Cyclocross is one of the easiest forms of cycle racing to get involved in and arguably the most fun, especially if you’ve never done any form of competitive cycling before. We have a large representation (women and men) from Dulwich Paragon taking part in training and racing throughout the season. In most local league races, women race alongside the men. There’s much more of a family atmosphere too: U10, U12 and Youth categories all have races prior to the main Senior/Women/Junior/Veteran race. It’s far more fun than going up and down a dual carriageway at 7am as you do in time trialling. You don’t need a special cyclo-cross bike to get started. Mountain bikes are welcome in the London Cyclo-Cross League and other local league races. For clothing, nothing special is needed. Even though it’s a winter sport you wear less than you think you’d need, a normal club jersey and shorts, with arms warmers and leg warmers if really cold. Mountain bike shoes and pedals are used: Time Atac, Crankbrothers Eggbeaters, and SPDs are all popular. Do one race and you’ll be hooked.
Herne Hill and Go-racing
If it’s your first time racing, come along to one of the Herne Hill ‘Go Race’ events held at the velodrome, typically run before London League races. It may seem odd that races are held at a velodrome, but the course avoids the track and uses the surrounding wood and grass centre instead, only crossing the velodrome’s track briefly. No British Cycling licence is required for these events, and the entry fee is only £6. Go-races usually last just 30-40 minutes at Herne Hill. On the course will be a few obstacles where you’ll have to carry your bike, usually some small hurdles/planks which are bunny-hopped by the best riders, though most people opt to unclip and run over them while carrying their bike. There’s usually a steep bank to ride or run up and a leg sapping sand pit to power through. The rest of the course is grass and single track trails. If you enjoy these races and want to do more, then you’re ready for the London Cyclo-Cross League.
London Cyclo-Cross League
The London Cyclo-Cross League is a series of around 15 races from September to mid-February. A rider’s best 8 results count towards the final standings, so you don’t have to do every race if you don’t want. The circuits are varied and held at different locations around London, Kent, East and West Sussex. Some are held on school playing fields: these tend to be fairly fast affairs, being mostly flat and not particularly technical. Others are held on farms or public parks, often featuring tricky sections through woods, and some are at purpose built venues: the Penshurst Off-Road Cycling facility in Kent is a challenging circuit designed specifically for mountain bikes. All in all there’s a wide range of courses to suit all types of rider, whether you like hills, technical muddy trails or flat out slogs through grassy fields.
In the main S/J/V/W race, there are usually between 80-130 riders and there’s no need to pre-enter, just turn up and race. Entry is £12 and the races normally start at 1pm. You’ll need British Cycling membership (a full licence isn’t necessary) otherwise there’s a £3 extra charge. There are usually several Dulwich riders competing so keep your eye on the forum to hook up with someone for a car lift. Cash prizes are available in all categories for high finishers.
Quite often the closest race to London isn’t actually a London League race. The following all promote many races within easy reach: Central league (Herts, Bucks, Beds), Eastern league (Essex, Suffolk, Cambs), Wessex League (Berks, Oxfordshire, Hampshire…). See the calendar in the cyclo-cross section of the British cycling website for full details of all races. You don’t need to be affiliated to any league to race.
The Three Peaks
The Three Peaks is an almost mythical cyclo-cross race held annually in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Several brave Dulwich members make the pilgrimage each year to this gruelling 38 mile event held in late September. Entry opens in early June via the website. Don’t miss out, it always fills up quickly.