Spring is in the air and the cyclocross season is a just six months away. I know, I know…six months is a long ways away, but it’s not too early to start thinking about your new (or new to you) cyclocross bike. In fact, I highly encourage you to get on this bike now and ride it as often as you can
When I stopped road racing many years ago, I did away with a traditional road bike. I ended up getting my cyclocross bike dialed with road bike gearing and a set of road tires. My theory being since cyclocross was my main focus, why not train on the bike and in the same riding position I’d be racing in the fall. When it got close to cyclocross race season there was no fussing with saddle height, stem length or handlebar position.
Typically I would have one cyclocross bike and two sets of wheels. One pair was set up with road tires and the other with cyclocross tires. This allowed me to easily swap wheels for the ride route I had planned.
I do believe if you are dabbling in some competitive road racing you should consider a traditional road bike. You could certainly race on your cyclocross bike assuming it meets the requirements of your local racing organization. For example, disc brakes may not be allowed. If you do race road on your cyclocross bike make sure the gearing is set up properly to meet your needs.
If you are not going to compete in any road races my personal opinion is you only need a cyclocross bike. There are several benefits to this. You won’t need to spend money on a road bike! Cha-ching! Spend it on extra wheels or maybe a matching cyclocross bike (more on that in a later post). And as mentioned previously, in the months leading up to the race season, you will be riding on the same rig, in the same position you’ll be racing during the fall.
One relatively new product to help bridge the gap between pavement and dirt roads are “gravel” tires. Yes, I know for many of you this is old news. For those of you who do not know, gravel tires offer low rolling resistance while on pavement, but with added volume and traction for riding dirt road and trails. Having a set of gravel tires on your cross bike can really open up a variety of ride routes you may not have considered before. For more information about gravel tires consult with your local bike shop because there are many, many options.
If you do end up getting a cyclocross bike to double as your road bike, make sure it has the proper gearing to meet your needs. For example, many modern cyclocross bikes are coming with a single front chainring, so you may need to ensure you have the right range of gears to climb long hills. Or, enough of a high gear to ride efficiently on flat roads or descents. We could go deep into the gear ratio rabbit hole, but the fact of the matter is what works for one person may not work for the next. Drivetrain and gear selection are dependent on where you are riding (Florida is a bit more flat than New Hampshire), your strength and efficiency as a rider and your individual goals. Again, consult with your local bike shop for expert advice.
The last thing I want to mention is you do not need to race to enjoy the amazing versatility of a cyclocross bike. From pavement and dirt roads to smooth single track and gravel trails, a cyclocross rig can take on almost any kind of terrain.
Remember kids, before ‘gravel grinders’ there were cyclocross bikes.
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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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