It’s the cyclesport that gets you filthy, that leaves you needing a hose down with a pressure washer and feeling like you’ve just run a marathon.
But cyclocross is also just about the most fun you can have with a bike and a field for an hour on a weekend.
While spending the day in a field on a winter’s day might not obviously necessitate any particular kit, the peculiarities of the sport demand otherwise, as does the mere act of spectating.
If you want to look your best in the mud, consider these essentials:
FOR THE RACERS:
Spare bike: A lot of people don’t realise it’s actually a good idea to take two bikes to a particularly muddy cross race, so you can swap them over every lap and your pal in the pits can whack the mud off ready for the next lap. Consider: Focus Mares 105 disc.
Tyres: Tyres: Knobbly tyres might be knobbly tyres but once you’ve got over the fact that they have to fit a roadbike-sized wheel and be not an awful lot wider than slicks you’re going to start thinking about which is the best. A quick straw poll of people who know what they’re talking about has revealed Challenge to be the best. They do an open tubular (clincher) in their Baby Limus tread. All the sturdiness of a tub in a clincher. And they look amazing. Consider: Challenge Baby Limus Open Tubular available here.
Jersey: Any jersey will of course do but come on, you want to look a little bit like you know what you’re doing so get yourself a jersey designed for cyclocross. These used to have pads on the shoulders for bike carrying but now they just look great. Consider: Rapha cyclocross pro team jersey.
Shoes: Cycleshoes for off-road riding are completely different to road shoes - they have studs, a bit like football boots and take a different cleat, in Shimano’s case called an SPD cleat (as opposed to the SPD SL road shoe cleats - confused? Yah). They are also considerably more sturdy, with rubber toe guards and a certain level of protection. That doesn’t make them ugly, far from it especially not when they are .... Sidi Drako MTB shoes available here.
Gel: You won’t have a second to take anything on board while you’re racing but if you can get a gel down you beforehand you’ll perform all the better for it. Consider: Stealth banana energy gel available here
Dry wash: Do yourself and your compatriots a favour after you’ve finished racing and give yourself a freshen up before you start on the beer and frittes. If you’re not too muddy, Secret Training do a dry wash kit that allows you to freshen without the need for a shower, among which you will find hygiene wipes, available here.
FOR THE PIT CREW / SPECTATORS
A huge bobble hat: In the winter in the country it is invariably cold and very often windy. You need a bobble hat and you need it in the Belgian national team colours, because that’s who invented cyclocross. Alternatively the Flanders colours.
Consider: Big bobble hat, £20, available from bigbobblehats.co.uk
Wellies: Standing in wet mud is no good for the feet or the soul. At the very least take a pair of shoes you don’t mind getting messed up, but if you can, stick a nice cosy pair of wellies on. You can even get special socks for them these days. Consider: Speedvagen pit boots, $74.95 available here
Pump with bike stand: While your partner is waiting for you to come back round with the other mud caked bike he might want to check your tyres - many a race has been ruined by a mid-lap flat and there’s no way you’re going to be able to stop to repair it. Consider: Cero Intrepid pump stand available here
Umbrella: A field might not feel like the place but you’ll soon be laughing when the heavens open. Consider: anything cheap. It’s going to get filthy.
Beer and frites: Lashings of beer, specifically Belgian, and a big box of chips. It’s what cyclocross is built on. Consider: Whatever is available.
Things you won’t need when racing:
Glasses: They’ll just steam up
Gloves: You’ll get really hot
Hat / cap: See above
Water bottle: You won’t get the chance to take a sip
Wet weather gear: You’ll boil in it. Just expect to get filthy