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Cyclocross – The Best Of Both Worlds

Ever heard of cyclocross? No? You’re not the only one. Imagine this: a road bike frame (think curly handlebars), mountain bike disc brakes, and oversized road tires with knobs. The love-child of a mountain and road bike. The best of both worlds.

Looking for the flexibility to ride pavement, gravel, smooth single track, or even something more technical? Want to extend your riding season into the early spring and late fall? A cyclocross bike affords you that flexibility in a far less industrious package than a mountain bike. Often called “cross bikes,” they are tailor-made for our river valley pea-gravel trails. They’re also perfect if you want to get out of the city and explore the endless maze of “Alberta pave” (aka gravel).

Those aren’t even the best parts of the intriguing sport of cyclocross. Did you know that most autumn weekends see an Edmonton area park turned into an obstacle course for cross bikes? Imagine criss-crossing through your local park on a bike, following a maze-like course that includes barriers, sand, twisty corners, stairs, and challenging quick ascents and descents. Sound like fun? Or at least intriguing?

Like that distant cousin you didn’t know existed, cyclocross is the long-lost member of the cycling family. It may surprise you to learn that the sport has been around since the early 1900’s originating in Europe. Some say it began when road racers were allowed to cut through farmer’s fields and over fences when racing each other from town to town.

The cyclocross scene in Edmonton is alive and well, and is about to follow in the footsteps of this year’s road cycling season with an influx of enthusiastic beginner women. We’re approaching cyclo-cross just like we’ve approached road riding/racing: together with others who share our butterflies, fears, and excitement. Some women are veterans, ready to impart valuable wisdom to those less experienced. Some caught the cross bug last season and are eager to hone their new skills. And some, like me, are “nervouscited” to try our first races and break in our new steeds purchased in anticipation.

Not sure you want to jump right into racing, but still want to give it a try? YEG has a great option for that too: mid-week cyclocross fun races. Every Wednesday starting in September, you’ll find an informal course set up in a city park where participants choose from three different ability groups. The cost is nominal (usually $5-10), and the atmosphere encouraging. I tried my first mid-week cross race on a mountain bike and got lapped by everyone, but still had a blast! Riders ranging in age from pre-teen to senior take part in this weekly fun, challenging themselves to better their time or technique from the previous week.

Looking for something even more epic? Head down to Calgary for the wildly famous Dark Night Cross (Nov 4th). Imagine everything described thus far, but in the dark, with fire, costumes and surprises for spectators and riders alike!  Epic!

And the CX fun doesn't stop when the leaves do. Yes, cross in the snow! We are Albertan, so a little snow just adds to the “crossiness” of it all!

There is an art to true cyclo-cross, an art that we’re going to learn. I certainly wasn’t born with the ability to jump off my bike whilst moving, hoist it over a two-foot barrier, and then hop back on with all the grace and power of Wonder Woman.  I’ve made it to professional cross spectator status over the last few years; now it’s time to hang up my cowbell and give it a try. Jump on-jump off, wasn't that what Mr. Miyagi was getting at? Why don’t you join us? For more info, email me at women@ertc.org and I can connect you with those in the know for anything mentioned in this article.

 

Tiffany Baker

Women’s Cycling Manager, Edmonton Road and Track Club

women@ertc.org

 

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