Friday, October 21, 2011

Cyclocross 101: Dancing at the Barriers...

If you are like myself, more a cyclocross novice than anything else; if you have watched from the side far more than you have actually raced, you may view some of the typical cyclocross (cx) obstacles with varying degrees of trepidation. The barriers are one such obstacle. These are usually simple wooden planks placed across the entire width of the course, which force riders to dismount and, with bike in hand, jump them like a hurdle.

There are a number of ways to familiarize oneself with things such as the barriers - you might solicit advice from friends and teammates, you might ride over to the local park and practice, or do so in your own backyard where there is unlikely to be a witness to any unintended flubs. You might even participate in one or another of the practice sessions that are held locally from time to time. I suspect that many of us also pick up tips by the tried and true method of simple observation.

It is with this thought in mind that the idea for this post developed (though the photos shown below clearly had something to do with it). Make of this what you will, but I hope you will realize my intention of providing one of those learning experiences through observation.

I am going to ignore the fact that there are certain talented riders who can bunny hop the barriers with not so much as a flicker of doubt entering their mind, nor a raised heart rate to give pause for thought. Neither I, nor, I believe, are most riders in this category. Instead we must content ourselves with the more common method of clearing the barriers by dismounting, lifting the bike and jumping the hurdles while at a run, or walk, as the case may be. The first photo below shows two of the most common ways to accomplish this, with one hand holding the handlebars still, and the other grasping the top tube, from either the bottom or the top, and lifting. Another successful technique you may notice is for one hand to grab the seat tube, while the other steadies the handlebars; the hand on the seat tube then slightly rotates the bike out away from the body, just enough to clear the barrier. With this method, the shoulder kind of acts as a hinge (second photo).

A less successful method, the third and fourth photos lead me to believe, is to only grasp the handlebars. Unfortunately, this does not offer as much control, so the bike can swing around, hit the barriers. Almost looks like you might be trying to dance with your bike. As usual, practice makes perfect, and in cx there is a lot to practice in order to get it right.


  1. thanks for these pictures. I don't know why you blurred my face. If I had a problem with being a public laughing stock I probably would have tried riding the bike at least once before this race.

  2. Thanks. I was really hoping that would be the attitude. I didn't want to give the impression that I was making fun, nor did I want to put anyone on the spot, so I opted to take the safe route. Honestly I wish someone had taken photos of me sitting at the back during crits, when that was what I did every weekend. It might have compelled me to spend more at the front. Cheers.


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