Cyclocross (often abbreviated to 'Cross) is generally an autumn and winter sport through October, November and December. Massed starts make for exciting races, usually no more than an hour in length – and shorter for juniors, women and veterans. There are usually free-to-enter races for younger riders. Some organisers are now running summer series, which are proving very popular. Within your category you can expect to be pitched in with a wide range of abilities.
Local races have a relaxed, informal atmosphere and entries are usually accepted on the day. Mountain bikes are welcome at most races and the non-technical nature of the courses means that almost anyone can take part and enjoy a race.
Races are usually multi-lap events, held on short (typically less than a mile) grassy courses, generally in public parks or local fields. Less technically demanding than mountain biking, cyclocross often requires riders to dismount to clear artificial obstacles such as wooden boards. The ability to swap smoothly and quickly from riding to running and back to riding in one fluid motion is a key skill for advanced riders.
The short laps mean that better riders often lap slower competitors, but that’s not the end of the race – you can still submerge yourself in the action, enjoy your own private battles and forget whether you are first or a hundred and first – that’s the beauty of the sport: it’s what you make of it that counts. Cyclocross is used by many road and mountain bike competitors to maintain their fitness during the winter.