I have a certain amount of trepidation about learning to mount/dismount my bike. This is one area that is quite different from the other disciplines of cycling used in 'cross. What steps did you take (or planning on taking) to learn this new skill?
My plan is to go to my local park and try everything at slow speeds. Here are a few videos I've found that make it look easy:
I found those... They only work on windows (I'm on a Mac so I used Parallels and Snapz Pro to convert them to Quicktime). They seem to be really good because he does them at a slower speed and shows you several angles.
Cycle Smart has a pretty good DVD on skills too - very methodical. But as most people mentioned, there's only so much learning you can do on the pc or at home. We'll get you on a ride or a clinic and have someone watch you, give you pointers. Also, after 17 years of racing - I think my technique is pretty good - but you know what? When I'm winded and tired and out of shape or have my usual chronic side-pain, that's when there's always a risk of bobbling - it happens to the best of us. Races can be won or lost on mounts and dismounts but given that it's gonna be your first season, I'm guessing that's the focus - the skills will come, but the riding fitness and skills will still be 90% of it.
On a rare occasion, you may see some daredevils bunnyhop the barriers. Here is how Todd Wells, Adam Craig, and Jeremy Powers - all true master hoppers - did it in 2005 W.E.Stedman cx race (small mpg video file attached).
Nice videos, just just one thought for teaching beginners; instead of stepping through it's sometimes easier, and more comfortable, to swing the right behind, unweight yourself by pushing down on the top tube and pop the left up and out ... then hit the ground running. Watching a lot of the top riders I don't see many stepping through anymore unless it's a wide-open fast approach set of barriers, and frankly not many courses feature those anymore (I think the idea has been to eliminate the bunny-hopping!) ... beside watching somebody do it, setting up a practice with barriers is really the only real way to get it .... we do that once a week here and people dig it ... especially new crossers ...
I have taught dozens of cyclists how to effectively mount and dismount. They usually solidly get it five to seven minutes into the lesson. (I basically teach them the way my coach Elmo taught me.)
One tip i give new cross racers is to focus on jumping onto the far pedal, NOT on the saddle. This keeps your ass low and eliminates the split second waste of time when cyclists land on the saddle and blow out their air of relief that they made it, then start looking down for the pedal.
Another tip i give is NEVER look down when you're jumping back on. The body will go where you look. You may not know it but you actually go a little bit slower when your eyes are gazed downwards. If you really need to look, then take a peek just BEFORE you jump onto the bike to confirm you indeed still have a saddle firmly connected to the bike and to confirm the location of the right pedal.
I have found once you get the hang of the mount/dismount that good practice is up and over picnic tables at your local park. I reccommend doing it when it is dry....and when no one is around :) you will get some funny looks!
My intro to cyclocross was 18 years ago. No pussy fancy clipless pedals back then. It was all about the Toeclips man!! Nothing like bombing down a steep muddy path and doing a dismount with toeclips!!! That left foot gets stuck...next thing you know your doing a crossed right leg, hopping fit, trying not to blow a tendon, or land on your face!!!
Or you rode with a pair of BMX bear traps and cleated soccer shoes!! I have a nice achillies tendon scar from that one!!!
Someone once asked Coppi what his training secrets were...he said "ride the bike, ride the bike, ride the bike" I think the same applies here "Practice, Practice, Practice"
My brother once came by me as I struggled over a serious 6 pack of barriers....he was smooth and quick, "Be like water the over rocks, smooth and fast" he said. I gasped out the reply of..."F%^& You!"...however he was right.
Good advice to the Grasshoper, Schrap! Nice to hear from somebody who did it back in the day with traps. Say, why does the legacy of high BTMBrkts's needed for trap clearance still live on in our CX bikes today?
Looking back at the whole discussion string two things stick out ... unclipping both feet early? Okay it was from Velo News, that makes sense now. Swinging over to land on the outside pedal? That doesn't compute either unless you plan on hurdling your bike before you hurdle the barrier.
I do however like the idea of going over the picinic table for practice. Especially if people are using it. Kind of like a short flyover covered with hotdogs and potato salad. You'd have some screaming fans close by, that's for sure.