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Tuesday, November 25, 2008
By Yokota Fritz

It's cyclocross season, but I know nothing about that sport. I know lots of mud and cold and rain can be involved, just like a good football game back in the days when football was still played outdoors. The bikes are a little different, and there's some lifting and running. Aficionados write and say "CX" or "cross" when referring to the sport.

So somebody school me: What attracts you to Cyclocross? Why is it fun to participate or fun to watch?

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I like cyclocross because the courses for the Pilarcitos series are close to home. I like riding in the mixed terrain. I like the 40 minutes of high intensity effort that hurts at first but leaves you wanting more. I've not raced MTB or road but I really like the cyclocross racing scene and atmosphere.
I enjoyed seeing the hauling up (steep hills) of their bikes and getting muddy. I've only seen the races (both men&women) in mcLaren park here in SF sometime ago & it was a lot of fun.
Here's a pal of mine. He races for the Ritchie team
velo in the city



It's as much about beer, donuts, crazy people and the party as it is the mud and racing. It's the polar opposite of road racing.

...oh my gawd...w/ that question it's like i hardly know you, fritz...

...i need to go for a ride before i can even significantly answer...

...sheesh !!!...
This is why I like it:

I started the money pit at that race...about 20 people lined that stretch of course beforehand, and it grew to about 150 within a few minutes (even got mentioned on CyclingNews and VeloNews)...

I am the one in the maroon hooded sweatshirt and shorts (despite the 40 degree weather)...

Some of my CX shots can be found at for recent races can be found here:
It's a good enough excuse to buy another bike and hang out with the race community for a few more months.

And more than any of the other cycling disciplines, cyclocross can be fun regardless of the result. PBR handups and Halloween costume races are proof of that.
@bgw: I've always been a pavement rider. The only reason I own a mountain bike is because it was sometimes the only way to get to get through the snow in Colorado.

@gino: I'm waaay to serious for that. No parties or good times for me.

@meligrosa: Thanks for that.

@Blast: I thought most CX racers considered CX their off-season activity?
Remember when you were little and your Mom sent you out to play, but admonished you first with "Have fun but don't get dirty!"

Cyclocross isn't like that.

My goal was to survive the hour and not look like a complete fool. The fast guys (and girls too) lapped me a couple of times. It was just plain fun! And it was REALLY wet and dirty!
@gz That video is of my first cross race ever! Yeah! No wonder I'm hooked. Seriously, it is so much fun and really accessible for women. Road racing is very intimidating. Cross has huge crowd support, at least in OR. You bust your hump for 45 minutes, then hang out and drink beer and cheer like crazy for everyone else. Plus, you get to play in the dirt. :-)
I used to be reasonably good at cyclocross. Even did nationals once early 90's. Being good at something can make it seem fun even if it's not.

I think the biggest reasons I liked it was it improved my cycling skills and I stayed warm even on cold days because of the intense effort.
CX is a blast for spectators because of the short closed loop course. You're never far from the action, and you can actually see the moves and strategy because they have to slow down. Contrast that with a road race or a crit where the riders just whiz by, in a blur, at 50K/hour.

CX races are not a big party for the fans in the USA, like they appear in Belgium, but in my experience, the crowds are growing here every year.
I've wanted to race bikes for a while, but quite frankly I was scared of crashing. CX takes that fear out of you: everybody crashes. And you're going slow enough that you don't do serious injury to yourself and others when you do.

Cyclocross is fun to race because it's not just about fitness, and it's not just about bike handling, it requires both. So you can get involved and still have fun without being the fittest person around. Because of the way the race spreads out, there are almost always races for every position. So you can get a taste of sprinting for victory even if you're in 27th place, or something.

Plus, the races are short, and almost anyone can suffer for 40 minutes, as opposed to 2.5 hours for a mountain bike race.

Third, the races are often relatively close to home (there are 3 in San Francisco and two others within biking distance of the city), so there's a low barrier to get there. The proximity also means that there is often a decent crowd and because of the short, compact course, there are people almost everywhere on the course cheering.

Fourth, at least in the Bay Area, there is a sense that it's not just a race, but a party. which means that even if you lose the sprint for 27th place, someone will likely hand you a beer or a sausage afterward, and the races go throughout the day, so there's a race to watch after you finish yours. And you can often learn from others' mistakes mere minutes after you finish making your own.

As far as spectating goes, the party atmosphere makes it more fun, plus the nature of the course, as someone said, makes it the best racing for spectating, other than maybe track.

Unfortunately, as I proved last weekend, the idea that you can't get hurt badly in cross is not totally true...although most cross crashes are pretty benign, some are bad.

Fritz, if you can, you ought to check out the races this sunday in Golden Gate Park or next Sunday at Coyote Point in San Mateo. You'll understand why the races are so fun to watch, and if you don't get the urge to try it, I will be very suprised.
"@Blast: I thought most CX racers considered CX their off-season activity?"

Most CX racers consider road season good off-season training for 'cross season.
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