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A Road Cyclist’s Introduction To ‘Cross | Emma Does Cyclo-Cross Ep. 1

A Road Cyclist’s Introduction To ‘Cross | Emma Does Cyclo-Cross Ep. 1


[Emma] – I love cycling on the road, but for a while now, I’ve had this strange, inexplicable
longing for something a bit more dirty. You know like, mud, off-road cyclo-cross. I mean, it just looks like so much fun. You know, getting really close to nature, and, of course, it’s a great winter alternative to cold, wet roads. So, over the next few weeks, we’re gonna have a series of videos explaining the fundamentals of riding off-road. As, I learned cyclo-cross, culminating in my very first race. But, everybody has to start somewhere. So, here is GCN’s beginners guide to cyclo-cross. Although, I’ve been persuaded to race, you certainly don’t have to, because riding off-road is great fun just for the sake of it. My problem, though, is
that ever since starting cycling, in my 20’s, I’ve been very much a roadie. A few attempts at
mountain biking have been, frankly, laughable. Basically, I don’t have much
in the way of off-road skills. Now luckily, Cy is very, very okay at side-cross and he’s offered to teach me his skills. I mean, just like that, he makes it look so easy. Thanks for offering to
teach me side cross Cy. [Cy] – It’s an absolute pleasure Emma. And, don’t worry about it, because I have taught someone before. – Oh really, how did that go ? – Uh, really well, yeah, really well. – Jolly good. So, where do I even start ? – Well, lets start with a quick overview of the bike, shall we ? There are a few key differences between, a side-cross
bike and a road bike. You can’t really ride
cross on a road bike. For the principal reason that you need slightly wider tires. So, as a minimum, like 30MM wide. Hopefully, even more, these are 35’s. And, you also need room
to have the tread on so they can actually
grip the loose ground. Then, you also find that you definitely need mountain bike pedals, as
opposed to road pedals, so double-sided. That means you can clip in and out easily. And also, use mountain bike shoes, which have got tread on them, so you can actually get off and walk, if you need to. And, then the final
difference is the gearing. You go a lot slower in
side-cross than you do on the road. There’s simply more resistance
coming from the ground, so you probably want smaller chainrings, and a bigger cassette, as well. – I appear to only have one chainring, which, what’s all that about ? – So, you are running 1x, which is so on trend. You don’t need it for
side-cross, but it is really good, and it’s really popular. – What about position? Should that be roughly the
same as on a road bike? – Yeah, roughly the same. So, your saddle should be in
exactly the same position. Because your pedaling
in exactly the same way. The only thing I would
recommend is that you come a little bit shorter, a little bit higher at the front end, so, your handlebars are then slightly easier reach. And that, kind of, gives
you a bit more confidence, and a bit more control, when
you’re hitting rough terrain. Gnarly terrain, as
you’ll learn to call it. – Gnarly. Nice. So, I can definitely
go higher at the front, but shorter is gonna be
tricky, for me personally, because on my road bike,
I’m normally at the limit of short stem rates, just
cause I’m a silly size. – You’ll find, probably
that, because this is dedicated cross-bike,
they will have already factored that in. So, your top
tube is probably going to be about a centimeter shorter, anyway. – Brilliant. Solved that one. – Yep. – What about tire pressure? So, I thought should go
lower pressure off-road, so I’ve 60 lbs at the
back, and 55 at the front. Does that sound good? – You could definitely go lower than that. You’re right, you do run
lower tire pressure off-road. Firstly, because you’ve got wider tires, you can afford to. You get more comfort when
the tire pressure’s lower. And, you get more grip, when
the tire pressure’s lower. And, it does depend on where you’re riding. So if it’s really rocky,
then you’ll probably want more pressure in,
not than you’ve got now, but, just so that you’ve
got less risk of puncturing. Whereas, if it’s really muddy, really grassy or sandy, you can let the pressure right down. So, ballpark, for me, 73 or so kilos, I’d probably run about 40 PSI, as like, a kind of, sometimes higher, sometimes lower. Given that you’re about
half my body weight, you probably want about, what, 25 PSI, is your ballpark? – 50 kilos, so, I’m gonna go with 30. – It’s all about where you ride your cross bikes. On the one hand, it’s not important, but on the other hand,
it kind of is as well. It’s not important because
they can go anywhere, like cross bikes are great
on tarmac, but we want to ride off-road, don’t we ? So, in that case, you can ride on any bit of patch of scrubland, in a city, any park, as long as you’re allowed to ride there. The only thing I would say, is that if it’s too rocky, and it’s too reedy, you actually, probably, be happier on a mountain bike because there’s less risk of puncturing, cause the tires are even wider. It’s more comfortable, and it’s faster. So, that would be the only thing I’d say. – Let’s ride then. Shall
we ? It’s quite muddy. Hang on, hang on, I can’t start that fast. Oh, man. (rock music) [Cy] – Now, the next
biggest difference, I think, between road and off-road,
is that off-road, you’re gonna be dealing
with bumps, and potentially, a lot of them. There is, you might
imagine, a technique for dealing with them. And, the quicker you learn
it, the faster you will go the faster you will go faster, basically. – Right – You’ll conserve your momentum better, you will have more control, and most importantly of all, you will
be more comfortable, as well. – Sounds good. – Do you want to give this, fairly inocuous looking path, that is slightly bumpy, a go? – Yes. I reckon, I reckon I can do this path. It doesn’t look to bad. – I guarantee you can do this path, and I suspect you’re going to boss it. (Rock music) [Cy] – How’s that Emma? – Yeah, fun. I like this path. I love this bike. – To be fair, you were
looking absolutely great. No problems at all. The only couple things I wondered, whether you might benefit from
changing something. – Yep. – I noticed, something, you
were getting out the saddle. Which is a really good
move on the one hand, in that you’re not
getting your bum bounced around by the saddle. But, I would suggest
that you probably get a little bit more traction, with your weight off the back end, then the
back wheel is gonna be tends to bounce around. Whereas if you’re, if
you kind of use your bum to, sort of, keep it under control. – Uh, huh. – But then, the real technique, I think, is if you use a slightly larger gear – Yeah – Then you would on the road, gives you something to lean against, and then it can also mean that you can just
hover, ever so slightly, above the saddle. – Okay. – So, you’re not, you’re
not getting fully bounced around by it, but you’ll do it enough just to keep the back wheel under control. – This sounds a lot like learning
to ride cobbles, actually, so, slightly bigger gear, weight back, – Absolutely. – Not too much grip on the handlebars, and like, roll over the cobbles. – Exactly the same principle
as riding over cobbles. And exactly like cobbles, unfortunately, the faster you go, the easier it gets. – Yeah. – So, in terms of looking at it, in like a bigger picture of a whole ride, sometimes you might find, that actually, if you save a little bit of energy
on the smooth sections, and then really hit
the bumpy section hard. – Yeah. – Actually, they will
feel easier, they’ll feel more comfortable, and
you’ll get a heck of a lot faster overall. [Emma] – It’s like a fine balance between gripping too tightly,
and being too floppy, and then the bike goes all over the place. It’s quite tricky to,
sort of, gauge that one. – It is, yeah. Your hands are in exactly
the right position. They want to be hoods, or dropped. And, you’re right, you
kind of need to hold the handlebars reasonably
firmly, so your hands aren’t, kind of wobbling around. But then, you need, your kind of, upperarms relaxed, so that they can absorb all those bumps coming through, and save your torso, from bouncing around. And, that kind of
hovering out of the saddle looks absolutely spot on as well. – Yeah, that’s good.
It’s less painful than sitting on the saddle. And, it’s like you put more
pressure to the pedals, and less weight through the saddle base. So, you’re still on the
saddle, but the weights going to the pedals, which kind of helps the bike move
forward, it feels like. – Yep, exactly. – Win, win. – That’s the precise
reason why it helps to be pressing hard on the
pedals, so the faster you’ll go, and the harder you’re trying, then, the easier your
forward progress becomes. [Emma] – Oh, it’s really tight Does this qualify as gnarly ? [Cy] It’s quite gnarly. It’s a relative extreme example, to illustrate, probably for me, what’s the biggest
difference between riding road and off-road, is that you have to pay much closer attention
to where you’re going off-road. The good news is, that
the obstacles off-road don’t tend to move, unlike
on-road, where cars, and so forth, do. The bad news, though, is
that there are more obstacles out there, off-road, that
you need to look out for. – Yeah. – But, it’s very easy to actually, get round that problem. The trick is to just look, very closely, as to where you’re going. Maybe, three or four
meters, in front of you. The faster you go, the further
ahead you’ll need to look. Simply because, it gives you
more time to react to what’s coming up. And so, therefore, when you get to a section
of trail like this, which looks like wall-to-wall rocks, when you’re looking ahead, you’ll see that just where your back tire is, is actually
quite a smooth line all the way up the
left-hand edge of the path. And so, therefore, you scamper nicely up there, completely unfazed by everything
that’s going on, over here. – Right, so my habit of
looking at obstacles and then gravitating towards them, is not right. – No, it’s not ideal, there is that weird tractor beam thing, isn’t
there, when cycling ? – Right – If you look at an
obstacle, the chances are you’re going to hit it. – Right – So, in this case, you
need to look obstacles to be aware of them. – Right. – But then focus on the
line that’s actually free from obstacles. And, it’s gonna vary
depending on what they are, but that’s where experience
comes in to play. You know, that maybe,
you’re gonna avoiding rocks, and roots, and sand, and mud, and looking for the, the kind
of, smooth lines in between. Fortunately, it’s not all
about pedaling in side-cross. You do get to free-wheel as well. And so, at that point, we can introduce another technique, which is called the attack position. And, we’re not necessarily using it to attack our rivals, more attacking the trail itself. So, what it is, is a
way of introducing more control over the bike? Particularly when it’s
gets really technical. So, what you do, is you stand up, out of the saddle, with your pedals level. So, you take all weight off your saddle, and then you want to hold onto handlebars, on the drops. So that’s where you got, like, really strong position,
you can cover the brakes, and you’ve got the most
control over the bike. And, from there, you can throw it around, from side to side, you can pick it up, you can do bunny hops, and
then you can also brake. And more importantly still, is that when you start to go downhill, you can then move your body weight back, to keep your center of
gravity in the right place, to stop you feeling like you gonna go to the front of the bus. – Right. – This is a big concept
change for me, but, I like it because it’s
a different mindset. So, rather than feeling like the trail is attacking me, I’m gonna attack the trail. – Yeah. It’s weird, isn’t it? On the road, you’d never, actually, really need to get out of the saddle, when you’re not pedaling. – No. Unless, you get a sore bum. – Yeah. I suppose there’s that. Now, this is a pretty
gentle stretch of trail, except, for this sort of
patch of about ten feet of roots and rocks. And that’s the perfect
place, to illustrate the attack position. So, you can ride the trail, and then get out of the saddle, and then you can absorb these bumps, keep the bike under control, before carrying on your merry way. You ready Emma? – Yep. (rock music) – Pretty good. I’d say, hold the drops. – Oh yeah. – Not the tops, – Nope. – But otherwise that looked tore. Emma, I think we should
conclude with a akward fist bump. Eh, I don’t know how that
felt to you, but you looked like you were absolutely nailing it. I’m not surprised, but you did. – I don’t think I was nailing
it, but I really enjoyed it. Do you know what? I feel like, on this bike, I
could literally go anywhere. I mean, I say that, but
then I found that track really gnarly, and it
was actually, not very extreme was it? Anyway, I just feel quite adventurous, and I had a lot of fun. – That’s great. And, in terms of translating
those skills that you’ve honed on the road, off-road, how’s the transition ? – Well, I prefer it to cobbles,
I’ll say that. (Cy laughing) I think I need more practice. I think I definitely need to
get out on this bike more. – Well, you’ve got the
basics totally dialed. The next steps will be the
peculiar siker cross skill, okay, and getting on and
off your bike whilst moving. – Yeah. I’m worried about that one. – Also, dealing with situations where you have less grip. And, then also, we got some
more advanced skills to teach you, as well. – Advanced skills. – A little bit later on.
Some more videos coming up. – Give this video a big
thumbs up, don’t forget to subscribe and, of course,
if you’d like to check out more subscribed content,
we have an amazing video, done previously with
Tom, with Sudden Leafs. – That’s right, an actual
expert at cycle cross teacher.

100 comments on “A Road Cyclist’s Introduction To ‘Cross | Emma Does Cyclo-Cross Ep. 1

  1. While I've toiled the summer away training for the cross season in New England USA, hoping for mid-pack in cat 5, you'll likely podium your first race, Emma. Can't wait to see you do it. This is gonna be great!!!

  2. Emma's bike is a gravel bike, not a cyclocross bike. frame would be hard to use in a cx race and the bottom bracket is a bit too far backwards too. There is obviously some argument to be had whether the distinction is really important or not and i suspect for most bikes it actually isnt – however her bike would be impossible to shoulder so there is that.

  3. Emma that is a very cool bike love the 1x and the black carbon finish, presentation was really good pedals at 3 o'clock backdrop looks so inviting but that steerer tube what where you thinking, so its a nice from me. Dial in your position cut down the steerer send us another pic and I'm sure you'll get a Super Nice! 😉

  4. i get offended when i see guys wearing lycra leotards it forces me to look at their penis 🙁 i am not gay please dont force me into becoming one.

  5. Half of my weight 🙂 Si didn't even give that a thought. I know she's small, but <40kg small would have been unlikely.

  6. Is cyclo-cross for the adventurous roadie or a mountain biker looking for more tame alternatives?… I've been an emtb-er a few seasons and I'm looking to add a light weight road, gravel, or cyclo-cross bike to my cave for cardio/leg day routine. Still not sure which to purchase after a few days of research… I do know that when I am Training/riding on one type of bike, ebike or standard mtb, it has only made me stronger when returning to the other. Do you think it's worth having an eclectic spread of bikes available, and will it add the right variety to pass muscle or result growth plateaus for any style rider?… thanks

  7. How does one stop getting “cross back”. It limited me so much last season, I dunno what it is: position? Fit? Core strength? I also get similar pain going up long climbs right in the small of the back #torqueback

  8. Can you show how to go down really steep hills? I have trouble getting behind the saddle and I am not sure if it is technique or bike setup that is the limitation.

  9. I like how gcn still embraces the old adage that nobody listens to woman talking mechanical knowledge.. she rides her bike between cooking meals and doing laundry.. she’s not allowed to talk about it in public

  10. I love how Emma is so tiny and pocket sized and smiley and friendly, yet she is a beast on a bike and could undoubtedly FLOG most of us who watch GCN 😀 I still miss Matt's hijinks, but Emma's been a great addition to the team. And Si is always great.

  11. "Don't take a Knife to a Gun Fight'?
    I recently fronted up to a charity 'Mountain Bike' ride with a Cyclocross bike. There was a lot of giggles on the start line when others saw the drop handlebars and presumed it was a road bike.
    After a quick stop to drop some air out of the tyres to suit conditions, she flew over the 50km course, 4th across the line and only 5min behind 1st.
    If I can ever afford to buy a second bike it will be a Cyclocross.

  12. 40 psi?! Sounds high to me… I use that range for longer gravel/dirt rides when I don't want a flat, but pure cross race/practice is much more like 25-32 and I'm only slightly lighter than Si

  13. Love this series! Always curious to see just how much gnarl you can do on a rigid fork and with road geometry. (Especially being a hybrid rider myself)

  14. Novice class allows any type of bike. The top tube on CX bikes is relatively long for a given frame size. Also, tire pressure can get to mid-thirties if it's not too rocky. Check my channel for riding vids.

  15. I know Matt Stephens is doing other things these days but please try to drag him back for a guest slot during CX season. Call me cruel but love to see him fall over in the mud once more!

  16. You're wrong about obstacles off road not moving. In Victoria, Australia boulders suddenly turn in to wombats who charge at you without warning. I can bunny hop but I can't wombat hop.

  17. Very interesting! But I really really like my front fork and frame/saddle/back suspension on my MTB when going off road. ☺️🤭😬

  18. Absolutely no suspense as for the outcome of all this. Emma is gonna not only win the race, but also blow everyone out of the water, because she's good at everything she does.

  19. One quick comment: you switch between psi, feet, etc (Imperial) and kg, km etc (metric). Most of the sane world (ie pretty much everyone but the UK) is 100% metric, and all of us Brits are taught metric anyway, so can we just…metricate GCN?!?!?!?!?! LOL

  20. Great to SEE EMMA on GCN Channel as she is a NATIONAL TREASURE… I took one look at the bike she was riding and it looked a real piece of kit… She made a few comments herself about how she felt confident on it so I am wondering what bike was it she used to tackle her first Cyclo-Cross adventure??? Cheers… StanDMan

  21. Some great tips in here thanks. I'm just starting out this season in the cxne league and finding cross much harder than I thought it was. Lots to try, thanks si and emma

  22. Emma standing straight up is about 75% of si's "relaxed on top tube pose" height. Do roots and bumps seem bigger to her? Is there space to address whether or not tall and short riders ride the same track? Thanks for your time!

  23. I'd like to see the G.C.N. team tackle riding super sport motorcycles 🙂 seems like some of the principles are the same… target fixation, looking ahead, picking a line, and so on.

  24. I am wondering, why they have invented the Mountain bike more than 30 years ago…with some suspension and big tyres, it is so much fun and you dont need to worry about your bum..

  25. Old school comment here – I can't imagine 28 spokes(per wheel) on a off road machine , perhaps a lite spoked wheel set on race day but, training I'd be on 32 or more – Cheers

  26. I have been doing some cyclo cross/gravel on some 23mm and 25mm at the back with 80psi on both and never got any puncture from it

  27. Single Speed Cross is the most fun I've ever had on a bike. It's also fun to do long quasi-cross events. I'm actually entering the SS division of a local marathon XC race on a cross bike this fall.

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