Hot on the wheels of the MTB season comes Cyclo cross - Cross Country cycling around a course, usually in a field, sometimes around and over obstacles. Here is all you need to know to get you hooked...
All you need to know about Cyclo cross!
What is Cyclo Cross?
Cyclo-Cross (often called just 'Cross) is an autumn and winter sport. It started out as a way for road riders to keep fit in the winter “off season”, but over time ‘cross has developed into a sport in its own right. The races have a relaxed atmosphere and it is one of the easiest ways to get into bike racing.
Races are held on short, grassy courses, generally in public parks or on school playing fields. The races are mass start (you all start together), multi lap events with Youth races lasting between 10 and 30 minutes. Best of all, most events have FREE entry for U10 and U12s!
What Bike do I need?
There are proper cyclo cross bikes (see below), but you can take part in a ‘cross race on any mountain bike, you may just need to remove the bar ends (for safety reasons). And bar end PLUGS must be in place as always!
What do I do if I want to race?
A huge contingent of Herne Hill Youth riders (and their parents) take part in ‘cross races so you will not be alone. Read our beginners guide to CycloCross racing, just approach any of the coaches and let them know you are interested in taking part and they will sort you out. The British Cycling website has a whole section on Cyclo Cross to read.
Who can do it?
... absolutely anyone can join in 'cross races - there is no need for a racing licence as in other Cycling events. There are Youth races and Adult races at each event. 'Youth' generally refers to anyone under 16. U10 and U12 races are usually free to enter, but U14 and U16s tend to be about £4.
U10s races tend to be 10-12 mins long, U12s about 15-18 mins, and U14s and U16s about 30 mins.
"It's basically riding a fairly unsuitable bike (tyres are too skinny and drop bars make handling difficult) as hard & fast as you can around a muddy, frozen field doing your best to stay upright and not freeze to death. You then sometimes need to hop off your unsuitable bike and carry/push it up steep, slippery hills or carry it over bits of wood that someone has left on the circuit!
...AND IT'S GREAT FUN!!!"
The race courses are usually easier than a mountain bike course but, given the time of the year, there is a fair amount of mud involved so you may need to run (while pushing or carrying your bike) up steep, slippery hills or through extra muddy areas! (just don't tell your Mum about the mud)
So, to sum it up, you are basically racing as fast as you can for about 20 minutes on a short course which you will go round loads of times. You will get wet, you will get muddy and you will be tired when you finish. BUT, you will have a fantastic time and will want to come back for more!
A ‘cross bike looks like a road bike with drop handlebars and skinny tyres. But the skinny tyres are knobbly to give better grip for riding off road and the brakes are like a mountain bikes so they work better in the mud.
Once you have done a few races and have become hooked, you can then start looking at getting a specific ‘cross bike. An added advantage of a ‘cross bike is that you can stick a set of skinny, slick tyres on and you have a perfectly good road bike which can then be used in the summer months.
And here's a quote from a fan...
Anything else I need to know?
Well, if can often be cold in the Winter months so read our info on Winter clothing. It can be useful to bring a flask with a hot drink, and something for lunch, although most venues have tea, coffee etc. Venues are scattered across London and the South, but there is usually someone who can give you a lift if you need one!
... And you can see the calendar of races on the events page.
When does it happen...
The race season starts in September and runs until February, with racing on pretty much every Sunday during these months. Full dates and locations can be found on the on the events page.