Newbie News: Eight Tips to Starting Cyclocross

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Noob crossers discuss the finer points of the remount with Joes Garage pro Alec Donahue courtesy of Andrew J. Bernstein

Noob crossers discuss the finer points of the remount with Joes Garage pro Alec Donahue. © Andrew J. Bernstein

Over the year, and especially in the months leading up to the start of ’cross season, here at Cyclocross Magazine, we get a lot of questions from novice racers and people who are excited to be trying their first race in the fall. The main question we hear: “how do I get started?”

In Newbie News, we’ll be talking about how to get started racing cyclocross, regardless of skill level, budget or fitness. Why Eight Tips? Because we thought Ten Tips sounded cliched. However, we’ll even offer a bonus tip, just for reading: give cyclocross a try – don’t allow someone or some cyclocross website’s list delay your baptism to the best sport in the world!

  1. Attend a clinic: you may have read our article a week ago, Skills and Fitness on the Fritz? Try a Clinic! about what going to a cyclocross specific clinic can do for you and your season. Often, these clinics are offered in July-August and into September, and can run the full gamut of price ranges: some clinics are offered as training camps that are a few days long and offer things like lactate threshold testing, and others are just a few hours to go over the basics on a Saturday. Well worth the time and effort, these clinics not only show yo the basics and offer training suggestions, they give you a chance to connect with other noobs and maybe make plans to train with them!
    Stay tuned: in coming weeks, we’ll be posting the Cyclocross 2011 calendar, complete with clinics, races and all things CX-related around the US and Canada.
  2. Get a bike fit, or at least read up about how a bike should fit: it’s hard to race when your knees come up to your shoulders when you pedal, and it’s amazing the amount of power you can put out when your bike is properly fit to you compared to when it isn’t. Read up a bit in our article The Perfect, Pain Free ’Cross Fit. Consider at least getting an expert opinion on how your bike is fitted currently, but make sure that you go to someone you trust and someone who knows what he or she is doing. Bike fitting is a science and does require some knowledge of anatomy and bike mechanics.
    Stay tuned: Bike fitter Blake Bedoya of Signature Cycles will be giving some sage advice on getting a bike fit, accompanied by a video highlighting some key factors in a bike fit.
  3. Use what you have: have a mountain bike? Road bike? Heck, even a hybrid will do! The beauty of cyclocross is that it’s made for a combination of bikes, so whatever you’ve got, the odds are good you can use it to get your feet wet before committing to a new bike. Don’t believe us? Read David Alden-St. Pierre’s “Cyclocross Crossover: Racing on Mountain Bikes.”
    Stay tuned: we’ll be going over how to convert road, mountain and hybrid bikes into makeshift cyclocross bikes, for those who aren’t ready to commit to buying a whole new ride.
  4. Practice! Find a local CX practice by joining local clubs or checking online. If there isn’t one around, set up some makeshift barriers in your backyard or local park, find a hill to practice run ups, and get practicing techniques and skills!
    Stay tuned: we’ll be posting articles on how to have your own practice, from building barriers with PVC pipes to proper technique descending a steep hill.
  5. Speaking of techniques and skills, learn the basics: barriers, dismounts and remounts, shouldering the bike, riding through mud or sand, and soon. (See tip number one about attending a clinic if you want to speed this process along.) No clinics for miles? Read our piece on Avoiding Injury: Getting Ready for Mounts and Dismounts.
    Stay tuned: we’ll be going through the “how to’s” of these techniques, providing pictures, diagrams, videos and of course, some embarrassing stories of our own.
  6. Read Cyclocross Magazine in print and on the website, and join the conversation on our Cowbell Forums! A subscription to our print magazine means a lot more in-depth coverage in our 100+ pages of content-packed mag. It’s entirely different content from our website, and features exclusive interviews, behind-the scenes reports, detailed tech pieces and reviews and features on regions and clubs. The cost of a subscription? It’s less than a race entry fee to get your year ’round cyclocross fix!On our website, you can search in the Training menu for some great tips and in the Cyclocross Tech How To section for some fantastic mechanical advice. Looking for a bike? Check out our bike reviews in the Gear and Bike Reviews section.One of the best ways to find out about anything cyclocross-related is simply by starting a discussion on the Cowbell Forum, leaving a message in the comment section of an article, or emailing the Online Editor, molly [at] to let her know what you want to see in this section! Of course, if you’re not ready to join the conversation, there are plenty of member-uploaded videos, pictures and discussions for you to peruse, or use the Forum Search feature (located right under Forum Discussions) to find what you’re looking for.
  7. Race: the best way to get good at cyclocross and have fun at the same time is simply by racing. You’ll learn technique, skills and race strategy as you go, all you need to do is get started. And don’t just race and head home- stick around for the camaraderie and the crowds, the beer and the Belgian waffles. Staying for the Pro race is also always a good idea for picking up tricks and techniques: see how they take barriers and then go home and practice.
    Stay tuned: in the next few weeks, check back for our national calendar of race and clinic events!
  8. Have fun! Cyclocross is a sport meant to be fun, otherwise, there wouldn’t be beer handoffs, money pits, crowds heckling the pros, or pros heckling the crowd. Unless you’re aiming for World Cup titles, there’s no reason to take this sport too seriously. Train, race hard, but above all, remember that it’s supposed to be fun. (Yes, even when you’re shouldering your bike crawling up a steep incline praying for the race to be over. Just repeat to yourself over and over: “this is fun!”)

We’ll see you at the races!

Have a tip for new riders? Have a question you want answered? Leave it in the comments!



Cyclocross Magazine, Issue 22, Print and digital subscriptionsHave you subscribed yet? You're missing out if not. Get all-original content and your cyclocross fix throughout the year with a subscription and Issue 23 back copy, with features on Lars van der Haar, Jonathan Page, Elle Anderson and more!
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I haven't raced a ton of races but one of the most important things to remember for a beginner is not to get discouraged...  as said above, there will TONS of people faster and better than you in Cat4... at least at first...  set a couple of goals for yourself that are realistic...  


my #1 goal was always to finish the race... don't laugh, it may be harder than you think... my only other two goals besides haveing fun was don't finish last and don't get lapped...  I didn't always attain those goals but I did always meet my first goal and that was enough to keep me coming back...


just get out there and try it!


Set attainable goals for yourself. The top half or 25% of the field can vary greatly depending where the race is and who shows up. I got sucked into reading my results on and started feeling inadequate if I dd not place high up. Keep it fun, some of the races that I had the most fun in I placed outside of the top 50%.

E !
E !

#8 Yeah!


 @fourflys My #1 goal in my first race was to finish also.  Yes, it was hard but I did it.  Got 90th out of 93 with 7 DNF's. It was the worst pain I have ever felt but the most fun I have ever had.  Is it fall yet?

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