Cyclocross racing was developed to help keep road riders in shape during the off-season. It is an intense event that requires both cross-country and road-riding skills, and helps to hone your riding technique. Cyclocross and road bike wheel sizes are typically the same, because the activity involves both road and off-road terrain. But cyclocross tires differ from road biking tires. Cyclocross is a hybrid sport, and the right tires can make a big difference in your performance.
Cyclocross races consist of a "track" that typically runs in a 1.5- to 2-mile loop, mixing flat pavement, rolling terrain and off-road surfaces. Obstacles require you to quickly leap off of the bike and jump or run with your bike. The ability to quickly click in and out of your pedals is important, as are quick reflexes; avoiding traffic jams and fallen riders is paramount to finishing well. Most courses feature short, steep and muddy sections that are nearly impossible to ride. Some courses also feature cliff-like drops, river crossings and technical single tracks. The combination of cycling, jumping, carrying, running and scrambling over obstacles makes cyclocross appealing.
The cyclocross bike differs from a road bike in frame shape, brake mounting and rear derailleur setup. Cyclocross wheels match a road bike size of 700c. The tires are what truly separates the road from the cyclocross bike.
Road Bike Tires
Road riding involves moving over mostly smooth surfaces like asphalt and concrete. Road bike tires are typically smooth with very little in the way of tread, a feature that helps reduce the friction your tires encounter. The less friction you create while your tires are rolling, the faster you can travel. Road tires are often an inch wide and are kept at a very high pressure -- more than 100 pounds per square inch, or psi.
Because a cyclocross course takes you through a host of terrain types, you need tires that can give you traction while also being aerodynamic enough to prevent friction from slowing you down. Tires widths of 1.25 to 1.5 inches, or 32 to 34 mm, are ideal, and the tire should have a fair amount of tread. Carry three types of tires and let specific course terrain dictate which to choose on a particular day: a tire for drier conditions, an all-around tire and a tire for very muddy rides.