Outdoors trends: Cyclocross

cyclocross pic credit Bryan Hutton 5

It might seem like a strange sport, but cyclocross, on off-road bikes that look like road racers, is on the rise in Scotland.

cyclocross pic credit- fiona walker 4The bikes resemble road racers with narrow, lightweight frames and drop handlebars but they are also fitted with knobbly tyres and disc brakes. The riders also look like road cyclists, clad neck to ankle in Lycra.

Yet the sport of cyclocross takes place on off-road terrain, which would normally be tackled on mountain bikes.

Welcome to the fast growing sport of cyclocross racing.

What is cyclocross?

Cyclocross sees riders racing around laps of an off-road course for a set time of 30 to 60 minutes. Each lap is usually between one and two miles.

Most riders use cyclocross bikes for competitions, although mountain bikes are also permitted.

The terrain is typically muddy trails, grass, woodland and perhaps some tarmac.

use as lead, crop man at front. cyclocross pic credit- fiona walker 2The courses also include obstacles, so riders must be able to shoulder their bikes to jump over small hurdles and walk or run up slopes too steep to ride.

The simple aim is to complete as many laps as possible in the set time or before you are lapped by the leaders.

Each race will differ as to how technically challenging it is but if you come across a section that is too tricky you can get off the bike and run with it.

The growth of cyclocross

cyclocross pic credit Bryan Hutton 3Autumn and winter are the traditional seasons for cyclocross events and in recent years in Scotland the number of races and the entries has grown significantly.

Davie Graham is the secretary of Scottish Cyclocross, the organisation that puts on many of the events in Scotland.

He said: “It is fantastic to see the growth of cyclocross from total entries of only 30 riders around a decade ago to fields of almost 400 today.

“Many events also sell out and people are finding they need to get their entries in far faster to ensure they have a place.

“These last few years have seen the biggest growth, especially among women, children and men aged 40-plus.

cyclocross pic credit- fiona walker“We have had to create more categories for riding age groups and for both genders, as well as extending the duration of the event to cope with entries.”

Davie reports that the only limits to the growth of cyclocross are the number and size of venues.

He says: “It is only the infrastructure of the races that stops them expanding further or new events being set up.

“In fact, if we could find new venues we are sure we would have capacity entries there, too.

“The sport has taken off so fast and in such an incredible way.”

skye Ben MoulsonDavie has also seen a trend for family participation at cyclocross. He says: “Whereas the races used to be predominantly male riders, now the whole family comes along and everyone competes in their own category.

“That’s dads, mums and the kids. It’s great to see how this is developing and to know that we can offer something fun for everyone.”

Case study: It’s a family affair

Ben MoulsonColin Moulson enjoys cyclocross days out with his whole family. While Colin, of Glasgow, rides in the men’s events, his daughter Skye, 10, and eight-year-old son Ben race in the junior categories.

For the past two years, the trio have entered multiple races across the season, supported by wife and mum, Marnie.

Colin says: “Marnie and I used to play hockey to a fairly high level but when the children came along we looked for other sports that offered more flexible training hours.

“Marnie is a runner now while I took up cycling. I then discovered cyclocross, which happens to be very time efficient and really great fun.

“At first, around five years ago, I would ride while the kids watched or played nearby in a park but then they asked if they could take part in the junior races.

“These days we see a cyclocross day as a family day out. While the three of us race Marnie offers us amazing support.”

cyclocross pic credit Bryan Hutton 2Colin, who rides with cycling club Albannach, adds: “Cyclocross racing is a great way to spend time outdoors together in the winter.

“The atmosphere of the events is family friendly and the races are short but challenging so I really enjoy the workout.”

What kit do I need?

Mountain bikes are still popular but riders are increasingly choosing cyclocross specific bikes.

As well as looking similar to road racers, cyclocross bike front forks and rear stays have a higher clearance over the tyres to prevent mud building up. The central diamond frame is often larger too, to enable riders to shoulder their bikes easily.

They have knobbly tyres for grip and many have disc brakes for improved stopping power.

cyclocross pic credit- fiona walker 3Gearing is set to offer easier riding on short steep hills and off-road conditions.

Riders wear their cycling kit, usually Lycra, in addition to padded shorts and helmets.

For more details see www.scottishcx.org.uk and look on local cycle club websites for smaller races.



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