What is CX Sportive?

CX is about riding what's in front of you.

What is CX?
What is a CX Sportive?
What bike do I need?

What is CX?

If you haven’t heard of CX as a style of riding before, we’ll start with a little background. But if you’re familiar with cyclocross and the new breed of ‘do it all’ CX bikes, and want to know more about CX Sportives in particular, click on the ‘What is a CX Sportive’ tab to find out more.

Still here? OK, then we’re going to start with a bold prediction; CX is going to be the most exciting development in the way that we ride bikes since the mountain bike boom of the 80s and 90s. That’s not to ignore the recent road and sportive boom, which has been thrilling to be a part of. But that has really been just an explosion of interest in a style of riding that has been established for many years. Mountain biking when it first came along, made people think differently about what riding a bike could be. CX is all set to do the same.

CX as a term is a traditional shorthand for cyclocross, a fast and action packed short course, off road race format that has been around for a long time. It’s huge in northern Europe and gaining popularity here. And as interest in the sport grows, so is interest in the style of bike; fast, versatile machines that you can ride (almost) anywhere, on (almost) any surface. And CX as a term is moving beyond just racing, to represent a much broader and more all encompassing style of riding.

CX, put simply is where the lines between road and mountain biking blur. That may not sound revolutionary, but when you try it, there’s a lightbulb moment. The penny drops and you wonder why road and dirt were ever considered to belong to different disciplines (or require different bikes).

So, CX is about riding whatever is in front of you. CX reclaims those tyre shredding, gravel strewn pot-holed back lanes that eat road bikes for breakfast. CX takes the local tracks and trails that feel a little tame on your mountain bike, and turns them into something to savour.

To sum it up, CX is the everyday joy of riding a bike, turned up to eleven.

What is a CX Sportive?

CX Sportives are the fantastic new mixed surface events that are combining the thrills of on and off-road riding into one awesome experience! Sportives have been around for a while now, and have attracted huge following. CX Sportive takes that tried and trusted format to give you a fully supported, exciting and entertaining event with top class organisation of our experienced team. Here’s a list of the features you get on a CX Sportive, from comprehensive route marking, well stocked feed stations and instant ride time results on the finish line.


CX Sportive courses are designed to cover a variety of terrains, typically to the following percentages:

60% Road (mostly back lanes)

25% fast tracks (fire road/farm track)

10% bridleway

5% singletrack (semi-technical off road)

CX Sportive events are built around a comprehensive support structure from the most experienced team in cycling. From start to finish, sign up to results, we’ve got it worked out for you.

Every event features:

  • Choice of course distances
  • Full course marking
  • Detailed route map
  • Support vehicle / mechanical assistance on the course
  • Free energy drink
  • Support/feed station on route (80& 60k only. Drinks station on 40k route)
  • Free allocation of energy snacks for each rider at support stations and finish
  • On site catering – Hot and cold food and drinks
  • Electronic rider timing
  • Immediate results for each rider at the finish with Bronze, Silver and Gold standards
  • Website results service

Entry Prices:

Full Route (80k approx): £29.00
Mid Route (60k approx): £29.00
Short Route (40k approx): £26.00

When you sign up for a CX Sportive event, you know you’re riding with the best events crew out there. Cycle events have been our business for 25 years. We have been running mountain bike events (see trailbreak.co.uk) since the start of the 90s, and started Southern Sportive ten years ago, launching the first sportives in the south of England, and introducing many features that have since become industry standards. We spotted the CX boom on the horizon five years ago, and ran the first CX Sportive event in 2010. We’re delighted to have Wiggle come on board to create the Wiggle CX Sportive Series for the 2015 season. It’s the perfect time, with CX events of all kinds set to come of age, and we’re excited to bring you the very best new rides of the year!

What bike do I need?

CX Sportive. As we say, it’s for all bikes, all riders and all terrains. So the only headache might be, which bike to choose? Streamline your hardtail MTB? Spec up your road winter training hack for some rough stuff? Bring out your crosser for a ride it could have been born to? Or prove once and for all to the world that singlespeed rocks? The choice is yours and each choice will reward you in different ways on a CX Sportive…

Cyclocross / CX: As the name suggests a CX bike may be the ideal steed for a CX Sportive. Quick and capable over any surface, your crosser is ride ready. Just fit semi slick or mixed surface tyres; something that will roll on the roads as well as grip on the rough stuff. If you’re a racer, your full on ‘cross race bike will do just nicely, or if you’re not, there’s a great new generation of ‘do it all’ CX bikes coming out; disc break equipped with guard and rack mounts, which you could use for races, sportives, commuting and even long distance, multi day adventures!

MTB: ‘Mountain bike’ covers a huge range of shapes sizes and styles. Obviously a good XC style MTB is your best CX Sportive choice. Light, fast and comfortable enough for a full day out, an XC MTB can keep your pace respecatble on the roads and really come into it’s own when you hit the dirt! A hardtail is plenty, full suspension will be mostly surplus to requirements here. Again, set up your riding position right for some sustained spinning (no need to lower your saddle for the gnarly stuff!), fit some tyres that’ll roll well at speed and crucially, stick a bit more air in them! 50+ psi will feel like rocket assist on the hard-top!

Road: First things first; step away from your carbon dream machine! Save your super-light bling for the summer, roll out your winter training steed and now you’re in business. If you fancy the challenge, there’s no reason why your winter roadie shouldn’t serve you well enough at CX Sportive, with a few tweaks. A strong set of training wheels is essential, as are a set of cx capable tyres. Think about adjusting your ride position a bit too, to favour handling over pure speed. So not too nose to the ground; maybe drop the saddle and raise the bars a bit. The right set up here will pay dividends on the road and smoother track sections. The trade off may be a bit of hiking on some the shorter and trickier off road sections. Oh, and lose the mudguards, unless you want to spend half your ride unclogging them!

29er: The merits of the mountain bike’s big wheeled cousin have been much debated. But after about five years of the press telling us ‘this is the year of the 29er’ it seems like they’ve finally arrived and we’re seeing them everywhere this year. Now whether that’s good or bad for full on MTB stuff we’ll leave you to decide, but for CX Sportive, they’re great. Plenty capable in the rough, with the turn of speed to eat up the miles on the black stuff. Break out your 29er for the next CX, and give yourself an unfair advantage over your 26 inch brethren!

Singlespeed: So, you ride a singlespeed. You already know why, you don’t need me to tell you. And you already know that it’s the best bike for this event by a country mile, whatever logic or evidence might dictate. Come the revolution, gears will be the first against the wall!

Hybrid / Urban: The humble commute scoot has undergone a transformation in recent years. ‘Hybrid’ used to be shorthand for a cheap, heavyweight, clunker, but now they’re nearly as sleek and nimble as their drop barred cousins, with the benefit of a heads-up riding position. There’s no reason why yours shouldn’t serve you well on a CX Sportive course – treat it to tyres with some off road grip, ditch the mud guards if you have them (they’ll only clog) and you’re good to go. We’d just refer you to our comments in Road Bikes about super-pimpy carbon exotica (don’t go there), and also say be prepared that it’ll need a good clean and oil before Monday morning commute duties – unless you want to make a statement, that is.

Fixie: Seriously? Well, it’s your life! Just don’t expect it to still be that colour afterwards.

A note about tyres

Whatever you ride, your most important decision may well be the tyres you fit. Here are some points to consider:

1 – Don’t keep your tyres too long: We’re not recommending a particular tyre or brand here. There are plenty of sites and magazines out there if you want to look up reviews. But we’re not sure that the actual brand of tyre is the even most important thing. We know from experience in talking to thousands of riders on events, that the people who avoid punctures the most successfully are the ones on newer tyres. It’s as simple as that – old and worn tyres puncture more often, so it’s worth renewing your rubber more often than most of us do. Get advice from your local shop, or talk to a knowledgeable friend or club mate if you don’t have a preferred tyre already.

2 – You’ll need a bit of grip: Every CX Sportive will involve some off road sections, so this is no place for your skinny slicks. You’ll want semi slicks at least, and something grippier in wet conditions. Just how much you prefer is ultimately up to you, and it’s always going to be a trade off; tyres that roll faster on the tarmac will give you less grip on the rough stuff, while your knobblies will be great on the tracks, but draggy back on the road. So you’re after a good all-rounder, but our advice on balance, would be to err on the side of grip over rolling speed.

3 – Don’t be tempted by super-light race tyres: You want to last the distance. So if you’re trying to save weight on your set up, do it somewhere else other than on your tyres. Lightweight tyres are light for reason – they’re never going to be the toughest you’ll get. A full CX Sportive course will put a lot of demands on your rubber, so fit some that are up to the job. It’ll pay you back in the long run.