Saturday, September 19, 2009

Scrubbing Speed

Using the terms "slowing" or "stopping" isn't good when you're talking about bike racing. I mean, racing is all about going as fast as you can. However, in cyclocross it's critical to stay upright in all those corners, off camber sections, barriers, and all those other obstacles. So, scrubbing speed prior to the obstacle is necessary in order not to "eat it".

Earlier this year I attended a cross clinic and my key takeaway was that I needed to upgrade my brakes. I had an offline discussion with the coaches and they brought up a few key features that my setup was missing.

First, they had the "euro style" brake lever setup. Basically, the levers are swapped so the rear brake is on your left hand. This is a huge benefit while dismounting prior to obstacles. You can get your leg over, hold the top tube with your right hand, and actually scrub speed at the same time. Currently, I'm having to keep my right hand on the rear brake so I can slow down without going over the bars with using my left hand on the front brake.

Secondly, the brake hanger on the front brake is positioned really high. This helps to reduce the power on the front brake. Remember, we're trying to "scrub speed" and not stop on a dime. My current setup is way to strong and results in lots of chatter in the front fork.

Lastly, the higher end brakes look more pro and they should be easier to adjust.

Last year I upgrade the wheels, so this year it had to be the brakes. I got a set of Pauls Touring Cantis installed by the folks at Velshop (photo below). Some folks put the NeoRetro on the front and Touring on the back. The NeoRetro is more "eurostyle" and looks cool, but they stick out and become a "leg grabber" so they put the Touring on the back. I stuck with the Touring on both to keep the maintenance the same. BTW, the Pauls came with some "post style" pads which I didn't install based on the shop recommendation. They placed on the brake shoes that take the pad inserts. This should be much easier for maintenance since you don't need to "start from scratch" when you replace your pads.

My first ride/race with them was last week at Psycho cross. I finally made it out to the park this week to get some more practice with them also. Totally awesome having the euro setup. Much easier to hit the barriers with speed during the dismount. Actually, I'm sure the setup change was probably the biggest difference instead of the phyiscal brake change. Something to consider since it was about $250 with installation. However, they look great and feel great so I'm convinced it has been a "worthy" upgrade.

Here's a good article on brakes in Velonews

Circle of Life

This past week I had a serious "Lion King - Circle of Life" experience. I took Luke to his first cub scout meeting. I grew up in scouting, became an eagle scout, and looking back it really impacted my life. It taught me work ethic, values, leadership, and having fun in the outdoors. My mom was involved from the start. She was a den leader and all that stuff.

Well, all that came rushing back this week. Luke and all the other boys checked out reptile man while the parents got the orientation. It talked about how at this age kids are so "formable", the values it teaches, and involvement of parents. I can see why my mom was sold on it for me years ago. Sometimes you don't realize the impact parents had on you until quite later in life - I called my mom and thanked her later in the week.

I did my best not to "push" Luke into it, but I of course I was excited that he was excited after the first meeting. We will see how it goes, but I have a feeling he will stick with it for a period of time and "the circle of life" will continue.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Psycho Cross Race - 9/13

Here's a report on the Psycho race I did on Sunday. Early season races are all about tuning/testing new gear, the "skills", and checking out the competition.

Course: Great course at Camp Harlow. Same location as last year. Gravel, some farm field, big single track sections, and a couple sand sections. Had a 4-pack barrier section, a barrier after the downhill sandpit, and a couple other single barriers. Smaller fields are great for the early season races. Sal puts on a good race.

Competition: I'm starting to notice a few Cat 2 road racers pull up to the line in these B+ races. I start to wonder "what am I doing in this cat", but then I remember that it gives me a good excuse to "suck their wheel" and not feel bad about it. We also race with the 50+ guys. Wow, some of those guys are really fast. Now I know what I want to do when I grow up.

Skills: Last year I really didn't do much mountain biking and I suffered in the handling skills in the early races. This year I've been riding with some guys from work to improve that. Felt much better in the single track than last year. The barriers felt even smoother with the brake lever switch.

Gear: My new brakes with the Euro setup worked great. It was my first ride/race with the left handed rear brake, so nothing like throwing yourself into the fire. It was great for the barriers. It took alittle getting used to in the single track section.

My key lesson of the day was "don't be lazy with tire setup". I had a flat at bunny hop practice earlier in the week and I threw in a tube into my tubless setup. Well, that came back to haunt me. In the 3rd lap I pinch flatted in the 1st single track section. Which wasn't that far after the wheel pit. So, I had a LONG run/walk. Got in a couple laps after the wheel change, but I was a lap behind everyone.

I got some good early season experience and learned a lesson on equipment. Good race even if the result wasn't the best.

DFL is always better than DNF.