A lot of roadies think they can just hop in a ‘cross race without any knowledge of the sport. I thought this once. Let me tell you, there’s a lot you need to know to do well at ‘cross. You can’t read without knowing your ABC’s, and you shouldn’t ‘cross without knowing your ‘cross ABC’s, so study up!
A: Air pressure, which I’d never before set so low.
B: Barriers, because riding your bike is too easy, so you have to run and jump with it now!
C: Caliper brakes? Those still exist? Yes, and you’ll learn to love them.
D: Dismount before the run-up – and try not to trip over your own feet. Remember, you are still using clipless pedals.
E: Embrocation, but that should have been obvious. Look for a menthol haze around the best-prepared racers.
F: Fans. I would say this is the only reason I keep participating in this absurd sport. Plus, you need someone to give you a beer hand-up!
G: Groin. I live in perpetual fear of landing on this during a re-mount.
H: Hole shot. I’m not sure what this is, or how I might get one, but I hear a lot of faster racers talking about it.
I: Ibuprophen anyone?
J: Juniors. Because they’re faster than me, and it sucks.
K: Kansas, because I once read that nationals were once held there, not that I would know anything about ‘cross nationals.
L: Lumps, usually on my back, where the pedal digs in on the run up.
M: Michelin. Not to advertise a particular brand, but even a roadie can appreciate how cool those clashing green tires were!
N: Narrow. Narrow tires that don’t provide adequate traction. But sure, why not ride around without any control on slick surfaces?
O: Off camber turns, yet another things you’re not likely to encounter at a road race.
P: Pit, because ‘cross is the only sport where one expects their bike to be ruined at least once each lap.
Q: Quagmire. No, not the gigolo on Family Guy, but the mud you slog through… because it’s fun.
R: Running. I hate running. I’d say the only way to make running worse is to make you carry a bike while running.
S: Sliding. Sliding around corners, never an easy concept for a roadie to grasp.
T: Tape used to mark the course. Yellow, orange, white, but always pointing the way.
U: Uncle Sam. Because I’m racing that race Sunday, and because there are no unicorns in ‘cross.
V: Vest, because good fashion dictates that you’re not allowed to wear one in ‘cross. If it’s not a skin suit, best leave it home.
W: Water bottle cage. Not needed here, another lesson learned the hard way.
X: Xeric, because anyone adapted to an extremely dry environment will not do well at ‘cross.
Y: Yikes, I have to ride down that? On this bike? Can’t I walk?
Z: Getting in the zone, because when you’ve been racing for 40 minutes, and you have to hop the barriers once more, the zone is the only thing that’ll keep you going.