In the US at least. I just thought I'd throw that out there. We've started to see it in men's magazines that tout awesome scuba diving trips to Bali and the best designer lugged sole shoes for 2011 like Outside magazine. Participation is outstripping promotors ability to provide infrastructure. The guys who put on the races say to themselves - "Do I keep doing what I'm doing, and pissing off the people who get lapped two laps into a 100 racer category, or do I invest money to take this to the next level?" I know what will happen if they make that investment. The next hip outdoor sport will come along and they'll be left with thousands of dollars worth of course equipment and a paid staff. Remember whitewater kayaking, windsurfing and competitive rock climbing in the 90's? Remember the urgent need for whitewater parks and your investment in zebra print spanex climbing knickers?
It's getting too big for its britches folks. Its only cool if it's cult and it's only cult if it's low key. Every major bike manufacturer now makes one, two or three cross frames, putting them in the shops and under the noses of consumers all over the US. You can now go into any Performance bike store and buy a competent cyclocross bike for under 1000 bucks. Luckily, these bikes will serve their owners long past their flirtation with the racing scene. They can commute, tour and tow a Burly with a cross bike. Kind of hard to do that with a whitewater play boat. Race series are appearing or expanding in every metropolitan area, and with those come beginners sessions and clinics. But, what this means is that the barrier to entry has dropped. Whereas before you had to apprentice for a season, watching, learning, building your bike from parts you had to mail order or hack from old MTB's and road bikes, today you can jump right into a race and bring your lack of respect for the sport, the participants, and the laid back American cross ethos with you. Fist fights, aggro mid pack racers and mailing list flame wars are the result.
If my friends are reading this, they may feel despair. Why's he saying these things, doesn't he love the sport? More than you'll ever know. Every September I bid my road and MTB goodbye, my club rides get put on hold, weekend projects go undone and I become a monk who eats, breathes and lives cross. Waking up early every weekend morning to spend tons of time, effort and $$ to drive around the state chasing the races with my spare wheels and a recovery sandwich packed. I just had to say it because I think it's true. I think I can predict the future. I give the sport two or three more seasons at present participation levels. Maybe this season or next is the peak. I think we'll know the answer for real in Madison next year. But, this year, enjoy it, race your series, race nationals, cheer for your friends, buy Belgian beer. Savor it. If I'm wrong, you'll have lost nothing. If I'm right, and you had fun, you'll have lost nothing.