I was rushing frantically around the house. I had just gotten home from work and only had a few minutes to change and make it out the door to meet a friend for a ride. I threw on some cycling clothes, grabbed a water bottle and then pulled out the bike pump. I pumped up the front tire and then went for the rear, but as soon as I started pumping I could hear the air hissing out of the tire. I took a look and I could immediately tell that I had ridden on that tire a few miles too many. What was I going to do? I needed to leave NOW! I looked over to my time trial bike, but it was partly dismantled after the end of the TT season and so I really only had one other option, my cyclocross bike. Cruxie is what I lovingly refer to her as. Switching plans and switching over to mountain bike shoes, I took her outside for the first time since the end of last winter.
Poor Cruxie has never been used for the purpose for which she was designed, racing cyclocross. The cyclocross season typically stretches from late fall to early winter. It is a style of racing that is a hybrid between road and mountain bike racing. The bike looks like a road bike, but the tires look like thinner mountain bike tires (often referred to as, knobby tires). The racers complete laps, akin to a criterium on the road, but these laps are done in the grass, sand and dirt, usually in a field and not on rocky, root filled trails in the woods like you would see in a mountain bike race. Racers work their way through a taped off circuit. Customarily during each lap you have to dismount your bike a few times, hop over a barrier (run up a set of stairs or navigate some kind of obstacle) and then remount your bike and race on. I marvel at the people who make this look so easy. It is like second nature to them, or at least it looks so comfortable and smooth for them to get on and off that bike while it is still moving!
I bought Cruxie with every intention of using her for this style of racing. It looked fun and different and I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. However, two years have passed by and I have still not been able to master this whole dismounting and remounting maneuver. Granted, I probably have not devoted sufficient time to practicing these skills, but it is frustrating for me to be unsuccessful in my attempts to master them. I can ride the bike on the grass, I can unclip and take the first steps toward dismounting, but it all goes downhill after that. I become completely uncoordinated like a small child who does not yet have full muscle control and does not know how to properly use or judge their limbs. Sometimes I get nervous and stiff and start trying to swing my leg over the bike rigidly like some kind of robot, which never works. I think I have “successfully” dismounted once after many attempts and I don’t even know if I would really call it success. From what I remember it consisted of me swinging my leg over the back of the bike quickly, slamming my shin into the seat stay and then almost falling over, but somehow, by dumb luck, unclipping before that happened. I have had experienced cyclocross racers try to teach me and give me tips, but I still have not had much success.
I did try to practice a bit this season, but still to no avail. I came close to proper execution, but then ran out of time to work on my skills. I am not a quitter, so I am determined at some point to dedicate some time to this discipline of racing and eventually use poor Cruxie for her intended purpose. For now she is a great winter road and trail bike, but someday hopefully she will be a real racer (oh and me too!).