SEP 2015 - BICYCLING
As Summer Wanes, Think cross & Gravel
By Dave Beals
September in the upstate New York is a grand time of the year for outdoor activities like running, camping, hiking, biking, kayaking, fishing, and just about any outdoor activity that excites you. As the month progresses, however, you notice the ever shorter days and cooler nights. This change in seasons triggers the brain to think cyclocross!
The first step is to ride your cyclocross bike. That’s the easy part. A cyclocross specific bike is the most versatile bike ever. It can be ridden year-round and on nearly every type of terrain or road surface. If you don’t have a cyclocross bike, visit your favorite local bike shop to see what’s available. The CX bike will have a wider tire than a typical road bike and offer more stability on poor roads, chewed up shoulders, and even gravel roads. They typically have lower gearing, which make them ideal for newbies and even make fine touring bikes. These bikes are quite reasonably priced and are a fine all-around bike to own. You don’t have to be a licensed CX racer to enjoy a CX bike.
If you already have a CX bike, and are not riding it on the back roads and trails, get out and do it now. Get that bike tuned up at your local bike shop. For the CX racer type, there have been many technical advances in these bikes such as hydraulic disc brakes, lightweight wheels, tubular and tubeless tire systems, and complete component groups that are specific to the rigors of cyclocross. It seems like the days when cyclists would patch together an old road bike to make it work for a cross race are long gone. The sport has grown so much, and like other cycling disciplines, the equipment has evolved along with the sport’s popularity.
Gravel Grinders – Along with the growth of cyclocross racing are an ever increasing number of related events, such as “gravel grinders” and other dirt rambles, which depending on the surface the weapon of choice can be a cross, gravel grinder, road, mountain or fat bike. Gravel grinder rides and races are increasing in popularity across the nation. These events tend to be challenging off-road or dirt/gravel road events, something in between a mountain bike race and a road race. Some are flat out races, others are non-competitive fun events.
Locally, the Farmer’s Daughter Gravel Grinder held this past May in Columbia County quickly met its limit of 300 riders, and many chose to ride a CX bike to tackle the 64-mile course. This non-competitive event was a hilly mix of paved roads, dirt/gravel roads, and some woods trail sections with spectacular scenery. The Black Fly Challenge is a competitive and non-competitive event, originally billed as a mountain bike race but now a gravel grinder. It now has more cyclocross entrants than mountain bikers. This popular point to point race alternates its start and finish locations every year between Inlet and Indian Lake in the Adirondacks.
The D2R2 – Deerfield Dirt Road Randonnée in August is a non-competitive ride in nearby Deerfield, Mass. Almost 1,000 riders tackled some of the hilliest paved and dirt roads in New England, with routes from 20-mile tour to a 112-mile randonnée. The ADK80K also took place in August at the High Peaks Cyclery Mountain Bike Center at Mount Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid. This is another hybrid mountain bike race that has categories for CX bikes. It’s a challenging 80K course, made up of four 20K loops for solo or teams, in a festive atmosphere.
On Sept. 27, the fifth annual Columbia County Rotary Ride cruises roads of 10 and 30 miles, out of Volunteer Park in Valatie. New is a 62-mile (100K) blended dirt and paved route, organizer Garrick Dardani of Steiner’s Ski & Bike, has dubbed “gravel grinder lite” – road bikes should work fine, but CX and other bikes are welcome. Proceeds support CYCLE Kids at Ichabod Crane Elementary School, which teaches life skills for academic success, self-confidence and physical fitness. The non-competitive rides will have a great BBQ at the finish. To register, visit facebook.com, and type “Columbia County Rotary Ride” into the search bar.
Cyclocross – The NYCROSS Cyclocross Race Series folks are back for those that want to race their CX bikes grassroots style. The race fees are modest, categories are not huge, and you won’t get pulled from the race if you are off the back – or you get lapped. The competition is still pretty serious though as racers vie for prize money, merchandise or more importantly, series points. This well-known series consists of six races this year, all within a short drive of the Capital Region – a great opportunity to race against others of similar age or expertise. Each race follows a standard schedule and set of age group categories for men, women and juniors. The series points are tallied and can be tracked on crossresults.com. Details can be found on nycross.com and registration is on bikereg.com.
The kickoff is Kirkland Cyclocross, held at the Kirkland Town Park in Clinton (near Utica) on September 13. Next is October 17-18, the Uncle Sam GP of Cyclocross in Prospect Park, Troy. On October 25, the series moves to nearby Bennington, Vt. for the Wicked Creepy Cyclocross race. The sixth annual Spa:CX race takes place on November 8 at Saratoga Spa State Park. The final series race is Bethlehem Cup Cyclocross that’s held November 15 at the Elm Avenue Park in Bethlehem.
If just riding your bike isn’t fun enough, weekends from now through fall are full of races, grinders, off-road rides, and MTB/CX bike type events. In addition to the ASF Calendar of Events, a good place to seek them out is bikereg.com.
Other notable events here in New York State… The Ellison Park Cyclocross Festival on September 4-6 in Rochester will see top pros from across the country and abroad vie for UCI points and prize money. On Long Island, the Super Cross Cup at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow on November 21-22 also boasts UCI category races, and will draw top nationwide CX talent. These are great events for amateur racers too, because they can race on the same course as the pros – and then see some top notch racing later in the day.
Get on your bikes and RIDE!
Dave Beals (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an avid cyclist residing in Colonie, a member of the NYCROSS cyclocross team, the Capital Bicycle Racing Club, and the Mohawk-Hudson Cycling Club.