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Dan Cook Gets Cross

When you ask folk what they think cyclocross is, most say ‘isnt that where they run with their bikes?’, which is indeed an odd thing to do. Well I say let people think what they think, ‘cos unless they’ve tried it, they know nowt. Planet X Cyclocross team rider Dan Cook gives us the lowdown on the sport, the bikes and what it all means to him...

In Belguim (the spiritual home of ‘cross) and the rest of the continent, cyclocross races are like festivals. There are masses of fans, with plenty of beer, frites and sausages to go round. And everyone is shouting and banging the hoardings on the barriers for the riders.  Imagine an hour of riding up the Alps in the Tour de France, and you’re somewhere close.
Dan Cook with the lowdown on Cyclocross

What is this Cyclocross then?

Essentially it’s a massed start race offroad; a circuit of about 1-2km usually using parkland, school grounds or local fields and woodland.  Testing features include riding up, down and along banks, tight turns and singletrack.  Occasionally there are barriers (like a couple of planks on their edges) where some people might want to get off and run over them, or if your bunny hopping skills are good enough you can stay riding.  Races last about an hour for the seniors and juniors, or 40 minutes for women and old gits like me. Obviously the under 10’s, under 12’s and under 14’s events are shorter to suit.
Dan Cook in action on his Guerciotti X Crow bike

Who is it for?

Two friends of mine rode their first race ever two weeks ago.  Just your regular mountain bikers, they turned up on their regular bikes, not knowing what to expect. And at the finish, I can categorically say I’d never seen such a broad smile on their faces before. Last week, at the following race, they were straight back, asking what they needed, wanting more ‘how to’ techniques and trying my Guerciotti's out to see what a proper ‘cross bike rode like. They were fully engaged in one hit!

Yet it can be a great family day out. The atmosphere is low key.  Everyone is welcomed.  There’s no expectations of riders to have everything, be able to do everything, or be shaven legged. There are races for everyone from under 10’s to over 60’s, plenty of kids just shoot about from one side of the circuit to the other to see the good riders like Paul Oldham, Liam Kileen, Helen Wyman and Nick Craig.
Dan racing the National Trophy in Southampton

Where can you have a go?

There are loads of cross races all round the country, so you can always find some close to you (see British Cycling’s cyclocross calendar).  You can turn up on the day (about 1-1½  hours before is good), pay your entry fee (usually about £10) and ride. If you don’t want it to get too physical, then just the seemingly innocuous challenges and features of the course make it fun – getting sketchy on the corners, braking later and later into the turns, being elbow to elbow with others.

What do you need to ride?

A bike that goes offroad, a helmet and your entry fee.  Pretty simple.  However it isn’t long before the limitations of mountain bikes begin to show, and getting a cross bike makes it faster, grippier and funner! Great cross bikes have plenty of mud clearance around the frame, forks and brakes.  Frames often have a slightly gentler head angle (though some like these to be just as steep as their road bike – like me).  Cantilevers like Planet X Frogs bollox provide the stopping power required, cross tyres, and then just normal road kit like sram and 700c wheelsets.

Are Planet X and Guerciotti cyclocross bikes any good?

Planet X have worked hard to make the Uncle John (originally designed by offroad legend Nick Craig) a solid and dependable cross bike as well as a capable road machine, a commuter or a tourer with mudguard clearance and rack mounts. The Uncle John is a great do everything bike with a massive following.
Planet X Uncle John Cyclocross bike from just £899...
Guierciotti have an unbelievable 'cross pedigree including numerous World Championship wins. The alloy Lyra Cross and carbon X Crow (a beautiful bike – I know, I ride 2!) frames are fully specced up and oriented directly from many years of high level cross experience. Guerciotti have nailed 'cross geometry and really understand what it takes to produce a great machine.
Guerciotti X Crow in Professional Action! From just £1699

Want to know more?

Cyclocross isn’t just something to fill in the winter.  It isn’t even just another facet of cycling. For elite riders, it is a pinnacle of poise, balance, finesse, athleticism, technique, psychology, intuition and tactics.  For everyone else, it is quite simply the most fun you can have on a bike in an hour... Check out the UK ‘cross guru that is Simon Burney’s book of Cyclocross, see a bit of getting into ‘cross or get yourself set up, have a go at a couple of races and await our next instalment of ‘how to ride ‘cross’ from Planet X rider, Dan Cook.

Dan took 4th place at the British National Cyclocross championships earlier this year- click here for more

Thanks to Andy Jones for the photos.

15 September 2011

Cyclocross Kit

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