• Posted Sep 11, 2005

A great collection of articles for anyone looking to try the fastest growing sport in the US!

I thought I’d put together a cheat-sheet collection of articles I found on-line that may be of some help for any of you looking to make the jump into cyclocross or for any of the already converted looking for a bit of an edge!

The following articles are below:

Now, I’ve “borrowed” most of these articles so it is only right to tell you where I got them from:

Now if you’re planning on doing any cyclocross at all and haven’t watched Adam Hodges Myerson’s Solutions for Cyclocross DVD then you need to get on the ball. You can purchase them here:


by Patrick O’Grady

Getting off
Dismounts come in three flavors -- run-ups, roll-ups and full-tilt gut checks:

1. Run-ups. Shift into the gear you'll need at the top as you approach the hill, hands on brake hoods or bar tops. Swing your right leg over the saddle; move your right hand to the top tube, just in front of the seat post; then unclip your left foot -- putting your weight through your right arm onto the top tube -- and hit the ground on your right foot.

Once you're afoot and running, flip the bike onto your shoulder by the top tube or the down tube, depending upon your size and style. More on this later.

2. Roll-ups. On an almost-rideable hill, stay on the bike until you start to lose the momentum you'll need to hoist it on the fly. Swing your right leg over the saddle, pushing down on the left pedal, then unclip at the bottom of the stroke and jump off. Run a few steps with your hands on the brake levers or bar tops, then shoulder the bike and beat feet.

3. Full-tilt gut checks. Many promoters use barricades to handicap mountain bikes on fast or technical descents; they also add difficulty to flat courses. Technique is at a premium during these high-speed dismounts; you can either gain ground, or lose skin.

Start off slowly, with your hands on the brake levers, then add speed. This is why 'cross racers reverse their brake levers -- rear on the left, front on the right . It's soothing to be able to modulate your speed as you charge toward a 16-inch-high wooden barricade in a half-dismount, with your left hand on a brake hood and your right on the top tube.

As you approach, swing your right leg over the saddle, between the bike and your left leg, and slightly forward. Place your right hand on the top tube and lean back, with your weight through your right arm. Wait until the last possible second, then unclip your left foot and land on your right.

Lift the bike with your right hand; your left remains on the bars or brake hood to keep your wheels straight. Hurdle the barricade, set the bike gently on the ground, return your right hand to the bars and leap into the saddle.

If conditions are particularly heinous, or if you're nervous, you can unclip your left foot and approach a dismount with it simply resting on top of the pedal. But premature unclipulation risks sliding off the pedal on bumpy ground, or worse, clipping back in by accident -- leaving you locked into one pedal as you barrel into a barrier at 20 mph. A well-drilled, last-minute release is far preferable.

Keep your cleats and pedals well maintained, spraying them with cooking spray or aerosol lubricant on filthy days, and practice, practice, practice.

Running with the bike
Shoulder the bike for extended runs, particularly when the going gets muddy. Pushing it through the goo will gum up the works faster than a peace creep in the Pentagon. Some 'crossers like to set the bike down between hurdles erected in series, running with hands on bars and top tube. But the repeated lifting can wear you out.

There are two ways to pick up the bike, and two ways to carry it (mountain bikers whose bikes' main triangles are cramped by sloping top tubes may have to try a third).

1. Picking it up, boss. If you're tall, try grabbing the top tube and palming the bike, shot-put style, onto your shoulder. Snake your right arm around the head tube to grab the left brake hood. Vertically challenged? Try using the down tube to hoist the bike, then reach under it to the left drop. Mountain bikers may have to reach over the top tube to grasp the down tube, then carry the bike like a portfolio (try resting the saddle tip on your shoulder).

Keep your shoulder closer to the head tube than the seat tube for a comfortable, upright carrying position (a shoulder pad liberated from a woman's sweater or blazer helps, too). Lean forward into run-ups, taking short, quick steps; if you must run down a tricky slope, lean back a bit. You can open your stride somewhat for a flat run.

2. Putting it down, boss. Hold the bars with your left hand, then take the bike off your shoulder with your right hand on either the top tube or the down tube. The latter lets you sort of shrug the bike off and into your hand, and may feel more natural. But set it down gently; a bouncing bike is nothing you want to leap onto if you hope to reproduce.

Getting back on
Put both hands on the bars (tops for the flats, drops for descents, levers for everything else). Leap off your left foot, throwing your right leg over the saddle; land on your right thigh, then slide atop the saddle. You'll probably stutter-step for a while, but strive for the clean, one-step leap from left foot onto thigh -- it's faster and safer.

Stab your right foot down for its pedal (a proper dismount should leave it near 12 o'clock). Clip in and stomp on it, then clip your right foot in as its pedal comes around. Haul ass.


Here are the plans to build your own portable barriers to train on. Perfect for learning to dismount, run, remount, repeat. Terrible for learning to bunny hop.


by Patrick O’Grady

Converting a road bike
Get rid of the bottle cages — you're going to be shoving your shoulder through that main triangle for run-ups — and lose the frame pump and saddle bag, too. Remove the pedals and replace them with whatever you're using on your mountain bike. Don't forget your off-road shoes.

If you can, raise your stem a centimeter, or consider swapping your road stem for one with a little more rise to it (while you're at it, you may want to add a slightly wider set of bars). Lower your saddle by 1cm, and move your shift/brake levers a tad farther up the bars for a more upright riding position. If your bar tape is one of those slippery brands, consider something with a little more grip to it.

At the other end of the bike, swap your corncob for a 12-27 or 11-28 and your slicks for knobbies. Sew-ups are best, but clinchers will do, if you don't mind the occasional pinch flat (a spare wheelset for the pit is an excellent idea for such occasions). Vittoria Mastercross and Normal Cross are excellent all-conditions fronts, with a file tread pattern; Wolber 28 Cross Extra or Clement Grifo Neve are all-purpose rears, with an arrow-and-block tread. Everyone I've seen on tubies lately is using Tufos, either the real deal or their tubular-clincher, which is said to blend the best of both worlds. If you're going with clinchers, the Vredestein Campo, Michelin Jet and Sprint, and Ritchey SpeedMax are great. I like Continental's Twister Pro, too, but it's a bit heavier than the others.

Your 53/39 crankset will do as is; snug your front derailleur up to the big ring to keep your chain from bouncing off. If you've got $25 to spend on a 48-tooth outer ring, and time to rearrange your front derailleur, replace that 53.

STI and Ergopower are the standard in 'cross, so you're good to go here, unless you're still shifting from the down tube. Cheapskates, Luddites and gram counters can go for bar-end shifters, which are nearly indestructible and feature a friction option when conditions get iffy, and and aero' brake levers.

Consider rearranging your brake cables so that your rear brake is on the left; it's nice to be able to modulate your speed when you're rumbling up to a barrier in a half-dismount, with your left hand on the bars and your right on the top tube. You may also want to add a set of the top-mounted brake levers from Empella, Salsa, Radius or Tektro, which let you brake from the bar tops. Your road pads will probably suffice for dry conditions. And when the going gets gooey, the minimal tire clearance of a road frame is going to set you afoot in short order anyway.

Radically converting a road bike
If you've got a beater bike to experiment with, ask a frame-builder to add cantilever braze-ons front and rear. You'll appreciate the extra braking power cantis provide in foul weather. Don't forget cable hangers and barrel adjusters for your headset and seatpost binder bolt.

While the torch is hot, have your frame-builder move your old brake bridge up a touch for more rubber clearance. Think about clipping the chainstay bridge out while you're at it. Finally, you might add a "brake booster" to minimize any extra flex resulting from your frame surgery.

Converting a mountain bike
Mountain bikes are legal in American 'cross, and this may be the best way to get your feet muddy. Pull off your bottle cages, saddle bag and pump. Do the same with the bar ends, which are illegal pretty much everywhere, no matter whose racing license you carry. Swap the fat rubber for something a little skinnier (26x1.5"-1.7"), which will lower your rolling resistance while increasing your tire clearance.

DQ SIDENOTE: Hutchinson tires makes a 26x1.3 tire called the Cross Comp. If you’re using a mountain bike, in my opinion, there is NO BETTER TIRE for cyclocross racing! Practically every shop can order this tire!

If you want more of the feel of 'cross, you can reverse your brakes, and trade your straight bar for drops. But you're talking a new stem, bar, shifters and brake levers — big bucks and a ton of work. And that's not why you're reading this, is it?

Keep it simple. Save your energy for racing and your money for entry fees, the car wash, and the coin laundry. Anything left over, you can stuff in a jar labeled, "Cyclo-cross Frame 2000." See you in the slime.


by Adam Hodges Myerson

I have to tell you this up front: my associate coaches and some of my clients are mad at me for this one. All week long, when the mention of this article comes up, one my clients says over and over, "There goes my top 5 in every start this season. You're going to give all the secrets away!" He's got a point--this is the stuff he pays for. But lucky for you, pays me, too.

Cyclo-cross is unique from all other disciplines in that the field sprint comes at the start of the race, rather than at the finish; you get your desert before dinner, as it were. Your position on the start line, the speed at which you get into the pedals, the gear you choose, and in what spot you make it to the first hurdle or difficult corner can impact your entire race. You may find yourself in the lead group with no extra effort, or you may spend the day stuck behind traffic or crashes, battling to get up to the group you in which you belong. A good start might even back fire and put you with riders you're not strong enough to stay with, causing you to blow and go back even further than you would have been had you been more conservative.

With all this to consider, one can see that starts are everything in 'cross. At the same time, it's an aspect that riders rarely focus on or incorporate into their training, even though it's easy to do so. There are two parts to consider: training and technique. I'll outline how to improve both.

When you think about the effort you make for a start, you can boil the crucial part down to the amount of time it takes you to go from a complete standstill with one foot on the ground, up to your top speed. Essentially, a 15-second sprint. There's obviously a lot more that goes on; you could almost view the entire first lap of a race as part of the start. What we want to focus on here is what you're doing initially to get yourself into position for that first lap. That effort translates essentially to a sprint.

I've written before here about how to structure a sprint workout on the road, and how to incorporate running workouts into your sprint training. In order to work on your 'cross start, you can take the basic road-style sprint workout one step further by trying to reproduce the start of a race. On your 'cross bike, come to a complete stop with one foot on the ground, then practice doing your 15-second sprints from that position. When you sprint, shift down through all the gears as you accelerate to simulate the start, until you reach your top speed.

Here is where you can really work on all those little details that make the difference between being in the lead group or not on the first lap. Start with your strong side foot up every time (the foot you'd kick a soccer ball with), and at the 2 o'clock position. Make sure your other pedal is turned to a position that's parallel to the crank, so that when you put your foot on it you'll clip right in. Sit on your saddle, with one foot on the ground, on your tiptoes, right next to the pedal and ready to step in quickly. You can start on the hoods or the drops; whichever allows you to shift most quickly. With integrated shift/brake levers that might be the hoods, with bar-ends it's normally the drops. You should have the starting gear already chosen. If you use 2 chainrings, the big ring and one down from the easiest gear in back is good, perhaps a 46 x 23. With a single ring, I'm usually 3 gears down, which for me is a 42 x 21. Training is the time to experiment with all these variables so that you know what will work best for you in the race.

In a racing situation, there's even more you can do to ensure you get a good start. One is to be sure to win "the first race of the day," which is the one to the start line. If you're not being called to the line in any order and it's first come, first serve, be aggressive. Get there early, and always watch the crowd lining up to make sure you don't get taken advantage of. If you don't protect your starting spot now, there's no point in fighting for it later. Just as importantly, know who the official starter is, and watch that person like a hawk as it gets close to time to go. If there's a countdown, anticipate the start. Once it's in the final 5 seconds, someone's going to jump the gun. Be prepared to go early, and don't be shy about it. If it's an unannounced start as is popular in New England and at the SuperCups, never take your eyes off the official. You have to see them getting ready to blow the whistle before they blow it, and be in motion when it finally goes. If they walk behind the field, concentrate! Listen hard for the sound, and again, be ready to go with any early starters.

Again, it's these little details that add up to make all the difference in the world. Even a notoriously bad starter can find themselves with the leaders after the first turn or hurdle if they add these techniques to their regular routine. The problem is, now that we all know, who's got the advantage?


By Joe Friel

Practically all cyclocross riders come from a cycling background. Most do not have much experience running, and they don't know how to train for running. Worse still, they cling to the bike in races, attempting to ride every tricky section even when running might be faster.

So, bikies, here's a tip: Train for the run. A lot. And don't just flail your way through it, either. Just as you strive to be efficient on the bike, also strive to be efficient in the run. The article below, from Joe Friel's E-Tips column, describes how to become a more efficient runner. --Dave Carr

Running Economy
by Joe Friel

In the Triathlete's Training Bible I describe the "Pose" technique for running and propose that it might improve your running economy. An economical runner is one who runs with little wasted energy. Economy is at least as important as having a great aerobic capacity (VO2max) and a high lactate threshold. Yet very few triathletes ever work on their running form, but they'll do drills every time they're in the pool to boost it for swimming.

The slower you are the greater the likelihood that working on economy will increase your speed. Just the math alone supports this notion. For a 40-minute, 10k runner, a three-percent improvement in running economy means getting to the finish line 72 seconds faster. But a three-percent shift for a 50-minute runner means a saving of 90 seconds in a 10k. Going beyond just the math issue, we can say with some assurance that slow runners are probably less economical than the quickest. In fact, slower runners can make great increases in performance by simply focusing one weekly running session on economy enhancement.

What should you do in these sessions? See my book for all of the details, but here are a few form DO's and DON'T's from Dr. Nicholas Romanov, the developer of the Pose technique, as adapted from his web site (

DO raise your ankle straight up under the hip.
DON'T try to reach or push-off forcefully.
DO let your legs land themselves without any muscle activity.
DON'T point your toes; don't land on the toes.
DO make your ground-support time short.
DON'T move your weight to the toes-get off your feet as quickly as you can.
DO retain your support easily and effortlessly.
DON'T move your ankle back and forth, keep it always fixed at the same angle.
DO have your support on the balls of the feet.
DON'T touch the ground with your heels-keep them a bit above the ground.
DO keep your feet behind the vertical line going through the knees.
DON'T exaggerate your stride length or range of motion-keep your strides short.
DO raise your ankle vertically toward your butt.
DON'T try to lift your knees or move the knees and thighs far apart.
DO keep your knees and thighs down and relaxed.
DON'T try to increase the angle between your thighs.
DO keep the knee bent at all times.
DON'T straighten your knee even when the foot is on the ground.
DO keep your shoulders, hips, and ankles along one vertical line.
DON'T reach with the feet to try to cover more ground.
DO let the arms relax to balance leg movement.
DON'T force arm action to increase stride length.

The following are workouts I have runners do throughout the year. One of these is done weekly, sometimes as a part of the warm-up. During a portion of each of these they focus their attention only on one or two aspects of running biomechanics as described above.

Downhill strides. After a warm-up run down a very slight grade for 20 seconds at about the pace you would run a 400-meter race. In other words, the pace is well short of a sprint but is fairly quick. Run 6 to 8 of these strides relaxing during each. Walk back after each stride taking about 90 seconds to do so. Walking is important for the success of this workout-don't run the recoveries. Do this barefoot on grass to increase "feel." Check the area first to make sure it is free of glass, thorns, or anything else that may cut. Don't run barefoot if there are breaks in the skin.

Count strides. These are done the same as downhill strides except instead of running for 20 seconds, count 30 right-foot strikes striving for a time of 19-20 seconds without attempting to run with a faster velocity to achieve it-use a quicker leg turnover instead.

Uphill strides. On a 4% to 6% grade run 6 to 8 strides as before. Walk down the hill after each. Short, powerful hill running has been shown to dramatically improve economy.

Plyometrics. In a weekly session spend 10 to 20 minutes working on power with plyometric exercises. Just as with uphill running, this has been shown to improve economy in runners. This form of training is best done during the base training period. Be careful with plyometrics-the risk of injury with certain types of exercises is great. In a future article I will explain this form of training.

With economy training it's best to do short workouts frequent rather than long ones infrequently. Once the nervous system begins to fatigue or you experience difficulty maintaining focus on technique, no further improvements will take place. For the same reason, these workouts are best early in a session. Don't do them when fatigued.

by DQ

When training for cyclocross I push my athletes to work on everything from handling, running, transitions, etc. But with the addition of these three workouts into your current training plan you’ll improve your cross prowess tenfold. I would recommend that you do these workouts sparingly and always know your limits. The first sign of fatigue will mean that you can’t perform the drill with efficiency and you will have to choose wisely if you should continue.

Drill #1: On-Offs
Since a huge portion of your fluidity on the barrier transition is in how you dismount and remount the bike I like to have my athletes perform just that. Rolling your bike down a “smooth” dirt path dismount your bike as if you were approaching a barrier. Take only one step with the right, one step with the left and remount the bike.

Start this drill VERY SLOWLY and work up to speed. When remounting the bike focus on getting your right foot from the ground, over the rear wheel on onto the pedal as smoothly and quickly as possible. Remember that primary goal in mounting the bike is to continue forward momentum as soon as possible.

Drill #2: Standing Starts
As Adam Hodges Myerson addressed in an earlier article the start of the race can determine the outcome. So be sure that your start is as smooth as they come!

On an open road or clearing, come to a complete stop. Get your gearing set-up to sprint from a standing start. This can vary depending on your strength, the terrain, or if it is an uphill or downhill start so try different gearing combinations to find what works best for you. With one foot clipped in (usually your weaker leg) and your hands in the drops, lift your butt onto the saddle and balance on the tip-toe of your unclipped foot. (If you can keep your balance well, try placing the heel of your unclipped foot on the pedal. This will help you find the pedal once the sprint starts).

From this position imagine the official firing the starting gun and sprint all out for 20 seconds. Remember that the first sprint will really influence where you sit in the pack for the remainder of the race! After this sprint recover for 2-3 minutes and do the effort again. Try this workout for about 30 minutes, once a week for the first couple of weeks. After that try upping the effort to 40-45 minutes.

Drill #3: No-Bike Barrier Running
I see it all the time! Once you put a bike on someone’s shoulders or in their hands their smooth-as-ever-running-form turns into a drunken-bunny-bounce over the barriers. Before any of your barrier workouts take 8-10 short sprints through the barrier sections WITHOUT your bike. Focus on how smooth you can run through the barriers and not “hop” over each obstacle.

Do this with every intention on repeating it once you have your bike in tow. Then try 5-6 runs through the barriers WITH your bike. Don’t worry about dis/remounting, just run through the barriers. Trust me, this little effort will help out big time!


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  • Modified: Aug 14, 2017 by bikeiowa






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