What You’ll Need
Alright, so you’re ready to get started, what do you need? The only two essentials are a Cyclo-cross bike and a helmet. A Cyclo-cross bike combines the mud-chewing brakes and knobby tires found on a mountain bike with the speedy, light-weight frame and curved handlebars of a road bike. The result is a tough, fast, lightweight bike that’s easy to carry up a hill or over obstacles.
Most major bicycle manufacturers such as Cannondale, Giant, and Trek have now added Cyclo-cross specific bikes to their lineups. Prices range from a modest $399 for the Motobecane Phantom Cross Uno to the extravagant $6,900 for the Giant TCX Advanced SL. You can buy these bikes online from various resellers like bikesdirect.com or performancebike.com. A better bet is to go to your local bike shop where they can fit you for the right size frame and advise you on the various component options available for your bike.
When shopping, remember that price is primarily affected by two factors: the material the frame is made out of and the quality of your components, such as brakes and shifters. As a rule of thumb, lighter materials usually mean higher prices: so a carbon fiber frame is pricier than an aluminum frame, which is pricier than a steel frame. But weight isn’t always the main criteria in choosing a cyclocross frame. Many amateur riders prefer a steel frame over lighter options due to its superior durability and smoother ride. Ultimately, it really is a personal choice.
Unless you’re on the pro-circuit, a couple of extra pounds on your bike won’t affect your enjoyment, but it can certainly make a big difference in how much your bike will cost. Also, if the price tag for such a specialized piece of equipment scares you, keep in mind that the Cyclo-cross bike is also an ideal city bike – especially if you want a bike that’s tough enough to plow through potholes, yet light enough to carry up several flights of stairs to your apartment. It’s an investment that will keep you in shape for decades to come at a fraction of the cost of a car – not to mention impress the girls with your eco-consciousness and your killer quads.
Cyclo-cross season runs from August to December, so you’ll have plenty of time to sell that treadmill to someone who likes exercising like a rodent, while you use the proceeds to buy yourself a brand new cyclocross bike and get in shape for the coming race season.