I really fancy giving cross a bash - I used to be a roadie (a loooong time ago), then got into running and the bikes got sold. I'm now getting a bike primarily for ferrying my son around on the back, but looking at all the options figured a cross bike would tick all the boxes (on/off road, strong, versatile etc) as well as enabling me to indulge in a spot of competition of a weekend. I've had a good look around and the Dolan SRAM looks like a good bike for my budget (to my novice eye!), and had a good read of the BCF website but thought I may as well ask the experts too... so, my questions:
1) I'm relatively fit (in running terms - I can do a sub 45 min 10k and run 4 times a week), but haven't ridden a bike in about 3 years - am I likely to get blown out the back within minutes?
2) What's the best way to practice - just hit trails etc and get the miles in? It looks quite technical.
3) What "category" would I race in - is there such a thing as a 4th cat race, or does everyone just get lumped in together?
Thanks in advance...
I was a first time 'cross racer last season, and found the whole thing fantastic.
why not check out my blog posts and see if it answers any of your questions. Since the season finished I've tried to improve my technical skills by also racing XC MTB as I was lacking in those skills the most last season. Also I've been working on my strength quite a lot, intervals, hill climbs etc to try and get myself ready for September on top of some good miles on the road and trails around Sussex. We all race together, and as I point out in the blog posts its often [for most of us] not about winning but the race that emerges within the race. The group you find yourself in becomes your race, and no matter if its 1st or 71st the racing is pretty fierce. I think the best way to find out how you'll get on is to go for it, throw yourself in at the deep end like I did and see where you are fitness wise etc after that. I've been racing on a Cannondale CAADX 105 and its been perfect. People will have their own opinions on this forum, but the usual advice is get the best frame you can [often a good alu one] and then as you get into 'cross update things, usually the wheels first.
I hope this helps, I'm still a bit of a noob, but enthusiasm goes a long way, and the people I've met through the London X League have been fantastic and very forth coming with advice, tips etc. So ask around at races, people will be happy to help.
Cross is definitely an 'all welcome' branch of cycling. Your fitness level is immaterial really - everyone is on the same lap and as Rich says, you'll find your own battles. If you run regularly, you will pick it up fine.
Get out there, and do whatever off road riding you can to get your confidence up on a bike. There are specific techniques to dismounting and mounting, as well as carrying but don't worry about them too much. Just get used to bumping and sliding the bike around and the rest will follow in time.
Being in Doncaster you could ride either Yorkshire or Notts and Derby League races:
Have a look too at the Planet X Uncle John SRAM Rival build - I raced UJ's for years and they were great, and the wheelset is a better one than on the Dolan.
Can't really add much to Rich and Alan's comments but all I'd say is the running fitness will server you very well. If you decide you're getting into it and want to train more specifically then do but you will be fit enough to 'enjoy' the races and have battles with whoever is right in front of you and right behind you.
We're a fun bunch, really, and there's a friendly atmosphere at 'cross races. Welcome in !
Thanks all for your replies - seems like you're a friendly bunch!
@Rich - great blog - had a good read with a brew last night. Seems you're a lot fitter than me... but something to aspire to!
@Alan - thanks for the links, looks like there are plenty of races near me... even the national champs are in my hometown this year - may go in for that one, just for the experience of riding at "home"...! That Planet X looks great by the way, and they're only up the road from me too so worth a look.
@Dave - love the idea of "races within a race" - it seems like you can't be "dropped" as such because the short course means you're always "racing" someone... even getting to test yourself against the top guys.
...a couple more questions, if I may?
1. Do I need to be attached to a club / have a BC membership to enter races?
2. What's the etiquette for being lapped by the quick folk (i.e. are you expected to throw yourself out of the way at all costs, so as to not impede them)?
3. I assume it's like F1, in that everybody finishes on the same lap as the leader at the end of the hour, irrespective of the number of laps they've completed within that time? Hope that makes sense... i.e. if you're three laps down, you don't have to keep going!
Can't wait to get started. Going to try a few bikes this weekend, get one bought on payday and then aim to get a few miles under my belt (blow out the cobwebs) before having a bash at something in September.
Not sure about my fitness... I like the 'hopeless optimist tag' if i'm honest, but I'm sure you saw that in the blog posts, there are 8 if you ever get bored :-) or need something to lull you to sleep as I ramble on a fair bit.
1. When I race in the London League you need to be a BC member, but I think you might be able to pay extra or get a day license if you want to just give it a go [I might be wrong, worth checking with your local league as they may vary.] The other guys on here will be able to shed some light on it up north.
2. If the quicker riders have manners, and to be honest they often do, they'll shout they're coming and tell you what side they're coming past on, at that point find a safe point to move over and let em pass. If you're in a more technical twisting section just take your time, its a common sense call most the time and there's no need to stop, just keep racing and move out of the way when you can.
3. Yes. You finish after the leader has raced the hour no matter what lap you're on.
Hope that helps
Right, no turning back now - bike ordered. Had a good look around a few over the weekend, and went for the Cannondale CAADX5-105. Seemed like a good balance of quality / VFM - managed to pick it up for just over £800. Should be arriving in the next week or so.
Looking to target early October for my first race, as it gives me a month or so of solid riding to improve (remember!) my bike legs / handling skills... will keep the thread updated with my progress.
Thanks (I think) to you all for your encouragement...