Believe it or not, ‘cross is coming. The sport Portland helped popularize in America is just around the corner with the first big local race (Het Meer at Vancouver Lake just over the Washington border) is set for September 4th. That’s just 11 days away!
There’s a reason ‘cross is so big around these parts: It’s the most accessible and community-minded discipline in cycling. The short laps and tight, crowded courses make it hard to ever feel like you’ve been “dropped” because there’s almost always someone else racing near you. The courses also typically wind through a “pit” area where the vibe is super fun with lots of cheering (that’s almost always supportive, except for when hecklers go overboard). You can race it on all types of bikes — from commuters with knobby tires to mountain bikes.
One of the best parts is how our community always extends a hand to show more folks the ropes. Case in point is the ‘Cyclocross Curious’ event coming this Saturday (8/27) from our friends at the Fast Fun Nice Cycling Team. One of their leaders, Evelyn Boling, shared a Q & A with us that she did for the Pedalpalooza Instagram account, and we figured it’d be a fun way to learn more about her, the sport and the event.
So here goes!
How long have you been riding/racing cyclocross?
Personally, six years, but we’ll have a myriad of skill and experience levels helping out.
What do you love about riding cyclocross/ the scene/ the culture?
Cyclocross challenges individuals in so many wonderful ways. There are basic bike handling and fitness levels to achieve, but, beyond that, each race unfolds entirely differently. A unique technical feature, like sand or rocks, extra barriers, or no barriers, fast and flat, or muddy hills can completely change the trajectory of how the race turns out. The races consist of several laps around the same course, so you have chances to improve, find a better line, or choose to run something that rode slowly. And then there’s the way it feels to do an all out effort for 45 mins. There’s nothing like that adrenaline, and everyone around you is putting it all out there too, so there’s this camaraderie that forms. Everybody is trying as hard as they can, but you can’t take it too seriously, because riding in circles and jumping over manufactured obstacles is actually pretty silly. So we bring out the cowbells and occasionally the costumes, rarely a goat or a karaoke booth, and that’s cross culture in a nutshell.
What is your cyclocross bike like?
I ride a cyclocross-specific bike. It’s the style of a road bike, but with clearance for knobbier tires. Oregon races don’t require a certain bike, though, so anything that feels comfortable riding through dirt and fast would work. I raced my first season on a Surly Straggler, the same bike I use for commuting around town now.
How did you get the idea for your ride? What led you to want to lead a ride like this?
When I tell people I race cyclocross, most people don’t know what it is, and I often get the question, “how did you even get involved in something like that?” like it’s this insider, niche sport. I mostly commute when I ride, so I know there are fast, skillful riders all over this city, but most race promotions are aimed at people who are already racing. The sport is trying to become more diverse, but if we want all races and genders and body sizes fully represented, we have to change how we recruit. Some teams, including Fast Fun Nice, are starting to offer scholarships to lower that initial barrier, but we also need to spread the word.
What can folks expect to see/hear/experience on your ride?
We will have different leaders at stations. Each will be an informal, fun introduction to a cyclocross skill, like dismounting or cornering. We’ll have a tent with more people to answer questions and a spinny wheel and raffle prizes for those who complete each station!
Thanks for sharing Evelyn!