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Cyclo-cross practice tips?(9 posts)

Cyclo-cross practice tips?Korbin
Aug 22, 2001 3:53 PM
Im looking for any tips in order to practice for the cyclo cross races. Does anyone want to share anything they do?
practice cyclo-cross riding.climbo
Aug 23, 2001 10:15 AM
I just set up a course as close to a race as I can and go do it repeatedly. Logs are good to use as barriers etc. Run a bit, ride hard pace for an hour or more to gear up for the intensity of races.
skills in a nutshell (maybe)lonefrontranger
Aug 23, 2001 12:40 PM
The hardest part to adapt to (for a cyclist) is the running. The first season I raced 'cross, I did a lot of barrier practice and no running at all. I discovered that having the cleanest barriers of everyone there did me no good at all after two laps because I could barely stagger with the bike and had to walk up all the run-ups.

Each August, I re-incorporate running into my training schedule 3 days / week. Start slowly, especially if you're not a runner (I hate running). 10-15 minutes per session is fine to begin with. After 4-6 weeks of aerobic adaptation you should be up to 20-30 minute run sessions at a fairly easy "talking" pace. At that point, start doing "fartlek" style intervals (sprint practice). The goal is to produce quick bursts of speed for 20-30 second max, then be able to readily switch gears back to your "talking" pace and recover. I do "fartleks" up the levee to our local reservoir, to simulate run-ups, which are my Achilles' heel.

The next major skill to work on IS barrier practice. Start with all of these skills as slowly as you can without falling over from lack of momentum. Work off and on the left (non-drive side) of the bike - it's "traditional", but the real deal is you don't risk falling on and getting cut up and/or cruddified by your chainrings.

Use the lawn in your backyard or anywhere soft with room to pedal one full rev before you have to turn around. I used a 20' x 60' vacant lot under a streetlight in Cincy for this when I lived in Over-The-Rhine (the ghetto kids got a kick out of the wierdo with the bike, so I often had spectators). The tighter the space, the quicker you'll learn an efficient dismount / remount.

To practice your mount, start by just stepping onto the bike from a standstill and glide off using a good shove from your left toe. Worry about clipping in later - for now just work on balance. Then hop on and just coast along on the "angle" between your thigh and butt-cheek, without clipping in. This is to teach you balance, and also where you want the saddle to strike (NOT the crotch area, BTW) when you land. If you have a double-hop in your vault (common beginner habit), now is the time to get rid of it before muscle memory ingrains it. You have to commit to the vault and the landing, so practice this and get good at it at all speeds.

To dismount, practice unclipping your right leg, and swinging it over the back of the saddle. Practice this in stages, and coast around a lot while you're halfway off the bike to learn the balance. When you're ready to go for full dismount, grab the top tube with your right hand, LEAN BACK (this is important), swing your right foot through BETWEEN the crank and your left foot, then unclip the left foot and start running. If you do this (it feels really weird at first), you'll be facing the correct way to take a full, natural running stride as you hit the ground, and you won't stumble over your own feet. (continued next post)
okay, not a nutshell (geez, just go get Burney's book!)lonefrontranger
Aug 23, 2001 1:29 PM
Okay, now you're going to work on putting the whole enchilada together into a seamless whole (boy, will that take a while!).

Set up some 2x4's or broom handles or anything else that won't kill you if you hit it with the bike in a semi-clipped position. Don't worry about getting back on in 4 strides or 2 - it will take you 6 or more at first to get your act together, but try to shorten it. Practice your timing on the dismount and remount with your "faux barriers" a lot before you get to the real thing. Timing is crucial, and you don't want to come into your first set of hurdles at your first race and suddenly realize the release tension on your SPD's is cranked too high (a lot of guys do this!).

Tip: when you start working with real, nailed-down 16" barriers, remember that the faster you come into your obstacle, the sooner you need to start your dismount. It's better to run fast for several paces and jump the barrier in stride than to get "underneath" it and come to a dead standstill, or worse, hit it while you're half-clipped in (endo city).

Picking up the bike isn't as big a deal as everyone makes it. Don't try to shoulder it unless you have to run for more than a dozen paces. For short, not-so-steep run-ups or running non-barrier sections (unless it's muddy), just roll the bike along beside you. For hurdles, (if you're tall) use the seat and bars to raise it off the ground as you hurdle. If you're short, reach over the top tube for the downtube as you dismount, then pick it up "briefcase-style" near the bottom bracket and tuck it under your arm.

To shoulder the bike if you're tall, curl it from the top tube "shot-put" style and place it on your shoulder. Slide it down towards the head tube until it's balanced, and grab the left hood with your right hand. If you're short, pick it up from the downtube, wrap your elbow around the headtube and grab the left drop with your right hand. Work on stabilizing the bike so it doesn't bounce against your collarbone or swing out into traffic. Carry it so that the saddle doesn't interfere with your helmet - it's crucial to be able to raise your head and swing your free arm as you run.

Regardless of style, I recommend all beginners use a shoulder pad scammed from a women's suit or a piece of stiff foam taped to the inside of their jersey. Some guys use pipe insulation on the top tube, but this can interfere with cabling. The better you get with your carrying technique, the less trouble you'll have with bruising / sore shoulders. I never bother with pads anymore.

Putting the bike down basically involves just shrugging it off your shoulder, or merely setting it down if you're not shouldering it - but the key is to do it quietly and smoothly. You don't want to drop it hard or the chain will bounce off - and trying to remount a bouncing, squirrelly bike isn't a treat either. Work on placing the rear wheel first, then setting the front wheel down - it's easier and the bike won't bounce as much.

Once you've got the basics of technique, then just polish, polish, polish. Do a couple of 90 minute - 2 hour tempo road rides per week for general fitness, and a couple of 'cross-specific workouts, which incorporate a good warm-up, some barrier practice and 5-10 minute hard effort intervals to simulate racing conditions, and cool down working some balance or skills drills.

As the days get shorter, split your workouts into 1-hour sessions (road ride at lunch, 'cross workout in the evening). Get together with a couple buddies and find a lit park or ball field to do your evening 'cross workouts - you won't be affected by the chilly air as much, since you're not going as fast, and you'll be plenty warm enough once you're done. Use existing barriers like curbs, steps, parking blocks, ditches, low bushes, steep berms, or anything else that provides a natural dismount. The other name for cyclocross is urban assault, and you will get very good at it
skills in a nutshell (maybe)badabill
Aug 23, 2001 1:40 PM
Great advice. The toughest skill to learn is the remount. To be fast and fluid is the key. I am not to sure of grabing the top tube before your feet hit the ground. I keep mine close to the brakes till I lift, just a personal choice. Our courses out west tend to be on the hilly side, less running. I'm lucky we have a park with a bunch of backless benches that mack perfect hurdles. Great for practice. Find a park to practice in and have fun:-)
you're right in some circumstanceslonefrontranger
Aug 23, 2001 2:57 PM
When it's muddy or sketchy, I'll agreed that it is probably better to keep both hands on the bars until you're running.

However, it's a good idea to learn the faster (hand on TT) method of dismounts if you encounter or will ever encounter courses with speed hurdles. It's quite a bit faster and smoother to have your hand in place so you're not looking down and/or juggling the bike trying to pick it up because you're feeling around for the TT on a bouncing bike as you're running. If you dismount with your hand in place, you'll be picking up the bike as you start your first stride.

Trust me, I argued this one with my coach for two seasons before finally giving up and learning it. It really does help speed the transition on fast barrier sections, which most of the ones in the Midwest (where I learned 'cross) tend to be. If you use this for speed hurdles, then by definition you are going roughly 20mph, meaning the bike is stable by way of gyroscopic momentum. You have to start your dismount very early and lean back as you grasp the top tube. If you lean back to weight the back wheel, there is no way you're going to lose your balance or lose control of the bike, it just feels weird, like the first time you tried doing the right-foot-past-the-crank dismount.

Some great drills to build balance and confidence for this type of maneuver are the balance drills where you hang off the bike in every direction, learning how to counterweight for side-to-side "limbo" exercises and "ape-hang" off the back of the saddle. You'll eventually figure out that when properly weighted, the bike isn't going to fall. After years of practice, I am able to rest my sternum on the saddle while pedaling, and can pick up a credit card out of the grass with either hand (useless but it impresses students).

Be the bike, grasshoppa
Over the Rhine???rollo tommassi
Aug 25, 2001 3:34 PM
I'm a Cincy hometown girl! Eastsider, really, but I worked downtown for a few years. You certainly were the best entertainment value in THAT neighborhood!!

Your post here is great! You're absolutely right about the running part - it's my achilles heel and I always have to work on it.

One suggestion for newbies trying dismounts/hurdles: use cardboard or foam core "boards" to practice jumping over. If you misjudge the jump and you crunch it, at least you won't make a mess of yourself!
Over the Rhine???Brian Robinson
Aug 25, 2001 3:42 PM
I made the mistake of practicing barrier with logs on the local sinlgetrack. I came around the corner and was hanging off the bike, ready to dismount. I was so focused on the log ahead that I missed the fact that there was a stump in the middle of the trail. I slammed the stump with my front wheel and it threw me forwards. My rib made hard contact with the bottom of the drop. End result, two broken ribs and 4 weeks of road riding only. What did I learn? Messing up a dismount can be very painful. Cardboard is a good idea until you feel comfortable.


Watch CX videosBipedZed
Aug 23, 2001 8:25 PM
1. Get Simon Burney's book. Read it. Scratch head.
2. Get the 96/97 Cyclocross World Championships video from WCP.
3. Re-read the book.
4. Practice or just go race. CX races are so unique you really just have to try it to see what it's all about.

Seriously, if you've never raced cross before it requires skills that must be seen to make total sense. This video has it all, Van Der Poel, Pontoni, and Bramati displaying skills and tactics and it's narrated by Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen.

For me it all made sense when I started using two different types of dismounts.

The speed dismount is excellently described by LFR. Basically you put your hand on the top tube ready to lift the bike and step forward with your right foot while clipping out with your left. It's pretty nerve-racking at first approaching a set of barriers at 20mph with no intention of slowing down but if you can get this down you will make up huge time.

For slower dismounts, like barriers at the top of hills or before a steep run up I find it easier to use my right hand on the top tube as a fulcrum and just clip out with my left foot and land on my right behind the crank. For me it's also easier to shoulder the bike from this position.

All of this is in the video.