It’s at this time of year that I annually remind myself how much fun can be had on a cyclo-cross bike.
After a summer of sportives, racing and, well, trying to ride fast, the shortening days and falling temperatures of autumn can bring on an early bout of Seasonal Affective Disorder for cyclists.
But it needn’t be that way as the end of summer marks the start of the cyclo-cross season.
‘Cross is an undervalued discipline. The racing is accessible but fast and frantic (and painful), providing a shot in the arm to any winter training schedule. More than that, however, being out on the ‘cross bike is just damn good fun.
I took the Cannondale CAADX Disc which is currently at RoadCyclingUK for review for its maiden ride on Friday, sneaking in a ‘cross session after work when a road ride would otherwise have seemed futile.
When the skies are grey and the rain is falling, there’s no substitute for hacking around the woods on a ‘cross machine, sliding the bike around corners, slopping through the mud and grinning from ear-to-ear.
The versatility of a cyclo-cross bike – and the market for do-it-all ‘cross bikes is a fast-growing one – means you can jump from trails, to tarmac, to towpath, and stitch together a two hour ride when motivation to head out for another road ride in the rain may be low.
It’s a skills sharpener, too. Eyes fixed firmly on the trail ahead and pedals turning quickly, cyclo-cross focuses the mind and you must trust the bike, learning how it responds beneath you on different terrain, eking every last bit of grip from the tyres – sometimes pushing it too far – and going that bit harder as you set out for “just one more lap” of the woods.
Just one more lap, just one more lap, just one more lap, and by then it’s nearly dark and time to go home.