Emma Osenton rides for the Kinesis Morvélo Project, a cycle team that races all types of bicycles, and she has been bitten by the cyclocross bug. As she explains:
As winters grip begins to tighten, thoughts of frozen miles on the bike just to keep up winter fitness, risking ice and snow with sub zero fingertips starts to have less of an appeal. Granted there are some beautiful moments to be had dipping in and out of winter mists, cobwebs caught in jewel like frosts. This year however I've decided to finally give in and take up cyclocross. I live up in hilly West Yorkshire and the road conditions can get rather interesting in winter.
Cyclocross or 'cross as it's often referred to involves riding a modified road bike with knobby tyres round laps of a set course. Most races are under an hour. There are various different obstacles in the way, jumps, climbs, tarmac, grass, mud. They require skill, strength and a little bit of lunacy. I have two out of three, I'm hoping to learn the skills as I go along!
I'm very lucky and my team issue bike for this year is the new Kinesis UK EVO5. It's a 'cross race bike. So the geometry is set as such. It has cantilever brakes. At the moment I have it set up the same as my summer road bike only with the bars a little higher.
I built it with help from my local bike shop on friday, rode it a couple of miles up and down some tracks to check everything was working, then on Saturday I entered my first race, yes you may wonder my wisdom here, no off road skills remember, I'm not joking either! I am however a fell runner as well as a cyclist and as they say "If you can't ride, run".
There's a local classic race called Harriers vs. Cyclists, it's a mass start elbows out fell race with the course set so that it favours neither the cyclist nor the runner. It's not too serious unless you want it to be, it does attract a fairly strong field along with the have-a-go-heroes. I was scared!
The gun goes and we're off, it's a steep slope upwards before a boggy field full of cow poo! Some folk are managing to ride but the runners are taking the lead. As the race goes on I find myself carrying more than I should, the climbs are fairly un-ridable, although the top tube of my bike is shaped to fit my shoulder and is pretty light it still digs into my boney shoulder.
Admittedly I did joke about building the lightest bike I could and then running all the way. I jostle back and forth with runners and riders on the way up, the route is a lollipop shape and I see the first runner bounding towards me, hotly pursued by the eventual winner Rob Jebb.
As the course becomes more rideable my lack of confidence shows through, my roadie brain tells me that the sloppy mud will eat my wheels and I'll slide into the floor. I've been lucky and had plenty of advice on how to ride through it but my brain won't allow me. I get annoyed with stopping and starting, ending up picking up the bike and running.
Shouts from Dave from SportSunday Event Photographers "Emma get back on the bloody thing!" Thanks Dave! I'm fearful of the decsents yet my competitive streak gets me back on and makes me try more that I would have if I'd just gone out on a ride. That was one of the reasons I entered. Believe it or not I was rather enjoying myself, I know what can be ridden, I just need to learn. I left the huge descent for the brave nutters and ran down. Still I wasn't last and I had a smile on my face at the end.
Next day my partner Ali and I set off for a training session for women to learn 'cross kindly run by Mark Turner and Alan 'Crossjunkie' Dorrington from Cycle Sport Pendle. Ok, I'll admit, maybe I ought to have done this before entering a race! This is to be the first of hopefully many sessions with the idea of encouraging more women into the sport.
This week we covered mounting the bike whilst it is moving, getting off it whilst you and it are still moving and jumps. If I'd known more of this the day before....
The main thing it seems with 'cross it seems is to keep the bike and your momentum going. We were talked through it and shown demonstrations in slow motion. It all looked like I was about to end up on the floor. What's good about going along to such skills sessions, is that it makes you try. I love how a sport like cycling has so many different variations and there's always something new to learn.
Armed with a set of drills to practice we set off home in the van, slightly muddy but with huge smiles, chattering away to each other of all that we had just learnt.
This is going to be a fun winter. I can't wait to do more.
David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.