Cost of living crisis, environmental impact and inclusivity - should #1bikeX be the future of Cyclo-cross?

On the crazy muddy rounds of last year’s CX Nationals, our stubborn first year U14’s kept rolling on one bike from start to finish, refusing to use their pit bikes (a 100% finishing record for the whole team for the season too) proving modern disc brake bikes like the HUP evo are perfectly capable of going the distance. CX has moved on from the cantilever days. So why continue to double the costs with 2 bikes, pit equipment and even the need for bigger vehicles?

It’s pretty obvious that spiralling costs of bikes, tyres, maintenance, entries, fuel and accommodation are likely to reduce cyclo-cross participation in the short-term - which nobody wants to see. Whilst money plays it’s part in every sport (you will never stop riders arriving with £20K of kit in their motorhome!) its ability to govern the outcome should always be minimised. But in current times, its impact is likely to get worse.

Beyond the rising costs, there are other issues. The banks of pressure washers and generators at the final round or the CX Nationals last year was a car-crash moment. As an industry and sport wanting to project it’s green credentials at every opportunity, this scale of consumption loses that argument instantly. We don’t need 2 bikes, pressure washers, cleaning chemicals and 1000’s (or is that millions?) of litres of water just to go bike racing. In fact, the issue of water usage (or wastage) is likely to become a lot more political in the future, with the potential to attract widespread criticism of the sport - which may be prevented if we look at changes now...

Things could be different…what if we just use 1 bike, drastically reduce the size of pits (allow wheel changes only?) or even remove pits altogether (making it easier/cheaper to organise events and use new venues too?) and stop the use of pressure washers during the race. People need to clean bikes after the race, but they don't need the same facilities.

Cost reductions and simplifying races will improve inclusivity. Riders will do more, when it’s easier and cheaper. Simple.

The nature of the racing will change slightly, championship results will be shaken-up with more emphasis on good bike preparation and pre-race maintenance, tyre choice and running slightly higher (safer) pressures, use of tyre inserts, good line choice during the race (avoiding trouble) and mechanical sympathy. All good skills to master for any cycling discipline to avoid a DNF. Most racing disciplines don’t allow ‘spare bikes’ to be used anyway! It’s all more than possible.

…but my young rider won’t be able to practice pit bike swaps for when they go pro?” Well that's a skill any rider can learn in a couple of hours, when it's relevant - so in reality, banning pit bikes for U16 and below wouldn’t put anyone at a disadvantage in the future.

Of course the riders with £20K of kit and motorhomes will cry NO as their financial advantage will be reduced, but we hope British Cycling will look at this now (not next year or the year after) for the benefit of the wider sport, as it has never been more relevant. As a business we have nothing to gain (in fact, we are likely to lose) from advocating #1bikeX but not every business is trying to take over the world!

What say you?

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