Home > bicycling, racing > Diving head deep into CycloCross–CycloCross for Newbies from a Newbie

Diving head deep into CycloCross–CycloCross for Newbies from a Newbie

I dread the winter. The turbo trainer beckons, any goals I didn’t make will go unfinished, and those that I did meet are now in the past. Usually by the time September comes around I am done and already adding the pounds (again!).

This year decided to do something a bit different. I had heard from a few folks that cyclocross is both super fun and super hard and seemed like a great idea so was keen to try it out. I had seen Cyclocross on TV and eye balled some of the cross bikes in the stores but never thought much about it until the weather started to turn nasty and I wasn’t ready to hang up my cycling shoes yet.

Naturally you need a specialized bike. Well you don’t and a Mountain bike is fine but like all of these things if you don’t look the part you get ostracized by most. It’s a pain and I see it on group rides, triathlons, and time trails. When the (bicycle) rubber hits the ground however it doesn’t really matter as much as we think it does. Getting a Cervelo P5 is not going to make me that much faster than having a P2. But there is a class of rider who will talk at hours about this or that component and since this level of equipment devotion also translates into training devotion they using do pretty well so it seems like it’s the gospel when its not. Still I didn’t want to have the hassle of having Mr. Awesome say “dude..you need a disc carbon super bike at least, Joe can set you up with one for $5000”.

But I had no such specialized bike and not a lot of cash or time either. So I wasn’t going to get a Cyclo Cross racer for 2 races. But a cyclo cross bike is awesome for commuting and winter training as well. This resulted in my decision to rebuild the Fiori Napoli into a Cyclo Cross bike as per this 4 part series. All in all it costs me about $450 to get the bike into some sort of race trim.


In my neck of the woods there is the Eastern Ontario Cyclocross Series. Starting at the end of September thru to the end of November there is pretty much a race each and every Sunday morning. The price is awesome as well, about $20 a race including Insurance. You can get more info here: http://cyclocross.org/

I signed up for the Almonte round while the bike was still being put together. That wasn’t great or smart. It was together but untested by the time Saturday rolled around. I had only done a quick 2k ride late the night before just to make sure things didn’t fall out. Seemed ok but not optimal. I arrived in the parking lot with little confidence in my steed! I took it out for another short run and the handlebars slipped and were clearly not tight enough!!

Anyways after some frantic last minutes bolt tightening I felt it was about as good a bike as it was going to be at this point and headed to the start line.

Here are a few things they don’t tell you and I think you have to find out yourself or pester somebody about it.

1- It’s a pain to put numbers on your shoulders and you need an extra person to help with that

2- You can recce the course before the race starts. And that’s required as the course has many many turns and hills(!)

3- You should take you water bottle holder off

4- Its all about the start, the race is mostly over by about 300 meters in at least in terms of where you will be slotted position wise by the end

Those are just before the race, during the race lots more to take in, things like getting over barriers, riding up hills, riding back down them all while trying to keep to the course. All this with mud out to trap you.

Some of the folks here are pretty serious but I was just doing it for fun so started at the back and away we went. There were a few pinch points early in the 1st lap which caused short delays but within 1/2 lap everyone was pretty spaced out.

That was best as I was just learning how to ride this bike and this type of course. Garmin showed the course outlined in the park.


This was soon after all the leaves had fallen and the course was covered in the little buggers. With my brakes not been properly set up and with the leaves soon braking was almost not available. After about 2 and bit laps my lack of preparation bike wise started to show with an alarming lack of brake grip then a sloppy crank started to rear its ugly head, I clearly had not tightened it enough. Eventually it just more or less fell off! Luckily just around the start line!

With the bike parked I enjoyed watching the other folks finish their race.

Took the bike back to the home workshop and gave myself a bit more time to fix it up before the next race.

This time it was in Perth Ontario and my son decided he wanted to join as well.  So piled both my new/old Cyclocross bike and his mountain bike into the mini-van. Felt a bit more organized this time but again decided to start off at the back.

PerthCC1There was a much more serious pinch point early in this race where it became pretty much single track and basically after 300 meters was already 2-3 minutes behind!

But I was racing better and also with the brakes working better and the leaves that had fallen and caused havoc in the previous race non existent I was able to get down to the business of riding this thing. Stayed with a group of folks for a while but lost time at every barrier. I need to practice that next year.

By the 2nd lap I was into my own pace and all the riders were well spaced out.



It did get a bit lonely on the hills towards the end!


But I finished it. Not last but almost last. And lots of fun.

Track was very varied as this map shows.


Up next was my son and he seemed to be enjoying himself in the u13 class.


Unfortunately despite having ridden the course a number of times before he got mixed up a on a few corners and basically cut half a lap out once. I had him stop to let the boys he had jumped ahead catch back up to him. But he said it was a hoot and wanted to come back next year “Except can I get one of those real cross bikes” And so it begins Smile

Categories: bicycling, racing
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