Why do I suck so badly at cross?

Especially for light weight issues concerning cyclocross / touring bikes & parts.

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chiltonp
Posts: 118
Joined: Fri May 01, 2009 8:48 pm

by chiltonp

Serious question, it's my first season and i'm doing horrible! I'm enjoying myself but finishing my races at the back of a pack.

I've never been a road racer but don't consider myself a slow rider. My roadie friends who are doing cross for the first season as well are getting top 10 finishes while I am placing 30th. These are guys who am I as fast or faster than on the road generally.

What gives? I have determined that I DO NOT know how to properly corner, as a lose lots of ground in most turns. Also, on the road I generally spin a very small gear, this does not seem to work as well on CX. Should I train pushing a bigger gear? I don't get that much time on the week to train, how can I get faster? What are good ways to practice cornering?

Any advise would be appreciated.

by Weenie


LeePaton
Posts: 217
Joined: Sat Jan 21, 2012 6:34 pm

by LeePaton

Cornering is all confidence. Just go out on the bike and hit corners as fast as you can, repeat, repeat... Repeat.

As for gearing bigger gears as a rule of thumb are quicker... If you keep the same cadence.

BSUdude
Posts: 15
Joined: Wed Apr 04, 2012 1:26 pm

by BSUdude

There's a lot of variables in this question to answer and I'm sure others will chime in. Tires and tire pressure are EXTREMELY IMPORTANT in cyclocross. What pressures are you running your tires at? Are you on clinchers or tubulars?

One way to get better at cornering is just to go out in the grass, pick two trees (or stakes or some obstacle) and practice going around them. Work on coming in fast, braking at the last possible moment, picking the fastest line through the corner, then hammering it out of the corner on the other side. Take a bike pump and experiment with tire pressure while doing this. Keep doing it faster until you inevitably lose control. Yes you'll hit the ground but it's not like you'll be going 20mph through the corner, and its only grass anyhow. Besides, you've probably hit the deck during a race anyway, and if you haven't yet you will when it gets muddy.

Take a bike pump and experiment with tire pressure while doing this. Your weight, type of tires, course conditions, and personal preference will affect the optimal/best tire pressure for you, but this will give you an baseline for you to go off of for your next race.

Also make sure you pre-ride the course at least once before you race, more times if possible. This will make you better prepared to know how to ride the course during the heat of battle when you're oxygen deprived and bumping elbows with other racers.

Good luck. Cross is awesome.

Enda Marron
Posts: 345
Joined: Sun Nov 10, 2002 6:03 pm
Location: Belfast

by Enda Marron

I can empathise with you - I am a reasonable road cyclist but am CRAP at cx but I enjoy it
Why - various reasons
1. Bike set up - I am still experimenting with my set up some things are good and I keep some are not good and I change eg I am about to ditch the top levers and possibly go single front ring at 38tooth. Also tyre pressure is crucial and I am learning slowly
2. Weight - I tend to put on too many kg over the winter despite good training and especially October - December this excess weight is slowing me down
3. Training - In my case CX is a training session - I ride 50kM on the road two hours before the CX race and also I do not taper for races I just stick to an arduous Winter plan and I am often quite tired at CX races
4. I aint a CXer - I do not have a MTB background; I'm a reasonable road cyclist with a good endurance sport pedigree. I accept that I do not have the skillset for CX and that the only way I can improve is to keep on doing it and accepting that this is not my #1 sport but I enjoy it and do it for fun and for the training benefits it will give me in the things that I do want/try to win
5. Fear - I broke my collarbone at CX last year so I am reluctant to take the chances that are necessary to make time. I do not want to go through a broken bone again so I err on the side of caution
I do find it difficult racing to complete rather than to compete but in being able to accept reality and not fighting an impossible battle I am gaining confidence and skills, having fun and improving with each CX race - eventually I will get there and win

availpunk9
Posts: 156
Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 1:15 am

by availpunk9

It's exactly the opposite for me. Riders who consistently are stronger/faster than me on the road, I generally destroy... Cross needs a good engine, but great technique can help ohh so much. Go and practice what was mentioned above: cornering, carries, finding the fastest line, setting up bike for right conditions, etx. It's marginal gains on everything, but it all adds up in the end.

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Tinea Pedis
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Location: Geelong
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by Tinea Pedis

Enda Marron wrote:I broke my collarbone at CX last year so I am reluctant to take the chances that are necessary to make time. I do not want to go through a broken bone again so I err on the side of caution

Just curious on what happened to leave you with a busted collar bone?

I'm just coming off of having one (from road), am keen to get into CX next winter (Aussie) however also super keen to avoid another busted collar bone :(

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jmilliron
Posts: 2014
Joined: Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:03 pm
Location: San Francisco Peninsula

by jmilliron

Seat is probably too high.
2013 Wilier Cento1 SR || 2009 Ridley Crossbow || 2011 Yeti AS-R 5 Carbon

thisisatest
Shop Owner
Posts: 1980
Joined: Sat Jun 13, 2009 4:02 am
Location: NoVA/DC

by thisisatest

for cornering, a big thing is people will focus in on the corner itself, or the apex. you really ought to look further out- once the corner is 10feet from you, move your head and look 10 to 20feet out the other end of the corner. its amazing how well this works. besides helping you ignore little details in the corner that dont actually matter, you tend to place your center of balance wherever youre looking.
other possible reasons for you sucking so bad are:
it takes maximum effort from the gun, so make sure you warm up thoroughly.
also bc of the max effort, if all season youve been king of the bike tours and your friends have been racing crits, theyve got their bodies trained for the intensity. you could have your body trained for a 4hour cross race that doesnt exist.

good luck.

Frans
Posts: 550
Joined: Wed Jan 25, 2006 8:32 pm
Location: Bow of a Farr 40

by Frans

I've found that some courses are better than others for me. Courses where I can use my roadie skills which are lighter on silly dis-mounts and run ups etc. are for me 100%. Courses which are slippery where you have to get off 3x per lap are the bane of my life. I hate these and should really give up riding them.

The comment about conditioning for a 1 hour race is too true. I'm great over 5-6 hours but less so over 1. At the end August there are some 2-3 hour CX Enduros where I did a lot better b/c they were like road or MTB XC races.

Do at least 45 mins of hard warm up and reach your peak 2-3 times in that 45 mins. Then rest for 10-15 mins before the start and have a big gulp of juice and gel or something.

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euan
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Joined: Sat Sep 05, 2009 11:20 am

by euan

Tinea Pedis wrote:I'm just coming off of having one (from road), am keen to get into CX next winter (Aussie) however also super keen to avoid another busted collar bone :(


Just don't fall off Nick ;)

We've had a couple of broken collarbones in the last few rounds of SCX but that is mainly down to inappropriate cornering/getting some air and stuffing the landing. If you are sensible it ain't going to happen.
"Step forward the climber and all those who worship at the altar of lightness" - R. Millar

LeePaton
Posts: 217
Joined: Sat Jan 21, 2012 6:34 pm

by LeePaton

Scottish Cyclocross?

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euan
Posts: 1493
Joined: Sat Sep 05, 2009 11:20 am

by euan

Aye
"Step forward the climber and all those who worship at the altar of lightness" - R. Millar

LeePaton
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Joined: Sat Jan 21, 2012 6:34 pm

by LeePaton

Awesome, racing this weekend?

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euan
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Joined: Sat Sep 05, 2009 11:20 am

by euan

Not in Knockburn sadly can't get up there so I'm going to give myself a kicking for a hour in the local park. Back at it for Paisley.
"Step forward the climber and all those who worship at the altar of lightness" - R. Millar

bc sparks
Posts: 57
Joined: Fri Jun 20, 2008 9:42 pm

by bc sparks

A friend of mine has a really big engine on the road and can beat me by minutes in time trials and he can keep a pretty quick pace for hours, but I have lapped him in several cross races. He's good at time trialing so that's all he wants to train for, I try to get him to practice cx skills and do acceleration workouts but he tried a couple, and they hurt, so he goes back to the training that he's good at, and year after year he's at the back of the pack racing to not be last place. Cyclocross takes specific skills and specific fitness needs, and practice and training needs to be specific to needs.

thisisatest's advice is very good. Looking through the corner and 10 - 20 feet down the course has helped me a lot in keeping speed through corners. Look where you want to go and your body and bike will follow your eyes. Also, as you're practicing cornering and in your first races, using a tire with a pretty aggressive tread that won't slide around can help you build your confidence.

Maybe you could do some cx practice with your buddies that are at the front of the race. Watch how they corner, then follow them through the corners and try to stay as close as you can, and when you come off their wheel in the corner, straighten out as quick as you can and sprint back to their wheel. This will help build your technique and some of the cx specific fitness you need for racing.

by Weenie


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