It’s that time of year again. Where mud-caked mayhem and masochism come together in a sport we all lovingly refer to as cyclocross.
Start by Jeff Namba.
Editor’s Note: The Angry Singlespeeder is a collection of mercurial musings from contributing editor Kurt Gensheimer. In no way do his maniacal diatribes about all things bike oriented represent the opinions of Mtbr, RoadBikeReview, or any of their employees, contractors, janitorial staff, family members, household pets, or any other creature, living or dead. You can submit questions or comments to Kurt at firstname.lastname@example.org. And make sure to check out Kurt’s previous columns.
There’s a time to suffer, a time to heckle, a time to drink and a time to puke. Cyclocross has got to be the only sport where you can do all four simultaneously.
If you’ve never done a cyclocross race before, you’re really missing out. I mean, where else can you take a glorified road bike and two wheel drift it into a loose, pea graveled corner at 25 mph while banging elbows with a hundred other lycra-clad, crazed lunatics while even crazier crazed lunatics stand on the sidelines in costumes clanging cowbells and blowing gigantic plastic horns in your ear while throwing beer on you?
Suffer by Jon Suzuki.
Where else can you suffer to the verge of puking your guts out yet still have an ear-to-ear grin on your mug? Where else can you accumulate so much sodden earth and goose shit on your person that even a mud wrestler stares at you in awe? Where else can you completely destroy a bicycle with grime and muck in a matter of 45 minutes? Where else can you ride harder and faster than you’ve ever ridden in your life yet still get your ass handed to you by half the field? Where else can you opt for a beer hand-up instead of some lame hydration drink? Where else can you say “that sucked” yet say immediately after “can we do it again next weekend?”
Where else? Nowhere else. This is cyclocross.
If boxing is “The Sweet Science”, then cyclocross is “The Suck Science”. It sucks harder than an Electrolux, but oh how it sucks so good.
Mother Nature loves to participate in cyclocross too, magnifying the level of suckitude by Avogadro’s Number. From 90 degrees, blistering sun and choking dust in Southern California to torrents of rain that submerge an entire football field in Portland to paralyzing half-frozen mud in Kentucky that can rip the tracks off an Abrams tank, cyclocross racing is a smorgasbord of extreme conditions designed to crush components, bodies and egos without discrimination, and those who can suffer through the suck best are those who triumph.
Race by Jude Mayne.
If the weather doesn’t get you, then strategically placed goathead thorns might. Or rogue roofing nails. Or that hidden rock with a perfectly pointed edge that puts a gaping hole in your brand new $150 Dugast tubular. Or the lapped traffic that automatically sends you into a supernatural state of threading the needle; risking life and limb to dive a corner and pass three riders without crashing yourself or anyone else.
If you do hear the sound of mangled bikes and bodies behind you, attack. There’s a Clif Bar, some shammy cream and a cheap, Chinese-made medallion on the line. This is war, and to the victor goes the nearly worthless spoils.
Bunnyhop those barriers, you pussy. Do it. Not only will you look like a badass, but you’ll also make spectators scream louder and drink more. If you can’t win the race, at least win the party. But don’t run out of talent. Smashing your face against a vertical wooden board doesn’t improve your complexion. But on second thought, it might get you a couple free sympathy PBRs, so maybe you want to reconsider.
PBR by Jeff Namba.
Take a beer hand-up or a poo dollar to appease the crowd. They will love you in a hateful way. What is a poo dollar you ask? If you have to ask, then maybe you don’t want to grab that dollar your buddy is waving at you with his buttcrack.
ASS by Jon Suzuki.
Got an old Halloween costume collecting dust at home? Good. Wear it. Not only will people shower you with praise and stale MGD, but you’ll also have a great excuse as to why you got manhandled by the competition. It’s damn hard to see, let alone breathe when you’re an eight-foot tall banana or Freddy Krueger dressed in a jock strap.
The course is so muddy and miserable that you’ve completely worn through your brakes. So what are you gonna do, quit? I got news for you chief – brakes don’t win cyclocross races. Hold on, sit down, shut up and rip down that hill without brakes.
Fail by Jeff Namba.
But what about the big sweeping left-hander at the bottom? Stick your inside leg out, lean the bike into the corner while keeping your weight on the outside and hang on for dear life, cowboy. Made it to the other side with the rubber facing downward? Congratulations, you just learned to corner without brakes. Good thing you are so muddy that nobody notices the poop stain on your shammy.
Joe by Jeff Namba.
Don’t you dare wipe off that frozen snotscicle hanging from your nose like a mucus-filled stalactite. Late in the race you’ll need to start licking it for extra power. Way better than a GU packet, and far more convenient.
Oh, your bike doesn’t shift any longer, you say? Shifting doesn’t win races either, boss. Gigantic brass balls do. Find a gear that makes both your legs and lungs scream for mercy and pin it with brute force and ignorance. Congratulations again kemosabe, you’re now a singlespeeder, so ditch those worthless shifty bits.
If you happen to be of the male persuasion and you’re done racing for the day, don’t you dare pack up and leave like a dweeb without getting out on the course and cheering on the ladies. Besides, half of them are faster than you anyway, so you better give them due props.
Left: Ladies by Jon Suzuki. Right: Face by Jeff Namba.
During the weekly post-race ritual of cleaning the ungodly amounts of mud, sand and various forms of foul feces from the family truckster, think back on the weekend and revel in the suck. Cyclocross has got to be the most punishing of all cycling disciplines, but The Suck Science has an indescribable draw; a voluntary form of abuse where the reward of surviving far outweighs the inflicted pain of the act itself, the mud that takes a day to dislodge from your eyeballs and the bruises that inexplicably appear all over your body. This is The Suck Science. This is cyclocross.