I remember in the late 90’s when cyclocross was first getting started in Canada. It was when mountain biking was at its height and organisers were encouraging everyone with a bike to come along and give it a go. After a while a “Cross Bike Only” category was established and by the time we knew it things had taken off. We had a provincial series, a National Championship, and riders were even starting to go over to Europe to have a crack.

I’m seeing many similarities with the way cyclocross is starting to form here. Organisers are encouraging everyone to come and have some fun on whatever type of bike they have. Some clubs are offering prizes for things like “most inappropriate bike” and “most outlandish costume” just to throw some fun into the mix. We’re seeing everything from riders dressed in Spiderman outfits on mountainbikes to super Euro-PRO cyclocrossers dressed in skin suits only a step away from superhero costumes. I think it’s fantastic to see!

Photo courtesy of Fyxomatosis. (Also, check out his Colnago bar stool)

In the early stages of cyclocross as we’re in now the sport has a real DIY spirit to it. Not many people go out and spend thousands on cyclocross specific bikes so people are building up old road bikes with all the odd bits laying around in the garage and throwing a set of knobbies on. Some are obviously giving it a red hot crack, but for the most part nothing is being taken too seriously and it’s more of a festival with BBQ’s, beer and a lot of laughs. This is what cyclocross is all about and from what I understand is what the races used to be like in the old days of outdoor track racing.

Personally I would absolutely love to see cyclocross take off here in Australia. It’s gone absolutely mad in the US and has been massive in Europe for decades. There are a big few problems I can think of that may limit its popularity however:

  • It would be difficult to align the European cyclocross season with and Australian series. This would be our spring time (Sept – Dec) where the weather is warm, our massive crit season is starting, and there is very little mud to run around in. Aligning the seasons isn’t essential, but I think that the excitement of following the pro circuit would help cyclocross become infectious here.
  • There are no breaks in-between our various cycling seasons. Crit season goes right into road and MTB season and the race calendar is chock-a-block full all year around. With road or MTB races on throughout winter, would there be enough riders left to make up a competitive cyclocross scene?  One reason cyclocross is so popular in Europe and North America is because once September comes there are very few options for mountain bike or road races. If you want to keep racing your bike there, cross is your only option.
  • Our weather – it’s too good. Melbourne may be an exception, but the sheer nature of cyclocross is all about racing your bike when the weather gets too unpleasant to ride on the road.

After talking with one of the race organisers (Brendan from DirtyDeedsCX) a few things that need to happen to get cyclocross to the next level:

  • Cyclocross clinics need to be held to teach people how to race properly. There’s a fair amount of technique involved with cyclocross racing and “how to dismount” youtube videos only go so far.
  • State championships need to be held so it’s seen as legitimate and not a festival of mountain bikers and fixies.
  • Bikeshops and distributors need to support the local cyclocross scene. They are the ones with the most to gain out of cyclocross taking off.  SRAM and Jamis have gotten behind the Melbourne series and have done a fantastic job with their support. Or perhaps Wiggle and PBK should be the ones supporting this and giving back to our local scene??? Let’s not get into that debate again…

I want cyclocross to succeed here in Australia. A competitive series would be a great alternative to the other forms of racing which usually take the full day and require driving out to some remote location. Wouldn’t it be nice to keep things fresh with a cyclocross option?

Australian Cyclocross Resources

One of the best central resources I’ve found on cyclocross in Australia is the Facebook page “Cyclocross Australia“. Love the logo guys!

Victoria: Dirty Deeds Cyclocross Series,  and some good photos on ah_blake’s photostream

New South Wales: Illawarra Cycling Club

Queensland: Ipswich Cyclocross, The Jaman Files, Ipswich Cycling Club, and RoadGrime (need login ID)

If you want to see how much fun it is zipping around the trails on your road bike, this video should give you a taste: