“Cross is a fun, social and enjoyable sport. Stop thinking of reasons you shouldn’t race cross and get out there and have a blast”
The switch to cross season brings a new challenge and fresh excitement to racing. A few considerations can be made to allow for a smooth and effective transition to the rigors of the sport.
First you have some base fitness garnered from your road or mountain bike season. To increase your speed and stay injury-free, it’s important to do some cross specific work.
Try some running
After a long season of cycling we become so well adapted to the bike that other strands of our fitness fade from neglect. I recommend dusting down those runners and getting out for a short run each week. It’s important to progress the duration as our bodies aren’t familiar with the mechanics. Start out with a 10 minute easy run and progress gradually to a 30 minute run. One run per week should suffice.
To get ready for barrier hopping you can practice dismounts and remounts in a grassy field. After you become proficient, add speed, then add a barrier of a foot or more in height. Practice running over that slowly, and then faster. Resist the urge to do too much.
Cross requires a lot of agility, which isn’t necessary in road cycling. Look to include activities, which promote agility like trail walking or hill running.
More skills to practice include cornering, shouldering the bike, running uphill, bunny hopping, mud and sand riding, off-camber slopes and riding stairs. Try plot out a route in your local park which includes as many of these features as possible. Each session try to work at negotiating these features at increasingly higher speeds. It’s the constant variety of terrain and different challenges we face that gives cross such widespread appeal.
• Make sure your equipment is tuned up and race ready after an idle summer
• Get used to using the lowest tire pressure you can for added traction.
• Get toe spikes for your shoes , especially if the course demands foothold traction (running up hills).
• Set your bars a little taller and shorter than the road bike for added control, no need to be aero.
Do your homework
One of the best ways to learn cross skills and technique is by watching the pro’s. There are so many good races to watch online these days. Watch as many re-runs as possible. Observe the way the best riders choose lines and watch their technique as they enter and exit a corner. Watch closely as they drop their cadence in mucky sections and apply even force around the pedal stroke. Slow down the videos and re-watch vital sections.
Cross is a fun, social and enjoyable sport. Stop thinking of reasons you shouldn’t race cross and get out there and have a blast on two wheels!