Cruisin’ for a Cyclocross
Cyclocross racing is a great way to keep fit and improve your bike-handling skills.
What is cyclocross?
A cyclocross is a bike designed for cyclocross races which take place on a closed off-road circuit predominantly on grass, track, or sand. It contains obstacles such as low barriers, sand pits, steps, or steep banks.
What makes it different from road bikes?
Think of cyclocross as a mountain bike crossed with a road bike. A cyclocross differs from a standard road bike in terms of appearance. A cyclocross looks more “muscular” and there’s less height difference between the saddle and the bars. If you’re not competitive, ‘cross bikes are ideal for the pothole-strewn urban jungle, with fatter tires and more powerful brakes. Its stocky frame is made of aluminium or carbon, while a titanium frame can easily top the price range.
A cyclocross bike is fitted with wide tires to ensure grip in off-road conditions. Tire width is 33mm for competitions, but many bikes are sold with 35mm tires for extra grip and stability. Tread patterns are dependent on course conditions. Hard or sandy conditions are tackled on file-treaded tires, as low-rolling resistance is more important than grip. When it’s wet or muddy, tires with knobs and increased tread patterns add more grip and mud-shedding capability.
Cyclocross bikes have plenty of clearance between the tires and the frame to avoid tire jams as it collects dirt and debris during a race or ride. There’s also more space between the rear tire and the seat tube and bottom bracket than on a road bike.
Since 2013, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) permitted the use of disc brakes on cyclocross bikes for competition. Although lower-end bikes will have mechanical disc brakes, full-hydraulic systems are becoming more prevalent as an option.Disc brakes provide quicker and more consistent braking and are easier to modulate to get the correct amount of stopping power than for cantilevers. To handle the stress on the wheels from disc brakes, cyclocross bikes are specified with thru axles. This feature is borrowed from the mountain bike and result in a more rigid wheel-to-frame connection than a quick release.
Most cyclocross bikes designed for competition will come with a 46/36t double chainset and a fairly wide range cassette, to accommodate the circuit and conditions. Although this gives quite a low top ratio for road riding, which could result in spinning-out, it should give enough top-end speed for most cyclocross courses. Some cross-specific bikes for recreation may be outfitted with a compact double with 50/34t chainrings.
This is another subtle difference from a road bike. In cyclocross, you have a longer wheelbase for increased stability off-road and to build in the necessary clearances. Frame angles are slightly less acute which helps with handling and also a shorter top tube. This results in a more upright riding position, which along with the more level bars and saddle allow the rider to shift weight around easily to tackle obstacles and control traction.
When the obstacle requires you to dismount and carry your bike before remounting, this is easier with a cyclocross’s slightly lower saddle. Cyclocross frames have a flattened top tube to make running with the bike on your shoulder a bit more comfortable.
De Rosa cyclocross models Gravel Road Tiagra and Gravel Road Sora are available at Corsa Cycles, 3736 P. Guevara St., corner Montessori St.,, San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines Tel nos: (02)503-5551.