What skills do I need for cyclocross?
For starters, ride your bike—your cyclocross bike if you have one—on roads, on trails, on grass, gravel, dirt, sand, and in mud. Get use to how it handles. Practice descending and sprinting in the drops, not on the hoods, for greater control. Practice fishtailing in mud and sand—just keep pedaling and let the back end do what it wants. Hop up on curbs, over roots and rocks. Work on sharp turns on trails or around cones. But whatever you do, ride.
For technique, you need to learn three basic things: dismounting, remounting, and carrying your bike. You can start with some videos:
Kris Westwood is good on dismounting/remounting/carrying:
But note that you don’t need to learn the awkward and treacherous (but really cool looking and old-school) step-through dismount move! Jeremy Powers tells you why:
And for remounting, here’s how to get rid of that studder-step!
For longer or steeper runups, you’ll want to shoulder your bike. Georgia Gould shows you how its done (also watch her dismounts & remounts):
Riding in sand is rare around here, but these tips come in handy for loose gravel and for mud:
And here’s Westwood’s awesome advice not only on cornering in general, but also the tactics of corning–passing and preventing a pass:
And just for good measure, here are some dismounts in so-mo, mostly simple step-off, with one step-through:
So, you can watch these videos and practice on your own. But it is best to get an experienced friend to teach you, or to attend a clinic. DCMTB (who bring you the awesome DCCX race) usually offer free clinics in September on the DCCX course (look for their announcements on their website or facebook page).
Some cornering links & vids: