Wohoo, I didn’t get lapped!
Sunday, September 10, 2017. Millbrook, Ontario. My first Cyclocross race.
Trail Tours Cross, presented by Substance Projects and Bateman’s Bicycle Co. It was the first race in the SubstanX CycloCross Series.
And, as the title says, it was MY first CX race, ever.
And, as the first line says, I didn’t get lapped.
Well, I got lapped, but not really. I mean, I WAS lapped, but it wasn’t in my first race, and when I was actually lapped (in my second CX race on the same day), I was in the Single Speed category and apparently you’re SUPPOSED to get lapped. Yeah, I’m a bit confused too.
But I’m not confused about this: CX is really freakin’ awesome. Like, totally, utterly, wickedly, giant boomedly, AWESOME.
Okay, full disclosure, it ain’t MTB, and my heart sings for MTB, but it’s really really really close. By the way, that’s probably not the best slogan for Cyclocross. “CX”: It’s not MTB, but it’s really close”
It’s close because it’s very similar, but not really, and very different, but kinda the same.
Okay, now I’m more confused.
And to make matters worse, instead of being one big race with a bunch of different categories like MTB, a CX “race” is a series of shorter races with an actual crap tonne of different categories.
To put things into perspective, my last MTB race was a two lap 78k (or 37k) race, with a start time of 11:00 (or 11:30). Trail Tours Cross was a 40-60 minute race, on a 3k lap, with a billion different start times, and 20 billion categories. I’m sort of exaggerating, but not really. And, because of the multitude of start times and categories, I got to do a Novice race at 9:30, and almost immediately after that, I did a Singlespeed race at 10:50. So, my first CX “race” was actually was my first two CX races.
Wait, did that make it more confusing?
Either way, it was a blast. Seriously, it’s the funnest. It was so fun that I did my third CX race (or was it my second CX race) two days after, on Tuesday night, when the King Weekly Series MTB race shifted to the King Cross Weekly Series.
Aw dang it, I’m too old for this. My first cross race was two races, and my second (or third) cross race was actually my weekly MTB that became a CX series. And I still don’t know if I should call it CX, Cyclocross, or just Cross.
And wait a sec, what the heck is a Cross race anyway? Is it MTB? Is it road? Is it gravel?
Yes. Put simply, Cyclocross is a MTB race on grass and gravel–and some trail–with lots of corners, and the occasional (somewhat-ridable-but-not-really) barrier thrown in for fun, ridden on a bike that looks like a road bike but is as close to a road bike as a potato is to a duck.
Put even more simply, it’s really just an easy MTB race, but on a different bike. Sorry hardcore CX riders, but I’m just sayin’.
Oh wait, you don’t have to ride a CX bike, or a Cyclocross bike, or even a cross bike. Really, you can pretty much ride any bike you want. Unless it’s a UCI Cyclocross race, in which case you HAVE to ride a CX bike, with tires that are between 30-38mm wide, and other restrictions.
Except, from what I’ve gathered recently, most CX races aren’t totally UCI and allow pretty much any bike.
So thanks for making it even more confusing CX race organizers. Or should I say Cyclocross organizers. Or is it Cross organizers…
By the way, here’s my bike. Drool.
And what’s the deal with cowbells? “Cowbell Cross” this, “MORE Cowbell Cross” that. Cowbell, cowbell cowbell. As a genre of racing, you can’t settle on a bike, a name, or a start time, but you can agree on a style of bell? And more of that bell?
I’m kidding of course. CX rules are pretty deep and mighty (and they really aren’t “easy MTB races”–they’re super hard and technical) but for someone like me, it’s all a bit overwhelming. Especially with all those cowbells ringing…
So, in an effort to make it a bit easier for newbies to join the ranks of the CX, I have a few tips and observations. Oldbies need not continue reading. I’m not going to get more funny, and you won’t learn anything.
Here are 12 things I learned about CX in my vast (three race) experience:
- CX is technical and hard: Bikes take one heck of a beating. Like, a real crap kicking. That said, they’re only really hard and technical if you want to win. If you just want to ride, they’re fun and awesome, and totally ridable. Honestly, I’m taking my kids to the next race.
- Narrow tires: Speaking of a beating, 33mm tires are wicked fast, wicked hard, and wicked fun.
- Tire pressure: Make friends with your pump. However, whatever pressure you choose, it’ll likely be wrong, but you never know. If you’re riding a MTB bike in a cross race, increase the pressure (it’ll help you on the grassy sections). If you usually ride your cross bike on gravel and rough road, decrease your pressure (it’ll help when you smoke a rock or root)
- Pacing: CX races aren’t designed for endurance. They’re short laps in a short period of time, and require an entirely different pacing from a long MTB race or road ride. Think fast, hard, and relentless.
- Barriers: Every once in a while in a CX race, there’s an obstacle (or barrier, or step up, or run up…) that you have to somehow manage to get over with your bike. The pros bunny hop the barriers; the proficient riders hop off, carry over, and hop on in a one boss looking fluid motion; and the newbs slowly approach, brake, awkwardly unclip and dismount, clamber over, and clip in, in a long and horrible series of sasquatch-like grunts and maneuvers, before continuing. Wait, is that just me? Of course, the Joeys do this:
- Laps: Lots and lots of laps. With a race time of 40 minutes to an hour, and a 2-3k course, you’re looking at 5-7 laps. This means a pre-ride can give you a whole bunch of information about lines, timing, pacing, and other snags–that you’ll encounter at least half a dozen times in a race. By the way, if you get lapped, you’ll get pulled out of the race. Or not. It depends.
- Visibility: With such a short course, spectators can see most of the action from one or two places. This is good if you’re a pro and have wicked style. This is bad if you’re, well, re-read #3 “Barriers” and imagine the same barrier over and over again–with an audience. Hinkel Yeung was at Trail Tours Cross capturing the day. Hinkel is one heck of a photographer, and has an awesome eye for a great shot. Check out his photos of the race. All action shots in this post are from Hinkel. Thanks for sharing your craft Hinkel. Awesome.
- Vibe: The vibe at a CX race is pretty cool. Lots of people, lots of spectators, and a really cool atmosphere of good natured trash talk, supportive encouragement, and bike-minded people getting together. And cowbells. Cowbells everywhere.
- Terrain: Grass, gentle single track, hard double track, sand, gravel, rocks and roots, and everything in between. CX course designers don’t look for the easy line. They create the hardest line.
- Water: Apparently, it’s verboten to have a water bottle in your cage in a Cross race and if you have one, you’ll look like a newbie. Well, I get thirsty, and I always have one. Plus, what if I swallow a bug? If real CXers think I look funny with a water bottle, don’t ask me what I think of them and that infernal bell… I’m kidding. I really dig the bells. They’re fun.
- Course: In all of the CX races I’ve raced (okay, in BOTH of them) the courses had similarities. The similarities are as follows: They look like they were created by you and your friends when you got new bikes and wanted to have a race around your front yard. Seriously, CX is old school, “lets ride our bikes around and over stuff”, high energy ripping. I didn’t grow up on the North Shore, and my childhood neighbourhood forest was a mess of trees with a walking trail. When my friends and I wanted a cool off-road bike experience, we made an obstacle course around my street and tried to ride around, over, and through everything in sight. It seems to me that same spirit runs deep in CX. I’m pretty sure the kid from “Family Circus” is now a CX course designer.
Honestly though, what do I know? I did a few races (and I’ll do a bunch more), but MY experience is just that: MINE. Your experience may be totally different.
Which is why YOU need to try one.
If you’re a CX rider, I’ll see you out there. If you’ve always wanted to be a CX rider, what are you waiting for? And if you’re not interested in CX, you really need to rethink that position.
Look at me, making friends with Commissaire Brad.
Oh wait, I almost forgot to write a Race Report.
Race Report. SubstanX Cyclocross Series #1: Trail Tours Cross (presented by Substance Projects and Bateman’s Bicycle Co.). September 10, 2017.
Sand, grass, a sweet berm, a fast and bumpy descent, some cornering, a bit of double track, a bit of singletrack, S-turns, a splash of mud, more sand, some farm track, some more grass, a barrier, another barrier, two jumps, a step, and some grass.
End of Race Report.
…and a podium finish for Team Colin the single speed category (my second CX race).
A report of the King Cross Weekly Series, is in the PS of this post. Hint, it’s pretty much more of the same awesomeness.
CX. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s awesome.
Dinga linga linga ling.
PS The Next SubstanX Cyclocross race is this Sunday, September 17, at MTB Kingston. You can register for SubstanX Farm Cross here. Thanks to Substance Projects, Bateman’s Bicycle Co., Danone, Pearl Izumi, Joyride 150, Amsterdam Brewery, Hinkel Yeung, and Trail Tours (for the awesome land use).
And here, as promised, is the King Cross Weekly Series Race Report.
Race Report. King Cross Tuesday Night Race. Tuesday, September 12, 2017. Centennial Park, King City
Gravel driveway, grass, trees, more grass, across the driveway, more grass and trees, a neon orange barrier, some more grass, a zip around the port-a-potty (close your mouth), grass, some flowy singletrack, some grunty singletrack, some more flowy singletrack, some narrow and winding singletrack, grass, double track, some grass, and bask to the parking lot.
End of Race Report.
So much fun. If you want to race King Cross, come to Centennial Park in King City (not the other Centennial Park–which also has a CX race) the next two Tuesday nights at 6:00. Get more information here: Evolution Cycles.
Hey look, it’s me, Jamie, Ryan, and Tristan (dude is faaaaaaaaast on a bike). 10 minutes before this picture, the stuff in the concrete bunker behind us was a wicked CX race.
And Take a look at my last blog post. I’ve listed a few other CX races there.
Also, you NEED to check out Bateman’s Bicycle Co.. Rob Bateman and I finally got to chat on Sunday. Dude is super cool, an awesome supporter of CX, and I’m just going to say it, he’s as handsome as heck. His shop also sponsors a Bateman’s Midweek Cyclocross until the snow flies. Here’s a picture of me and Rob (he’s totally going to be a BFF) enjoying our podium cookies (courtesy of Dan’s mom).
And here are a few other pictures from the day. They are, in no particular order: Dan’s awesome support crew (Jenn and Simon, Sherry, and Ron and Florence); the podium crowd (with bells); and some of the folks from Bateman’s enjoying a Team Colin popsicle. …oh, and maybe a shot of me.