Thursday, September 16, 2010

My Introduction to Cyclocross in Grand Rapids

Cyclocross was born in Belgium, by road bikers looking to extend their season come fall and early winter.  It's done with a typical road frame with knobby tires like you would find on a mountain bike.  That's where the similarities end for me.

I've done both road rides and mountain biking.  I love to hit some of the great trails in the Grand Rapids area.  (Outside Magazine rated us #1)  Cyclocross was definitely unique.  In Grand Rapids the series is known as KissCross.  Keep it simple, stupid.  You don't have to have a licence to race, just show up and pay your 20 dollars.  There is no chip for timing, you count your own laps.  Beginner category is 30min.  Intermediate or B riders are 45min and Expert or A riders are 60 min.

One of the unique attributes about cyclocross is that every lap there are usually a few barriers about 2 ft tall that you have to dismount your bike and jump over them.  This requires a lot of practice and skill.  If you don't practice and just stop your bike, jump off and then hop on your bike, you will lose a lot of time.  I found that out pretty quick.

I raced in the Beginner category which required you doing 5 laps.  At lap 3 I wasn't sure if this was that fun.  Lap 4 I thought I might puke in my mouth.  Lap 5 I actually felt the blinders closing in.  But it was awesome!

How did I do?  Well, lets just say I can only improve!  OK, I got passed by everyone, I actually thought I got last, but the results say I beat another person.  Maybe he dropped out.

Cyclocross is a pain fest, you are at your redline thresh hold the whole time.  But the people I met were really friendly.  It's spectator friendly, since you do laps, you can usually see the whole race from one spot.  It's also one of the fastest growing amateur sports in America.  You don't need a cyclocross bike, if you race beginner you can use your mountain bike.  I used my single speed 29er.  All you need is an enjoyment of pain and 20 bucks.

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