Off-road starter kit
No cyclist turns down an excuse to indulge in more kit — so if you don’t already have an off-road wardrobe, now is your chance… Firstly, you don’t need a top-end bike; an entry-level hardtail mountain bike, cross bike or gravel bike that can double up as a winter commuter are perfectly good ways to get started. Similarly, for cyclo-cross, just check out any local level race and you’ll see plenty of people on basic, rudimentary machinery. Whatever bike you ride off road, there are a few essentials you’ll definitely need…
Dual-sided off-road pedals
You clip and unclip much more frequently while riding off road, especially if you race cross. Dual-sided pedals are a good idea. Look for pedals designed for mud clearance, to avoid them clogging up.
Mountain bike shoes
You’ve got the pedals, now you need the shoes. Mountain bike shoes have recessed cleats, rugged soles for grip when you are off the bike and deep lugs for mud-shedding capabilities.
helmet AND Glasses
The chances of hitting your head are much higher off road thanks to low-hanging branches. Glasses are essential, as twigs and brambles can easily catch your face.
rain AND MUD protection
Cyclo-cross racers prefer a skinsuit or normal bibs and jersey, but for training and general riding, a decent wet-weather jacket and some water-resistant shorts can help prevent an ingress of grinding paste of water and grit into your chamois. Mudguards are optional.
Long-fingered gloves that will grip even when wet and dirty make a real difference to your bike control. They’ll also protect your hands from brambles on narrow tracks and in crashes.
running trail shoes
You’ll need running shoes that offer added traction. A decent running shop will provide the advice you need to get the right combination of grip and cushioning to suit your needs.
CW recommends: dhb Aeron Tempo Waterproof 2 Jacket £90
CW recommends: 100% Brisker Cold Weather gloves, SRP: £19.99
CW recommends: Specialized Comp mtb shoes, SRP: £150
CW recommends: Adidas Zonyk Aero Mid (with vario lens), SRP: £199
CW recommends: Shimano M540 SPD Pedals £59.99
CW recommends: Scott Supertrac RC, SRP: £130