How to dismount in cyclocross

Simple, effective tips from US national champion Jeremy Powers

The flying dismount is a skill unique to the sport of cyclocross, and using the right technique will allow you to carry speed across any running section — plus allow you to do so safely.

Here, former US national champion Jeremy Powers explains the 'three points of contact' position used prior to dismount, when and how to unclip from your pedals, plus the best way to 'suitcase' carry your bike across barriers.

FasCat Coaching in Boulder, Colorado, held a cyclocross clinic with Powers, and FasCat founding coach Frank Overton also provides some tips here for you, such as have a friend film your technique.

With all of these skills, practise them slowly on grass until they become second nature. Then, and only then, begin doing them at a faster speed.

Three points of contact

When approaching a barrier, unclip your right foot and swing it over the saddle and bring it behind your left foot, which is still clipped in, Powers says.

Steady the bike by leaning it against your right hip. Then move your right hand from the handlebar to the top tube. These are the three points of contact: left hand on handlebar, right hand on top tube, right hip against saddle.

Cyclocross dismount step 4: grab the top tube with your right hand:

As you get ready to jump off, take weight off your left foot by leaning on your straight right arm that's on the top tube.

Cyclocross dismount step 5: shift weight to your right arm on the top tube:

To unclip, beginning swinging your right foot to the outside (left) of your left foot. This will make unclipping easier and ensure that you are clear of the left pedal. Keep most of your weight on your right arm.

Cyclocross dismount step 6: with your weight on your arms, swing your right foot to the outside of your left foot, then unclip your left foot:

Unclip by twisting your heel out, and hit the ground with your right foot first.

Cyclocross dismount step 7: hit the ground with your right foot first:

Stride out onto your left foot, then jump the barrier. It helps to first practise without any barrier, or with some relatively flat marker in place of a barrier.

Cyclocross dismount step 8: take one step onto your left foot, then jump the barrier:

The suitcase

The faster you go, the more important it is to keep your bike away from your body as you are running.

When you lift your bike by the handlebar and top tube, keep the saddle outside of your elbow, not inside. This is especially important for shorter riders, who may even want to grab the bike by the down tube to get over barriers.

Hold the bike away from the body:

If the bike saddle is outside your elbow, then any accidental contact with the bike and, say, a barrier, will only cause the bike to jerk upwards. If your saddle is inside your elbow, the same type of contact will cause the bike to slam into your body and/or under your arm.

Don't hold the bike inside your elbow (sad face at left). instead, hold it outside your elbow, away from your body (happy face at right):

Once across the barriers, gently set the bike down before you hop back on. Otherwise the bike will be bouncing around and bad things will happen as you try to remount.

Watch what you're doing

At FasCat Coaching, Overton films his riders using Dartfish so he can show them their technique in slow motion and replay.

"With Dartfish we can break it down to quarter-second frames and analyze their dismounts," Overton said. "We look for three points of contact, when they release, how soon they set up, when they unclip, how many steps they take getting over a barrier, and how smooth they are. I have found that with learning the dismount, if you can show people what they are doing, then that is the moment of realisation when they really get it."

Filming your technique is a great way to understand exactly what you're doing:

After you have practised a few times, recruit a friend to film you.

"Even shooting with an iPhone would work," Overton said. "We have our remote athletes have their wives or husbands or friends videotape them and have them send us that. That is better than having them practise something 50 times – if they are doing the wrong thing."

Practise, practise, practise – slowly

Powers stresses that the most important part of cyclocross technique is getting it right first, then adding speed.

"With all the fundamentals — the three points of contact, getting the bike away from you — you need to get them dialed at a slow speed," Powers said. "If you practice at a slow speed and really think about what you're doing, soon it will become second nature. Then, when you start to speed it up, you won't have mistakes."

Powers demonstrates the three points of contact:

Jeremy Powers also has a skills video, Jeremy Powers Cross Camp, that you can buy as a DVD or download. FasCat Coaching has a variety of cyclocross coaching plans.

Ben Delaney

US Editor-in-Chief
Ben has been writing about bikes since 2000, covering everything from the Tour de France to Asian manufacturing to kids' bikes. The former editor-in-chief of VeloNews, he began racing in college while getting a journalism degree at the University of New Mexico. Based in the cycling-crazed city of Boulder, Colorado, with his wife and two kids, Ben enjoys riding most every day.
  • Discipline: Road (paved or otherwise), cyclocross and sometimes mountain. His tri-curious phase seems to have passed, thankfully
  • Preferred Terrain: Quiet mountain roads leading to places unknown
  • Current Bikes: Scott Foil Team, Trek Boone 5, Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL4, Marinoni fixed gear, Santa Cruz Roadster TT bike
  • Dream Bike: A BMC Teammachine SLR01 with disc brakes and clearance for 30mm tires (doesn't yet exist)
  • Beer of Choice: Saison Dupont
  • Location: Boulder, CO, USA

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