Wow! I’m still buzzing from lining up with a ‘record breaking’ 160 plus women on the start line this weekend at the brilliantly organised CX in the City event.  It was great chatting with loads of ladies who were there to try cyclocross for the first time and what a fantastically inclusive and supportive event for it.

This was my 5th race, after throwing myself in at the deep end last year having only ridden my Liv BRAVA a handful of times! One person who was instrumental in getting me to the start line was my friend Michelle. She took me for a ride, introduced me to a local class and answered every question I had (and boy there were a lot!)

So as a complete newbie to the sport, I’ve decided to share some of the questions I asked Michelle when I was thinking of ‘Giving Cyclocross a go’.

Firstly Michelle, tell us a bit about yourself…

I’m a full time working mum and work as a print finisher by day but bikes and riding are a massive part of my spare time.

If it has two wheels its a good idea in my book! I simply love to ride bikes.  I would consider myself a very enthusiastic cyclist across many disciplines Cross, MTB, BMX.

When I am not riding bikes I like to help others to ride bikes…Holding regular coaching sessions and ride leads locally.

I am the creator of and coach at Peddlamaniacs Cycle Club, An affiliated children’s cycle club that holds weekly cycle sessions for 4-12 year olds.  I am so proud of the riders and what we have achieved in this little community club. Still only in our first year and growing.

I also like to help promote women’s cycling opportunities, helping women get into cycling to enjoy riding bikes. I do this by coaching women’s specific sessions in Cyclocross, MTB and even BMX sessions too.

Right then Michelle time to ask you some of the questions I think people interested in giving cyclocross a go would want to know…

WHAT IS CYCLOCROSS?

Apart from being the most fun that you can have on two wheels it’s a mixture of off road cycling, running. Taking part on a mixture of grass/woodland type of terrain. Courses usually features obstacles to overcome along the route too.

WHAT TYPE OF BIKE DO I NEED TO GET STARTED?

You could get started on any type of off road bike, some will be better suited for cross racing than others. If racing ideally a CX specific race bike, this would give you the best lightweight efficiency, its geometry set up for mud clearance and purpose built for off road terrain. However a gravel bike or hardtail MTB will also smash out the job nicely too. I have also seen people race on off road hybrids and do really well.

WHAT TRAINING CAN I DO TO IMPROVE MY SKILLS?

You can use any small area of grass to make a good little skills loop. Using either some cones or twig/jumper markers set out a lap that features

  • Figure of 8 turns
  • Running corners
  • Start stop area with sprints
  • Dismount/remount area etc

If you’re lucky enough to have some off camber you can include this using it with turns and loops to make more tricky and challenging. I would set out a skills area and ride and repeat for up to an hour.

Sometimes a visit to the local woods will often feature natural obstacles you can also use to practice too.

WHAT ARE THE TOP 3 THINGS I NEED TO GET STARTED?

I borrowed a friends CX bike for my first ever race and was totally hooked after one go 😊

  1. BIKE – off road capable as above. I ride the Liv Cycling BRAVA
  2. KIT inc HELMET – cycling kit jersey and shorts depending on the temp. Also gloves are a must!
  3. OFF ROAD SHOES AND PEDALS – as this is a personal preference I will leave this open as to what system type you would choose, but important that the shoes are off road and have a tread for the off bike parts of the course.

(and a sense of humour as sometimes the course weather and conditions during winter can be character building to say the least)

WHAT DISTANCES AND RACES ARE AVAILABLE AND WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE?

Most CX races are based on duration. There are a few events every year that are more endurance but most CX races are a timed format. The amount of time you would race for depends on your age and race category, race cats range from 30mins to 1hr.

Local League races are held up and down the country alongside national CX events also. If you search on British Cycling events you can find your local CX league, they will then list all the events that they have in their calendar.

Events run from around late Sept to Jan/Feb.

WHAT TYPE OF TERRAIN AND OBSTACLES ARE THERE?

CX courses vary depending on the location used but most will feature some grass, woodland trails paths, tarmac, gravel this varies from course to course.

Within the course there can be obstacles such as P

lanks, Banks/Small Hills, Cambers, Steps, Sand, Roots, Corners.

Usually a mix of on and off bike within the whole course.

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT AT MY FIRST RACE?

When entering for the first time I would simply tell you to go and ride as if it was a normal ride at your local training loop or practice area.  Focus on you and your bike handling around the course working on beating what’s in front of you to ride.

As you do this you will get a feel for the race as it happens around you. This will give you a bench marker to be able to set against the next round or race.

I guarantee you will be hooked by the end of the race!

ANYTHING YOU’VE LEARNT THE HARD WAY?

Don’t put all your efforts into the first 45 secs of a race only to face blowing up half a lap in and nothing left for the rest of the 40mins!!!!

Seriously the photos of that race of me leading the charge into the first corner were amazing but my race result for the day was not ☹ I learnt that although I need a good start for CX its not a BMX race and pictures do indeed tell lies.

Lesson learnt!

AND FINALLY, WHAT ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE TO SOMEONE THINKING ABOUT GETTING STARTED?

Do it, you will love it is what I would say to anyone considering CX and once you try you will see why.

Advice? Just ride your bike as much as your time allows – time on bike will develop you and your riding skills, getting you in the best place for racing.

You can follow Michelle on Instagram and Twitter and if you are local to Leamington Spa join up with some ‘Intro to Cyclocross’ classes. Email Michelle peddlamaniacs@gmail.com