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We talked last week about the joys of indoor training but for some folk, the great outdoors is where it’s at. If you’re determined to get your fix no matter the weather, this winter could be the ideal time to give cyclocross a go.
This coming weekend sees the UCI CX World Championships head to Bogense, Denmark. Cyclocross, sometimes termed ‘cross or CX, is absolutely huge in northern Europe, with wall-to-wall TV coverage and whole sports sections devoted to the riders. The Brits will be well represented with newly crowned elite national champions, Nikki Brammeier and Tom Pidcock – who will ride in the under-23 category this weekend – leading an 18-strong GB contingent which aims for the biggest prize in the game.
What is cyclocross?
Back when the road-racing season was concentrated in Europe, cyclocross developed as a way for professional riders to maintain form and fitness during the winter. Normally held in a park, and offering a quick blast of bike fun without being so long your fingers fall off, it’s a great way to spend a mucky hour or so each weekend before retiring to the warmth of the pub. With seven or eight laps of a circuit, including small climbs, descents and obstacles, cyclocross tests bike-handling skills to the max.
What do you need?
Cyclocross races are short and sharp, so you don't need to worry so much about the cold even in the depths of winter. Regular cycle kit should be fine, but don't forget all that mud – your finest kit might not be the best choice. Make sure you have something snug to wear when you arrive and as you warm up, as well as dry clothes to get changed into after the race.
Warm hands are essential and modern winter gloves offer plenty of insulation and are breathable so you won’t get clammy fingers. Wear a decent base layer to keep your core warm with a skullcap beneath your helmet and you won’t be put off your pace on even the chilliest day.
All those obstacles mean a lot of jumping on and off the saddle and running with the bike, so ideally you need shoes that will provide grip when off the bike. Most riders use mountain bike style shoes and pedals which shed muck easily and allow you to clip back in sharpish. Combined with a warm, waterproof sock, your little toes will be snug and you’ll be able to concentrate on staying upright – not always a given in a ‘cross race!
You can use any bike in a ‘cross race and if you have a bike that you’re happy to get a bit mucky and which can take some wide rubber, a simple change to tougher tyres can get you started. Once you’ve been bitten by the bug, a bike specifically designed for the rough and tumble of a cyclocross race will make the whole thing even more fun.
Giant have some pedigree in the ‘cross world, having the honour of being the first disc-equipped bike to win a UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup race. The Giant TCX SLR has been winning races since it first launched in 2015 and it’s been through a few improvements since then, notably upgrading the brakes to the super-reliable hydraulic version. If you want to keep up with the fast kids, this is the bike for you.
The Giant TCX is a super-versatile all round bike too. The lightweight aluminium frame, wide and grippy tyres, reliable brakes and sure handling make ‘cross bikes ideal for British conditions, whether you’re commuting to work or hitting the trails at the weekend.
For any advice about cyclocross pop in or give us a call. There are ‘cross races all winter long and we’d love to hear how you get on. Don’t expect to stay clean or upright all the time, but one thing is certain: you’ll have a smile on your face while you do it!