what is a cyclocross course

by Irwin Willms 9 min read

Typical cyclocross courses are 1.5- to 2-mile loops on a mix of paved and off-road surfaces over flat-to-rolling terrain. Usually, races lasts an hour plus a lap.

Full Answer

How to start cyclocross?

Tips for Getting Started:

  • Get a bike. Ok, you don’t really need a specific CX bike to try it out. ...
  • Practice skills. Cyclocross is filled with elements not typically encountered on your average road or mountain bike ride. ...
  • Experiment with tires and pressures. There is a reason why pros show up to CX races with a quiver of tire choices. ...
  • Play in the mud. ...
  • Just do it. ...

How to prepare for a cyclocross race?

Prepare the morning of the race.

  • Check your bike for problems one last time. Adjust tire pressure if necessary.
  • Register as soon as you can to avoid a line.
  • Warm up before the race begins.
  • Move to the start line once you notice a group forming, so you can get a good position.

How to train for cyclocross?

Cyclocross Training for Beginners – Key Learning Points. Builds on your endurance base from summer road riding. Session 3 – Bursts of 20 sec on and 10 off for 5 minutes (3 per session) Build hill running into your off road cyclocross training sessions. Condition your legs to switching from running to riding.

How to race cyclocross?

How to use a VPN

  1. Download and install a VPN - as we say, our top choice is ExpressVPN
  2. Connect to the appropriate server location - open the VPN app, hit 'choose location' and select the appropriate location.
  3. Go to the broadcaster's stream - head to your home broadcaster's site or app and watch as if you were at home - so that might be UCI YouTube ...

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What is a cyclocross route?

Also known simply as “'cross,” cyclocross involves riding a drop-bar bike very similar to a road bike over a relatively short racecourse featuring a combination of rough terrain—such as deep mud, sand, rocks, and even snow—for several repeating laps.

How does a cyclocross race work?

Cyclocross races are typically 40 minutes to 1 hour long, they're run over short circuits with each lap being 1 to 3 kilometres long. Competitors start in a bunch and spread out - the faster riders will complete more laps and commissars (or timing chips) keep a track of who is where.

What is the meaning of cyclocross?

Definition of cyclo-cross : the sport of racing bicycles over rough terrain that usually requires carrying the bicycle over obstacles.

What is the difference between cyclocross and road?

Cyclocross bikes are used for cyclocross events while road bikes are used for road racing events. The events dictate the design and function of each bike. For example, the cyclocross bike must be light and durable because the cyclocross event is filled with many obstacles or in an obstacle race setting.

How long is a cyclocross course?

1.5- to 2-mileThe Course Typical cyclocross courses are 1.5- to 2-mile loops on a mix of paved and off-road surfaces over flat-to-rolling terrain. Usually, races lasts an hour plus a lap.

What is the difference between cyclo-cross and mountain biking?

They are typically differentiated by their greater tire clearances, lower gearing, stronger frames, cantilever brakes or disc brakes and more upright riding position. They also share characteristics with mountain bicycles in that they use knobby tread tires for traction and, increasingly, disc brakes.

What's the difference between gravel bike and cyclocross?

Most gravel bikes feature a more relaxed geometry than cyclocross bikes, designed for days of riding rather than an hour or so, and for tackling rougher trails. This enhanced emphasis on comfort tends to give a shorter reach and more upright body position.

Why is cyclocross a winter sport?

Why not? Cyclo-cross is a winter sport. It began as a means for road cyclists to exercise during winter. But it's become a sport in its own right, recognized by cycling's governing body, the UCI, which holds an annual world championship every winter.

What are cyclocross bikes good for?

Cyclocross bikes are designed to be raced on cyclocross courses, which can often include a variety of terrains such as mud, sand, rocks, and even snow. They also include run-up sections that require racers to dismount their bike, as well as barriers that must be jumped over either by dismounting or bunny-hopping.

Can you ride cyclocross on a road bike?

So according to that formula, we'd never discourage you from buying a road bike too. In all seriousness though, it's perfectly acceptable to ride your cyclocross bike as a road bike and just use a spare set of wheels with narrower road tires.

Can you ride a cyclocross bike on trails?

4:477:18Riding a Cyclocross/Gravel Bike on Trails - YouTubeYouTubeStart of suggested clipEnd of suggested clipPosition when you're riding a cross bike on trails typically. I stay on the hoods of the bicycle.MorePosition when you're riding a cross bike on trails typically. I stay on the hoods of the bicycle. That's because I really want to have access to the brakes. At. All times I want to cover the brakes.

Can cyclocross go off-road?

Cyclocross is a bike racing discipline that involves riding a drop-handlebar bike on a short, off-road course, usually in a park or similar. Courses include features like mud, sandpits, barriers and steps or slopes too steep to ride, forcing riders to run, as well as easier sections.

How long is a cyclocross course?

Courses are typically 2.5-3.5km (1.5-2 miles) long with lots of turns and myriad obstacles.

What is a cyclocross bike?

Cyclo-cross equipment. Somewhere between a road bike and a mountain bike came the birth of the cyclo-cross bike. A cyclo-cross bike’s frame and handlebars look a lot like a road bike’s – light, sleek, and agile, cyclo-cross bikes rip through the mud and rail corners from tape to tape.

How many times do you have to hop off your bike?

On more forgiving courses, you may only have to hop off your bike once per lap to run over the barriers. A cyclo-cross-style dismount is another discipline-specific skill that goes something like this: the rider unclips one foot as they approach the barriers. Rider then slows down for the barriers (if necessary), ...

What is cyclocross lap racing?

Cyclo-cross is a unique cycling discipline with varying terrain and obstacles packed onto a short, twisting, often-muddy course, where riders sprint full gas from start to finish in a fast and furious action-packed ...

Why is the start of a cyclocross race important?

The start is absolutely critical in cyclo-cross because the narrow and twisting course will quickly cause major gaps between the riders from first to last. Riders zig and zag throughout the course, quickly forming a very long line of suffering cyclists. Cyclo-cross races are short and action-packed, with beginner-level races starting ...

How far apart are the barriers in cyclocross?

Barriers are the most well-known cyclo-cross obstacle – consisting of two planks set 4-6m (13-20ft) apart, these barriers cover the width of the course and force riders to either dismount or, for the brave and skilled, hop over them.

How long is the average lap time in a race?

Because course layouts and conditions vary so much, lap times can be as short as six minutes and sometimes over ten minutes.

Gear idea

Off-road shoes – be they cyclocross, gravel or mountain bike shoes – are essential.

Ring the changes

Some riders prefer a 1x setup for cyclocross racing, but it’s not essential.

Low and wide

Cyclocross tyres come in a huge range of styles to suit all conditions.

What is a cyclocross race?

Cyclo-cross ( cyclocross, CX, cyclo-X or 'cross) is a form of bicycle racing. Races typically take place in the autumn and winter (the international or "World Cup" season is October–February), and consist of many laps of a short (2.5–3.5 km or 1.5–2 mile) course featuring pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles requiring ...

When is cyclocross season?

Cyclocross is typically an autumn and winter sport, the northern hemisphere season running from September to February. The World Championships take place in late January. The Canada championships are held in November with the USA and UK championships held in January.

What gearing do you need for a cyclocross bike?

Many cyclo-cross bicycles are now set up with a single chainring and chain "drop" guards. A single chainring setup simplifies mechanics and reduces the chance of the chain derailing on a bumpy course. People who do run a double chain-ring set up on their bicycles generally use a 36-46 gearing.

How long is a mountain bike race?

Generally each lap is around 2.5-3.5 km and is 90% rideable. Races run under UCI rules must have courses that are always at least 3 m wide to encourage passing at any opportunity, but sections of singletrack are common for small races in the US and Great Britain. A variety of terrain is typical, ranging from roads to paths with short steep climbs, off camber sections, many corners and, a defining feature, sections where the rider may need, or would be best advised to dismount and run while carrying the bike. Under-tire conditions include asphalt, hardpack dirt, grass, mud and sand. In comparison to cross-country mountain bike events, terrain is smoother. Less emphasis is put on negotiating rough or even rocky ground with more stress on increased speed and negotiating different types of technical challenges.

Why are single speed cyclocross bikes so popular?

In addition, single speed cyclo-cross bikes are becoming increasingly popular for a variety of reasons, including lower initial cost of setup, ease of use and maintenance, and decreased likelihood of mechanical failure on the course.

What is the clothing for cyclocross?

Clothing is similar to that of road racing. However, since cyclo-cross is a cold-weather sport there is an emphasis toward warmer clothing such as long sleeves, tights, knickers and arm and leg warmers.

When was the first cyclocross championship?

The first United States Cyclo-cross National Championships took place on October 20, 1963 in Palos Park, IL, near Chicago. These championships in the midwest continued until 1969. Cyclo-cross began to become popular in the United States in the 1970s, in New England and California.

What is Cyclocross?

Cyclocross is a unique form of racing that combines some aspects of road racing and mountain biking. The races take place over a short course that typically includes stretches of grass, sand, and pavement, with obstacles dispersed in between.

Fitness Demands for Cyclocross

Cyclocross is more than a test of who has the highest FTP or the ability to ride at threshold the longest. Courses are specifically designed to slow you down, whether it’s barriers, sand, run-ups, or tight turns. These speed checks result in repeated accelerations.

Cyclocross Training Plan

A cyclocross training plan prepares you for the varied nature of cyclocross racing by targeting high-end sustainable power, the ability to generate high force at low cadences, and the development of repeated, high-power outputs following little if any recovery.

Cyclocross Workouts

Here are some examples of the workouts you can expect to find in a cyclocross training plan. If you’re not ready for a training plan or need some extra flexibility, you could even use TrainNow to select Attacking workouts that are intelligently recommended based on your current fitness.

Cyclocross Skills and Drills

Aside from the fitness demands, cyclocross is uniquely known for a wide variety of course obstacles. These can include barriers, sandpits, stairs, or run-ups, with most requiring you to dismount and run. For beginners, the most important skill to develop is a smooth dismount and remount.

Cyclocross Dismount Tips

Make sure the pedal tension isn’t set too high. It may help to loosen it some, to help to clip out and back in.

Equipment For Cyclocross

For many cyclocross series, race rules allow for a wide variety of bikes. So if you don’t have a dedicated ‘cross bike, don’t worry because you’re likely to see some gravel and mountain bikes at a local race.

A guide to cyclocross basics including race formats, bike specifics, and more

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How and when did cyclocross start?

The origins of ‘cross are shrouded in mystery. Most cycling historians agree that the discipline started in the early years of the twentieth century.

What are the race formats?

Cyclocross races are short and intense. Senior men’s races are generally just over one hour (the time of the first lap is used to calculate the total number of laps) and women’s races are 50 minutes. Races for riders in younger categories are slightly shorter.

What is a typical cyclocross course?

Races take place on a circuit of between 2.5km and 3.5km, with a mixture of surfaces including grass, mud, sand, gravel, tarmac. The regulations say that 90 percent of the course has to be rideable, but this is rarely enforced.

How is a cyclocross bike different from a road bike?

They share the same DNA but cyclocross bikes have evolved to suit the demands of the discipline. The most obvious difference is the tires: Knobbly tires are essential, and racers can become obsessive about matching their tread pattern to the conditions. For beginners, there are multi-purpose tires that work perfectly well on most courses.

How do I get started with cyclocross racing?

If you want to give it a go, track down your local cycling club and they will be able to point you in the direction of your nearest cyclocross league. Leagues are usually regional and hold races most weekends between September and January, so you’ll soon get to know your fellow competitors.

How long is a cyclocross course?

Cyclocross courses generally consist of repeated laps of a short (1-4 km) course. Official UCI sanctioned race courses must be between 2.5 and 3.5 km in length, but local or non-official races will often be slightly shorter or longer than this. Official UCI regulations state that at least 90% of the course must be rideable, with the other 10% (or less) being barriers, stairs, run-ups, etc. that are not passable on the bike. Local races will tend to have similar proportions, although often much more than 90% of the course is rideable. Courses that meet UCI regulations must be at least 3 meters wide in all places to allow for passing. This is the regulation that is most often ignored in smaller races, and you will find some races that include narrow single-track or tight sections on sidewalks. These sections add to the excitement, so unless you’re in a UCI race, enjoy it!

What is cyclocross race?

Cyclocross, also known as ‘cross or cx is often described as “mountain biking on a road bike.” This description seems to please most non-cyclists, who often walk away with a silly grin (or very confused look) on their faces. However, we committed roadies will want some more details. Cyclocross is similar to mountain biking in some ways in that it takes place on a variety of surfaces, not just asphalt. However, it is almost always much less “technical” than mountain biking; you are unlikely to see rock gardens or drop-offs on a cyclocross course for example. You’ll learn more about what to expect from the course and terrain in the “What to expect at your first race” section, below. On the other hand, cyclocross is similar to road cycling as well, since the bikes look (especially to non-cyclists) a lot like a typical road bike, with drop bars and rigid suspension, while races are organized more like criteriums than a typical mountain bike race.

How does cyclocross help you?

Not only will racing cyclocross help you maintain your fitness, it can help you improve your fitness. Since cyclocross involves very intense effort and some serious muscling on some of the steeper climbs or through mud pits, you’ll develop more power, strength, speed and intensity, which is certainly going to be evident when you’re back on the road. After all, power meters are now almost “standard issue” for serious roadies, so a fun way to increase power in the off season should be too! If you’re a time trial rider, you’ll have a good feel for the short, intense effort that’s required in cyclocross. However, one main difference is that you won’t be putting out a constant effort as you do in a time trial; instead, your effort level will be ever-changing as you mount/dismount, run up hills, slog through mud, and hammer on the grass.

What is a run up in cyclocross?

Almost all cyclocross courses will contain at least one run-up. A run-up is a short, steep section of hill that is unrideable, and thus must be run. In most cases, this is a result of the steepness of the hill, the muddiness (and thus slipperiness), or the presence of a barrier at the bottom which forces a dismount. Some run-ups may result from the combination of two or more of these reasons. In general, you’ll want to portage (shoulder) your bike on run-ups, although on shorter run-ups, you can push your bike beside you as you run. Try both options during your warmup to see which is fastest given the specifics of the course.

What are fly overs in race?

These structures allow a course to cross over itself, and consist of a set of ramps forming a bridge over another section of the race course. Many fly-overs are steep, and require speed to climb! Since courses are often created in small parks, fly-overs allow organizers to cram more course into a smaller space by crossing it over itself.

What is a corkscrew in golf?

Courses will sometimes incorporate corkscrews, which are sharp, twisting spiral turns that force riders to maintain speed and control. They will generally be taped or fenced off to ensure riders follow the course.

Is cyclocross racing easy?

By racing cyclocross even at a non-competitive “easy” level, you’ll do wonders in maintaining your fitness so you can start off the next season stronger and faster than ever before.

How many stakes do you need for a cyclocross race?

typical cyclocross course is 2.5 – 3.5 km in length. That means that you may need 1000 – 2000 stakes. Stakes can also be broken during crashes. You should have extra stakes available on race day.

How many lanes are there in the golf course?

The start line is at the front, and eight lanes. Course tape and stakes limit access. The barrel in the background has been placed behind the grid to create a gate for call-ups.

What tools are needed to build a golf course?

Assuming that the course is mostly complete, the following tools may be required: Gas powered weed-eaters.

Can a cyclocross cross be wet?

The surface of a cyclocross cross can be quite variable, but certain conditions should be avoided: rocky ground or heavily rooted ground, too much soft, grassy or mulchy ground, which when dry tends to be too bouncy and when wet turns into a complete quagmire. Some is good, but an entire course of it is

Is cyclocross a sport?

Cyclocross is a unique bicycle sport. It is not a variation of either mountain biking or road racing. There are some common aspects of both those sports in cyclocross, but it is a mistake to view cyclocross with

Can you feed in a cyclocross race?

Not really a course design issue, but if feeding is to occur, it will be done in the pits. Feeding is not permitted in USA Cycling-sanctioned cyclocross races unless specifically authorized by the chief referee. No feeding is allowed the first 2 or last 2 laps, so a race needs to be at least 5 laps long for feeding to



Cyclo-cross (cyclocross, CX, cyclo-X or 'cross) is a form of bicycle racing. Races typically take place in the autumn and winter (the international or "World Cup" season is October–February), and consist of many laps of a short (2.5–3.5 km or 1.5–2 mile) course featuring pavement, wooded trails, grass, steep hills and obstacles requiring the rider to quickly dismount, carry the bike while navigatin…

Origins and history

There are many stories about the origins of cyclo-cross. One is that European road racers in the early 1900s would race each other to the next town over from them and that they were allowed to cut through farmers' fields or over fences, or take any other shortcuts, in order to make it to the next town first. This was sometimes called steeple chase as the only visible landmark in the next town was often the steeple. This was a way for them to stay in shape during the winter months …

Racing seasons

Cyclocross is typically an autumn and winter sport, the northern hemisphere season running from September to February. The World Championships take place in late January. The Canada championships are held in November with the US and UK championships held in January. In the United States, there is little racing after that except in states with year-round warm climates such as Florida and California. The cyclocross racing season within southern hemisphere nations typi…


Cyclo-cross bicycles generally resemble road racing bicycles. Cyclo-cross-specific frames differ with their wider tire clearances, knobby tires, cantilever or disc brakes, and lower gearing. Cables are generally routed on the upper side of the top tube, which allows the rider to carry the bike comfortably on the right shoulder through portage sections, and prevents cable contamination by dirt. Popular on many cyclocross bikes is routing the brakes so that the right brake is often the fr…


Races usually consist of many laps over a short course, ending when a time limit is reached, rather than after a specific number of laps or certain distance; the typical length for senior events is one hour, with 30 and 45 minute races for lower categories being the norm. Generally each lap is around 2.5-3.5 km and is 90% rideable. Races run under UCI rules must have courses that are always at least 3 m wide to encourage passing at any opportunity, but sections of singletrack ar…


Although cyclo-cross courses are less technical than those of mountain biking, each particular obstacle requires specific technical abilities of competitors. For example, dirt single-track and streams (like in mountain biking) are also sometimes integrated into the course, depending on the location, both of which require rider experience and technique. Some course sections are extremely muddy, wet or even snowy in the winter, and others are dusty and sandy. Most of thes…

Major series and races

• UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships
• UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup
• National Cyclo-cross Championships
• Superprestige (Europe)

See also

• Gravel cycling