Cyclocross is a very specific type of bike racing. For the most part, the course is off-road but there are sometimes portions of pavement included in the course. Riders can expect to encounter grass, dirt, mud, gravel, sand, and a whole slew of other assortments and combinations. The races are based on a set time (measured by numbers of laps), not distance. Depending on the category, a race can be as short as 30 minutes (for beginners) or as long as 60 minutes (for pros). In most cases, race officials wait to see how quickly riders complete the first lap before deciding how many total laps will be completed. Depending on course conditions and pack motivation, the total time may be a few minutes less or more than the race flyer lists.
Courses are twisty circuits and typically include barriers as well as other features that will necessitate hopping off and back onto the bike. Obstacles are generally no more than 40 cm high and placed 4-6 m apart. With very few exceptions, barriers are small enough for everyone to safely run through. Those brave (and skilled) enough can hop their bikes right over. Often there are hills, sand pits and muddy sections that are too difficult or slow to ride, so a racer will shoulder their bike and run with it. Running has become a smaller part of racing over the last decade, but under some conditions, you’ll find mud so thick it’s often faster to run.
Technically, cyclocross is a form of bike racing, but you can think of it as a lifestyle that involves grabbing any bike, and navigating any type of terrain or obstacle, in the fastest and most efficient way possible. It’s also an adventuresome style of riding, with a versatile bike that allows you to explore any gravel or dirt road, park or trail that you stumble upon.