With cyclocross season officially in full swing, we’ve put together a list of things to consider in order to look the part for the race down at the park, and for equipping you with the right gear to enjoy every race this year.
Maybe you pulled the trigger on a new cross bike over the summer, or maybe you’re racing your trustee steed from last season. Perhaps you’re a first time racer, or seasoned veteran. Either way, here are a few suggestions you might need to jump on, before you begin jumping off, then back on again, in this crazy sport we love.
If you’re still running last year’s tires, or if you’re riding the stocks that came with your new bike, you should probably think about replacing them with some fresh rubber. Choosing the correct tire is the easiest way to quickly improve the quality of your ride. Things to keep in mind are, the specific tread patterns and the various tire widths. Consider the surface conditions of the courses you’ll be riding. Grass, mud, hard packed dirt? UCI sanctioned races don’t allow tires wider than 33c, so unless you’re planning on racing UCI events, we suggest you aim for 35mm or larger. Wider tires have been known to provide more control and comfort. Also, don’t hesitate to check and see what your local fast guys are running.
Pedals and Shoes
On the surface, a cyclocross bike may look more like a road bike than mountain bike, but when it comes to pedals, cross racing adopts the mud shedding, easy engagement, and overall durability of clipless mountain pedals. These types of pedals, such as Shimano’s mountain SPD pedals and Crank Brother’s Egg Beater style, offer 2-4 sides of engagement which make it easy to remount on the run. Mountain pedal cleats are only compatible with 2-hole SPD mountain bike shoes, which is ideal as they feature hard rubber soles with spikes that allow great off-the-bike traction, which is a must when it comes to obstacles, steep sections and sand pits.
Cranksets & Chainrings
Besides the wider, knobbier tires, the main difference between road bikes and cross bikes is the gearing. Most cyclocross races are short and erratic, meaning you don’t need as wide a gear range as you do for long road rides. From standard 46×36 tooth 10 speed cranksets, to SRAM Force CX1 11 speed group, there is plethora of drivetrain options for all racing levels and wallet thicknesses. No, we did not forget about you singlespeeders out there.
From traditional road wheels, to wide disc brake wheels, the sport of cross involves no shortage of wheel preferences. The main deciding factor here depends on what type of brakes your cross bike has. If your bike uses cantilever or v-brakes, you can use nearly any 700c rim wheelset, including most road wheels. If you choose a road wheelset, consider at least a 32 hole spoke option, as higher spoke counts generally equate to more durability. Cross-specific disc wheels are commonly designed more robustly than road rim-brake wheels, and usually offer wider rim options which work better with wider tires.
If you haven’t torn down last seasons bike, we recommend taking a look at your saddle alignment, from the rear. There is a good chance it’s been knocked off-center a little bit from all those smooth remounts. Check and possibly replace the saddle itself, too. Look for small cracks, or a creaking sound when you press down on it. Cyclocross isn’t a friendly sport for saddle life. Looking over your saddle before and after each cross race is a pretty good idea. You don’t want to be “That Person,” riding to the pit on a saddle-less bike!! Such a site isn’t all that uncommon in cyclocross racing.
The Small Things
Unless your bike is new, go ahead and grab all new cables and housing. You might need them a time or two before the season is over, so you might as well get practice installing everything now. Throw in some new brake shoes/pads while you’re at it, as racing around tight courses with obstacles and 180 degree turns demands reliable stopping power. Keep an eye your chain. It is the workhorse of your drivetrain and will be covered in grime 90 percent of the time which will do a number on it. Don’t forget to treat yourself with new handlebar tape in time for the start of the season. You might need to match your new kit, right? Might stay away from white, though. Just a thought.
To put it bluntly, if you are wanting to race cross, you should learn to love lycra if you don’t already. When it comes to apparel, racing cyclocross is done best in tighter-fitting road apparel. Putting to rest the presumptions of aerodynamic claims, a tighter fitting kit is ideal for many other reasons, such as the jersey won’t ride up your torso while dashing and the shorts won’t get caught on your saddle during the remount. Also, in cyclocross, nothing says “seasoned racer” like an off-the-wall pair of socks, even if it doesn’t match the rest of your kit.
Mud, sand, and beer. Just to name a few things that can potentially wind up in your eyes if you don’t wear eyewear. First and foremost, when shopping for eyewear its best to weigh your decision toward what offers the best protection. You’ll want to be sure the glasses you decide on fit securely and of course comfortably. Since your heart rate will be high for the duration of the race, your body temperature will go up, so try to find a pair that offers ventilation and anti-fog lenses. Race conditions will vary across the race calendar, meaning you are likely to experience anything from snow to sun, and even night time. Try to choose a pair that come with or offer the option of changeable lenses.
Is It New Bike Day?
You spent all summer getting inspired by online videos of last seasons races, browsed through all the blogs and saw all the latest gear, and in the process decided to start putting away some cash for a brand new autumn ride. If this sounds like you, maybe it’s time to pull the trigger and start tearing up the course on a brand new cyclocross bike. Browse our selection of the latest bikes from Spot, Niner, Ibis, and more or call a helpful Jenson USA Gear Advisor at (888) 880-3811 for help choosing a bike that’s right for you.
Cyclocross and beer go together like New Years and champagne. Don’t get caught without your post-race beverage accessories.
We hope this guide gives you some direction on what to look for when putting together your cyclocross gear. Now get out there and take advantage of this beautiful season!
What do you do to make the most of your cross season? Feel free to share your autumn racing tips & tricks below in the comments section.
Fill out this quick survey to let us know what you thought about the Jenson USA Journal for a chance to win a $25 gift card. A random winner will be chosen each month.