Getting started with cyclo-cross

Getting started with cyclo-cross

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Knowledge Level: Beginner

Cyclo-cross is one of the most accessible and enjoyable forms of cycle sport. You can enter many local events on the day and can even give it a go on a mountain bike. There are usually races for all age-groups and, with the multi-lap format, the whole family can take part at the same event. It’s great for fitness, getting a competitive hit during the winter and developing bike handling skills. In this article we will answer your cyclo-cross questions and link you to more cyclo-cross content on the site.

Am I fit enough?

If you have been riding sportives through the summer, you will be plenty fit enough for cyclo-cross. You may lack some of the top end speed and power required but that will come with racing and some dedicated training.

One of the best things about cyclo-cross is, because it is multi-lap, you will often find yourself in a personal race with a few other riders of similar ability. It doesn’t matter if the top riders lap you as you will be too engrossed in your own battles.

You can work on your cyclo-cross fitness by following our 8-week cyclo-cross training plan.

Do I need a special bike?

You can enter most local events on a mountain bike and, especially if you fit some narrower tyres, you can do fairly well on a cross-country hardtail 29-er. However a cyclo-cross bike should always be faster on a genuine cyclo-cross course and, if you get into the sport, you will probably want to buy one.

Find out what makes cyclo-cross bikes so special in our anatomy of a cyclo-cross bike article.

Do I need any other kit?

If you already cycle, especially if you mountain bike, you will already have most of the kit and clothing you will need. However, for some more tips, check out our Cyclo-Cross Kit and Clothing article.

What skills do I need?

Cyclo-cross is as much about skills and technique as it is about fitness. This is why, in our 8-week cyclo-cross training plan, we dedicate specific sessions to practicing skills such as dismounts and remounts and shouldering and carrying your bike. You can easily practice these skills at your local park and being confident in them will definitely help on race day.

You will also need to develop your bike handling skills to cope with the different course conditions you will encounter through the winter. Fortunately top cyclo-cross racer Nick Craig has given you his Cyclo-cross Terrain Tips.

What should I eat on race day?

You should approach nutrition for a cyclo-cross race in much the same way as you would any hour long hard ride or indoor trainer session. However, as most events take place mid-morning, timings can be tricky. Use our Cyclo-Cross Nutritional Timeline to nail your race day fuelling.

How do I get involved?

Find more information on Getting into Cyclo-cross including our events page and why you should give it a go.