So what is Cyclocross?
What do you need to race cross? Not too much!.
1. A cross bike. Or a mountain bike will work though you'll be at a slight disadvantage with a mountain bike due to weight, and a few other things unless you're one of the folks that can ride that whip hard! That said a mountain is a good place to start especially if you have one already and can't justify the thought of a cool new cross bike, but then again you always need another bike, it's a proven fact somewhere on the internet .
2. Pedals that will shed mud, snow and other stuff along with shoes
3. Appropriate clothing for the weather. You're usually best off dressing a little light because when the whistle blows you'll warm up pretty darn quick!
4. Listen, learn and practice the techniques or a desire to do some on the job training if you don't practice ahead time.
5. A desire to push yourself a bit ;)
And that's about it. Cross racers come in all shapes sizes and ages.
So now what is cyclocross?
Well here is where I could point you to numerous web sites, magazine articles etc etc that do a decent job of explaining and or demonstrating just what this beast called cyclocross is.
Or I could describe it in my own words.
Cyclocross cross is all those things your momma told you not to do as kid.
No playing in the mud.
No going out in the cold without your hat or gloves
No playing in the rain.
No hanging with a less savory crowd.
No doing silly things on a bike.
Make no mistake about it you'll be riding into, over and around things that go against some form of common sense.
And you know what it's probably the most fun you can legally have with your clothes on while outdoors.
Many have said of cyclocross either you love "it" or you don't know what "it" is.
Cross races are held around these parts form late August to sometime into the end of November. So if you know Central New York weather that covers anything from 90 and sunny to 0 degrees with snow and ice and everything in between. Dress well and you'll be good.......Oh did I say that sometimes there is beer, waflles and fire pits????
If you're not keen on the stuffiness or pomp and circumstances that comes with road racing or you’re downright sketched out about those "hippy" mountain bikers then cyclocross is kinda like the middle child with a grass roots feel
A cross race course can be setup in a park, a field or in some cases the promoters side yard ala "the Swandrome" .....grassroots goodness at its finest!
The race itself is a number of laps around the course were you'll encounter natural features such as mud, hills, off chamber, roots, stones etc etc etc that > insert your creator of choice here < decided to put there. Along with this some devious person will usually decide to throw in some manmade barriers or what are affectionately called "the planks"
As the saying goes all is far in love and cross .....if you can ride it you own it, if you're forced to dismount and carry your bike over it then jump back on your bike, well that may be called uhmm.... losing time..but saving some teeth!
The race is a timed event usually 30 minutes for beginners and up to 60 minutes for the ones who have been doing it awhile.
Shortly after the start of the race again some devious person will tell you by a lap counter board how many laps you’re gonna be doing..... It may never seem short enough.
So if the fast guys or girls rip through the first few laps then you'll be doing more laps (those riders are the other devious people) take solace in the fact that if he they are fast and you are not yet and they pass or "lap" you then you will finish on the same lap as the leaders . If in doubt listen for the finish line final lap bell or someone telling you at the finish line that you have one lap to go. (not much sense in doing more)
So after that "rock out with your..... Socks out" festival of high heart rate and pain goodness you have a choice get a drink eat some food and do the next race...... Or think "oh my I'm not doing this again...." Until you forget the pain by the next day or two and then jump into a race the following weekend.
One additional thought about cyclocross that makes it that much more fun is the atmosphere. As was mentioned above it's a laid back event that is EXCELLENT to bring your family and friends to. The beauty of it is they actually get to see you race!!! Unlike a road race were they see you take off and then come back. You'll go by multiple times sometimes more than others. And they're free to move about the course and find that "special place" where they can cheer you on or more than likely heckle your abilities or the way you look.