I spent a lot of time in my 20’s racing mountain bikes. Then a couple of years ago I thought I found the best cycling sport to ever cross the Atlantic. Short track, dirt, spectators, cyclocross has it all. It also has the very thing that lead me to personally begin to hate the sport: barriers or barricades. Man made reasons to dismount from the bike in the middle of heated battle. Also the very same reason cyclocross racers have to learn to “re-mount” or jump on to a tiny saddle as smoothly as possible while trying not to destroy the very thing making them men, their balls.
I never had great “mounting” skills but in the last race I entered in 2017, I had a terrible mount right in the middle of a lead group. Many other riders hoping over barriers behind me began to slam into me. Their mounts failed as well. I still have the scar on my knee from the impact it took with my left pedal in the pile up. I was off the bike about a week, not up to speed again for a month. For what? A “good time”. Nope. I always HATED the parts of cyclocross races that were man made obstacles forcing me to jump off the bike. Stairs and barriers mostly. So much that I decided I don’t like the sport.
I imagine the interest in cyclocross might be greater if they adopted an even more grass roots approach to the sport, like gravel racing. Here’s what I think would make a truly great off-road cycling sport for all ages. Gravel grinding is not far away from achieving these exact specs with new 25 mile short track series emerging:
- Get rid of UCI and USA Cycling sanctions and license requirements. Who needs the roadie rule elitist tainting off road trail blazing or discouraging participation with licensing fees?
- To hell with man made obstacles. If you want to design the course so people have to dismount and carry a bike do it over natural terrain. Not a couple of 14″ high boards to prance over like fairy.
- Sure keep the course a loop, make it a bit longer. Why not 5 miles instead of 2.5 and a couple of laps instead of 3 or four?
- While you get rid of the UCI and USA Cycling rules let them take their equipment limitations with them. Want to run 40c tires? Fine. Want to ride flat bars? Bring ’em. Bring your fat bike or a tricycle. Who cares as long as you think it’s equipment that gives you an advantage in the race.
Like I said, short track gravel series are getting close to these specs so next year I’m taking any money I would give USA Cycling and heading towards the true grass roots gravel series. Anyone who wants to put up what I call “prancing boards” for men to risk their manhood over can and will certainly argue how much fun it is. Likely they’ll just downplay my skill at dismounting and jumping back in the saddle or the fact I can’t bunny hop 14″ high boards without risking hospitalization. I don’t give a damn. I’m not doing it because I don’t think it’s fun and it hurts me to watch grown men in an aggressive dirt sport prance over two little boards as much as it hurts them when they have a bad “mount”. Prancing and mounting have no place in dirt cycling.