Getting Real (about CX)

You know those 80s movies where the puny kid is way over his head, and has no chance of winning the [race/fight/spelling bee/whatever] he's about to compete in, but he somehow pulls off the victory because he's got heart? 

That's a bunch of crap in a sport where you stay pegged at your lactate threshold for an hour. 

I did a couple races this week at Alpenrose Dairy.  The first was Wednesday night, aka Blind Date.  The second was today at the Cross Crusade series opener.  Pretty much got clobbered both times.  My back is on fire, and I can't seem to climb up the bumpy stuff any faster than a toddler on training wheels. 

My bike works fine.  I'll be able to run softer tires once I get my tubeless setup done.  That will help. 

Hopefully it will get better.  I'll keep working at it and it will get better.   I hope.

My Trusty Steed is Nearly Ready

Almost done, just a few tweaks and a rear wheel away from being ready to roll.


Flat tire prevention in cyclocross

I hate flat tires.  Running to the garage to squeeze in a one hour ride and finding one, sometimes TWO flat tires?  I hate it!  So I sat down and thought about it, and came up with several minor things I can do to help prevent flat tires. 

Here they are, in order of expense.  I'm focusing on training here, not your race day setup.  But you might find this info handy for either:

Fatter Tubes:
My local bike shops sell two suitable sizes of cyclocross tubes: 700x28-32c and maybe something a little bigger like 700x35-43c.  I'm sure you'll find something similar at your bike shop.  Get the bigger size.  The tube walls are thicker and more robust.  There is no extra cost here, just pick the slightly heavier tubes next time.  Do NOT run road tubes.  Too thin.  You will flat, I promise.

Cost: $10

latexTube Latex Tubes:
Latex is said to stretch WAY more than butyl.  Therefore, it is logical to assume latex tubes will get less punctures.  Thorns and sharp rocks will have a harder time poking through, and you should be able to survive more bumps that would cause a pinch flat with a butyl tube.  Challenge is the only company I know of that sells cyclocross sized latex tubes.

Cost: $25

qTube Sealant and the Right Tubes:
If you look hard enough, you can find tubes that have removable valve cores (a valve core is that little head/valve you unscrew on a presta valve to inflate the tire).  That will allow you to squirt some sealant (e.g. Stans) into your tubes.  While it won't protect you from sidewall punctures, it will certainly help for some flats, especially the thorn-induced kind that surprise you when you are about to go out on a ride.  If you can't find a brand you like, try QTubes.  They don't cost any more than a normal butyl tube.

Cost: $26 ($10 for tubes plus $16 for sealant)

Go Tubeless:
You can go tubeless on a huge budget range:

  • tubelesskitGhetto: Slice up a 26" MTB tube to line your rim.  Cheap rim strip.  Maybe add an extra layer of rim tape too.  With luck, and the right tires, that might work.  Be prepared to experiment.
  • Tubeless Conversion:  Stans sells a tubeless kit that contains rim strips, tape and sealant.  More importantly, if you go to the forums (or email them), they might be able to tell you how many layers of rim tape you need for your particular rim to make it seal up right and not burp.  You may just need to experiment a little.
  • Tubeless-Specific Wheels - There are several options now.  These wheels have rim beads designed for tubeless use, and you can get pre-determined setups that work without experimentation.

Regardless of your option, just be careful.  Consider this:

  • Training: I actually ride on the road to get to the cyclocross terrain.  Bombing downhill on the way home would not be a fun time for my tire to slip off the rim.  I don't have time to inspect my tires before every ride (or maybe I'm just too lazy).  Since I don't have the motivation/gumption to properly maintain the setup, I ride clinchers for training. 
  • Racing: When I race, I use tires in primo condition and I can inspect them regularly between races.  I can be more confident of my equipment.

I don't want to artificially alarm anyone.  Odds are if you have any problems, it will just be your tire burps air and you can stop and pump it up again.  No biggie.   But do some research and get a reliable setup going before you trust your equipment day in and day out for training.

Cost: $20 - $2000.

Perhaps the most expensive and least wise option of them all.  You'll get less pinch flats, but there's still those pesky thorns and sharp rocks.  Get a flat?  Roll a tire?  Hmm well that sucks.  Carry a cell phone or be prepared to jog home.  There is no pit in the real world.

But, if you are meticulous with your equipment and don't mind getting stuck out there, go for it.

Cost:  Not worth it

So close I can taste it

Nine days!  Good God, I am getting so jazzed for cyclocross season!

barton3It's been raining, and I've been riding in it.  Mud everywhere.  Usually for me, September yields dry hard-packed rides in Forest Park's gravel roads.  But now it's already a mess down there.  Big muddy medians that you can churn through and slip around in.  So fun, and so much closer to race conditions.

My preparation for cyclocross has been horrible.  The house addition is almost done, but it's just taking up a ridiculous amount of time and energy away from everything else.  I'm coaching soccer for two teams, so there's four days of practice, plus game day.  There's just not enough time in the day to get everything done sometimes.  I'm working hard at it now but who knows what will happen.  So I'm going in hopeful of improving into November but really I've no idea how I'll do.

Last year, my high point was top 10 at my favorite venue, Barton Park.  And I did it after a mishap had me stop at the starting line while everyone rode away from me.  This year, I'd like to snag another top 10.  I think that's not too lofty of a goal.

I want to do better at Nationals, too.  I got my butt kicked last year, hard.  I was only about 50 feet from being lapped.  I just found the existence of this picture yesterday.  That's me, looking back, and realizing I was going to be that guy  -- the last guy out there finishing the race while everyone is walking around on the course and going home.  I guess I can be happy I didn't get lapped and pulled like a lot of other folks, but that's not really good enough for me.

I had lofty goals for this cyclocross season, but it just kind of fell apart.  There's not anything I can do about that, so I'm looking forward.  My race slumber will fuel my motivation.  I will enjoy the mere privilege of racing cyclocross this year.  With time so rare these days, I value even an hour's time I get to spend on the bike.  Throw in some mud and it's really something special.  I am feeling very good on the 'cross bike right now, and very motivated.

It's here.  It's almost here.  I forgot how much I loved it.

42 Days?

Oh crap.  42 days until Cross and here I am sitting around doing nothing.  I hope there's still time!

There's going to be a race out at Krugers Farm next weekend.  It's more of a crit than anything, but I think I'll try to do it.

I had bad luck last year, but maybe I can get closer to the previous result this time around.  I'm certainly not holding my breath!

Even though it's hot and dusty (and I truly hate hot and dusty cyclocross), I'd say it might be better than the crap we had in November.

I've got wheels to build and my bike is in pieces!

Time for more EVerLube

I finally ran out of my big batch of home brewed bike lube.  It worked great, so I made another batch.  Here's another run-through:


Start out with a gallon of Odorless Mineral Spirits and a quart of synthetic oil.  The weight of the oil matters not:



Pour out a quart of the mineral spirits and save for later.  Pour in the quart of oil:



You can see here that the mixture needs to be shaken up a bit to combine your two ingredients:



Shake to mix the bottle of lube, and you're done!  Refill all those empty 3oz lube bottles you have lying around.



Put it on thick, spin the pedals about 30 times and then wipe off with a rag.  If you do that before every ride, your chain will stay pretty clean.  The spirits help clean the chain and thin the oil.  This lets the oil get in to the rollers of your chain.  The spirits evaporate, leaving the oil where you want it.  Wipe and go!


Sad day for bike racers in PDX

Sad news today after one of our own passed away right after finishing the Tuesday night PIR.

Crossed the line, coasted, collapsed, passed away.

I wish I'd known him better.  I'm sad for his friends and his family. 

I know we're not machines, but sometimes I pretend to forget.  I've pushed myself so hard that I fought to stay conscious for half a minute.  Is this what happened to him?  Except he didn't recover. 

What a bummer.  Very tragic news here in Portland.

Rest in peace, brother.

Too early?

Is it too early to start getting pumped for cyclocross?  I know it is but I am having a weak moment. 

I've been listening to CTodd's little number this morning:

Paris Roubaix 2010 - Weak Sauce

Well I was sure pumped to see this race, but I was really disappointed in how it played out.

Here you go:

The man is a machine.  Wow.  Everyone but Boonen was more than happy to race for second, and Boonen did not seem have his head in the game. 

The highlight for me was seeing Thor SMOKE Flecha in the sprint for second place.  But then Flecha came over the line clapping his hands, perfectly happy having raced for a podium spot.  Next year, let there be RAIN.  Please.

Flanders Attack

Wow.  Here's the defining moment (I skipped ahead a bit to get to the good part):

He's gone!  How did he do that?  Amazing.

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