Is this the year you are going to try cyclocross? Was that a, “yes?” If so, or even if you are currently at “maybe” status, follow along with us and we will guide you all the way through your first season! Every month we are going to provide guidance on the things you should be doing to get ready for your first race. Think of these posts as a personal to-do list as we as we make our way to the most glorious season in cycling.
It’s March. There are roughly six months until the start of the cyclocross season. Here are ten cyclocross training tips you should be doing, or at least thinking about, as we prepare you for the season.
1) Find a cyclocross bike. March is a great time to buy a cyclocross bike and most bike shops have last season models on sale, too. The used market is likely full of deals, but be sure you are purchasing from a reputable source and someone you trust. A used cyclocross bike may look appealing but drivetrains, hubs and bottom brackets can take a beating during cyclocross season. A used bike can end up costing your big bucks down the road. The benefit of purchasing from a bike shop is it will likely come with a complimentary bike fit, a warranty and some free mechanical service. Building a relationship with your local bike shop can pay big dividends when you need help with mechanical issues during the season. (Pro Tip: most mechanics like beer, coffee and homemade cookies if you want to tip them for a job well done!)
Do you already have a sweet ‘cross bike? Great! Get it overhauled, cleaned and ready to ride!
2) Get on a training plan (there’s a good one here ) There is no substitute for hiring a qualified cyclocross coach to guide you through the season. If you have the means our recommendation is to find a coach who has raced cyclocross and understands the sport. If you can’t afford a coach we have a $39 monthly solution for you! Again, make sure it is created by a coach who knows ‘cross. The take home message here is get a training plan and stick with it.
3) Ride your bike. When Mother Nature cooperates get outside and ride! There is no need to do anything specific or technical at this point. Early spring is the time to ride some dirt roads, paths and trails at any comfortable pace. If there are any awkward noises, pain or discomfort with your bike or body, now is the time to figure it out. Do not wait a week before the season starts! If you can find time to ride three times per week that would fantastic. If you can only ride once a week, well…that’s fantastic, too!
An indoor stationary trainer is almost mandatory if you live in a cold climate area and want to ride during the winter. A trainer is also good for those of you who have to ride before the kids get out of bed or after they go to sleep. We are pretty fond of the new smart trainers. They aren’t cheap, but they are worth it.
4) Join a club or team. There are lots of great clubs and teams across the country that encourage beginners to join their squad. Do not be intimidated to try to join a team or club. The cyclocross community is filled with amazing folks who want to teach you how fun and rewarding the sport can be. If for any reason a club makes you feel inferior or like you don’t belong then it is not the right one for you. Ask around and you’ll find the right one.
5) Get a racing license. A racing license is good for the calendar year and if you buy it now then you’re somewhat committed, right?! Check with your local race organization about license requirements and what category you should register. If you have never raced cyclocross you should register at the beginner level. If you belong in a more advanced category your results will prove this and you can ask for an upgrade after the first couple of races.
6) Mix it up. There is no reason to be only riding your bike for exercise right now. This is time of year for some cross training. (Not to be confused with cyclocross training!) Stay active, but mix it up. Lift some weights, take yoga, hike, ski, snowshoe, zumba…whatever. As long as you stay active and get the blood flowing.
7) Lace up those running shoes. Running is generally a very minor part of most cyclocross races, but we don’t want your tendons and ligaments to explode the first time you run with your bike on your shoulder. Our personal take on running is if you can get in about 30 minutes once or twice a week you’re doing well. You will do some sprints, speed drills and hill repeats, as we get closer to the season.
8) Start working on your core strength. Like Planks
10) Start stretching
Did you stumble upon this post after March? Don’t worry, just start doing it and modify the calendar to catch up. The most important thing you can do is to get a plan and stick to it. Need help? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
About Brandon Dwight: Brandon was a professional mountain bike racer from 1999 – 2001 and professional cyclocross racer from 1999-2007. He is a four-time U.S. Masters National Cyclocross Champion. For more than a decade, Brandon has provided thousands of people with cyclocross skills and training advice. He lives in Boulder, Colorado with his wife and two children.
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