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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 10-15-11, 08:33 PM   #1
Holden McNeil
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Just signed up for my first race....

As the title states, I'm all ready to go for next weekend. I'm a mountain biker turned roadie and the 40min of pain/madness looks like fun. I've been watching cyclocross vids on YouTube and said, "ah what the hell.. just sign up" So, after an hour of tinkering and a $25 registration fee, I'll be riding a converted rigid 26" mtb with a spare set of drop bars for a ghetto "monstercross" setup.. Should get me through the first few events (to see if I enjoy it) and before I shell out cash for a proper rig. So, what kind of advice can you give a cyclocross n00b?
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Old 10-15-11, 10:10 PM   #2
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RIDE THE COURSE BEFORE THE RACE!!!!!

I cannot stress this enough. I broke my collarbone during my first race, which was an accident I feel I could have avoided had I known the course better. Do it at least once at a warm-up pace to get it mapped out in your head, and then again a little faster so you can start to figure out where you should and should not attack, where you may get thrown off course if you're going to fast, and where the barricades and run-ups are.

Also, if you've got a grassy area by your house/apartment, take a 20 or 30 minutes a few nights a week before your first race to practice your mounts and dismounts. Get the whole sliding your inner thigh onto the saddle thing down at your own pace. If you just go into the race without practicing your remounts, then you may accidentally mash your junk. No fun.

For your first race, the main goal should be to have fun, and ride safe. Worry more about getting to the finish in one piece, and less about place you're in. Remember, you're going to want to race again, so make sure you finish in a physical state that allows you to do so.
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Old 10-15-11, 10:12 PM   #3
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Congrats on just jumpin' in there & doin it!! PROPS!
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Old 10-16-11, 10:11 AM   #4
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Congrats and have fun. Your experience in both styles of riding will serve you well. As for advice, you should browse the CX Racing subforum and especially the tips for newbies thread. Above all, have fun and ride like mad!
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Old 10-16-11, 09:15 PM   #5
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The USAC doesn’t require that organizers follow the UCI 33mm tire rule, but I know that in my area they limit the cat 4 field to bikes with drops and <35mm tires. That said, I run 40mm tires and nothing has been said to me, but they look like 35s on my rims. As long as your tires aren’t too obviously over-sized I don’t imagine anyone will bother you. I’d check the organizer’s website to see what it says about tire sizes. No matter what, you could still race in the MTB field though.
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Old 10-17-11, 08:56 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by junkyardking View Post
Also, if you've got a grassy area by your house/apartment, take a 20 or 30 minutes a few nights a week before your first race to practice your mounts and dismounts. Get the whole sliding your inner thigh onto the saddle thing down at your own pace. If you just go into the race without practicing your remounts, then you may accidentally mash your junk. No fun.
This. I didn't have the junk issue, but I did bite it once on my pre-ride and once during the race. Don't get lulled into a false sense of security because it's going well in practice, either--remember that you have to be able to pull off these moves after 35 minutes of anaerobia.

And then, have fun! Take handups! Appreciate a good heckle, and heckle back! Don't take the race, or yourself, too seriously. I did my first (CX) race a week ago and watched a guy in front of me (which is to say, mid-pack in the lowest cat, getting beat by a guy on a _fixie_) mechanical and go totally nuts--swore at the top of his lungs and heaved his bike over the course tape in disgust. He got booed. Don't be that guy. Given your described ride, you sound like you're already in the right frame of mind Enjoy!
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Old 10-17-11, 11:09 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Debusama View Post
The USAC doesn’t require that organizers follow the UCI 33mm tire rule, but I know that in my area they limit the cat 4 field to bikes with drops and <35mm tires. That said, I run 40mm tires and nothing has been said to me, but they look like 35s on my rims. As long as your tires aren’t too obviously over-sized I don’t imagine anyone will bother you. I’d check the organizer’s website to see what it says about tire sizes. No matter what, you could still race in the MTB field though.
I'm running the stock 2.1s (26" wheels) that came with my MTB so it may be an issue. I'm willing to give up whatever "official" place I get just to participate. I should be able to talk my way past this.



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This. I didn't have the junk issue, but I did bite it once on my pre-ride and once during the race. Don't get lulled into a false sense of security because it's going well in practice, either--remember that you have to be able to pull off these moves after 35 minutes of anaerobia.

And then, have fun! Take handups! Appreciate a good heckle, and heckle back! Don't take the race, or yourself, too seriously. I did my first (CX) race a week ago and watched a guy in front of me (which is to say, mid-pack in the lowest cat, getting beat by a guy on a _fixie_) mechanical and go totally nuts--swore at the top of his lungs and heaved his bike over the course tape in disgust. He got booed. Don't be that guy. Given your described ride, you sound like you're already in the right frame of mind Enjoy!
ooh good point. I plan to get some mixed terrain rides in this week so we'll see what results. There is a local High School down the block with a wide open field, a concrete ampitheater, and is connected to some pseudo farmland/light trails. PERFECT for 'cross practice (and subsequent heckles from wise-*ss high school kids)

What's a handup (dare i ask)?

My wife also informed me that she will be in attendace with a group of friends so expect some funny pics later this weekend. Her exact words were, "I can't wait to take a picture of you all 'blown up' after the race"... nice.

Last edited by Holden McNeil; 10-17-11 at 11:34 AM.
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Old 10-17-11, 11:50 AM   #8
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Expect the first lap to be fast -- really fast. Don't blow yourself up trying to hang at the front, unless you have expectations of finishing in the top tier. Pace yourself, or you'll be praying for a mechanical after the first lap so you can drop out.

As a mountain biker, you might have a tendency to want to ride everything -- steep run-ups come to mind. Remember that your goal is to get around the course as quickly and efficiently as possible. I've seen really stubborn mountain bikers trying to grind up a ridiculous inclines while everyone else blows by them on foot.

Also, don't get fixated on the guy in front of you, otherwise you'll never move up. Think four or five riders ahead, and aim for catching them.

Whatever your goals, just keep in mind that everyone is suffering as badly, if not worse than you are. Cyclocross is a war of attrition. If you don't blow-up early in the race, you'll be able to start picking off riders one-by-one as the race slogs on (sometimes seemingly forever).

By the way, a handup is whatever a spectator is holding out for you to eat / smoke / imbibe / bank. Dollar bills, whisky shots, cheap beer and cigarettes all come to mind. You can expect your results to be inversely proportional to the amount of handups you accept.

Good luck, and have fun!
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Old 10-18-11, 07:39 AM   #9
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I'm running the stock 2.1s (26" wheels) that came with my MTB so it may be an issue. I'm willing to give up whatever "official" place I get just to participate. I should be able to talk my way past this.
...

Are you doing the CX @ Central Park of Morris County? If so, I'll see you there. Look for my rusty red Toyota Pickup. That race is a NJBA series race. It's an NJ local series and they don't care about tire size, especially for Cat4. The wider tires might slow you down a bit, but I wouldn't worry. Schwalbe sells the CX-Pro, a skinny 26" tire meant for CX. I run it on my Pug with good results. You might want to change out to that at some point if you continue to use your MTB. It'll also give you mad mud clearance.

Practice your mounts, dismounts, run-ups and barrier jumps. Look on Youtube for videos.

Be sure to buy your wife a cowbell to help her "cheer" you on.
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Old 10-18-11, 08:07 AM   #10
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I am, so I'll see you there! I saw a few videos on YouTube and Vimeo (of the 2010 event) and was in attendance last year as a spectator as well. Hopefully the "circle of death" makes a comeback this weekend. Thanks for the tire recommendation.

-Nick

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Are you doing the CX @ Central Park of Morris County? If so, I'll see you there. Look for my rusty red Toyota Pickup. That race is a NJBA series race. It's an NJ local series and they don't care about tire size, especially for Cat4. The wider tires might slow you down a bit, but I wouldn't worry. Schwalbe sells the CX-Pro, a skinny 26" tire meant for CX. I run it on my Pug with good results. You might want to change out to that at some point if you continue to use your MTB. It'll also give you mad mud clearance.

Practice your mounts, dismounts, run-ups and barrier jumps. Look on Youtube for videos.

Be sure to buy your wife a cowbell to help her "cheer" you on.
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Old 10-18-11, 12:41 PM   #11
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Schwalbe sells the CX-Pro, a skinny 26" tire meant for CX. I run it on my Pug with good results. You might want to change out to that at some point if you continue to use your MTB.
Are you saying you've got 35mm tires on a Pugsley? I want to see pictures of that.
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Old 10-18-11, 01:15 PM   #12
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Are you saying you've got 35mm tires on a Pugsley? I want to see pictures of that.

LOL, unfortunately not. Pug is short for Peugeot too. I'm running a 1987 Peugeot Cannonball Express that's meant for 1.9" wide tires. I pulled the small CR off and put on the CX-Pros and got a respectable 13 of 21 at my first race.

I do have a Van Dessel Gin & Trombones on order that should be here Thursday or Friday. Saturday's race will probably be it's first ride if I decide to ride it there. I'm not so sure about that.... I'd like at least a week on it before racing it.
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Old 10-23-11, 06:19 PM   #13
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So my first event was a great success. Had a blast, finished the race without a DNF and, despite a slipping seat post, finished 48th out of 69. I crashed in the exact same place as eddubal (see his write-up for details), stopped to fix the seat post once, yet had an awesome time. Consider me hooked! On another note, a co-worker at the shop just happens to have a Serrota Classique Ti Cross for sale Perfect timing!

Here's a quick pic thanks to my wife after the run-up.


IMG_0462 by N. Paglia, on Flickr
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