Both Debbie and Michelle hope that this piece will place a spotlight on this niche sport and will encourage others to get out and enjoy the exciting world of Cyclocross.
Michelle is a full-time mum, who works as a print finisher by day and fills her spare time with all things bike, “I simply love bikes and I would consider myself as a very enthusiastic cyclist across many different disciplines, including Cyclocross, MTB and BMX”.
“When I’m not riding bikes myself, I like to help others ride bikes", in doing so the two wheel enthusiast holds regular coaching sessions and rides. “I am the creator of and coach at Peddlamaniacs Cycle Club - an affiliated children's cycle club that holds weekly cycle sessions for 4-12 year olds. I am so proud of the riders and what we have achieved in this little community club. We are still only in our first year and growing #watchthisspace”.
Michelle is passionate about promoting women’s cycling opportunities and regularly encourages women to get into cycling with her coaching of specific sessions in Cyclocross, MTB and BMX.
Both Michelle and Debbie caught up to chat about all things cycling and more specifically, all things Cyclocross. So grab a cup of tea, get comfy and enjoy this inspiring Q&A…
What is Cyclocross?
“Apart from being the most fun that you can have on two wheels; it’s a mixture of off-road cycling and running - taking part on a mixture of grass/woodland type of terrain. Cyclocross courses usually feature obstacles to overcome along the route too”.
What type of bike do I need to get started?
“You could get started on any type of off-road bike, some will be better suited for cross racing than others. If racing ideally a CX specific race bike, this would give you the best lightweight efficiency, its geometry set up for mud clearance and purpose built for off-road terrain. However, a gravel bike or hardtail MTB will also smash out the job nicely too. I have also seen people race on off-road hybrids and do really well”.
What training can I do to improve my skills?
“I really enjoy training for technique and I'm always trying to improve and learn CX skills to perform better in races. You can use any small area of grass to a make good yet small skills loop. Using cones or twig/jumper markers to set out laps that feature: figure of 8 turns, running corners, start-stop areas with sprints and dismount/remount areas... If you're lucky enough to have some off camber you can include this; using it with turns and loops to make it more tricky and challenging.I would set out a skills area and ride and repeat for up to an hour. Sometimes a visit to the local woods will often feature natural obstacles you can also use to practise too”.
What would you say are the 5 most important things I need to start my Cyclocross journey?
“Just as an FYI, I borrowed a friend's CX bike for my first ever race and was totally hooked after one go…
- Bike – off-road capable as above!
- Kit & helmet – cycling kit, jersey and shorts depending on the temperature!
- Off-road shoes and pedals - as this is a personal preference I will leave this open as to what system type you would choose, but it’s important that the shoes are off-road and have a tread for the off-bike parts of the course.
- Basic bike maintenance kit/ spares (along with a bit of knowledge) - this will help keep the bike running while racing - if you puncture in practice you need to be able to fix anything before the race begins. Maintaining it for race day will also help to prevent bike mechanical failures.
- Hydration and nutrition - it goes without saying that keeping hydrated during training, riding and racing is key to getting the best results from your time on the bike.
- One last thing… A sense of humour will go a long way too - sometimes the course and the weather conditions, especially during the winter, can make for a character building experience for sure”.
What distances and races are available and where can I find out more?
“Most CX races are based on duration. There are a few events every year that are more endurance but most CX races are a timed format. The amount of time you would race for depends on your age and race category, race categories range from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Local league races are held up and down the country alongside national CX events also. If you search on British Cycling events you can find your local CX league, they will then list all of the events that they have in their calendar. Typically, events run from around late September to January/February”.
What type of terrain and obstacles are there?
“CX courses vary depending on the location used but most will feature some grass, woodland trails, paths, tarmac and gravel, but please remember that this varies from course to course.
Within the course there can be obstacles such as: planks, banks, small hills, cambers, steps, sand, roots and corners. There is also usually a mix of on and off-bike elements within the whole course”.
What should I expect at my first race?
“When entering for the first time I would simply tell you to go and ride as if it was a normal ride at your local training loop or practice area. Focus on you and your bike handling around the course working on beating what’s in front of you to ride.
As you do this you will get a feel for the race as it happens around you. This will give you a bench marker to be able to set against the next round or race. I guarantee you will be hooked by the end of the race – seriously it's so good!”
A little birdie tells me you just completed the three peaks, can you tell us a little bit more about this…
“Indeed - 3 peaks, 3 times… I always thought I liked a challenge but this one was on a whole different level. This year's event is still very fresh in my mind, legs and body! What can I say - a really tough event, the hardest thing I've done on (and off) the bike, but an incredible feeling of achievement for sure”.
What piece of advice would you give to someone who is thinking about taking up Cyclocross?
“Do it, you will love it, it’s amazing! When it comes to advice… Just ride your bike as much as your time allows – time on the bike will develop you and your riding skills, getting you in the best place for racing.
Is there anything you have had to learn the hard way?
“Don’t put all your efforts into the first 45 seconds of a race, you will feel exhausted early on and will struggle for the remainder of the race… I have photos from a race where I did exactly that… Leading the charge into the first corner was amazing but my race result for the day was not".
We hope you have all enjoyed reading this personal Q&A with the wonderful Debbie Bradley and Michelle Paget. If you’re looking to take up this adventure-filled sport, we would highly recommend following these inspiring riders on Instagram: