Cyclocross is a very specific type of bike racing. For the most part, the course is off-road, but there are sometimes portions of pavement included in the course. You can expect to encounter grass, dirt, mud, gravel, sand, and a whole slew of other assortments and combinations.
The races are based on a set time (measured by numbers of laps), not distance. Depending on your category, a race can be as quick as 20 minutes (for those just getting into racing), or as long as 60 minutes (for experienced riders).
While some grades are only open to riders with dedicated cyclocross bikes, there are grades that are open to all types of bikes, so grab your mountain bike and come down.
In most cases, race officials wait to see how quickly riders complete the first lap before deciding how many total laps will be completed. Depending on course conditions and rider speeds, the total time may be a few minutes less or more than the listed race time.
Courses are twisty circuits and typically, but not always, include barriers, as well as other ‘features’ that will necessitate hoping both off, and back onto, your bike. Those brave (and skilled) enough can bunny-hop their bikes over them. Often there are hills, sand pits and muddy sections that are too difficult or slow to ride, and thus a racer will shoulder their bike and run with it.
Cyclocross is a very safe form of bike racing for a few reasons. Firstly, as most racing takes place on grass, dirt, sand and mud, most mishaps just result in a free mud bath, and maybe a bit of dented pride! You’re likely to get a good cheer from the spectators too! Also, due to the sandy and muddy conditions, cyclocross race speeds are typically lower than other forms of racing so it’s perfect for those looking to improve their bike handling skills without the risk of injury.