It’s true, I know a lot about bikes. Not nearly as much as my husband, Jonathan Seibold, owner of Family Bike Shop, but enough to be able to confidently sell and teach others about bicycles, perform custom bicycle fits, and carry on a (short) conversation with a bike geek.
Strangely enough, before this past summer, I had only ridden with my family occasionally on short, slow rides. But as I’ve reached my late 30s, I suddenly have this quest to become active and competitive, and I have truly been enjoying myself. That’s why when the “Rookie” category in this year’s DCCX (DC Cyclocross) race was mentioned, in addition to the Women’s Specific Cyclocross Clinic, I jumped at the chance to move from spectator to newbie racer.
Cyclocross, a form of bicycle racing, is wildly popular in Europe. Similar to the steeplechase, there are many obstacles for the cyclist to negotiate, requiring the rider to quickly dismount, carry and remount the bike while maneuvering around several laps on an approximate 1.5- to 2-mile course of wooded trails, grass, sand, pavement and steep hills.
The racer rides a bike specific to the sport, lightweight and similar in looks to a road bike, but with knobby tires and wider brake calipers to allow for mud, snow, etc.
The unique culture of cyclocross becomes addicting. While watching all levels of competitors - from rookie to pro - navigate these technically challenging and physically demanding courses, which are frequently designed in area parks and family-friendly venues (even circumventing children’s playgrounds), these events seem more like a party. Music, food, beer (as is customary in Belgium) and friendship are combined as the courses loop around continuously, resulting in the perfect spectator sport.
Prior to the race, I acquired a Raleigh RXC Cyclocross bike and began to practice quickly mounting and dismounting the bike. It all sounds much easier than it is. I fell dozens of times, but thankfully this type of racing is mostly done on grass, so no harm done. I did improve, but I sure have a long way to go.
When race day came, I decided to try the category 4/beginner women's race, and I got about a quarter of the way through the first lap and had a major mechanical problem I couldn't fix. Unfortunately, I had to drop out of the race. I did retry later in the day in the mixed men/women rookie race. How did I do? I placed 44th out of 45! I didn't get last!
Jonathan and the other racers from the Family Bike Shop-sponsored DCMTB team made it all look elementary. I can only describe it as doing something that makes your heart pound to its limit, then continuing to do it for another 30 plus minutes without a break while thinking about every movement you and others make. Insanity! Fun! I had a great time and I’ll do it again.
Cyclocross season is in the fall and winter. Our area offers many races through the mid-Atlantic Bicycle Racing Association (MABRA). Already this fall, we have attended races in Upper Marlboro, D.C., Davidsonville and Baltimore. The next area race, Rockburn Cx, is scheduled for November 18 in Elkridge, Maryland.
In addition, the 2013 Cyclocross World Championships is coming to Louisville, Kentucky. This is a historic first - Cx Worlds have never taken place outside of Europe. Want to try racing or join the party? Check out www.bikereg.com and click on “Cyclocross” or stop by Family Bike Shop in Crofton for information and a large selection of cyclocross bikes.