In the last decade, cyclocross has grown from road cycling’s “weird cousin” to its own strong category in the industry. Embracing cyclocross is a way to extend your selling season, attract a new riding demographic, and most importantly, add to the list of fun things you and your customers can do with bikes. If cyclocross isn’t happening in your area, you don’t have cyclocross represented in your store yet, or you’ve never thrown a clinic or a race, here are some ways to get started.
If You Build It…
In terms of competitive cycling, action, and drumming up spectator frenzy, cyclocross racing might just be perfect. In order to get your shop involved in cyclocross, it helps to have races available to compete in and to create the need for bikes and product. Here’s how to get the wheels spinning for your first event.
First, you’ll want to scout out and secure a good location that will include all the usual challenges a cyclocross racer would encounter. UCI rules dictate that a course needs to be at least 3 meters (~10 ft) wide to allow room for passing, and most good courses include sharp and off camber turns, steep climbs and run-ups, sand pits, and of course, barriers. The prospective course should also allow room for spectators and a pit area. Cyclocross racecourses generally have laps that turn times of under 10 minutes at an elite level, and more based on experience and category level. A good course should favor technical riding and fitness in equal measure to level out the skills required for a podium finish. And make sure to give just as much thought to the non-racers. Are there bathrooms? Is there access to water for both hydration and the cleaning of bikes? Adequate parking and electricity? Food trucks?
Second, you’ll want to confirm that the desired location can be used for a race. Work with your local government and or Parks department to make sure you can, and if you can, learn how to use it in such a way that future events will be approved.
The third step is making your event official. Molly Crockett, Membership Services Coordinator of USA Cycling told us how to get started. “The first thing a new prospective race director would want to do is to reach out to their Local Association to see what dates are available to host an event.” Crockett continues, “Each Local Association gets together with race directors early in the year to put their cyclocross calendar together, and if you are not on the list, it is not guaranteed that the permit will get approved.” To find out who heads the Local Association in your area, go to www.usacycling.org/la/. Once the dates have been approved for the event, you’ll need to reach out USA Cycling staff to start the permitting process. Here is the link to find the contacts based on each state: usacycling.org/states/new/.
Finally, don’t forget your race staff before, during, and after the event. Promote the event with social media, flyers, and within your shop! Rally a group of volunteers to help build and tape the course, and to clean up when race day is over. For USA Cycling events, you’ll need race officials. Consider having an announcer to add to the excitement, and a proper podium for competitors to bask in the glory of their wins. A well thought out and thoroughly organized and promoted event is what will keep riders and spectators coming back for more.
Supplies To Get The Party Started
Tyler Denniston, Product Manager and overseer of the cyclocross category here at QBP, complied a list of items to guide a first order for the store that is new to the discipline. As is the case with any growing sport, lists like this are dynamic, but this is a great place to get the ball rolling. Now and into the future, you can count on QBP to continually be the leader in cyclocross offerings. Check out the rest of this issue of Call Up for more great cyclocross products.
Show Them How It’s Done
Cyclocross clinics can offer as many benefits as hosting a race. They’re a great way to build excitement, community, and skills for seasoned racers and newbies alike. Clinics provide a more relaxed environment for new riders to experience what it takes to participate in a race, and a chance for skilled riders to get in more practice and coach beginners. They’re also a great way to establish your shop as a resource for cyclocross and boost sales in the category.
The Fix Studio here in Minneapolis, Minnesota has seen the rewards of hosting cyclocross clinics. Co-owner Larry Foss says, “We are passionate about coaching; it is our number 1 priority.” He continues, “We do cyclocross clinics first and foremost because we love cyclocross! Cyclocross clinics give us an opportunity to provide national caliber instruction to local athletes who want to improve their skills. We conduct clinics because our mission is helping athletes achieve their goals. Watching an athlete progress during the course of our weekly or focused cyclocross weekend clinics is rewarding.”
For the shop that does not have coaches on staff, try reaching out for assistance from a local cyclocross team if there are any. Also consider contacting the brands of the cyclocross products you carry to see if any of their employees or sponsored riders can do a shop visit, or provide connections to coaches, riders, or teams in the region.
Conducting a cyclocross clinic does not require a lot of equipment. Practice barriers can be built, and cones to mark out a course are easily acquired. Each clinic can address the basics: approaching barriers, dismounting, remounting, maintaining speed, braking, and accelerating out of turns. An approved park is all you need. Foss also points out, “Do not forget hydration and snacks, as you may spend a few hours at the park with your “students,” and pre-season can be still warm!”
A clinic is also a place where you can demonstrate the benefits of proper equipment as well as the performance gains of gear at different price points. Participants are inevitably going to look to you for the gear they need to race. While the Fix uses clinics to promote services, they’ve also sold bikes during their clinics. And Foss says that beyond bikes, “Tires, wheels, and tubular gluing are the biggest boost to our business. The cyclocross clinics also generate conversation about equipment. Sharing information about bikes, tires, wheels, tubulars, and maintenance creates a better relationship with our customers.”
The popularity of cyclocross is running at fever pitch, and getting your shop into the sport is a win-win for everyone. Create the need for the products with an event, get the products on your shelves to get riders ready, and educate your new cyclocross racers how to use it. Plant the seed for late season sales, new customers, and new excuses to spend more time on bikes!