's Forum Archives - Cyclo-Cross

Archive Home >> Cyclo-Cross(1 2 3 )

Dumbass question from dumbass guy(10 posts)

Dumbass question from dumbass guyOld Guy
Nov 13, 2001 9:15 AM
I'm trolling and I don't belong here. But I've got to know, and I'm sure somebody here can sneeringly put me in my place:

Why do you guys use road bikes? Tradition? Or mechanical advantage?

TIA for the well-deserved lambasting...
re: Dumbass question from dumbass guyWayne
Nov 13, 2001 9:56 AM
I'll assume you're asking why use road bikes (although they're really cross bikes which are slightly different) rather than mountain bikes?
Because on almost any cross course a road bike will be faster than a mtn bike. If that's not true its probably not a properly designed cross course.
Hey DumbassWheels
Nov 13, 2001 9:58 AM
Not a stupid questions at all (IMHO). If you are refering to why don't cyclocross racers/riders use MTB, people do but the pros use 'cross' bikes for the following reason.

1) Weight - MTB are typically heavier than RB/Cross
2) Geometry - RB/Cross have larger main triangles for carrying the bike. With MTBs going to more sloped TT, there is little room to put your shoulder through when you have to carry it.
3) Carrying your Bike is part of Cross - See Reasons #1 and #2.

Thanks for the gentle smackdownOld Guy
Nov 13, 2001 4:53 PM
I was hoping for a little more S&M; you guys are too kind.

Okay: weight and a big triangle for carrying. That seems to make sense. But I'd still say they're road bikes, just with fat knobby tires.

Next questions:

1. Do you ever run triples or always a small and big chainring? If the latter, do you use some funky small ring like a 38 or something?

2. What's the best way to get in and out of pedals quickly? Straps? Time? SPD? Duct tape?

3. Who the hell thought this insane sport up? Why?
Damn, What a set of Dumbass questionsWheels
Nov 13, 2001 7:17 PM
1. You see all types of cranks/chainrings. Some run triples, some doubles, and it is sometimes viewed as cool if you run one chainring. As far as gearing, most people run anywhere from a 38 to 53 up front and a max 25 cog in the back. I very rarely see anyone pushing the 53 except the pros. I find that most of the time normal people are in a 39X16 for most of the flats on the course, a little higher for steeper sections. If you have to drop into the a granny (triple), it is faster to get off the bike and run. In my last race I ran a 42 up front and a 25 max in the back. I never used the 25 and I think only once did I go into a 23. Most of the time I was in a 16, 18, or 21.

2. The is really no difference in which pedal system to use in terms of getting out of. The key is getting back in them as quickly as possible. SPDs are okay but they are easy to get crudded up with mud. One of the more widley used systems is Time ATAC pedals because they shed mud very easily and have a flat platform. The flat platform allows you to pedal efficiently without being fully clipped in. Also, you really don't want a lot of float (10 deg max). Too much float and it is hard to release quickly.

3. Belgium is considered one of the origins of cyclocross. I don't know why, but maybe it is a result of too many truffles.

Finally, cross tires are only a little wider than road tires. Crossers typically run 28's up to 32's, which is generally less than hybrids or touring bikes. And the knobs are very shallow compared to MTB tires.

You should give 'cross a shot. Lots of fun and a good workout.

The knobs are very shallow?jester
Nov 14, 2001 1:46 AM
That's no way to talk about our MTB brothers - he was only asking a question....
Well JP lemmee tell ya....Ahimsa
Nov 13, 2001 6:19 PM
Mountain bikes is fo' single track.
Cyclocross bikes is fo' cyclocross courses.

Oversimplified of course, but they are different bikes used in different ways. You can 'cross with a MTB, and you can ride the track with a crosser, do what you like, eh.



Beer and traditionlonefrontranger
Nov 15, 2001 10:45 AM
Cyclocross, like any Euro-derived sport is steeped in tradition. You've heard of (and even done) urban assault riding? Cyclocross began as "rural assault".

The sport started out back in the middle of last century when a bunch of Belgian roadies decided that winter road training in Belgian weather sucked (big suprise). To make it more entertaining, or at least somewhat less miserable, the guys developed simple point-to-point Sunday rides that involved being the first one to a fixed landmark (literally "steeple-chasing" in the original sense of the term). In the best tradition of bike hooligans through the ages, the first one to the landmark got free beer from his mates at the adjacent pub (not much has changed here).

Getting there first involved shortcuts through muddy beet fields and along farm tracks, climbing over "stiles" (stairs cut in hedgerows between fields), and running up the steep levees along barge canals. These dismount sections were actively sought out to add challenge and also to keep the rider's feet warm. Hence the tradition of adding hurdles and run-ups to a modern course. I'm sure traversing through sheep manure and getting chased by angry cattle were a part of the fun as well; somehow these factors were not carried over into modern times :-)

Sometime in the 60's, the word got out, and the sport became "organized", if that's an approprate term for a sport which requires adult humans to run around in the mud carrying perfectly functional bicycles on their backs.

The road bikes back in those days were heavy bomber things designed for muddy, cobbled roads and traversing the steep rutted dirt passes of the grand tours - roads which would be loosely classified as "jeep roads" by MTBers today. In other words, road bikes are also the original offroad bikes. The design of a 'cross bike is essentially a hybrid: 30-38 mm wide tires at fairly low pressure, small knobs to bite into slippery stuff, canti brakes to provide stopping power in wet, sketchy situations, a range of moderate gears, and a beefier frame with slightly more "relaxed" geometry for predictable handling.

Modern 'cross courses in the U.S. have little to do with rutted farm roads and muddy fields in Belgium. Our courses tend to be short loops, with several dismount sections and one or two "run-ups" on fairly firm park turf. Federation and UCI rules state the course cannot be narrower than 2 meters at any point (i.e. no singletrack), and "not more than 50% paved". In essence, these are off-road criterium courses with dismounts. The 700c wheels and skinny tires on a 'cross bike, coupled with its hybrid gearing (smaller than road, bigger than MTB) and rigid frame offers a significant mechanical advantage over your typical hardtail.

I've tried both, and it's much easier racing 'cross on a 'cross bike. In fact, it's also much easier racing non-technical Midwestern-style MTB courses on a 'cross bike, which I've also done. Also fun to see Sport guy's face when he gets passed by a girl on a "road bike" doing 20 mph through the singletrack ;-p
Beer and traditionsoulFire
Nov 15, 2001 4:50 PM
Excellent post! Great to hear about the origins of the sport.

... another origin myth, from France this timephilippec
Nov 19, 2001 9:20 AM
The stories surrounding the origin of cyclo-cross are a bit like "creation" stories around the world (e.g. God created in the earth 7-days, etc.), every culture/nation (at least in Europe) seems to have one!

Here is one presented in a article from Bicycle Trader magazine, this time giving a french "spin" on the story!

Part 1: Introduction to 'cross
by Gabe Konrad
Reprinted from Bicycle Trader Magazine

What it is Cyclo-cross is nearly as old as the bicycle itself, and as fresh and full of vigor as if it were born yesterday. It's a sport that enjoys rampant popularity in Europe, and in America, after it's heyday of the late 70's, is picking up momentum once again in areas rich with the history of road racing: Boulder, Boston, Chicago, Santa Cruz, Seattle, and even Montana where Geoff Procter teaches 'cross clinics. It's been called a "fringe sport" and "outlandishly demanding," but at the same time some of cycling's greatest heroes, including numerous Tour de France winners, have used it for winter conditioning. More and more 'cross bikes are being taken from the race scenario -- the ultimate hybrid for commuting, for fun. A skill and a tremendous machine that can cover all the bases.

The history Turn of the century "dead seasons" would find the young French army private, and later secretary-general of the French Cycling Union, Daniel Gousseau cycling through the forests along side his horse-mounted general, sharing their love of the outdoors. He enjoyed these winter outings so much that he invited a few of his friends along and soon dozens of cyclists were rolling along the trails. Impromptu racing occurred among the sporting cyclists and soon organized events were scheduled.

In 1902 Gousseau was given the opportunity to organize the first French championship, which was won by F. de Baeder. For years this "rough stuff" and "mud plugging" remained mainly a French indulgence until its popularity exploded when Octave Lapize attributed his 1910 Tour de France win to the off-season sport. The first International Criterium, which was won by the Frenchman Gaston Degy, was held in 1924 in Paris. Following Gaston to the podium were many of cycling's greats: Charles Pelissier in 1926, 1927 and 1928, Sylvere Maes, the handlebar namesake, in 1933 and Robert Oubron who won in 1937, 1938, 1941 and 1942!

In 1950 one of the international events became official, and in Paris the 1947 Tour winner Jean Robic was the first to pull on the rainbow jersey. Like the International Criteriums, the World Championships saw many of cycling's brightest stars cross the finish lines. But among them, Belgium's Eric de Vlaeminck was definitely king of the 'crossers having, at the tender age of twenty, won in 1966 and then each year from 1968 to 1973.

The open format of the World's was changed in 1967 with the addition of a special amateur world title and the junior title was adopted in 1976.

Race style 'Cross races are generally held on circuits one to two miles in length. The perfect course will have paved and unpaved sections, wet areas and dry, will be about 75 percent rideable, the rest for running. It will have a variety of natural obstacles, like muddy banks, streams, and fallen trees, and man-made obstacles, like bales of straw, wooden barriers, and even flights of stairs. Depending on you classification and age the race will last around thirty to 75 minutes. After a season of multi-hour hour road and mountain races this may seem to be a short run, but for even the most prepared, this is a lung-blowing experience. Cyclo-cross is a very demanding, incredibly precise sport.

More like road racing than mountain, 'cross racers are allowed "pit crews" where they can do bike exchanges, replace wheels or take care of any other mechanical problems they might have. It's common on muddy courses to exchange your filthy bike for a clean one after each lap. The mechanics using buckets and brushes, high-powered hoses, and even rushing streams to clean off the bikes.

The only real way to learn the cyclo-cross ropes is to get out there and do it. If you happen to live in a 'cross-friendly area, you can find folks to help you learn the tricks of the trade. Everyone else? Try finding some Euro-Pro 'cross videos, look out for the fall 'cross tip articles in VeloNews and the like, and, if you can track down a copy, read Simon Burney's definitive work on the sport, Cyclo-Cross.

Why do it? At a time when mountain biking is so popular, the question of why to take up cyclo-cross is often heard. There are basically three reasons to cross over. One is for the same reason you might, in this time of clinchers and STI, use sew-ups and down-tube shifters: history. Cyclo-cross has been around for about 70 years longer than its fat-tired grandchild. Its courses weave a rich tapestry of cycling heroes and two-wheeled feats. Its time tested and time proven.

Probably the main reason for taking up cross is for training. Nothing can beat the incredible workout afforded the roadie by this off-season sport. It builds stunning arm and upper-body strength and bike-handling skills that will eliminate the fear of rainy criteriums and gravel spotted roads, increases cardio-respiratory endurance and takes up surprisingly little time, since a one hour workout can be more advantageous than hours on mind-numbing rollers.

But the third, and my main reason for crossing, is that its just plain fun! Nothing beats the quick handling and lively feel of the cross bike on the quickest descents and trickiest singletrack. In his Feb. '93 Bicycle Guide article "Mountain Bikes: Who Needs Them?" Chris Kostman called these modified road bikes "the first and only real all-terrain bike." And he's right! I believe they're also the perfect commuter, or, as Grant Peterson would call them, all-rounder bikes. No throw-back balloon tires, elastomer bumpers, springs and OPEC drippings to separate you from the feel of the Earth. Just you, your wits and the perfect trail bike. The simplicity of a cross bike, and the very act of riding, running and walking, enable you, as Robert Oubron and Rene Chesal write in their book Cycliste 100, serie cyclo-cross (Paris, 1967),

"to discover hundreds of interesting things which you would have ridden straight past is you had not been tempted into hitching the bike over your shoulder, or simply pushing it along, and following a riverbed, or a footpath that may end in a spring or an unexpected view, or a lane that suddenly yields up some unexpected historical monument, or a lake you did not know existed.

...Just try doing this on a bridal path in Savoy or in the Pyrenees and I'll be surprised if you don't find yourself singing for sheer joy. And when you're back down again, after clattering through streams and gullies and stony paths, sometimes on the bike, sometimes on your feet, you will have enjoyed a wonderful experience."