Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from the third edition of Cyclocross: Training and Technique by Simon Burney.
Watch a fast-moving string of top-class riders, gracefully gliding on and off their bikes and jumping obstacles at speed; they make it look so easy.
Then watch riders at the other end of the scale attempting the same maneuvers; clearly, it's not as easy as it looks. Cyclocross takes skill, timing and nerve, and the vital seconds and energy that can be saved by performing the skills well are crucial.
You've ridden plenty of races, and you know how to get off your bike. But just think for a minute: Do you always do it the same way? Chances are you do, but is your technique right for every condition?
The correct technique for a dismount at 20 miles an hour, performed in order to jump a low hurdle with an immediate remount, is considerably different from the technique required for a dismount halfway up an unrideable, muddy climb. So let's examine each condition you will encounter during a race.Pro Cyclocross Racer Tim Johnson Demonstrates Proper Technique
1. With your hands on the brake levers, swing your right leg over the saddle and unclip your left foot from the pedal. Land on your right foot and start running.
The most common reason for dismounting is a hill that is too steep or slippery to ride. Before you dismount, select the gear you will want when you get back on your bike. If the climb is partly rideable but too slippery, you will already be in your bottom gear when you get off.
If the hill is too steep, approach it fast, with your hands either on the brake levers or on the tops of the bars. Swing your right leg over the back of the saddle, grab the top tube two or three inches in front of the seatpost, and jump off, unclipping your left foot and putting as much weight as you can through your right arm onto the top tube.
2. As soon as you are into your stride, pick up your bike by your preferred method; here Tim picks up with the down tube. With the bike on your shoulder, slide your right arm under the down tube and grab the end of the left-hand dropped section of your bars. Note that Tim's left hand has not moved from the brake lever since he dismounted.
If you are unsure about unclipping your left foot from the pedal at this late stage, make it the first thing you do as you approach the dismount; unclip your foot and simply rest it on top of the pedal without clipping it back in, then continue as above.
As your feet hit the ground, start running and flick the bike up onto your shoulder by the top tube, or down tube, depending on your style.
Almost Rideable Climb
If the hill is almost rideable, then the time to dismount is just before you start to lose momentum. Don't carry on, riding slower and slower, until you finally stop. You must maintain momentum at all times.
A moving bike is far easier to pick up than a dead weight, so it is better to get off too soon and keep moving than to dismount too late and risk stopping altogether.
Forget about holding the top tube as you dismount; you will be traveling too slowly for this technique to work. Swing your right leg over the saddle, and as you push down on the left pedal, unclip it and jump off.
3. With this style of carrying, the weight of the bike is shared between your shoulder and your forearm. Simply slide the bike forward or backward on your shoulder to achieve a comfortable balance and an upright running style.
Chances are that your hands will be firmly gripping the brake levers. Leave them there. Run the first few steps with your hands still on the levers until you get into your stride and back into your momentum, then pick the bike up by your preferred style, shoulder it, and carry on running.
Never run pushing your bike for more than five steps. If it is mud that forced you off your bike in the first place, it will suck at your tires, making pushing harder and clogging your wheels as you go.
If it is the steepness of the hill that has forced you off, then it's so much easier to run with a bike on your shoulder than to try to push it up a steep incline. Still need convincing?
Imagine your local supermarket is at the bottom of a long, steep hill. When you are walking back home with a heavy load of groceries, which is easier: carrying a bag in your hand at knee level, or putting it in a backpack and carrying it high on your back?
When you have to run in cyclocross, always run with your bike on your shoulder.