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Folsom Bike's Beginner's Guide to Cyclocross

Cyclocross is the fastest growing sport in America, apparently, and if you live in the Sacramento/Folsom area you won't have failed to notice that this area is a hotbed of cyclocross racing and events. But what on earth is cyclocross? Is it mountain biking on road bikes or just an excuse to get out into the mud? Possibly a little bit of both. With the cyclocross (CX) season underway, here is Folsom Bike’s definitive Beginner’s Guide to all things CX.

What is cyclocross?

Originally descended from road cycling, cyclocross came about as a winter alternative for riders in Northern Europe around the turn of the 20th century. This is in the days before paved roads, when gravel or dirt tracks turned into muddy swamps in the wet winter months. There was no turbo trainers or Zwift so riders had to venture out into the cold and the mud to train.

cyclocross 1902

Just like in modern races, cyclists had to negotiate obstacles and areas of the course that were simply too chewed up to ride and so they had to carry their bikes. Thus cyclocross was born and it has remained a staple of cycling in northern Europe and more recently the world over. Cyclocross races occur on a set circuit over a specific length of time, with races lasting from 30 minutes to an hour at the pro level.  

Great, so what kit do I need?

Modern cyclocross bikes are a variation of road bikes. CX bikes have drop handlebars and often utilize disc brakes. They also accommodate wider nobbly tires for wet, sandy and generally grim conditions. Gearing is often more forgiving than that found on a road bike with bigger gears for pedaling up steeper climbs.

Other than the bike, all the other gear required is more or less the same as to what you would require for road cycling with the exception of shoes. Cyclocross riders use mountain bike or CX-specific shoes with a hardy tread. This provides the grip required for running and negotiating obstacles.

Cyclocross ramp


So how do I train?

Cyclocross is a perfect for developing both your bike handling skills and your cardiovascular fitness. Another key skill is the ability to quickly get on and off your bike. The easiest way to practice this is to find a park and practice riding at speed, quickly dismounting, carrying your bike, and then remounting. The constant underlying danger for male riders is crushing certain delicate areas while remounting, so getting this skill down is essential. Check out GCN's Guide to CX mounting like a pro: 

Apart from getting on and off your bike, practice your bike handling skills on technical trails and a variety of surfaces (gravel, sand, mud, grass etc), and also practice high-intensity efforts. If you decide to race cyclocross you’ll have to get used to pedaling as hard as you can for the entirety of the race.  

So where do I sign up?

If you live in the Sacramento area you are in for a treat! With Folsom Rodeocross, the Sacramento Cyclocross Series and the West Sacramento Cyclocross Grand Prix you are spoiled for choice when it comes to racing.

Rodeocross runs most Wednesday nights through September and October, while the Sacramento Cyclocross Series runs over eight races from October through December.

One of the biggest cycling events in the Sacramento area; the West Sacramento Cyclocross Grand Prix is a UCI event. This means that in the pro races, some of the best CX riders in the world will be lining up. The West Sacramento Cyclocross Grand Prix is on Saturday and Sunday, September the 30th and October 1st.

Cyclocross guide mud pit

Fun and community

The reason why so many people love CX is the community that surrounds it. Races often have a party atmosphere and the community is very inclusive and doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you head down to Rodeocross, you’ll likely get a mid-race beer handout!

We love hearing your CX stories and tips! Let us know your favorite races or if you have a secret technique on our Facebook and Instagram pages.