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Recreational Cyclocross and Gravelbiking This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

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Old 09-09-08, 10:57 PM   #1
Andy_K 
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Where do I start?

I've never really paid attention to cyclocross racing in the past because I'm just not the racing type, but today I was reading a bikeportland entry about a local shop that is going to start renting 'cross bikes, and one of the comments said, "Uh oh, there goes my skinny-tires excuse. I guess it's time to bust out the tutu and mud goggles and give this thing a shot." This piqued my interest. I looked around a bit this evening and it looks like a blast.

Now as it happens I actually have a cyclocross bike, a Kona Jake which I bought for commuting, so I thought maybe I'm in a good position to give this a go. On the other hand, it's a little late to think about any kind of training...

So here are my questions.


1. Have I correctly perceived the nature of the scene?

I'm sure there are a lot of people who take the racing aspect very seriously and don't crack a smile the whole time. I, on the other hand, would be doing this for the sheer fun of riding my bike in the mud. Will there be a bunch of other semi-to-non-competitive people there just having fun?


2. Will I make a fool of myself?

I'm 38 years old, 5'9" and 200 pounds. I'm obviously not in terribly great physical condition, but I do better than the numbers might make it sound. I ride about 100 miles per week commuting, and I've recently completed a century. But, of course, cyclocross is a whole different ballgame. I have no idea what kind of anaerobic fitness I have, but I'm guessing it's not great. I don't mind finishing last, but I do want to finish and I don't want to be crawling when time's up.

If I can find a race that has a Beginner-Clydesdale-Category D-35+ group, I'm in.


3. How badly will I trash my bike doing this?

I've heard some horror stories already. I saw recently that Jenson USA has some older Deore rear derailleurs for under $20. Should I go ahead and place a bulk order? I mentioned that I bought my Jake for commuting. I do have a backup, but the other bike is supposed to be the beater. Will this be worth the damage I could do to the bike?


4. What questions should I be asking?

I'm sure that being a total newbie, I'm focusing on all the wrong things--asking questions that aren't important and overlooking questions that are critical. What don't I know?
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Old 09-10-08, 02:06 PM   #2
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Good post... I'm waiting to see some responses.
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Old 09-10-08, 03:31 PM   #3
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I'll give my prospective on it. I'm in a similar situation. About the same size, bike situation and location.

1. Have I correctly perceived the nature of the scene?

Yeah most people, especially in your category, are having a blast. I don't see snobiness at all when I go to races.


2. Will I make a fool of myself?

You're right about it being different. You'll need anaerobic and aerobic fitness for cyclocross. For your category, you'll most likely be racing for 30 minutes. That's 30 minutes of non stop action. No resting. It's hard. When first starting out, very hard. It gets easier as you go though. Not much though.

3. How badly will I trash my bike doing this?

I don't think you'll trash your bike at all. Just don't crash. If you can stay upright, you'll do fine.

4. What questions should I be asking?

You should go look at some of the local LBS's and see if they have a schedule of upcoming training rides. These are worth their weight in gold. Do as many as you can before the season.

Just get out there and do the races. You'll have a blast.
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Old 09-10-08, 04:27 PM   #4
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I think you'll be fine. I would recomend doing some trail riding between now and then to get used to the feel of the bike off road. If the mountain bike trails near you are really rough, you can work on your mounting/dismounting and shouldering the bike for run ups.
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Old 09-10-08, 09:14 PM   #5
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I raced for the first time last year. i had ridden about 3,000 (mostly slow and casual) road miles, but no racing or actual "training". I went to the park where the race was to be held on my own twice in the two weeks leading up to the race and rode roughly the course that would be used for the race.

This was essential training for me. Riding on the grass is SO MUCH more physically demanding than riding on smooth pavement with skinny tires. It was all I could do to do a 20min training ride all out. I felt grossly unprepared, but decided to race anyway. I'm 43 and decided to race CX4 because the masters would be in much better shape.

I got waxed pretty bad, but didn't come in last. It was not embarrassing at all. It was HARD WORK, so I hesitate to say it was fun, but it was fun. It was so much fun I went back and raced the next day (it was a Sat/Sun race) even though I was sore.

This year I'm working on more speed work, running and core strengthening. I'll still get waxed and maybe even lapped, but I'm looking forward to racing.

In the end, practicing dismounts and runups didn't matter all that much, the lack of fitness trumped everything. When you're gasping for breath the whole time, losing a second or two getting over an obstacle doesn't mean a whole lot.

Get some cross tires and do some riding on grass and trails and go ahead and race.
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Old 09-10-08, 10:50 PM   #6
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You mean the "masters" really are good? Dang it! I was counting on the other old guys being as out of shape as I am.

I've got cross tires (I've put about 100 miles on them in 7 months -- mostly they just hang in the garage), and I've been doing somewhat regular core workouts. It's the running that's going to kill me. I got on the treadmill last week and found out I don't run much better than I did a year and a half ago before I started biking. I was shocked how little biking fitness translates to running fitness.

I'm planning to do my last century of the year at the end of September, so after recovering from that and maybe getting in some running work, I'll try a race in mid-to-late October, if I can hold myself off that long.

Thanks to everyone for the encouragement.
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Old 09-10-08, 11:38 PM   #7
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jump in as early as you can ... those guys just get faster as the season goes on. You should scout some of the courses or talk to a friend/shop to find one that will fit your skills the best. Courses vary widely.
Masters will rip your legs off, go cat 4
I would find a training event and work on your technique. It might not buy you alot of time but will make you feel alot smoother during the ride. Things like when to ride vs run up, effective cornering will really help.
I did 4 races last year and caught the bug. I am sure i finished in the last 10 people each race but who gives a ...
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Old 09-11-08, 05:29 AM   #8
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cross racing isnt like road racing where there is a huge pack and being off the back can be embarrassing. Right from the gun the field gets spread out and after a lap or two there are riders everywhere so you dont need to worry about feeling embarrassed over anything.
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Old 09-11-08, 10:16 AM   #9
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Head to Alpenrose for the cross clinics they have there, or pm me for info on the one I go to, you'll learn a lot of skills you need APART from riding, i.e. dismounting/remounting, how to pickup/carry the bike, obstacles and running drills.

Cross is basically full on effort for 40 mins or so, yes it's laid back and people are definitely there to have fun.
Make sure you plan on doing the Halloween race, it's about as much fun you can have at a bike race.

Your bike should be fine if you have reasonable handling skills, plus falls are generally slower and with a softer landing than on a road.
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Old 09-11-08, 12:04 PM   #10
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Cross is way more welcoming and low-key than road racing.

You could even say it is easier on the beginner than mtb racing, because there is little to no singletrack, meaning it is easy for people to pass/lap you.
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Old 09-11-08, 03:02 PM   #11
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I found a race last fall with a "first timers" class and caught the bug. The CO races have a Cat 4, 35+ category which is great. It's where us older guys can get a start. At 240, I finish last (or darn near) in every race. It is still the most fun I have had on my bike. Way more laid back than MTB or Road races. Usually beer, music, and people generally having a good time. Go and try a race, you will catch the bug
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