Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cyclocross - The Great Melting Pot

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Cyclocross has the unique distinction among all other cycling disciplines as the melting pot of the sport.

Everyone has a discipline that they favor. Crossing into other disciplines is accepted and encouraged and can be a great way to develop handling skills, power, and speed and it can be a helluva lot of fun too.

But, at the end of the day, what it all boils down to is you are either a roadie or a mountain biker. As much as we like to think that there aren't any sort of boundaries, there are. And let's just say nothing would give a MTB'er greater pleasure than to school a bunch of roadies at their own game and vice versa.

'Cross provides a unique venue where roadies and mountain bikers can mingle without either one feeling too out of their element. It also provides a fair battleground. The bikes are very similar to road bikes so the roadie feels at home and the courses are on dirt and mud so the MTB'er doesn't feel out of his element either.

I'm sure there are tons of theories about which primary discipline prepares you better for cyclocross. I'm not even going to venture a guess. What I do want to do is to provide a short tutorial for identifying a MTB'er or roadie at a 'cross race. Here are some helpful tips:
  • Check out the bike - If it's sparkling clean and has some European name that's really tough to pronounce, chances are it's a roadie straddling it. If, after scrubbing off all the filth, you can make out a "Redline" or a "Santa Cruz", it's a MTB'er
  • Facial hair -This one is a dead give-a-way. Clean shaven = roadie. Facial hair (this can be any kind, but especially the ubiquitous goatee) = MTB'er
  • Cycling Kit - This can be a bit tricky.
    • Clothing - Typically, if the rider shows up to a 'cross race covered head to toe in some sort of fleecy spandex and it's 58 degrees out, I would venture that it's a roadie. Conversely, if it's 20 degrees and you see a sleeveless jersey and shorts paired with some long socks it's probably a mountain biker. You have to watch this one though, roadies love embrocation so that can throw you off. Take a look at the brands of the apparel too. Euro brands, you are probably dealing with a roadie, Primal Wear, that's an MTB'er.
    • Helmet - Any cyclist sporting a visor on their helmet is automatically a mountain biker. A roadie would never have a visor on their helmet, that's what a cycling cap is for.
    • Gloves - full fingered = MTB'er, 1/2 finger or none (if cold, lobster claws) = roadie
    • Socks - here's a little rhyme to help you remember: White socks at races, it's a roadie who chases, If colored socks you see, a mountain biker it will be.
  • Body - Stick thin and hairless it's a roadie. If Rubenesque comes to mind, it's likely a mountain biker. There's a reason there's no "Clydesdale" category in road racing.
  • Pre-race - Approach the roadie with extreme caution in the hours before a race, they tend to be quite aggressive and territorial when engaged in their pre-race ritual. It's an individual thing and any intrusions are not welcome. On the other hand, a mountain biker will gladly welcome any and all comers to their pre-race ritual. Shot gunning beers 30 minutes before start is a communal activity and the more the merrier.
  • During race - See that guy dismounting to cross the exposed root in the ground? That's a roadie. If you see someone bunny hopping railway ties on a run up, that's a MTB'er.
  • Post-race - Somebody offer you congratulations and a cold beer or tells you "good race"? That's a mountain biker. If any sort of post race communication is met with a scowl, that's a roadie.
I know it's a long way off but I hope this tutorial will be helpful going into next 'cross season. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to visit the natural habitats of these two unique species this spring and summer.

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