What is cyclocross (CX)
Cyclocross is a cycling discipline that involves riding a drop handlebar bike (so, similar in the look to a road bike) on a short, off-road track, in the countryside or in a dedicated park. The track is filled with obstacles like mud, sandpits, steps to be jumped or bunny hopped away or slopes so steep that the athlete needs to carry up the bike on the shoulder, running. Normally the track is quite short, average 3km, and imply several laps.
Staying clean and dry is simply impossible, and it is not even the main idea! It is traditionally an Autumn and Winter sport far more popular than road cycling in countries such as Flanders (Belgium), France and the Netherlands, countries that gave birth to the best champions of this discipline.
Cyclocross bike frames
Everything needs to be as mud proof as possible so no eyeholes on the tubes. Cables tend to run on top of the top tube, so they don’t get in the way when the bike is carried on the shoulder.
The fork and rear train is far wider than road bikes thought for plenty of mud to collect on tyres and on the brakes! The frame’s geometry is very different from Road bikes too. The head tube has a geometry of 72° for fast turns.
Cyclocross tyres, bottom brackets and pedals
The rules set by the UCI, say cyclocross tyres are max 33mm wide.
Bottom brackets allow some more clearance from the ground.
Cyclocross drivetrain, chainset and cassette
Classic cyclocross race gearing brings in a 46/36 chainset and a cassette like an 11-28. However, those can vary a lot accordingly to the kind of race and there is an increasing trend to adopt single chainrings, to minimize the problems during the race.
The most basic cyclocross bikes still use cantilever brakes, but cyclocross bikes almost use discs brakes mostly, for much the same reasons they are used on MTBs.
Clothing is not far off road cycling clothes but since cyclocross is a winter sport there is an accent on warmer clothes such as long sleeves, tights, knickers and arm and leg warmers. A one piece skinsuits is often preferred to shorts and jersey. Gloves, goggles and winter cycling shoes are part of the typical equipment.
If you are a keen cyclist you surely admired the performance of great champions of road cycling like Pete Sagan at jumping away graciously obstacles on the way. But don’t forget that the bunny hopping is primarily a cyclocross master level skill!