Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Review; Skills, Drills and Bellyaches. A Cyclocross Primer

In case you may have missed it I listen to podcasts. A 100 mile round trip commute gives you plenty of listening time! One of the podcasts I listen to is called CX Hairs (Cross-Hairs, get it!). I’ve listened to it for probably over a year or so, it’s good stuff especially if you’re into Cyclocross. Even if you’re not there are some good interviews and panel discussions. The producer of the show is a guy called Bill Schieken, Bill is all things Cyclocross. There is a great interview with him here. Beyond the podcast and his other online writing Bill is the author of a great CX book; Skills, Drills and Bellyaches; A Cyclocross Primer. I picked up a copy from Amazon a few months back just after completing the SoCal CX Skills clinic to fill in any gaps, and there were plenty, before race day.

The book is quick read at just over 100 pages and is broken down into two Sections; Skills and Race Day.

Skills; while there is a lot to be learned on the bike it’s important to have a solid understanding of the skills before developing and reinforcing bad habits. This book does a great job of breaking down the key elemental moves that a rider will face; dismounting, re- mounting, the race start, barriers, run ups, overtaking and so on. Each move is broken down into clearly defined steps. As you would expect the book is photo heavy with Jeremy Powers being the model on call. The photos capture the moves from multiple angles complete with a clear and easily understood narrative explaining each step. There is also a littering of “JPow Tips” from Jeremy. These give you some insider knowledge and come with years of insight.

Race Day; self-descriptive but this covers all things race day, some things you may have thought of, others you may have heard of and others will be completely new to you. It systematically goes through the processes of racing; the day before, the arrival at, the warm up, Race strategy, the Pits etc. There are also sections on Clothing and Tools. The clothing section I admit is more focussed on less warmer climates than southern California but it’s relevant stuff if you live somewhere where this is actual weather! More than a series of checklists each section is a catalyst for thought with an explanation behind it generated through years of experience. In the warmth of your bedroom they are out of context but when you packing, unpacking or climbing over the tape and about to start your practice recon lap their importance falls into place. Read them, think about them pre race and post race and modify to suit your needs. 


I read the book in bed post clinic and pre-race. Without the context of a bike next to you some of these lessons seem sterile but when it’s Sunday morning and you’re riding your warm up lap they actually fell into place. They joy of the book is that you can refer back to it, which I have done several times.

The book quality is really good, it’s printed in landscape mode which makes the photography flow really well. Glossy durable pages will last a long time over multiple seasons and thumbings. Overall it is great go-to for anyone just starting, like me, or for anyone looking to improve their skills or remind themselves of everything they have forgotten after a summer off their cross bike.

As noted on the back cover what this book doesn’t contain is training plans, base miles or intervals. The skills and drills it contains may well be your cure for race day bellyaches! It’s a well-worn adage that you are either losing of gaining seconds on your competition per lap, it’s a no brainer where you want to be.

Skills, Drills and Bellyaches: A Cyclocross Primer from In The Crosshairs on Vimeo.

Don’t get caught short when you see those #crossiscoming hashtags or are you CrossCurious…is that even a thing? Either way this book is something that deserves some room on your bookshelf!

Available online at Bill’s own website or through Amazon the book retails for $21.99, it’s a tight squeeze but you might just get it in time for Christmas!

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