Getting down and dirty has always been one of the main motivations of those who enjoy steering a mountain bike. There’s obviously the challenge of the often unforgiving terrain, too, which makes the sport so attractive.
There is something about battling the elements and emerging victorious, albeit with the mud spatters and soaking wet clothing, that makes it so much fun.
Mention road racing to mountain bike aficionados, and they’ll turn their nose up. After all, where’s the fun in negotiating straightforward runs built on the solid but boring foundations of concrete or Tarmac?
Yes, you may have the odd perspiration stain, but otherwise it’s all a little too tame.
Mud, Sweat and Cheers
Some road racers will bristle at such attitudes, others will secretly admit that there is something to be said for mud, sweat and cheers.
The good news is that if you don’t fancy forking out for a mountain bike, you can still experience some of its thrills on a road bike by trying out cyclo-cross.
It may sound like something of a bicycling compromise, but if it means you can get more fun out of your existing machine, then why not?
Cyclo-cross may not get the headlines of some other two-wheel disciplines, but it is a major sport all the same. It has its own world cup, organised by the Union Cycliste Internationale, and there are both national and international events to test the mettle of the best competitors.
In short, cyclo-cross resembles cross-country running – but with a bike. The physical challenge is all the greater because a rider has to dismount at various stages of the course to tackle a variety of obstacles, such as a stream, a fence, or a particularly treacherous stretch of grassland.
Although events are held throughout the year, it is the autumn and winter months when the sport comes into its own, and the mud really begins to fly.
If you are not already a member of a cycling club and are interested in trying cyclo-cross, the best course of action is to locate your nearest organised group and join up. UK residents can find the relevant contact information at the British Cycling site, while the equivalent North American body lists local American associations.
The Accent Should be on Having Fun
Events usually consist of a series of races, each of which will cater for a particular age group or level of ability. But you don’t have to be a budding national or international champion to take part.
Like everyone who picks up a bicycle, first and foremost the accent should be on having fun. It is certainly a more enjoyable way to improve fitness than long hours in the gym!
If your time on a bike is currently restricted to the roads, why not take the time to experience cyclo-cross.
You may lose a little of your dignity, slip-sliding through the mud, and you certainly won’t emerge looking like an elegant Tour de France champion, but it will be an experience that you are bound to enjoy. You certainly won’t be so sniffy when you’re next in the company of mountain bikers, either.