Here are some helpful tidbits of information to help you along the way. Knowing this stuff ahead of time will help you focus on doing fun things like riding your bike.
Keep in mind cyclocross is a super chill and fun way to get into bike racing. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of racing. Think of it more as a really fun (albeit intense!) bike ride with your friends almost every weekend followed by some beer drinking and merriment.
Step 1: Join a team! Hopefully you are not a woefully introverted person who hates social interaction. That would make CX really not fun. Pick a team that you know some folks on- we are partial to the Happy Coffee team and we’d love to have you join us. Teams usually charge a membership fee that goes to stuff like jerseys, BBQ supplies for race day, and a slush fund to make the team tent/rest area super pimp. Most teams form in the late summer.
Teams usually offer some deals on bikes and other stuff you might need to race. You will also have the opportunity to purchase additional team apparel. We’ll get more into the stuff you need in a minute.
Teams like Happy Coffee also offer team practices and clinics that are a great way to learn the ropes. If you go to a team practice with another team and nobody offers to help you out come join Happy Coffee. Our crew ranges from seasoned vets to total newbies and everyone is very helpful so just ask if you need a lesson or a tip!
Step 2: Get a racing license. Most CX races in the Front Range are licensed by the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado (BRAC). You can get a one-day license at most races for around $10, but if you plan on doing more than a handful of races you will save money by purchasing an annual license. Plus you get to look super cool when you open your wallet at the bar and look like a studly bike racer type because of your license. Visit www.coloradocycling.org to sign up. It will run you about $100.
Step 3: Sort out a bike. Believe it or not you don’t even need a cyclocross bike to start cyclocross racing. You can race on a mountain bike that doesn’t have bar ends, but FYI you’ll eventually want to transition to a cyclocross bike. Depending on your budget look into what sort of team deals you will get on a bike or pick up something used on CraigsList or at VeloSwap. You can spend anywhere from $500 to $5,000 on a bike.
Step 4: Pick your races! Racing season gets started in September and really get busy from there until late December. The BRAC has a great calendar on that website where you got your license. Pour over it and pick the ones that sound fun. Each race has a race flyer that gives detailed times of race start times and directions.
Step 5: RACE! If you are a beginner you are in either the beginner category (some races have a specific class) or category 4. There are different category 4 groups for 35+, 45+ and 55+ age groups. Check your start time and get there plenty early to register, pin on your race number, do a practice lap of the course and check in with your team. After your race stick around and cheer on your teammates. This is when being on a team turns out to be awesome. Don’t forget to invite your friends, family, and even your distant cousin from Romania who keeps crashing at your house. CX is very spectator friendly and a truly good time.
Step 6: REPEAT!
Be warned, cyclocross is addictive. You’ll hear a lot of grumbling before most races like “I can’t believe I paid $30 to be out here at 8am racing in the snow” but by the end of every race the tone is more like “holy crap that was fun- next weekend is going to be awesome!”. Yes, it sounds sadomasochistic but it’s what we love!