This might come as a surprise, but I have always done some cyclocross (a type of cycling that takes place on a track with hills, dirt trails, and obstacles, with races usually in autumn and winter) throughout my career, even at a very young age. I once finished fourth in our national championships in East Germany! I was around twelve years old back then, and I remember all the other boys looked like they were 16. I guess I was a late bloomer.
All jokes aside, there are multiple reasons why I kept cyclocross on my training schedule, and why it might be something for you to consider trying, too.
Cyclocross Boosted My Bike-Handling Skills
Since I was never the biggest daredevil on a descent, I liked the idea of improving. Riding on loose gravel, soft mud, and surfaces that continuously varied between tarmac, sand, and rocks increased my confidence on the bike and made me realize that if I do slide a little, it doesn’t mean I am going to crash. Cyclocross taught me how to correct a slide instead of crashing because of it.
Cyclocross Helps Me Feel Connected to Nature
I always saw more deer, birds, and foxes while riding cyclocross. I simply love nature and wildlife, and you can get closer to wildlife on a cyclocross bike because you can ride in the forest. You can’t have the same experience if you drive to the trails, too. Cars are loud (unlike bikes), and disturb the wildlife.
Cyclocross Gives You More Route Options
After riding during the summer on roads, I liked the change that comes with cyclocross. I often feel like I know all of the roads like the back of my hand, so switching up my routine gave me the chance to explore new territory. Remember “Starship Enterprise?” They boldly go where no one has gone before. That’s sometimes how I felt.
I have discovered old watermills, windmills, and a ton of abandoned Russian army barracks. I have found hidden or forgotten old memorials about German history. I have also come across great ice cream shops and coffee shops on the outskirts of Berlin, as well as a whole bunch of cool places for the kids. After training (and discovering a new place), I would take my kids there on an adventure trip. There are a surprising number of old castles, chateaus, and churches around Berlin as well.
Cyclocross Offers Quiet Time
On the road, chances are good you’ll see another cyclist, but in the forest you can spend three hours without meeting anybody, and sometimes that’s just what I needed. You can also hear birds singing, even during the winter. There are no cars and traffic lights.
Cyclocross is Great Training
It’s more intense than typical road cycling, as your heart rate tends to go higher, and you work more muscles than you would on the road. The varied terrain causes your body to recruit more core strength to keep your bike stable, which helps with training in general.
As I grew older, I realized that simply riding along on a road no longer improved my cycling. Instead, the more I did on my cyclocross bike, the more it helped me stay fit and competitive on the road.
Photo by Matthew Vandivort
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.