Cyclocross returns to Carbondale |

Cyclocross returns to Carbondale

Colleen O’Neil

What do you get when you combine donuts, mud and a bunch of people who just aren’t ready to quit riding their bikes when the weather gets cold?

Answer: a pretty good time.

On Sunday morning, Aloha Mountain Cyclery’s Shaka ‘Cross race series returns to Carbondale’s North Face Park for another year of muddy fun.


Cyclocross is a form of bicycle racing that happens in the fall and winter, when the weather gets too nasty for mountain biking or riding on the road.

Cycling-obsessed Europeans started doing it in the early 1900s. The first cyclocross races were a mix of cycling through fields, portaging rivers and climbing over tall fences or steep hills. The sport was wild and ridiculous. Run-ups were immense, descents might mean clambering down boulders, and riders might need to throw the bike onto the ledge of a ravine before scaling out of it themselves.

In 1950, UCI (cycling’s governing body) held the first officially sanctioned cyclocross championship, and cyclocross became a tamer sport.

When it started getting popular in the U.S. in the 70s, courses got shorter to make spectating — and heckling — easier.

Now races usually take place on a 1-2 mile course on a combination of dirt, wooded singletrack, grass, gravel and/or pavement. There are obstacles — often small barriers, tight corners or short flights of stairs — that require riders to quickly dismount, navigate the obstacle and then remount again. Braver folks can attempt to ride over the obstacles.

Riders do laps around the course for 30 minutes to one hour. The person who does the most laps in the time frame is the winner.

The pace is an all-out sprint for as long as you can hold it. It’s hard, especially when your friends are throwing donuts and screaming at you. (Quick note: donuts have been outlawed in some parts of the country).


Most people use a bike specifically designed for the sport — cyclocross bikes resembles road bikes, but they have clearance for bigger, knobbier tires and a more relaxed frame geometry that allows them to handle well on rough ground. Many of them have drop bars, a full range of gears and disc brakes.

You can also use a mountain bike. In muddy or snowy conditions, mountain bikes can outperform race-y bikes with skinny tires. Also, a mountain bike can plow through obstacles more easily than most dedicated cyclocross bikes.

If you’re just starting out, don’t buy a dedicated cyclocross bike until you get totally addicted to the sport. It’s always good to try out a few different kinds to make sure you get a bike that fits your riding style.


Lots of people like to race in their favorite shop’s Lycra jersey and tight shorts. Also accepted are baggy shorts, sweatshirts, flannels, dresses, tu-tus, overalls, etc. Wear shoes that’ll stay on your feet. The only required piece of clothing is a helmet.


All the races are in North Face Park, next to Roaring Fork High School. They’re on Oct. 18, Nov. 1, Nov. 15 and Nov. 26. Registration opens at 8:30 a.m. every morning, except for the Thanksgiving Day race, which starts at 7:30 a.m, and races continue until 1 p.m.

It’s an early morning, but don’t freak out. There will be donuts from Sweet Coloradough and coffee from Dos Gringos to keep you awake till your race starts.

The cost is $25 for adults ($20 if you bring a non-perishable food item for LIFT-UP), $20 for high school kids ($15 with a food donation) and kids under 10 race for free.

There’s a kids’ race (a 15-minute course modified for short legs and little bikes), followed by the C race (30 minutes for beginners and fat bikes), A race (50 minutes for advanced/expert riders) and finally the B race (40 minutes for intermediate riders).

Prizes and swag are awarded after the races, so stick around after your race to see if you won something neat.

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