We had a gratifyingly huge response from readers last week to our mildly whimsical post on the subject of autumn Bicycling Do’s and Don’t's. The downside was that most of the people who made the effort to get in touch took issue with our assertion that Cyclocross was something that should be avoided.
Marcus Peter Black from Stretton in Derbyshire wrote to say he was “astounded and disappointed that Brooks should dabble in the gratuitously cruel marginalising of an athletic pursuit which has saved countless road cyclists from a billet in a padded cell during the off-season”.
Thank you, Marcus. Fine words. And an opinion concisely, yet also ornately and above all sensitively formulated. Have you had a look at this?
We take the opportunity this morning to point out that the advice we gave, to the effect that one should strive to steer clear of any “Dirt Run” in the same manner that one might avoid sticking needles in one’s eyes, was not directed at people who find themselves, year after year as a matter of course, suckling at Dame Cyclocross’s muddy teat. Those people are already beyond redemption.
No. It was hoped our directive might be read by eyes that have lately for the first time perhaps curiously browsed certain catalogues. Catalogues with pictures and prices of high pressure water hose units, for example.
Eyes that have recently read articles containing the phrases “it’s good to run tubulars”, or “it’s good to run a disc”, or “it’s good to run a mile up a steep, greasy hill with your bike on your back”.
Ha Ha! Eat my, um… mud? The strangely compelling seatpost’s eye view of a cyclocross event.
Cyclocross, you see, has been subtly pushed to casual cyclists as a justifiable means of killing a November Saturday by various industry forces over the past three or four years. And the push, it seems, is paying off dividends. Knobby tire manufacturers among the beneficiaries.
As you read this, componentry firms worldwide are also feverishly throwing fortunes at anyone who hints that they can guarantee them a Page One if somebody poses the question “So what’s the best stuff for cycle cross?”
Producers of carbon frames, too, are delighted to have a corner of cycling where they don’t need to hear people continually whining that lugged steel “is so much more, like… you know?”
Nor do they need to push overly hard to get a punter to take a second or third one off their hands.
Because Cyclocross is also a field of Bicycling Endeavour in which Equipment Overload is a clear and unashamed Virtue. This gives Fixed Hobbyists a well-deserved break from their work as Gushing Advocates For The Clean, Simple Minimalism Of Man Locked Via Velcro Straps To Relentlessly Forward-Moving Machine.
Being called “Van-Something” is good for Cyclocross. Unless the something part is “Morrison”.
It’s also an easy sell to any self-respecting Fixed rider from a manhood-questioning perspective. Bike Handling Skills and An Eye For What’s Around The Corner are said to be the Alpha and Omega of Cyclocross, and what is any self-respecting Fixed Rider if not a Problem-Anticipating, Hairpin-Killing, Clairvoyant-on-Wheels, born with the ever-sharpening reflexes of a cat?
Seriously, though, Cyclocross is great stuff. Arguably it was even greater back when its riders mainly sat on leather. Here is a fine translation of a piece by Eugéne Christophe from 1921. He was an early devotee and champion of the sport. He rode a Brooks. Read it, and if you still reckon you want to get a feel for Cyclocross without laying out thousands, take your bike to somewhere mucky and hilly, scout out a lap, and give yourself some sort of a tight deadline. Then reward yourself by taking those thousands on a trip to Boultbee Towers.