It was great to see so many people taking part in another Hüttcross season - I simply love how the Hüttcross community manages to run super-fun events which are welcoming to the entire cross-section of cyclists. With Covid still making events tricky to run I’m sure the volunteers who organise and run this series were nervous but as always the hard work they put into Hüttcross paid off. You really can’t give enough credit to the volunteer team that runs this series - they do a simply incredible job.
It’s been amazing to watch Hüttcross grow over the years and I’m proud that we’ve been able to help support it by giving away a pair of wheels each year as a spot prize. This year’s winner is Callum Kennedy and he wasted no time putting the new wheels to use at Cyclo Cross National Champs where he finished just off the podium.
Cyclo Cross wheels are really interesting for us to build as they tend to be a mix of road and mountain parts and features. Most CX and gravel bikes are highly customised by their owners and they often have to do everything from commuting to work on a rainy morning to long weekend backcountry adventures so we need to ensure the wheels are versatile and durable, but also super high performance. It’s a fun challenge for both Andrew and Carl to work with customers to spec their dream wheels, and for Gav to build them.
It was Jacob’s first year doing Hüttcross so I’m going to pass over to him to share his experiences and photos.
Hi, I’m Jacob, the Graphic Designer at Wheelworks Handcrafted Wheels!
This year I participated in Hüttcross, our local Cyclo Cross racing event, for the first time. I thought it would be fun to put together some thoughts on my experience and some stuff I learned.
To begin, I should start with a bit about myself. Adventure is a staple in my life. I spend most of my freetime participating in adventure sports as a way to have fun, and stretch my boundaries. I seriously enjoy sinking my teeth into a good challenge, mental or physical, and relish bumping up against the edges of where I’m growing.
I’ve ridden a bike for as long as I can remember, but when I moved to Wellington, I found myself thrust deeply into a passion for it. Whether commuting the tight, steep roads, blasting endless webs of single track, or meandering about gravel tracks, Wellington is a wonderland for the two-wheeled.
Now in Wellington I began considering bike racing for the first time. I’ve always been dubious about mixing competition and fun, plus, I felt like I wasn’t skilled enough for enduro racing, or fit enough for XC. I then learned about Cyclo Cross. I read through some Facebook posts, saw what type of folks competed, and I felt optimistic that win or lose, I was going to have some fun. The idea of competing was suddenly tantalizing. Working at Wheelworks next to long-time Hüttcrossers: Gavin, Tristan, and Andrew, I was quickly coerced into giving it a try. So I put clipless pedals on my commuter bike, took the pressure out of my tyres, and dove in.
As a newbie rocking up to the event for the first time, I was met with smiles, and banter. Music blasting, sausages sizzling, and folks zipping around on every imaginable type of bike. The energy at cross events is infectiously positive, not intimidating like the sport tournaments growing up. I felt that there was a spot for me in Hüttcross. It’s clear there’s a lot of intention put into keeping Hüttcross inclusive.
I found Gavin around the registration tent, chatted away some nerves and hopped on the track for a warm up. I leisurely picked my lines through corners while chirping with a few others on the track, then lined up at the start, placing myself near the back of the group. The MC stepped forward, riled us up and then began the race; chaos ensuing. Like a herd of cats we bumped, skidded and bottle-necked at the first corner. Laughing and struggling, the pack slowly spread-out and I found a comfortable spot.
Here, I found Hüttcross was the perfect flavor of competitive. Although you’re racing a track with others, I felt that the person I had to beat was me. Cross racing felt like me versus my will, puffing through obstacles, trying to keep some left in the tank for the last lap. Pressure came from keeping focus through tight corners, grinding through deep muddy swashes, or digging deep to crest sharp hills. The small moments of overtaking, (or being overtook) we just shreds of adrenaline to keep the pace up just a little longer and perfect opportunities for verbal jousting.
Over the 4 races of the season, I found where I liked to sit in the pack, on-pace with a handful of other racers, but seeing that each race course was so unique, it really came down to who showed up with the most beans that day.
It was fun. Type 2 fun. The hard kind. Most of the time I was smiling, genuinely enjoying the course and being on my bike. By the final lap I was scouring my soul for dregs of motivation to keep my splits even and avoid getting overtaken. The rain, the mud, the slipping and falling were all features of the event, not obstacles. It was a place to revel in the mess, and mould it into whatever you needed.
Hüttcross hit a core spot for me, and I feel like I came away learning a few things. I can push through more than I thought. When my brain says give up, the legs just keep spinning. I also found that the difference between a course feature and a course obstacle is just how muddy you’re willing to get; I’ll be applying that one to a few obstacles in life.
For those like myself who have never competed in bike racing, I highly recommend Hüttcross as a first. Especially if you can drag a few friends along with you. You may place first, or dead last, but I promise if you come ready to embrace the challenge, you’ll find a lot of fun.