Invaluable tips to make you quicker… or at least quash the myth of aero and compression apparel.
CX is great fun, fact. If you’re not racing for the top step of the podium, then it’s the perfect sport in which you can lighten up and ride how you like. But before you get carried away, we aren’t advocating a Hawaii shirt and baggy shorts. This is a race, after all. Think about the logistics: cyclo-cross asks you to get on and off the bike multiple times, so you shouldn’t risk wearing anything that’ll catch on the bike in haste.
Outfit: A tight-fitting jersey or even a skinsuit are both well suited to CX. Keep an eye on your color scheme though, and remember that you’re basically a walking billboard for what you believe in. As you can spot here, the start number’s design is even sartorially in synch with the jersey.
Shoes: Given those carrying sections, you’ll want comfy shoes with a decent and aggressive tread to give you some much-needed grip in the mud.
Gloves: The likelihood of ending up on the floor during a cyclo-cross race is pretty high, but it’s usually a fairly soft landing pad. Here’s where thin, windproof and water-repellent gloves will be hugely beneficial. Wearing mittens isn’t advised if you want to be able navigate those finicky tight turns.
Sock doping: Socks are an integral part of any good outfit. There are various theories thrown around, which basically state that you can increase your performance by up 1.5 % just by opting for the right sock choice. Unconvinced? Try it. If you’re into compression socks then we bid you to wear them subtly and not to cause any sartorial offence to your competitors. Once you’ve got the basics of #sockdoping then you won’t just win style points on the podium but also rake in admiring looks from the rest of the field.
Helmet: As we’re technically off-road, visors are acceptable, although the ultimate headwear is a visorless helmet with a cycling cap underneath. Steer clear of monstrous aero helmets (they’re in the element at high speeds on fast terrain, which is rarely the case in cyclo-cross). Ventilation is still crucial, especially if your competitors are going to step on the gas. Obviously, the helmet has to fit well and withstand vigorous jumping on and off the bike.
Racing beard: An evolutionary-based, self-induced disadvantage of having a strong Y chromosome: the racing beard. While women are whippet-like over the fields with aerodynamic finesse, male riders with substantial facial hair have to counter significant air resistance. But as the cyclo-cross season typically begins during ‘Movember’, you can excuse your poor performances as being in the name of charity.
Riders who feel most comfortable in their get-up are going to survive those technical sections with aplomb, and that’s where you can win precious time. If in doubt, wear less than the weather forecast might suggest is necessary. If it’s a real cyclo-cross race, then body temperatures will certainly rise.
Important: As soon as you’ve crossed the finish line, it’s the role of your supporter/s to step forward with a warm jacket, a post-race beer and a wooly hat. If, by any slim chance, they’ve got sidetracked in the beer tent, then you should head directly there.
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Words: Robin Schmitt Photos: Christoph Bayer