You will not be alone if you found yourself inspired by the cyclocross World Championships that took place last weekend in Bieles, Luxembourg. The competition looked like it might play out in ice and snow as the weekend began, but it had thawed to sticky mud by the time the elite women got out on course. Fast and aggressive riding characterised all the races and every one of them was a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted in this sport. In the elite races, both Marianne Vos and Mathieu Van Der Poel shot out of the starting blocks and looked unbeatable. But before long, the conditions and bad luck conspired against them both and caused major upset.
Passion and commitment define the spot which sees every single rider splattered head to toe mud, no matter how hard or fast they are going. Despite the short duration of the races, cyclocross riders must be super fit and able to maintain threshold or above for over an hour. Whether you're wanting to get into the discipline or to step up your game and start racing, there is a list of equipment that is absolutely essential:
Cyclocross bikes are similar to road bikes at first glance, but with some fundamental differences. Chief among those are the knobbly tyres, greater clearance between rubber and frame to compensate for the collection of muck and disc brakes. The geometry is tailored to off-road riding too with a higher bottom bracket and a slightly more relaxed head angle.
The Specialized Crux is a brilliantly agile machine with a world-championship winning pedigree. A perfect entry-level bike to get you into the sport.
There are very few pieces of specialist equipment that you need to start cyclocross riding, especially if you already ride on the road. However, one key difference is found in the pedals. Road pedals do not transfer well to the mud and grit of cyclocross, instead riders tend to opt for the clipless pedals favoured by mountain bikers. SPD pedals are double-sided so it's easy to clip in and they are not as easily clogged with mud.
You'll need a pair of robust shoes to pair with your SPD pedals that will cope with the unique challenges of cyclocross. This includes running with your bike over your shoulder, so some level of grip on the sole is essential, while bearing in mind the rigidity you'll need for efficient pedalling.
A conversation about cyclocross tyres, particularly after the huge number of punctures we saw at the weekend in the World Champs, will often descend into heated debate. There's a huge range of choice depending on terrain, conditions, type of course and tyre weight. Nearly all CX tyres stand out from road ones for their knobbly tread pattern, which offers far greater grip and durability on rough terrain.
If there's one thing we can take away from the weekend's racing, it's that your cyclocross bike will be covered in more mud after one race than your road bike will have experienced in its whole lifetime. Besides the usual lubrication and degreasing kit, your wallet and your bike will benefit from a robust set of brushes to get at all the determined dirt threatening the longevity of the components.
There we have it. Grab all of the items above, pull on your favourite lycra and get involved with the fastest-growing discipline in all of cycling.
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