Interesting that as new people come along this question seems to rear its head on a frequent basis. There’s a feeling from many riders that it’s within their right / it’s their own call as to how to interpret the rules on bikes and what constitutes a cyclo-cross bike.
The 3 Peaks Cyclo-Cross is a cyclo-cross race and the race rules have, since the first edition in 1961, always stipulated that a cyclo-cross bike must be ridden. This is the spirit of the race.3 Peaks cyclocross website ‘rules’ page
But with gravel bikes coming along in the last 12 years or so the lines have become more blurred. Even some bike manufacturers expect that riders will use the same bike to race ‘cross on and don’t describe their bike as ‘gravel’. But with the rules being so close to the heart of John Rawnsley and a very clear steer of the current YCCA organising team, it’s often good to look back at how these things came about.
Some significant points – for reference
- Mountain bikes or gravel bikes were not a thing when this race was born, so no specific rules were necessary
- In the 1970s quite a lot of experimentation started, including some lead contenders being given “bikes” purely to carry up the hills. You can imagine, I guess.
- When Mountain Bikes came along, some riders very quickly saw the chance to ‘change bikes’ on the top of summits and descent on a Mountain Bike
- To deal with this escalation of ‘bike type’ issues, the points at which it was legal to change your bike were brought in. So you couldn’t get a super light track bike to lug up Whernside unless you wanted to ride it all the way down too.
- Mountain Bikes were – quite soon after (in the early 90s) banned, and the term ‘Cyclo-cross bikes’ made it into the rules
- With this, Tyre width also became a thing in the rules, with a limit to 35mm
- Flat handlebars were still permitted in cyclo-cross in the 1990s and right into the early 2000s. But when they were banned from cyclo-cross by the UCI, the 3 Peaks organisers took a while, and it took until Nick Craig took the title in 2009 for them to decide that they would align with the UCI rules on drop handlebars
- Most recent changes include stipulating that suspension cannot be used on any part of the bike.
All in all, when we look at the steps above, we can see a resounding push to keep the race to being a cyclo-cross race, and retaining its roots.
Latest line on this from organiser Mark Richmond is interesting to read here on a post by Tom Randall on Facebook
The 3 Peaks Cyclo-Cross is a cyclo-cross race and the race rules have, since the first edition in 1961, always stipulated that a cyclo-cross bike must be ridden. This is the spirit of the race.
In recent years this requirement has become increasingly challenging due to the proliferation of gravel bike options which are now available. To further complicate matters, many brands are now offering one-bike-does-it-all options which are promoted as being suitable for both cyclo-cross racing and gravel riding. The matrix of design features and component options limits the race organisers ability to provide clear and prescriptive guidance that can be applied uniformly and equally in responding to requests for clarification on what constitutes a permissible cyclo-cross bike.
Our guidance to prospective competitors is, that in entering the race, they should ride a cyclocross bike that is in line with the spirit and heritage of the race. Having noted the similarities of gravel and cyclo-cross bikes, the only race rules pertaining to cycle design shall be:
• That 27″, 29” or 700mm wheels in mountain bike frames will not be allowed;
• The width of the tyre cannot be more than 35mm as displayed on the tyre;
• Suspension of any form is prohibited;
• No flared or flat handlebars are to be used
• Handlebar width shall be no greater than 440mm; and,
• Axles shall be 12mm through axles or quick release only.
For the avoidance of doubt, disc brakes are permitted. The race organising group will not enter into any correspondence on what constitutes a cyclo-cross or gravel as the above is clear and prescriptive.