their first event, this discipline accentuates the very best of the sport - the bike and the cycling community. Get involved.

As always, we wish everyone safe travels; however, if you or any of your family or friends are involved in an accident on the roads and require legal assistance from a Top Tier Legal 500 rated law firm, please do not hesitate to contact us.

We can be contacted on 0330 058 0377 for a free, confidential conversation with a qualified, serious injury solicitor. Alternatively, please send us your contact details to enquiry@seriouslaw.co.uk, and one of our team will be in touch. All enquiries are free and confidential.