Cyclo-cross: What’s that all about then?

Somebody in the office the other day asked me the following question : “Are mountain bikers into cyclo-cross bikes at all?”

A tricky question to answer. Some are, some aren’t, is the simple truth of the matter. While many wouldn’t be seen dead on a drop-barred bike that has its roots in the roadie world, many are happy to embrace this slightly quirky side of cycling.

There are plenty of reasons why mountain bikers should consider cyclo-cross bikes as an addition to their current stable during the winter. Cyclo-cross bikes are an invaluable in between sort of bike, ideal for that murky ground between a mountain bike and road bike. Their skinny knobbly tyres offer loads of speed and enough grip for tackling less technical trails like bridleways, ‘cheeky trails’ and other gravelled surfaces. For mixing a ride up with some added road, cyclo-cross bikes are a lot of fun.

They fill many roles. For regular commuters, a ‘cross bike is a great option. Versatile over all manner of surfaces from Tarmac to gravel, along canal towpaths and dashing across the park, ‘cross bikes open up a new style of mixed terrain riding that few bikes are able to match.

Another thing, not everyone is lucky enough to live on the doorstep of killer trails. I’m thinking of the thousands of city-based mountain bikers who, trapped in the concrete jungle, can only go mountain biking if a long drive is involved.

In this situation cyclo-cross bikes can unlock the urban mountain biking potential right on your doorstep, turning those short patches of scrub land, small parks, woodland and places that don’t offer much of a mountain biking challenge, but on a ‘cross bike and with a little imagination, can be your playground. The merest hint of dirt can be turned into a breakneck thrill of a ride, tyres screeching as you launch back onto the street.

It’s also a way of snatching a quick ride when time is tight. On the way home or an 30 minute dash before work or during your lunch break, cyclo-cross bikes are good for the time strapped people out there. An easy and instant adrenalin fix.

Best of all is the new technical challenge cyclo-cross bikes offer. With rigid and unforgiving frames, narrow hard tyres and most ineffective brakes, they’re a great way to hone your riding skills. Master a root-laden singletrack trail on a cyclo-cross bike, and you’ll do wonders for your speed, finesse and ability when you jump back on the mountain bike.

And then there’s racing. But we don’t want to put you off so we’ll stop now.

So you see, there’s a lot to like about cyclo-cross bikes. Once you get past the roadie roots. But enough of what I think, how do you feel? Let us know in the comments box below.

Here’s a buyer’s guide to cyclo-cross bikes, in case you’re getting the itch.

As if to illustrate our point, check out this video by the ThisIsheffield.co.uk crew.

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