Cyclo-Cross: The Coolest Sport You’ve Never Heard Of

cyclo-crossAre you looking for a new recreational activity to try, something different that will get your heart pounding and adrenaline skyrocketing? You may not have heard of Cyclo-Cross, but it’s beginning to gain serious popularity in the United States. As its name implies, Cyclo-Cross combines elements from several different sports; started by Europeans in the early 1900s as a winter diversion to road racing, it draws parallels to mountain bike racing and cross-country cycling.

The image most synonymous with Cyclo-Cross is that of the racer with his or her bicycle slung over the shoulder, charging up a muddy slope or lunging over an obstacle akin to a hurdle. While these stretches of non-riding are what make Cyclo-Cross unique, they don’t generally comprise the majority of a race. Participants still have to be great riders. Tracks are smaller than those used in road races, generally a mile or so. Most races don’t last as long, but because of the different terrain and obstacles throughout, they can be just as difficult, if not more so than traditional races. The competitive Cyclo-Cross season is also during the winter, meaning weather is often an additional variable that needs to be accounted for.
The bicycles used are designed specifically to withstand the rigors of Cyclo-Cross racing. At first glance, they closely resemble those used for road racing, but they have two major differences. One is the frame geometry and the other is a wider clearance, which allows for slightly larger tires and for mud and other debris to accumulate without affecting performance.

So how can you get started? Cyclo-Cross training and races can be impromptu affairs, usually put together without much notice. The best way to get the inside scoop is to be an active member of your cycling community. Many cyclists participate and even compete in multiple disciplines, so if you join your local cycling club there is a very good chance you’ll meet people who do Cyclo-Cross in addition to their other cycling pursuits.
There are several great clubs in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. One is the Sarasota-Manatee Bicycle Club. Founded, in 1974, it promotes cycling for physical fitness, health, sport, recreation, and transportation. They have weekly rides, a bimonthly newsletter, liability insurance, events and fun parties, and much more. Another club is the Village Idiots Cycling Club, which encompasses Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton, and Sarasota. They have a USA Cycling Race Team, and many of their members take part in non-traditional road races including mountain biking and Cyclo-Cross.

As far as equipment goes, Ryder Bikes is the best source and service providers with locations in Bradenton, University Park, and Sarasota. Rated 2 years in a row as one of Americas Best Bike shops, they provide Cyclo-Cross bikes and frames in all 3 locations as well as on their website RyderBikes.com. With their top-notch customer service, they will help you find what you need. Their staff of assembly and repair mechanics is factory authorized for work on any brand of bike.

For those of you wondering what kinds of races are available in the area, Dustin Davis, a member of the Village Idiots Cycling Club, suggests visiting the Facebook page and website for Wicked Awesome Racing. This is currently Florida’s top organization dedicated to Cyclo-Cross racing. Davis, who is a veteran cycler familiar with both traditional road racing and Cyclo-Cross, notes some differences between the two. “Cyclo-Cross is more spectator friendly,” he says. “The courses are shorter compared to those for road races, which can be 40 to 70 miles.” Cyclo-Cross courses are generally only a few miles in length or less, allowing for family and friends to see a particular competitor many times during a race without having to change locations. Davis also says, “The atmosphere for Cyclo-Cross is a bit more laid back and inviting. There are different levels of competition, including for beginners and kids.” The first thing he recommends for those interested in the sport is to go watch a race and see the excitement up close.

For more information on Cyclo-Cross equipment, go to http://ryderbikes.com/. For more information on local Cyclo-Cross events, go to http://wickedawesomeracing.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/RyderBikesUniversityPark.