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Dave Haygarth's Guide to Cross Season

#crossiscoming – Getting Ready For the Start of the Cyclocross Season


It seems only a few moments ago that the last jet washes on caked bikes were performed, but the season’s here once again in but a few days, so here’s our handy pre-season reminder for ensuring the season starts right

The Gear:

If you are not running a new cyclocross bike and haven’t done so already, fitting new chain, cable inners and outers is a must. If they’ve done even a few races last season and survived all the washing, they’re ready to go. Chain rings, brake pads, bottom bracket bearings and headset bearings are also worth a good inspection.

Check your tyres are in good order and haven’t started to fatigue if they have been stored. (I found out the hard way several seasons ago with a blowout 200 metres into a race – on what turned out to be a rotten tubular carcass). Tubulars may need re-glueing so give them a good maul and check they are still bonded right up to the side.

Take your bike on a really good ride. Give it a proper workout where you can – changing gear under pressure – including front mechs if you use a double - braking hard etc. Only under real pressure do the niggles tend to show. Tweak and adjust until everything’s in the state that won’t bother you come race day.

Where things have been rebuilt, they will need meticulously setting up again. A common early-season mechanical is where riders put their gear mechs into the spokes (and rip off numerous bike parts, breaking many hearts). Only when in daft ‘under-pressure / caked with mud’ race extremes do people find out that the ‘L’ screw on their mech wasn’t quite tight enough. Bugger. Best check it now.

Have you fitted studs to your shoes? Do you need to? Probably (in the UK), so check they’re on and check they’re tightened. Check those cleats whilst you’re down there.

The Body

Let’s assume you’re fit enough to compete at the level you want. Yeah. Right. That first ‘cross race after a seasons of 10s, Tris, Sportives, Road Races or XCs is going to hurt because of the pure, flat-lining speed. The tiny, in-race micro-recoveries that ‘cross provides are going to have to do, so best get sprint/rep training. Be it on a turbo, running, or riding, repeated accelerations with all-too-small recoveries are a great way of preparing for ‘cross racing – and particularly in gaining that early season edge.

It’s probably time to work on your core. If you’ve spent the summer on the road bike and don’t do any running, 30 minutes steady running as a bare-minimum is going to help with those all-important back, neck, shoulder and abdominal muscles. If you can run more and do any gym work, do it. You probably ride your bike too much anyway.

Clothing, Kit and Race-Day Prep

The kit bag routine’s weird in ‘cross. Obviously there’s the mud to content with, but making sure all your gear is together is one of the hardest things sometimes.

Make yourself a check list now – and hone it as the season goes on, if you spot anything. I always take too much gear rather than too little, but on occasion have forgotten things you really shouldn’t forget (not saying – embarrassing).

Some things you might not remember to remember:

  • Towel / rag for yourself
  • Three pairs of gloves (long and short race options, and a pair of longs to warm up in)
  • Wellies or Crocs (easy to slip on and off when faffing around the car / signing on)
  • Bottles (in the car, and get some for post-race)
  • Spare safety pins (and your number if it’s a season-long series)
  • Licence, cash
  • Filth-bag for all the muddy stuff
  • Basic tools (you never know)
  • Oil / spray lube (get it on that chain after the race before you put the bike on the car and dry everything off!)
  • Basic first aid kit / medical wipes (minor cuts and bumps that may not require A&E can turn nasty if you leave mud to fester on the journey home) … and my particular favourite:
  • Crisps. (Salt is just the BEST taste after a flat-out race)

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