Newbies' guide to cyclocross

The Hüttcross edition

Cyclocross is a great way to stay active outdoors over winter! Unlike most cycling events, races are run by time rather than distance. So you know exactly how long you're signing up for, and the aim of the game is to complete as many laps as you can/fancy in the time allocated. C Grade races run for 30 mins and any bike will do!

Cyclocross courses are usually set in parks (in Hüttcross, we use some of the fantastic parks in Upper Hutt thanks to Upper Hutt City Council's support) and are around 2-3 kms per lap. Terrain is usually undulating with no big long climbs. The short nature of the courses allows great views for spectators too!

What type of bike do I need? Just Run what you Brung

Have a mountain bike? Road bike? Even a hybrid will do! The beauty of cyclocross is that it’s accessible for a range of bikes, so whatever you’ve got, the odds are good that you can use it to get your feet wet before committing to a new bike.

If you’ve only got a roadie then find some skinny knobblies to run (make sure you have a bit of frame clearance in case of mud). A wide range cassette will make life easier but is not essential.

If you’ve got a hybrid then consider running some tyres with a bit of tread (rather than semi slicks for commuting) as Hüttcross does tend to get muddy sometimes!

If you can add some toe spikes to your cycling shoes that will make life easier for muddy races. These can be purchased for cheap from places like Rebel Sport. Most cycling shoes accommodate soccer studs.

Local Lingo

As is typical for most forms of cycling, there are a few key phrases you’ll hear around the cyclocross community.

  • CX, ‘cross, cyclocross = All one and the same thing!
  • Grades = Different categories for racers. C grade is the shortest race at 30 minutes, B grade in the middle, and A grade is the longest race for the fast folk.
  • The Holeshot = The first point at which the course narrows from the start. If you’re the first rider through you’ve just “grabbed the holeshot”, ya wee legend.
  • Shouldering = The art of carrying your bike on your shoulder to negotiate obstacles or run ups….
  • Run Ups = A steep bank that is not rideable so you, um, run up it!
  • Cowbells = Not just for Swiss bovines. These things (along with other noisemakers) are a huge part of cyclocross. Bring one along with you to make some noise while you’re not racing.
  • Barriers = A wooden barrier or hurdle that you have to negotiate. Usually a maximum of 40cm tall. Sometimes setup as a lone obstacle, sometimes in a series of two or three.
  • Hand Ups = The art of spectators providing a variety of rewards to riders during the race. Can take the form of liquid, food or cold hard cash.
  • The Bell Lap = Happiness awaits. The bell signals your final lap. Savour the moment as the finishline approaches.

Learn From Watching Others

Not sure what to do? Come along and spectate for a round to see what’s involved. The Hüttcross community is a super-chilled crowd and they love showcasing their riding to spectators. If you’re thinking about diving straight into B Grade, you can check out the C Grade race the same day to get an idea of how the course is running on the day! And bring a cowbell of course!

Ask Someone

Worried about something in particular? Flick us an email and we’ll be able to point you in the right direction or join our Facebook Community Group where there are over 600 people with a huge variety of cyclocross experience and skill levels.

Bring The Whānau

Flying solo can be intimidating. There is something special about the camaraderie of cyclocross. Bring a friend along to provide a bit of moral support. Even better, bring the whānau… our courses at Hüttcross are usually almost entirely visible from one vantage spot so the family can watch you, and the kids race for free!

Have Fun!

Cyclocross is a fun sport. Even internationally at the highest level, the pros enjoy handups, money pits, and heckle zones! Practice lots and give it your all on event day, but remember that it’s supposed to be fun (yes, even when you’re shouldering your bike, crawling up a muddy bank, and praying for the bell lap).