Wiggle CX Century

Wiggle CX Century


Wiggle CX Century


Paul Horta-Hopkins


Paul has signed up for the Wiggle CX Century, a 100 mile cyclocross ride, so follow his attempt at this classic mtb route on a cross bike


We have full-suspension 29er MTBs with hydraulic disc brakes and cushioning 2.3″ tyres, so why the hell would you tackle a hundred mile, off-road Wiggle CX Century ride, over tough terrain on a ‘cross bike..?

If you’ve been following some of the event previews and reviews here on BritishCycleSport, or the equipment reviews on CycleTechReview, you’ll know I’m happily riding the current cyclo-cross wave. It’s a part of the cycling tsunami that started back in the eighties with the rise of the mtb and has carried on ever since, sweeping more and more people along.
We’ve had the mtb craze, which got bums on bikes in a big way. Then people started to switch to road bikes just in time to get involved in sportives. Then British Cycling went all Olympic on us and Team Sky got people thinking about racing.


Numbers are up in all forms of cycle sport, across all kinds of terrain. I still know some riders that hanker for the ‘good old days’, when cycling was a secret world, only accessible to a select few. Timetrials held at ungodly hours, road races finishing on back roads with no information and anti-social club runs that would drop new riders that couldn’t keep up (well that one’s still true in places!).


Cycling has seen a huge increase in riders and events
Cycling has seen a huge increase in riders and events


For me the current CX sportive craze is just what I was waiting for. I’ve ridden cyclo-cross races during the winter for longer than I care to remember; still haven’t got any better, but I love it. However, cyclocross racing consist of bashing round a muddy field for an hour, so any longer off-road rides were always done on an mtb.


Since moving down to Sussex I’ve had the South Downs National Park just the other side of my back garden and I’ve found I’m doing a lot more riding on the ‘cross bike. Although some of the chalk trails can get pretty rutted and unrideable, most of them are fine on skinny ‘cross tyres and when the going gets really muddy, or the chalk too green, I can nip on to the road and still get the miles in comfortably.


Handily I’m not the only one that thinks ‘cross bikes are a great way to discover the lost joys of youth. Nipping out on your bike with mates for day long adventures that would cover all kinds of terrain, from crumbly back lanes to farmers’ tracks and forest trails to riverside paths – with a bag full of sarnies and lashings of ginger ale…


The South Downs Way, it's chalky and bumpy, probably best ride it on a full suspension mtb no?
The South Downs Way, it’s chalky and bumpy, probably best ride it on a full suspension mtb no?


It’s all very different to where I grew up in Central London. Most of my early riding was round the old Paddington track but still, if I could, I would have gone on this type of cross adventure. Luckily there are now more events popping up that cater specifically for ‘cross bikes. I’ve been concentrating on the Wiggle CX series recently, mainly because they are based in the South-east. However, the highlight for me is the ‘Big One’, the mother of all ‘cross rides – well as far as us soft, shandy drinking southerners are concerned; I’m sure you regional types have your own version, but this is mine own. Ladies and gentlemen I give you, The South Downs Way.


One hundred miles of bone jarring chalk and rolling downland. Hard enough on a fully suspended mtb, but on a cyclo-cross bike? I have signed up to ride the Wiggle CX Century this July and to be honest, I’m dreading it.


I have ridden the SDW about seven times: the first two times on rigid steel mtbs that battered and beat me all the way (something I thought would never be repeated with the advent of suspension); I’ve had to be rescued by the family once after suffering heat exhaustion; and the last ride was so wet that I had to pedal to get the bike to go downhill!


My choice of bike for the Wiggle CX Century will be my Handsling CXC
My choice of bike for the Wiggle CX Century will be my Handsling CXC


So why ride it on a ‘cross bike? They’ve no suspension, and I’m limited to forty millimetre tyres and the cantilever brakes. While fine in a fifty minute vets race round a fairly flat cyclo-cross course, it leaves a lot to be desired when faced with the amount of downhill that is in the CX Century.


Why put my body through that kind of abuse? To be honest because it harks back to the juvenile sense of adventure that takes us to places we wouldn’t normally go. That sudden mad moment of “Yeah! I’m in,” only to be replaced by the cold sweat of “Oh god! What have I let myself in for?” Well I had my moment of madness and now my names on the start list and I have no idea how I’m going to get through this, but I’ll have some fun trying!


Over the next few – scarily few – months I’ll try to keep you up to date with equipment choices – any marginal gains to lessen the pain especially – and my training to help get through what is going to be a tough ride.

Hopefully some of you will read this and be inspired to join me on the adventure. If you do let us know and I’ll give you a name check; we can attempt this madness together!



Wiggle CX Century website


Handsling Bikes Website


Compare prices and buy cyclocross bikes from:

Paul Horta-Hopkins

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