How To Exhibit Proper Cyclocross (Spectating) Technique

With the cyclocross season in full-swing, it’s time once again to dust off your mud boots, cowbells, and vuvuzelas in preparation for the world’s greatest spectator sport. But with the lack of a crowd-friendly 2020 season, chances are your spectating skills could use a bit of a refresher. 

With that in mind, here are some tips on how to exhibit proper cyclocross fan etiquette.

1. Don’t Be an A***ole 

This really should go without saying, but in case you need a reminder, here it is: don’t be an asshole while spectating a cyclocross race. This is applicable at any cyclocross race you might be spectating — and, let’s be honest, in daily life in general. However, it especially comes into play at an international elite-level cyclocross race. We all remember Cross Vegas 2014. Under no circumstances should you throw beer at a racer, particularly if that racer is currently or has in the past worn World Champion stripes. 

Further attributes of asshole behavior include but are not limited to: mean-spirited heckles, crossing the course in front of racers, leaning out into the course to get the perfect photo, or masquerading sexism in the form of heckles during a women’s race. And while we’re on the topic of women’s racing, please support it. Full stop. 

2. Location, Location, Location

First things first: decide on where you’re actually spectating the race. Are you waking up bright and early in the U.S. to stream a World Cup from across the pond? Do you have the good fortune to spectate a big race in person? Or are you simply showing your support to your local cyclocross scene? Regardless of size, locale, and where you choose to spectate, it’s crucial that you keep rule number one top of mind.

If you’re spectating a race in person, walk the whole course to scope out the best spots to watch the action. If you’re trying to social distance, pick a spot on one of the more remote sections of the course that doesn’t draw large crowds. Not only will you be able to spectate safely, but you’ll also be able to cheer racers on during a part of the race they don’t typically hear cheers.

3. Properly Quench Your Thirst

Finding the appropriate spectating beverage is crucial to fully enjoy a day at the races. But there are certain things you can do to make your drinking/spectating experience better. That’s true whether you gravitate more towards a hot cider or cocoa, an ice-cold beer, or your favorite non-alcoholic beverage. For hot drinks, be sure and get yourself a large enough thermos to last you through all the races. 

If you’re more of a beer drinker, keep it cheap, keep it yellow. It’s a marathon, not a sprint after all. You’ll be out there cheering all day, so if you start pounding heavy IPAs, you’re more likely to go from spectator to spectacle. You’re also more likely to break rule #1. Which is a good reminder: regardless of your beverage choice, do not, under any circumstances, throw that beverage at racers. Ever. 

Cheap yellow beer is also the optimal choice for beer hand-ups if you’re spectating a local race. As a racer, there’s really nothing worse than hauling ass up a run-up, and someone hands you a Double IPA halfway to the top. But there’s also nothing more refreshing than slamming a swig of chilled CYB — made even better when followed up with a bacon hand-up. A note on hand-ups: save them for your local races only. The pros get fined if they take one, your buddy in the Cat 3s doesn’t.

4. Perfect the Fine Art of Heckling

We touched on heckling in rule #1 but seeing as it’s such a huge part of the spectator experience, it’s worth its own section. Of course, there’s a fine art to crafting the perfect heckle. But it’s essential to keep it positive. Or weird. When it comes to heckling, the weirder, the better — especially if that weirdness is in good fun and not mean-spirited. And when we say weird, we don’t mean creepy. There’s a difference. 

As with hand-ups, heckling is most fun at your local races since you probably know the people you’re heckling personally and can have more fun with it. You also probably know who does and doesn’t appreciate a good heckle in your scene. We all know those Masters racers who demand quiet as they pass by because, in their mind, every race is for a striped jersey and not a pair of mountain bike tires.

5. Respect COVID-19 Protocols

Similar to rule #1, this should again go without saying: respect COVID-19 protocols for spectators. This is true whether or not there are formal rules in place — and regardless of if you agree with them or not. If the race promoter has a vaccine or testing mandate, abide by it. If you see other spectators social distancing or wearing masks, respect their choice. And give them some distance! These protocols aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, so it’s best to get used to them and enjoy the race! Because remember, it’s because of these protocols that we’re even able to have a normal(ish) cyclocross season to begin with this year.


Joel Swenson is a Minneapolis-based writer and former bike racer who now opts for rides that don’t elevate his heart rate quite as much. When not writing or riding, you’ll probably find him cooking, reading, buying records he’ll probably never listen to, or relaxing with a beer in hand and cat on lap.