The Complete Guide to Cyclocross in NYC
The 2018 cyclocross season may be winding down but we thought it was still a worthwhile time to compile an all-in one guide to cyclocross in New York City that we will continue updating as the 2019 season approaches. If you have something that should be added to this guide or just have questions about the NYC Cyclocross scene drop us a note at team [at] tobedetermined.cc.
Unlike in road where several promoters/clubs including the Century Road Club Association play a leading role in organizing the community, cyclocross organization is more informal with the New York City Cyclocross Facebook Group and Wednesday night cyclocross practice (see below) at the center of the cyclocross community. The Facebook group includes a mix of planning (coordinating rides to and from races), information on the Wednesday night practice on Randall’s Island (particularly weather cancellations), and the usual assortment of gear for sale/random chatter. Outside of this informal community the CRCA holds a limited number of free coaching sessions early in the season. And for those not in New York City there are similar informal cyclocross practices organized on occasion in New Jersey - Jalapeno Cycling on Facebook is a good source of additional information.
Wednesday Night Cyclocross Practice
Every Wednesday night there is an informal cyclocross practice on Randall’s Island in Manhattan. Led by Keith Garrison, the skill level ranges from elite racers to brand new cyclocrossers. The format will vary, evolving to suit needs during the season (e.g. more drills in late summer, more hot laps during the season) and to fit specific races (e.g. off-camber practice). In short, if you race cyclocross and live in Manhattan this is a great resource.
Time: Wednesdays at 7PM starting in late summer and running through CX season
Location: Wards Meadow (just North of Field 75) on Randall’s Island
Importantly, these practice sessions are held under a New York City Parks permit. This means that protecting the turf on Randall’s Island is a priority. Practice will be cancelled due to rain and/or soft ground. Any damage to the grass risks the permit required to run these practices. Please don’t mess it up for the rest of the community by tearing up the grass outside of practice.
Other Cyclocross Practice Resources
CRCA runs a limited schedule of CX practice sessions - these are free to members (membership is the best deal in NYC cycling) and sometimes available on a limited, paid, basis to non-members. Head over to CRCA.net or CRCA on Facebook for additional details
Jalapeno Cycling on Facebook will have info on practices in New Jersey
An Introduction to NYC Cyclocross Races
This is just an introduction - scroll to the bottom of this page for additional detail on many of the region’s cyclocross events.
Unfortunately New York City is home to only a single truly local cyclocross race: Rainey Park Cyclocross in Queens, just across the East River from Manhattan. Organized in part by the same people behind Wednesday night cyclocross practice, Rainey Park is a late season event that draws just about every NYC-based cyclocross racer out to this tight venue with great views across the water to Manhattan. It is definitely a race not to be missed.
And on the bright side of things there are still a plethora of other races in a roughly two to three hour radius from New York City. The closest of these is probably Supercross Cup, a full UCI weekend of racing just an hour or so north of Manhattan in Rockland County, but there are a wealth of grassroots (non-UCI) races sprinkled throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. For a complete listing of other events refer to the TBD Race Calendar or the King Kog 2018 Race Spreadsheet.
Regional UCI Events
While truly local racing is limited, New York City is just a few hours from what is arguably the best cyclocross scene in the country, New England Cyclocross or NECX. New England is home to a huge of array of events, including most notably the Vittoria Northeast UCI Cycling Series that features some of the best races on the East Coast (and possibly the entire country (these are all 2018 dates):
CRAFT Sportswear Gran Prix of Gloucester: Oct. 13 & 14 – Gloucester, MA
The Verge Northampton International: Nov. 10 & 11 – Northampton, MA
Supercross Cup: Nov. 17 & 18 – Suffern, NY
NBX Gran Prix of ’Cross: Dec. 1 & 2 – Warwick, RI
These are BIG races. Many of the fields will be sold out 125-rider fields and the level of competition at the front of the fields can be intense. New riders shouldn’t be intimidated though because the level of production at these races is top notch and they are a great opportunity to partake in a beer (or several) with friends and family while watching some of the best riders in the country compete. Other UCI races in the region include the early season Nittany Lion Cross in Pennsylvania, Charm City Cross in Baltimore, HPCX in New Jersey, and DCCX in Washington DC.
Almost all of these races have been featured multiple times in the TBD Journal so head over to the Cyclocross page and dig through the archives for more information.
Local Bike Shops
There are a variety of bike shops in New York City, some of which are more focused and capable when it comes to cyclocross than others. Bike shop preference is always a matter of (sometimes strongly held) opinion but some of the well regarded retails include:
King Kog Brooklyn - long-time sponsor of one of NYC’s local cyclocross teams
NYC Velo - former sponsor of a local racing team with long-time expertise in off-road biking
The TBD Cyclocross Packing List - everything we recommend packing for a day of cyclocross racing
TBD Race Calendar - we maintain a year round race calendar (for road / gravel / MTB / CX). Head here for a complete listing of all regional events.
King Kog 2018 Race Spreadsheet - the predecessor of the TBD calendar, this spreadsheet is another helpful resource
East Coast Cyclocross Google Maps - the King Kog 2018 race spreadsheet converted into Google Maps form.
Permitted CX Events by State - a site that allows you to lookup all permits by state
Information on Selected Races
Races, venues, and courses change from year to year and we may not full update this section of our Complete Guide to Cyclocross in NYC, but for background information on a wide array of regional races read below. Also check out all of our Cyclocross Race Reports on the journal for additional information on specific races.
Similarly to Nittany, flat, fast and not particularly technical. There are some “switchback” style climbs in the beginning then you’re going to ride a straight line for a minute or so hard. This is a great place to move up particularly if you have a big engine and didn’t tire yourself out too much out during the “climby” section. There are a few loose grassy corners that people lost their rear wheel in so be careful not to lose time or get caught behind someone there.
Challenging Bits: a small log. Should be easy to get over it without dismounting if you’re confident.
Race start is a bit far from registration and parking lot so account for that.
There are nice bathrooms. There is no beer.
Nittany Lion Cross
Flat, fast, and not particularly technical. In the lower categories Nittany is often won by someone coming off a big road season. The course is grassy, with a few loose corners, but otherwise good traction here.
Challenging bits: Belgian steps and a few tight, dusty down-and-ups but again, nothing particularly technical
Day 2 used to feature a not-super-rideable log after a short, steep ride-up. The log hasn’t been present recently, but…you never know.
Drainage: decent. Apart from a massive mud-hole behind the velodrome, even when saturated, the turf stays intact.
Town Hall Cyclocross
Holy god the climbing in this race is really hard. They call it the Cyclocross Alpe D’Huez – loads of switchbacks leading up to a super steep final climb that has small logs on it to ruin your life. Then it’s pretty much downhill back to the finish, with off-camber and 180° turns throughout. 95% grass.
Charm City Cyclocross
Charm City has been emerging as one of our favorite out of town cyclocross races in recent years. The venue and course is a lot of fun and in recent years they have built an ever larger stair feature in the center of the course.
Sneakily hilly, but nothing like Town Hall
2 sand pits, each has a 180° turn in it...pray for a bit of rain to ease riding through this section
Many sizeable down-and-ups and difficult off-camber portions when it’s wet.
2018 featured an intense mud pit on the course (in part due to weather and in part due to broken drainage)
A top-level event that makes a great weekend away and attracts amazing pro talent. Super fun course that combines almost all the skills necessary to be a good crosser. Get a hotel and stay at the race all day long. Depending on weather bring plenty of layers because you will be outside watching awesome racing all day. Course notes:
Significant up-and-down, rooty climbing just after the start, including some tough off-camber bits
First true pinch point at the “W” turn – it’s worth going pretty hard to this point, because there are limited sightlines on course, and being in the front-ish group helps with confidence.
Punchy climbing throughout – a sneaky leg-burner of a course
You don’t need a hotel for this race. Just wake up early and drive. There's a big parking lot for everyone and if you get there early enough, you can park right next to a few places on course.
Two big sand pits on Day 2. You CAN ride them.
Lots of climbing and fast long descents. This course hurts, especially the rise to the finish line.
Both days’ start are a wide uphill climb on pavement followed by 90 degree turns onto grass with tight corners. There are few places to pass on the besides this one.
Day 2 has a very long descent. With a sharp turn at the bottom on gravel. This will kinda suck to fall over in but you will probably get passed by people with more guts than you. Practice this descent in the pre ride
Gran Prix of Gloucester (GPGCX)
CUUUUUTE town and gorgeous park. Definite weekend-away material!. GREAT for getting significant others involved in races. Seriously, the drive is long but this is one of the best cyclocross races in the country.
Amazing beer tent. *Make sure you have your ID - they are VERY strict in this town*
Sand pits, fairly straight and not that long
There’s a long, wide, flat section of grass and gravel on the back side with great ocean views you can enjoy after you’ve finished
MTB-ready rocky technical stuff
“The Stitches” are a series of short descents and climbs, including one staircase, laid out across a grassy hillside.
Depending on layout and course rotations the start is a sprint uphill. If you’re a puncheur this is for you – you can get into a great position
I think it's only one day this year (sad!) but was a super fun course and you don't need a hotel. This race has everything. Grass climbs, gravel straightaways, two sand pits, single track with roots and rocks, barriers, fast turns, a turn made entirely out of bubble-gum, Dan cortes. It’s a good local race, so do it.
Northampton International Cyclocross (NOHOCX)
Alongside Gloucester, Noho CX is one of our Top 2 favorite races of the entire year. As part of the Vittoria Northeast Cyclocross Series the production value at Noho is excellent and similar to Gloucester, Noho provides a great New England town for loved ones to visit and to grab dinner/drinks after a day at the races.
Long Island Cyclocross at Sunken Meadow
A grassroots series of races easily accessible by LIRR, typically held around Thanksgiving weekend and once more in December. Not a technical course. Small fields. Just nice to get out and race in December without fussy traveling.
NBX Gran Prix of Cross (NBXCX)
A great race worth going to. You'll need a hotel or house but it's in a great town and the race is a blast. Has very few vendors so you'll want to bring a cooler with beer and some food. Make sure you have your ID - they are VERY strict in this town. Usually very cold! Closes out the season for most. Great event with good elite participation and huge fields. Course notes:
ROOOOOTS. So many roots. Pick your lines carefully.
Extremely technical back section
Long, un-rideable beach on Day 1, and a short, tricky, mostly unrideable sand down-and-up section on Day 2
Rainey Park Cyclocross (New York City!)
Rainey Park takes place in Queens and is put on by New York's god of cross, Keith Garrison. The entire race is in a tiny park so you can be sure of a premium spectating experience. The features of the course include some tiny steps on a long climb, stairs, excellent turn combinations, and all along the backdrop of Manhattan. Seriously, the race is in New York City, have we mentioned that? One pro tip is that if you volunteer (and actually show up) to help do any of the things Keith needs help with, you get a front row call up for your race.
Elm City CX
Held in mid-December, this is just about the last race of the year in the Northeast. The course makes good use of the hillside: fast singletrack, a grinding gravel climb up to more singletrack along the top of the ridge before you hit the chute back down the hill. The course also runs briefly through the park’s BMX features.
One of the most fun settings around: the course wraps around the Sly Fox brewery. Plentiful beer and probably the best crowds you’ll have. One of the most savage wooded sections around. Muddy and slippery even when it’s dry. Huge, fast muddy drop into a massive run-up that is lined with spectators. You can ride the run-up if you have enough confidence. LOTS of heckling here. The woods bits are followed by the turniest set of grass turns ever.
A great cross race at Rockland Community College, organized by Kissena. You can drive from NYC for each day, no need for a hotel. Amenities include: Big parking lot for all the racers and you can watch a few parts of the course right from your parking spot, free showers, bike wash. The worst drainage of any venue on the East Coast. Get ready for a ruined bike, and a ruined soul.
Another New Jersey park banger like Bubblecross: sand pits, singletrack, gravel, and grass, which seems especially spongy here. Last year had a pinwheel followed by a muddy run-up, and a log you could jump (or crash trying to).
CycloCross on the TBD Journal
See all Cyclocross on the TBD Journal