Cyclocross Tactics: Running with the Bike

Cyclocross Training and Technique by Simon Burney running with a bike CC3

Simon Burney is a veteran expert in the world of cyclocross and his book, Cyclocross Training and Technique, is the bible of weekend warriors everywhere.

How you run—and more importantly, how you carry your bike—will significantly affect your ability to breathe properly and keep your upper body relaxed.

It’s quite difficult to describe an effective style for running with a bike on your shoulder, but when I was picking the brains of some of the Dutch guys to find out how they train, they described a good running style as “running like a woman.” When I pressed for more information, one of them said, “You know . . . swinging your spare arm and using your whole body to run, like women do!” What these top riders had in mind can be seen in the running style of, say, Richard Groenendaal, a very fast and efficient runner. Though the way they described it may sound a bit sexist, the running style itself is very effective.

Cyclocross Training and Technique by Simon Burney running with a bike
This is the reason you should include at least a little running in your training schedule. Sooner or later running in deep mud will be inevitable!


There are two main techniques for carrying the bike; both give you a nice upright style, and the choice between the two will be governed by your build. In the first, the arm goes around the front of the head tube and the hand grasps the brake lever. This technique is best suited to tall riders. In the second, the arm goes under the down tube, which then rests in the bend of the arm, and the hand grasps the dropped part of the bar. This style works best for shorter riders.

Avoid any style that pushes the weight of the bike forward and down with the corner of the top tube or seat tube resting on your shoulder. This method tends to make you lean forward, which restricts your breathing and forces you to lift your head awkwardly to see where you are going.

While carrying the bike, try to run as upright as possible on the flat, but lean forward slightly into any hills you have to climb. On steep hills, some riders like to push their left thigh with the left hand to give it a bit of help. Occasionally, you may have to run downhill if the descent is unrideable or is followed by an immediate return up a climb, and occasionally you might have to run a descent on the early laps of a race, as traffic may not allow you to ride a section straight after it. It becomes faster to stay off the bike and run the whole section. For the descent, lean back slightly into the slope and use your free arm for balance. It is important to watch where you are putting your feet, especially if the descent is unrideable because of too many rocks or roots, since falls while running can easily cause injury.

Unless the running section is particularly long (most are fairly short sections over hurdles or up banks), the effect should be a fast burst, not a gentle jog. When running uphill, especially in sand or mud, short, fast steps will mean a better grip; if you overstretch, you have more chance of slipping. On the flat, however, you can stride out.

Decide during your warm-up whether to use studs, spikes, or nothing at all in the front of your shoes. Your decision should be based on the ground conditions you will encounter when you have to dismount and cover ground on foot. Generally, use studs when the mud is deep, not just surface “slime” on hard ground, and spikes on a layer of surface slime to penetrate the top layer and grip the hard ground below. Spikes also work well on hard snow or ice. If there is anything slippery, either on dismount or on an uphill run, you would probably benefit from something in the front of your shoe, but if either you do not need to dismount or the ground is dry and firm, then leave the studs and spikes off. (Always put a “blank” in the stud/spike holes to cover the threads so they won’t become damaged or full of dirt. Blanks usually come with the shoes; they are simply flat-headed covers that protect the threads.) As a rule, avoid spikes if you have to dismount on concrete or rocks, as they will be too slippery. If in doubt, do a warm-up lap experimenting with studs or spikes to see what works best.

Read this excerpt for a Cyclocross Training Primer.

Cyclocross Training and Technique will help you improve your skills, plan your training season, and choose the best equipment for cycling’s most exciting and technical sport.