When I was asked to write a little about what it’s like to try out cyclocross for the first time, I was a little intimidated by the idea. After competing in exactly 4 races so far, I feel like I’m still trying to figure out what cyclocross is all about. Is it a bike race? Yes. Is it about falling down, or not falling down? Yes.
All I am sure of is that I am slowly improving at cyclocross, and that fact keeps me excited to keep trying. So far I tend to place in or just above the bottom third of finishers. I like to think of this as third place.
If you’re curious about trying cyclocross for the first time, and have no idea where to begin, I thought I share everything I’ve learned so far to help you get started.
Tips for beginners: (aka all I know so far)
1) Stay on the course. As long as you are seeing red on the right and yellow on the left, you’re going in the right direction.
2) Listen to the announcers as you go around and around the track, they will let you know how many more laps there are to go. In my first race at the Alpenrose Dairy, I accidently left the course somewhere in the middle because I was following the winners who had already finished the race. When you’re actually done, you’ll know it.
3) Mud is slippery. Look out for other people falling over. Try not to fall in anyone else’s way.
4) Listen for delighted cheering, bells, and cymbals. This will tell you when you are coming to a dangerous section. If you hear people encouraging you to ride as fast as you can into a section where everyone is eagerly watching, you should probably ignore them.
5) Some of the other riders have knowledgeable friends and coach-type folks yelling tips at them from the sidelines. You can follow these directions too, and sometimes they are very helpful. You can distinguish friendly yellers from ordinary hecklers because usually they are shouting someone’s name with the instructions.
6) Keep pedaling. No really, just keep pedaling. People will be yelling at you and ringing bells to help you remember this. There is no good place to coast, and you can’t stop, but you only have to try as hard as you can for about 45 minutes.
7) At the Halloween race in Astoria I ate a big serving of Frites with the spicy fry sauce right before the race. This was a terrible idea. I know I’m often the one serving the oatmeal so my opinion is biased, but heed my warning: Eat the oatmeal before the race- save the spicy French Fries for afterwards.
So show up sometime and give it a try! Once you do cyclocross, it makes every other form of exercise seem much much easier. I guarantee your bike commute to work will seem like a snap!