I really enjoy wearing a costume and I don’t need much of a reason to do so. In fact, I’ve been known to orchestrate dress-up opportunities by throwing theme parties, much to the chagrin of many friends (who knew there were people who don’t like dressing up). Imagine my glee when I started racing cyclocross a dozen years ago and realized the already wacky sport had a socially accepted costume component – especially around Halloween time. Of course, I got fully on board.
I made my first costume for cyclocross racing in 2006 for the inaugural Halloween-themed Pumpkin Cross in Maple Ridge, B.C. My “sea creature” came into being thanks to a unique helmet cover I’d received for my birthday. It was bright silvery-yellow and had eyeballs and spikes that stuck up in all directions. I paired it with some seaweed-green sunglasses and a skin suit that I’d spray painted silver. That costume won me the event’s costume contest. It’s not like I needed any more encouragement, but that experience has since snowballed into a wide array of costumes over the years, including Pippi Longstocking, cow, cavewoman, purple monster, giraffe, Minnie Mouse, and pirate. It’s been a really fun journey!
If you want to try racing cyclocross in costume at a Halloween-themed race this year, here are some of my tips to help you get on the right track!
Get inspired – inspiration often comes from something small. If you have a bit of time and creativity and you want to be unique, look for something that catches your eye and then take it from there. I suggest searching the internet or a thrift store for ideas. For example, I found horns attached to a Viking hat at the thrift store and my brain went: “Cow!” From there, I detached the horns from the rest of the hat and tied them to my helmet, painted spots on a white t-shirt and tights, and then pinned a cowbell and stuffed pink glove to the front. It was a smash and I won the costume contest! It probably helped that during the race, I got into character and mooed at spectators as I rode by. Other things that have inspired me include: a red-and-white polka dot skirt, a pirate hat, a giraffe cap, striped tights, cleaning supplies and old dance and Halloween costumes. If you’re short on time, you can modify a store-bought costume to make it more cycling friendly (i.e. attach the hat to the top of your helmet with zip ties, pin the skirt up to keep it out of your way, secure loose bits, figure out how cycling shorts will fit into the picture, etc.). Several of my friends have gone to the kids costume section and bought one-piece suits – like a horse or a dragon – and squeezed into them. Kid’s costumes are tight enough to stay out of your way and they look appropriately ridiculous.
Details are key – once you have your good idea, it’s time to make it great with bits of flair. I’ve learned that there are certain areas to place these details that will make them most visually effective. In addition to your torso, adding costume features to your helmet, hands and feet will really complete your look! One of the costumes I’m most proud of was “Super Clean Girl” – my own made-up superhero. Super Clean Girl came to me in the cleaning aisle of the grocery store. I made a skirt out of pastel-coloured cleaning cloths, zip-tied bright-coloured feather dusters to each side of my helmet, decorated my belt and shoes with colourful round kitchen scrubbies (they looked like pompoms!) and wore yellow rubber gloves. I then put my superhero’s logo on my chest and voila! The best part of this costume was that I could reuse everything!
Safety third – wearing a costume while riding a bike can be hazardous, so it’s important to consider how your get-up will handle during a cyclocross race. It’s not just the pedaling part you need to think about, but the dismounting/remounting, shouldering, running and jumping barriers too. I really try to stay away from capes or anything that hangs loose – these things can easily get caught in wheels, drivetrains, on course stakes or on a fellow competitor! Also consider weather and course conditions. Is it going to rain? If so, think about what will happen if your costume gets soaked. Will is disintegrate? Will it get heavy and waterlogged? Will the paint run? Or if the forecast calls for unseasonably warm temperatures, know that you will absolutely roast in a full-body bear suit.
Priorities – Obviously anything that hinders movement could cause problems, but sometimes sacrifices need to be made in the name of a great costume. That leads to the question: What is the purpose of your costume (other than good fun)? Do you want to win the costume contest or the race? If it’s the former and your performance comes secondary, then go nuts! But if you want to be fast AND look spectacular, your garb will require more thought and planning to keep you aerodynamic and agile. One of the best and most high-performing costumes I’ve seen was “The Carrot”. The rider – who had a particular tall and lean physique – wore a tight-fitting bright orange long-sleeved top and leggings. His helmet was covered in the same orange fabric and featured a bunch of green foliage sticking out the top. It was simple and absolutely perfect.
Still not sure? Remember, your Halloween CX costume doesn’t have to be pricy or time-consuming. And you WILL get more cheers if you show up in something other than your regular race kit. So, get creative, get out there, have fun and don’t forget to share your photos!