Cyclocross 2015 - Dan Ryan Woods

So I had my first taste of cyclocross this weekend on Saturday. Cyclocross is, lets just call it offroad bike racing. It is apparently very popular in the Chicago area. 

My first race was in the Dan Ryan Woods yesterday. I was placed in the 4/5 Men's Group, which is basically the beginners group for the race. Races last about 30 minutes and the laps are determined by the pace of the top riders. So basically, that means that the race will end right around 30 minutes, not after a set number of laps. 

I was the only rider using a mountain bike for the race. Most people were utilizing cyclocross bikes, which are basically a road bike with a few modifications to allow for some off road wheels. Let me state that cyclocross is hard. I feel like I am in pretty good shape, but this was just brutal. It is full out as fast as you can for 30 minutes straight. The course has significant climbs on it and my lungs were literally burning. I could not get enough oxygen to my body through this race. 

So I finished in basically third to last place. There were a couple of people behind me and then I think three or four who did not finish. I have to say I am proud of myself, because there was a point there where I wasn't sure if I would be able to push forward. I think I'll definitely go out and do some more cross races. They are fun, but I don't see myself going and spending $800+ on a cyclocross bike. There are some people out there with just way to crazy of physical conditioning.

Post Cyclocross Introduction

So yesterday I attended a two hour cyclocross introductory class. It was hosted at Caldwell Park downtown. I have to say that after just a couple of hours, that I find the whole thing to be awesome. It was a very similar excitement level that I had when I first started riding my motorcycle. 

The course had about fourteen people attending it. I would say that the bikes there were a an even mix between people who had cyclocross bikes, those who had mountain bikes and those who had road bikes. The clinic was put on by the BFF Bikes riding team and they ran us through three exercises that covered the basics of cyclocross. 

We started off by working on the start line. All of the riders lined up close together to simulate a real race and we practiced getting off of the line in an explosive manner. 

The second exercise was dismount, and carrying your bike over obstacles and the third exercise was a cornering exercise. For each exercise they gradually worked the group of to faster and faster speeds and forced us to ride tighter and tighter together. We ended the day of with a follow the leader exercise where we gradually sped up to riding as fast as we could. We did have one crash during the course when a woman riding next to me passed me and then low-sided in a corner. I inevitably ran into her unfortunately. She was fine, but she might have a bruise on her back where my tire ran over her. 

Overall I had a blast and it is something I will have to get into this fall. I did note that I definitely have to get some SPD pedals and a pair of more rugged MTB shoes to do this though as my feet were slipping off my pedals all over the place. 

Chicago Cyclocross

As some of you may know, I have been getting more and more involved into biking over the past couple of years. I am not really into traditional road biking, but some of the longer touring stuff and off road biking definitely interests me. 

A couple of summers ago I got my old Trek 820 mountain bike out and was doing some trail riding out at the Palos Triangle. Unfortunately due to rain, most of the trails have been closed for a good portion of this past summer. There has been a lot of talk online about Cyclocross riding, which appears to be a big up and coming growth area in the biking sport. 

Cyclocross is basically offroad biking, but it is structured around a race course that has some defined obstacles on it, which usually include some sections of sand and obstacles that require to you dismount from the bike. The bikes themselves are surprisingly road bike looking. They have drop bars and 700 cc wheels and they are all hard frame. 

After doing some initial research online it does appear that I don't need to go out and buy a $800+ cyclocross bike and I can in fact use my existing mountain bike for the races. This looks really fun and appealing to me since cyclocross races in the Chicago area are focused around the fall and winter. 

I have ordered a pair of 26" cyclocross tires for my trek, since it is due for new tires anyways and I am planning on attending an introductory course this weekend to see if this is something that I might find interesting. 

Hopefully it will be a good time. The video above from the Chicago Cross Cup looks fun, doesn't it?