Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Double Crossed

I’m a little late on this post, but the weekend before last I was indoctrinated into the cult of cyclocross with a double header. Saturday morning my buddy Brock and I took Cycle University's very worthwhile Cyclocross 101 course at Magnuson Park. We covered the mount and step-through dismount, shouldering, running, and barrier jumping. I also got reassurance from instructor Kristi Berg that starting cross with a mountain bike is perfectly sane and that during the first couple of seasons the bike is not going to be a limiting factor.

Quick digression about the bike:

  • Frame: TST (Kennewick, WA) titanium hardtail 20”
  • Fork: Salsa steel fork (added just for cross, crown race installed by Ted)
  • Tires: Panaracer Mack SK (front and rear)
  • Front wheel: Mavic x221 with Specialized Paralax hub
  • Rear wheel: Mavic x517 with XTR hub
  • Brakes: Avid V-brakes
  • Pedals: Time ATAC carbon
  • Crankset: Race Face Turbine
  • Shifters: XT 8-speed
  • Front Derailleur: XT top-pull triple
  • Rear Derailleur: XTR 8-speed
  • Cable Housing: Nokon
  • Headset: Cane Creek S2
  • Stem: Thomson Elite 110mm
  • Handlebars: Ritchey ForceLite
  • Grips: Race Face Good ‘n Evil
  • Seatpost: Race Face XY (400mm length and a full 1” of setback, the only reason I can get away with a 20” frame)
  • Seat: Selle Italia Prolink Trans AM

It’s everything that would have made you salivate about a mountain bike circa 1998, and still makes me salivate because I’m behind the times like that. Note that the water bottle cage bolts have been removed and taped over. I quickly learned that shouldering the bike is much easier without these nuisances there to snag elbows.

On to the double header... at Cross 101 we found out about the Copper Cross race happening the next day at South Sea-Tac and gave it a shot. We each bought one day USCF licenses and entered the men’s cat-4 race. I placed 16th and Brock placed25th in a starting field of 35. We were both happy to have finished all three laps. It was a lot of fun and the 35 minutes flew by in what seemed like 20. I was surprised by the number of non-finishers… due mostly to mechanical problems from what I saw. Bikes took a beating and I was again glad to be on the trusty MTB.

Lessons learned:
  • Don’t be over eager riding someone’s wheel or trying to pass in the tight and twisty bits. Better to lay off and stay clear of pileups. Save energy for sprinting when there’s a clear opening.
  • On encountering a pileup, ride around when it's clear. If there's not a clear opening, good chance you'll get caught in the pile and lose more time than you would if you'd waited a sec.
  • Practice handling! Poor handling killed me. I was coming into corners too fast and out of control. My one serious wipeout that led to a bloody shin was simply due to losing it in a corner.
  • Bring a first aid kit

The mountain bike definitely was not a liability. If anything it allowed me to take some of the uphills and downhills faster perhaps more recklessly than my cross bike counterparts. I easily had all the speed I needed. My limiting factor was handling skills, or lack thereof. I even saw saw a few mountain bikers doing quite well in the cat-3 race.

So what’s next? I’m hoping to ride in the first race of the Seattle Cyclocross series this Sunday at Evergreen High in Burien.

1 comment:

Chad Richmond said...

I'm in the cult as well.