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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) 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 : "Unbound Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

favorite course features

Old 09-29-12, 08:24 AM
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favorite course features

Hello all, first post in the cross forum! Was thinking of throwing together a little unsanctioned cross race in my town, but I'd like to make sure the course is well thought out. So my question to you is, what are some of your fav/least favorite features/obstacles/lengths/terrain types as far as racing cross?
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Old 09-29-12, 05:03 PM
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Course design is definitely a delicate art. You need something that flows well from one section to the next, takes advantage of the unique features offered by the venue and challenges the riders. (Personally, I could do with less challenge sometimes but I'm distinctly in the minority on that point.)

My favorite features are usually the venue-specific oddities. For instance, at the Alpenrose Dairy Cross Crusade race, I always look forward to the stairs:



and the velodrome:



Of course, not all locations will have such gems, but if you look around the grounds you'll probably find something that can make the race memorable. Let the location speak to you and tell you what kind of course it wants.

Another feature that shows up once in a while around here that I think is really fun is the "six pack" of barriers (it used to be sponsored by a local brewer).



But you need to be careful not to get too gimmicky (which some people think the six pack is).

More generally, I like course with a mix of pavement, grass and dirt. I particularly like singletrack, though I mostly suck at it. Fast, bumpy stuff like descents over roots and ruts are fun, as long as I don't have to turn much. Very steep drops freak me out, but as I'm starting to trust myself to handle them I'm discovering that they are a lot of fun.

Barriers and run-ups are the hallmarks of cyclocross, of course. Chicanes are also a fun feature, particularly on grass.

My least favorite features are long stretches of deep sand and turns on off-camber sections. Basically, I dislike anything that I don't have a chance of riding (run-ups and barriers excepted). That's different for everyone of course, and anything that the elite riders even find interesting is all but unrideable for me. If you're going to include a really tough feature, consider skipping it in the lowest level races.

Deep gravel and spongy wood chips (like you find in playground areas) kind of suck, in my opinion. Gravel isn't really technically challenging, and yet you've always got some small chance of just wiping out for no apparent reason. The spongy wood chips (which local course designers insist on using whenever available) are even worse because short of botching the landing on entry they offer no challenge but present a feeling akin to riding with a stuck brake -- not to mention there's usually a toddler on the playground randomly wandering dangerously close to the course.
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Old 09-29-12, 06:27 PM
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I have a pet peeve about going through playgrounds. Seems like people throw them into a course just to get a token sand or gravel section, and it's lame. Let the kids play on the playground.
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Old 09-29-12, 06:59 PM
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I like a good, gravely/sandy/rocky hill that you might be able to pedal up. I also like the use of natural features as barriers. The last race I did used a double set of railroad tracks and drainage ditches as barriers. The best part of the day was when a freight train rolled through and stopped the leaders cold, allowing the rest of us to catch up.

Also, a little bit of singletrack is super fun. The folks around here have been grooming a bit of trail hidden away in a local park. It's not long, but it really adds a lot to the race.
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Old 09-30-12, 04:32 PM
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I like a nice loose, technical climb.

Turning on woodchips is probably my least favorite. It's all the unpredictability of sand at like twice the speed.
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Old 09-30-12, 05:02 PM
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I like fast, swooping corners with a touch of off-camber. I like when a course is routed some rough ground that makes a good line through the turn damn near impossible.

I dislike extremely slow gimicks - endless zig-zags, impossible run-ups, uphill 180s followed by a barrier... I like more wide-open racing where the required handling skills become more subtle because you're doing them at higher speeds.
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Old 09-30-12, 06:44 PM
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Originally Posted by queerpunk
I dislike extremely slow gimicks - endless zig-zags, impossible run-ups, uphill 180s followed by a barrier... I like more wide-open racing where the required handling skills become more subtle because you're doing them at higher speeds.
Well put.
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Old 10-03-12, 04:48 PM
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I generally agree on the wide open racing comment. That's where the real skill and fitness come in. I know this very well because I don't have it!

My pet peeve is courses with a really early bottleneck-inducing feature. Let the field sort itself out at least a little bit first.
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Old 10-03-12, 06:07 PM
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I like tight corners that can still be taken at speed and the mountain biker in me likes a few Oh Sh*t moments, be they steep downs with a hairpin at the bottom or a fast section with roots.

I agree with the stupid slow stuff and the bottle necks at the start. What's the point?
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