Getting in to cyclocross: Rod Fountain's Jake Diaries

Rod Fountain is a name that you may not be familiar with, but in the coming months we will be featuring Rod’s regular tales of bike riding, particularly his quest to come to terms with his new-found passion for skinny tyres…

For the last five years Rod has been a columnist and features writer for Dirt Magazine; a title that, until recently, has always favoured gravity over pedalling. However… In the last issue of Dirt (issue 130), the editorial content crossed borders previously unknown – Rod and Steve ‘The Butcher’ Walker (another of the magazine’s contributors) raced a cyclocross event, a feature which caused much debate and contention among readers.

Deemed ‘not rad enough’ (or something along those lines) for Dirt, Rod has now jumped ship with his cyclocross banditry and will be joining us here at Bike Magic as he explores an affliction that he never before knew; a desire to pedal, to train and to ride up hills.

We’ll leave the talking to Rod.

Jake Diaries entry 1 by Rod Fountain:

Cyclocross was never meant to happen to me but it just has and I think I’m stuck with it.

Until very recently I thought fun on bikes was pushing to the top of a trail or downhill track and pinning it back down, wheels on the ground as little as possible and barely pedalling until nightfall, a broken bike or splintered bones forced me home (or to A&E).

The crew over at Dirt Mag weren’t entirely convinced if cyclocross could ever be ‘rad’ enough, but anyone who’s tried it (now including Rod) will most probably agree that it takes quite something to win one of those races. Not sure about the goggles look, Rod… Pic by Angus Muir

Before cyclocross got its muddy claws into me the only real pedalling I did was commuting on my singlespeed Kona Unit: a 20 mile slog to endure rather than enjoy. As a writer for Dirt Magazine, riding down hills dominates my cycling life and I’ve been lucky enough to ride (OK, free-wheel) and race some lovely bikes down some even lovelier mountains. I can put in a solid race result and am comfortable in my cycling skin, although a skinsuit may be pushing it… After a lifetime of riding I thought my ideas about bikes and riding were set in a stone with just three letters carved into it: M.T.B.

After a lifetime of riding I thought my ideas about bikes and riding were set in a stone with just three letters carved into it: M.T.B.

The editor of Dirt occasionally throws some irresistible jobs my way which I don’t need to think twice about accepting, but racing cyclocross in late October in a London park wasn’t one of them…until he reminded me about the set of demo wheels he’d just dispatched to me after I’d mentioned that mine weren’t round anymore (since coming up short over a road-gap in the Forest of Dean). I’m not proud to admit that I pleaded, desperately at times, that featuring cyclocross in the magazine would offend the gravity slaves, that the bikes were nothing like downhill or enduro bikes and that seeing one in Dirt wasn’t appropriate. He told me to let him worry about that and e-mailed the brief which said: ‘Get muddy and work out if a cyclocross bike is just an un-evolved mountain bike’. At that point I wished I’d just bought my own set of wheels.

Rod in an altogether more familiar environment, tearing down a hill. Rod also loves riding his 29er and thankfully has an open mind to all cycling disciplines. Pic: Grant Robinson

The story of the cold, wet October day which unexpectedly changed my ideas about fun on bikes is in the current copy of Dirt (issue 130). What it doesn’t explain is why my carbon full suss’, my 4X bike and my 29er are now in the basement and why a cyclocross bike, the kind of bike I’ve always thought was pointless, leans on a radiator in the hallway, nose pointing at the door and only getting to rest when I do.

What it doesn’t explain is why my carbon full suss’, my 4X bike and my 29er are now in the basement…

I still don’t know why this has happened or how it’s all going to pan out so over the next couple of months I’ll be treating this little corner as a confessional booth in which to lay bare the occasionally intimate and always dirty details of how a committed downhiller has found a new love between the tape.

Thanks to Kona World for supplying Rod with the newest love in his life and for opening his mind to the world outside downhill.

  1. Readikus

    Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

  2. Ólafur Jens Ólafsson

    That image with him racing cyclocross, wearing goggles, a dirtjump helmet and on flats…just priceless. It honestly makes me more interested in cyclocross than anything I’ve ever seen!

  3. Jamie Bishop

    Good to see you found somewhere for your articles Rod. You should have raced Penshurst last week it was a blast with a good deal of climbing and ice. See you at Hearne Hill 【ツ】

  4. bikingbazza

    I’m not the only one then who has caught the bug. I did one a year ago on my whyte full sus and it was so much fun i bought a crosser. it has been a rebirth in interest and keeness to train and keep the weight under control. So my first season almost complete instead of second from last i am now into about 2/3 down the list. not to bad for a 58 year old. great atmoshere at the very physically brutal races. i recommmend it to anyone.

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