Training for Cyclocross
Training for Cyclocross
In the next of our cyclocross series, we consider something about cyclocross training which though an important factor in motivating you to train, is harder to find in other areas of our sport – the fun factor.
We often get asked why cyclocross is so popular? Isn’t it just a passing fad? Certainly the bike industry don’t think so given the amount of effort that’s now going into producing cross specific kit and if we are anything to go by, it’s more than that: of 8 regular contributors to this website, 4 race it regularly, 2 have just bought new cross bikes with the intention of racing it, and the other two… well time will tell.
One reason cyclocross so popular is that it’s a really enjoyable. Arguably, it combines many of the best attributes of road racing with the best of mtbing. Things happen so much faster and more often on a cross bike; the conditions change all the time and you literally have to think on your feet. As such it reminds you of all the things that you loved about cycling in the first place when it was all new to you. Its not just the racing; the training is also really enjoyable. Unlike the serious business of long road miles or painful hill intervals, cyclocross training, whether in the park or out on the common or down in the woods will make you feel like a kid all over again and have you grinning from ear to ear, whilst still providing an intense workout.
A scrap of land, a few cones or sticks stuck in the ground, and you have a makeshift cross circuit. You’ll often see riders hammering around such a lap in areas where the ‘cross scene is popular. Due to the stop-start, sprinting out of corners, on-and-off-the-bike nature of cross, a short circuit is all that’s needed to train for it. Forget time-trial type efforts; short, super intense efforts are the key to success in cross, so creating a short loop that combines all of that into a small time frame, repeated numerous times, is key.
If you are unsure about whether cross is for you, then try this: take your mountain bike to a local playing field or wood or wasteground. Set-up a little, short course and hammer round it. Ride it like a series of intervals, going hell for leather down the straights but easier round each corner, gradually building up you speed as you explore the limits of grip – that’s basically cross for you and many of us started off racing cross on our mtbs. It’s hard but it’s also fun. It’s even better as a mock race with a mate; better still with two or three mates.
Alternatively to get a feel for what cyclocross might be like, and something we often did on our long winter road rides to relieve the tedium, you can take your road bike off the beaten track and just enjoy the sensation of riding over mixed terrain. Don’t worry about your road bike not being up to it; road gear is as tough as any mtb stuff this side of downhill. And once again it’s great fun because its much more ‘raw’ on a thin tired road bike.
But rather than struggling to imagine what cyclocross training is like, here’s a great video from Hope Technology which shows two riders that enjoy it. OK so it may be World Cup DH racer Adam Brayton getting a few tips from former National Cyclo-cross Champion, Paul Oldham, but they still have a right laugh; and so will you.
We’ve said it before on CycleTechReview.com: don’t spend money on yet another road bike. Do yourself a favour and buy a ‘cross bike!