Doing it all the hard way...

Friday, October 1, 2010


Cyclocross is on the one hand the definition of simplicity. Get around this course as fast as you can, any way you can. You can ride, climb, run, claw, or do whatever it takes. On the other hand; the nuances of tread patterns, tire pressures, frame characteristics, brake options, not to mention embrocation, make this sport a true black art.

As my readership is well aware, I take the Classical view of biking as opposed to the Romantic view proposed by Robert Pirsig. For those of you who just like the Zen of riding, peace be with you and feel free to skip this post.

We spend time pondering the best bar tape for Cyclocross. Over the last six years I have raced with one set of handlebars and no less than six different front brake set ups. If I were to add brake pad experiments into that number, the result would surely exceed my finger based numeric system. I love my ride and feel it is pretty dialed in. For all the hubbub we make about gear, the race nearly always goes to the guy with the fastest legs. Yet because several places are often decided by a few seconds, we are constantly evaluating training, nutrition, equipment and clothing. When I went to Nationals last year I think I took five or six pairs of gloves. By the way, I’m still looking for good gloves for cold and wet conditions.

I recall the fit of rage I was in when I swore off Shimano SPD pedals and went the eggbeater route (I’ve never regretted it). I also recall when Kevin put his tubular front wheel on my bike and had me ride around. I couldn’t stop smiling.

Low pressure means great traction, at the risk of more flats. Get beat up or flat out? Pit wheels ? Pit wheels or pit bike ? I recently looked at my front wheel. It was just sitting there wondering why I was looking at it and wondering if I was some kind of cycling pervert. To the naked eye it was a wheel and a tire. I knew I had cleaned the carbon rim before I used the special glue and magic Belgium tape to glue the tire to the rim. I had of course put a valve extender on the tire before this and had taped the sides of the rim to prevent glue slop from getting everywhere. See my post about gluing the Evo way. Then I put a special sealant into the tire that would be at the ready to plug any small holes it might get while riding. And I had also coated the sidewalls with a special glue to prevent them from getting sliced while racing. That wheel is about as far from simple as you can get. It is, however, wicked fast.

I find myself riding a trainer downstairs before sunrise. Embrocation is a concept that freaks out people. There are several aspects of my Cyclocross life that seem to require explanation to the majority of the world. But to those that understand my sport, or love me, or both, they think I’m okay.

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