By Chris Davis Explore Big Sky Contributor

Love mud, furious pedaling and a good time? Cyclocross might be for you.

Racers must navigate an off-road track, frequently shouldering their bikes to run up steep slopes or jump hurdles, and then quickly remount until the next obstacle.

“You’re down in the trenches and the mud’s flying and the tires are in your face,” said Ryan Hamilton, a rider with Team Rockford in Bozeman, Montana.

Cyclocross frames look similar to road bikes, but are built to take on sloppy conditions, with their wider, knobby tires, cantilevered brakes and stronger construction.

Plenty of people use mountain or road bikes, and either way, Hamilton says, you’re set up for success.

This style of riding has seen an upswing in the U.S. in the last two decades, in part because the season takes place in fall and winter, the off-season for traditional bike racing. It’s also thanks to the fun-loving, energetic community surrounding the sport.

Competitors tend to have a sense of humor about the difficulties of the obstacles, Hamilton said, and you’ll often see riders clad in silly costumes.

Already popular in Missoula, the sport is growing around the Northern Rockies. Bozeman, which has four courses, is one of the nation’s fastest growing cyclocross markets. Case in point: Team Rockford riders have one of the highest participation levels in the country with its sponsor, Giant, for a team of its size, according to Hamilton.

The Wednesday night training races in Bozeman, open to anyone, are growing in popularity, said Tom Owen, owner of Gallatin Alpine Sports in Big Sky and co-founder of the GAS/Intrinsik bike team which hosts the public rides.

Getting started is easy, said Owen, who recommends building your base miles this summer, and when the trails get muddy and the roads icy, seeking out a cyclocross club and keeping those wheels spinning.

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Regional races and events

MONTANA

Rolling Thunder, Missoula, Oct 19-20

Wednesday night cyclocross race series, Bozeman & Missoula, Sept-Oct

Last Chance CX, Helena, Oct 6

Hot Cheetos and Taki Cross, Bozeman, Oct 26-27

MSU Cross Weekend, Bozeman, Nov 2-3

Herron CX Weekend, Kalispell, Nov 9-10
IDAHO

Moosecross, Victor, Oct. 12-13

Bear Lake Monster Cross, Montpelier, June 29