A cyclo-cross bike or a gravel bike or a mountain bike?
A cyclocross bike is a road bike with a few changes to its geometry, increased mud clearance and room for 32mm knobbly tyres. Now that road bikes have disc brakes the difference is much less than it used to be, you could probably change the tyres on a disc brake equipped Roubaix or Domane and get around OK.
A gravel bike is a bit like a cyclo-cross bike but it’s not. Phil writes about this very subject in his recent Journal Gravel bikes, Trend or Blip
Top riders have two to three bikes (and spare wheels) and a pit crew (usually related) to clean and fix the bike if needed. Most of us manage with one bike and cross our fingers that we don’t get a puncture on the first lap. Having only one bike can be a problem on muddy, grassy courses but now that most bikes are equipped with disc brakes it is less of an issue now.
The Trek Boone we sell at Cyclefit is a great option, it’s not too expensive and can double up as a commuter or training bike after the racing season is over. The Open UP is another versatile option and the titanium Seven Evergreen and Mudhoney frames are super tough and last forever.
There are many component and wheel options so I’d recommend an appointment to discuss options at Cyclefit.
You’ll need mountain bike pedals and shoes.
Tattoos, beards and long socks are optional
Training for a cyclocross race
As a generalisation if you aren't racing most of you ride long distance events throughout the season and taper off around September, long weekend road rides are supplemented with structured interval session on the indoor trainer or spin bike on week days and this continues throughout the winter with some mild debauchery around Christmas and New Year and then picks up again in the New year in preparation for the summer season. Racing cyclocross through the winter months will give you a new focus and also mean that you have to do less endurance training and can avoid the five hour rides in the rain on a Sunday (at least until February anyway).
The race itself is the hardest forty to sixty minutes you’ll ever experience on a bike and is your best interval session of the week.
Your summer of sportive events is your base and now you must increase your speed and be able to ride at and above your threshold. The interval sessions need to become shorter and more intense to prepare yourself for the effort required..
Some riders incorporate running and weights to spice up the training and build all round strength and agility. Endurance rides can be reduced to two to three hours if there is time to do them.
The key for weekly cross racing is good recovery and taking two to three days off after a race with easy recovery rides will mean you are fresh for your mid week interval session.
It’s all about the organisation; you will need to arrive in plenty of time before your race sign-on, ride the course and warm up and say hello to everyone. I usually like around 90 minutes so that you can get everything done without rushing but you aren’t there too long that you start to get nervous or too cold!