BUYER'S GUIDE

6 reasons to try cyclocross this winter — have crazy fun, build skills & maintain fitness in the mud

Bike racing's winter discipline is fun, fast and intense

Cyclocross is fast and exciting and has become hugely popular in the past decade with races springing up right across the country, and the best thing is it’s really accessible and fun for all the family. It’s a great adrenaline rush and most races are 40-60 minutes long, and is really good for your fitness and bike handling skills, and a great way to mix up your winter cycling routine.

Here are six reasons why we think you should try cyclocross racing this winter:

1. It’s great fun

Cyclocross is all about the smiles. It’s a little quirky riding a modified road bike around a muddy field for an hour, but that just makes it all the more appealing. There are lots of local races all over the country and there’s a good atmosphere at these events, with only the very top racers taking it too seriously. Everyone else is there for the joy of it. It’s good for spectators too as the courses are short and tightly confined.

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2. It keeps you fit through the winter

Cyclocross is a high-intensity sport so it’s a really good workout, and because races are usually no longer than an hour, you’re not tiring yourself as too much as you would on a 6-hour road ride. Most people can ride comfortably for an hour so no specific training is really required. Cyclocross is also a full body workout as well. Typically there is dismounting and running up steep banks and steps involved, and so your core and upper body gets a good workout from wrestling the bike through mud and sand.

3. It’s good for bike handling skills

Riding a cyclocross bike through adverse conditions, whether it’s slick mud, wet grass, or rocky ground, with the myriad of obstacles you’ll encounter from off-camber turns, steep banks and hurdles, gives you a good lesson in bike handling skills. Handling a slip sliding cyclocross bike requires a relaxed technique and that can transfer really well to the road bike.

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4. It’s accessible

Racing cyclocross is a lot more accessible than most other forms of cycle sport. The competitiveness is always good natured. there’s no bunch to get dropped from, everyone races at their own speed, you can be battling for 1st or 51st, you’ll still be having a good time. Cyclocross races cater for all ages with races split by age so you’re racing against people of the same age. It’s also a good spectator sport.

5. Only takes an hour

Only takes an hour. The longest cyclocross race is 60 minutes, many are shorter, which means it doesn’t take over your whole Sunday. You can be done and dusted and home for Sunday lunch. This makes cyclocross racing very good for time-crunched cyclists. An hour of cyclocross racing is a lot more fun than six hours on the road bike. Especially when it's raining. 

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6. An excuse to buy a new bike

You can never have too many bikes. If you have a mountain bike, you can use that just fine, many people do quite happily. But if you want to get into it properly, then you might want to invest in a cyclocross bike. Cyclocross bikes have changed quite a bit in the last few years and disc brakes are now very popular. Many cyclocross bikes are very versatile as well, and can be used as a commuting and winter training bike with a simple change of tyres.

How to get started

If we've talked you into wanting to give cyclocross a go, you'll probably be wondering what you need. There are a few essentials, namely a bike. You can do take part on a mountain bike if you just want to try it out for the first time. If you want to invest in a dedicated cyclocross bike, make sure to read this Buyer's Guide to choosing the right cyclocross bike.

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If you want to know more about what to expect from a cyclocross race, from finding your local race league to the format of racing and what you can expect, have a read of our Complete Guide to Cyclocross racing.

And for more information on the bikes and equipment you might need for cyclocross racing, from shoes to pedals, bikes to brakes and gearing, have a read of this Beginner's guide to cyclo-cross essentials.

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Road.cc buyer's guides are maintained and updated by John Stevenson. Email John with comments, corrections or queries.

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. 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.

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