Weekend challenges are for women who want inspiration to take their riding to the next level and suggestions of where to begin. Challenge yourself this weekend! Here's your task.
Mud, sweat and cowbells. Few deny the appeal altogether, but for many the thought of cyclocross is as frightening as the first time they swung their leg over a bike without training wheels. If you're well prepared for your first cyclocross race there is no reason it should be so intimidating.
The first challenge is the dis- and remount. This is by no means an insurmountable challenge (see what I did there?) and if you approach it right you'll be hopping on and off with ease in just a handful of practices.
Cyclocross is dominated by men, but that's insane. It is a sport that women are anatomically superior for, given that we put much less on the line when flying through the air and landing directly on our groin.
That doesn't mean it isn't terrifying the first time. Or the 50th. But I have some strategies to dramatically reduce the terror to a pre-Millenium level. This week we'll stick with dismounting. Once you've got a handle on that you'll be ready for flying leaps in weeks to come.
The key to being okay with swinging your leg over with one shoe still clipped in while flying at top speed toward a solid barrier is gaining enough comfort with that position that you can begin to predict how the bike will behave when all you weight is over one side, and how to make it do your bidding in this foreign position.
To do this, we scooter. That's right. Consider a pistol whip. The pistol whip is one of my friend's favorite concepts in the world, because you are taking a meticulously engineered machine and using it like a rock, thereby undoing lifetimes of evolution. To perfect your dismount, I would like you to use your meticulously engineered bicycle as a scooter.
Start by just clipping in only the left foot, standing on the left side of the bike. Don't swing the other leg over, but in stead hold onto the hoods and use your unclipped foot to push the bike along. Try leaning the bike farther to the opposite side by wedging your hip into the top tube and see how the bike behaves. With one push, glide as far as possible.
Then make yourself a slalom course around trees or set up some rocks to weave around. Make as many turns in a single push as possible.
Once you're comfortable with that, perform the same actions again, but after pushing off, swing your leg back and forth over the rear tire and saddle. Push off, go to sitting, swing your leg back over the left side, push off, go back to sitting. Notice how you will have to shift the weight of the bike upright again when you bring your weight over both sides, and push it away from you when you are gliding with both feet on the left side.
When you're ready, check that both cleats are solidly attached with no wiggle. If need be, tighten them. Then start scootering and slow down to a speed you are comfortable with and step onto your right foot while twisting and unclipping the left. Less scary than you anticipated? I thought so.
Practice this, and when you're comfortable practice moving your right hand from your bars to your top tube with one foot still clipped in so you are prepared to pick the bike up when you unclip. Now put it all together. Pedal a little ways, unclip on the right, swing your leg over and pause for a moment, shift your right hand to the top tube and step down on your right foot while twisting your left to the outside.
There you have it, a dismount that the Russian judges will give a 9.0.
Get after it.