Cyclocross was never meant to happen to me but it just has and I think I’m stuck with it. Until very recently I’d thought fun on bikes was pushing to the top of a trail or downhill track and pinning it back down, wheels on the ground as little as possible and barely pedalling until nightfall, a broken bike or splintered bones forced me home (or to A&E). Before Cyclocross got its muddy claws into me the only real pedalling I did was commuting on my singlespeed Kona Unit: a 20 mile slog to endure rather than enjoy. As a writer for Dirt mountain bike magazine riding down hills dominates my cycling my life and I’ve been lucky enough to ride (OK, free-wheel) and race some lovely bikes down some even lovelier mountains. I can put in a solid race result and am comfortable in my cycling skin, but definitely not in a skinsuit. Ugh. After a lifetime of riding I thought my ideas about bikes and riding were set in stone with just three letters carved onto it: M.T.B.
The editor of Dirt occasionally throws some irresistible jobs my way which I don’t need to think twice about accepting, but racing Cyclocross in late October in a London park wasn’t one of them…until he reminded me about the set of demo wheels he’d just dispatched to me after I’d mentioned that mine weren’t round anymore since coming up short over a road-gap in the Forest of Dean. I’m not proud to admit that I pleaded, desperately at times, that featuring Cyclocross in Dirt Magazine would offend the gravity slaves, that the bikes were nothing like Downhill or Enduro bikes and that seeing one in Dirt wasn’t appropriate. He told me to let him worry about that and e.mailed the brief which just said: ‘Get muddy and work out if a Cyclocross bike is just an un-evolved mountain bike’. At that point I wished I’d just bought my own set of wheels.
The story of the cold, wet October day which unexpectedly changed my ideas about fun on bikes is in the current copy of Dirt Magazine (issue 130). What it doesn’t explain is why my carbon full suss’, my 4X bike and my 29er are now in the basement and why a Cyclocross bike, the kind of bike I’ve always thought was pointless, leans on radiator in the hallway, nose pointing at the door and only getting to rest when I do. I still don’t know why this has happened or how it’s all going to pan out so over the next couple of months I’ll be treating this little corner of Konaworld as a confessional booth in which to lay bare the occasionally intimate and always dirty details of how a committed downhiller has found a new love between the tape.
Photo Credit Grant Robinson.