It’s November (would you believe!), and with the 2017 UEC Cyclocross European Championships taking place in the Czech Republic this Sunday we are well and truly into cyclocross season. For those of you who enjoy the epic mud fest that is ‘cross, we have put together a brief guide on the kit that will help you to get the most out of your race day.
Aside from the mud, one of the things which distinguishes cyclocross from other types of racing is its short duration, typically less than an hour. Because of the nature of the race itself, mental preparation can be as critical as physical preparation for CX racing, and simplifying the pre-race prep as much as possible can really help you zone in on the race itself. In this blog we run through some of the key kit to make prepping for a cx race as easy and stress free as possible.
It’s all about the bike
At the end of the day, if your bike does not arrive there in one piece you’re not going to be able to race. Worrying about whether your bike is safe from damage en-route to the race can be a real confidence killer and distraction come race day morning. Bike protection kit can alleviate these worries and allow you to rest assured on the way to the race course, with one less thing to stress over in the build up to the event. British brand Fassa make a wide range of bike protection products suitable for every car and van setup, from full bike protectors to various padded covers for different bits of the bike.
Bag a good bag
A well designed race day bag can make all the difference during that crucial window when you’ve arrived at the race location and are making the final preparations for the race. Getting and staying in the right mindset for racing is a whole lot easier if the routine of getting into kit, final pre-hydration, warm-up etc. is as smooth and slick as possible. We love the race day bag from Fassa, which has a mega wide opening which rolls all the way back so you can easily see and access everything, as well as dedicated space for six bottles, shoes and kit and helmet.
The Inside Line Equipment race day bag is an alternative design but equally well laid out for easy pre-ride prep. This backpack style bag has suitcase style side zips for easy access to the main compartment, water bottle side pockets and an elasticated net for stashing your helmet. Both bags allow you to divide wet kit or shoes from other contents - the Fassa bag has a divider section, the Inside Line one a dedicated drawstring bag inside.
Have the right tool for the job
Sometimes you will arrive at the race course and need to do a bit of pre-race fettling on your bike. A handy high quality travel tool kit can make this a much more pleasant experience. There are a range of options available, from the very compact Silca T-ratchet and Ti-torque tool kit to the Lezyne Port-A-Shop Toolkit, the closest you can get to having a full workshop in a roughly iPad-sized package. Other options we really like for on the go mechanicking are the Silca T-handle toolkit or, to keep things simple (albeit not at all cheap!), the Silca HX-One hex set.
In terms of inflation, if you’re tight on space in your car or van, a travel floor pump could be the way forward. These nifty pumps offer almost the same performance as a full sized track pump in a more compact package. The Lezyne travel floor pump is a nice option and is available in both a steel and a CNC aluminium version. If you’re feeling a bit more extravagant the new Silca Pista pump is ideal as a travel pump, with a slim base plate and grooves in the handle to hold the hose neatly when not in use.
Get a grip
Because you'll need to occasionally dismount and hoike the bike over various obstacles when cyclocross riding, shoes are a key contact point. In muddy and slippery conditions, a set of toe spikes will help you maintain the traction you need until you can get back on the bike. Talking of shoes, part of pre-race prep should include checking the condition of your cleats and replacing them if necessary to ensure smooth clipping in and out around the course.
In terms of tyres, you may want to tailor your tyre choice to a particular course or stage of the season. Many riders go for a mixed tread pattern for the earlier part of the season and drier courses, and a mud-optimised tread for wetter courses and races later on in the season. Some of our gravel tyres may be a good option for cyclocross riding in drier conditions.
Get a warm up boost with embrocation cream
In addition to a proper pre-race warm up session, massaging embrocation cream into legs before a race can help with the initial warm up. Embrocation cream can also help to keep legs warmer during the race by creating a barrier against the wet/cold (in really cold conditions tights or leg warmers are the best option for protecting knees though). Embrocation cream is best treated with the due care it deserves (a bit like chillies in the kitchen) - it should be applied after any chamois cream and after you’ve put your bibs on, and as it can irritate eyes and sensitive skin it's important to use gloves or wash hands thoroughly after application (a wet wipe clean is an absolute minimum).
Do bottle it up
Hydration can have a big impact on performance, so getting it right is really important for a successful race. Most races will not involve taking on hydration during the race, but having a bottle to hand while your getting ready will ensure you stay hydrated before the race. In addition, having recovery drinks ready to go as soon as you're finished will help for those occasions where you’re so tired in the aftermath that even pushing your bike back to the car seems like an immense effort.
Embrace the ‘duvet day’ vibe post-ride
No matter how comfy an option they would be, fluffy pajamas are not really acceptable post-ride apparel, so recreating a 'duvet day' like cosy feeling can be achieved with appropriate alternatives. A soft sweatshirt, tee, comfy jeans and a snug pair of merino socks are all nice options when you want to luxuriate in that post-ride feeling of having earnt a bit of luxury, even if that luxury is just warm and dry clothing (us cyclists are easy to please!). For additional protection from the cold (and also nice option to put on pre-race), a warm jacket or hoodie is also a good option.
A warm drink is also a nice post-ride treat and a thermal bottle (like the 24Bottles Clima thermal bottle shown above) filled with your favourite hot beverage could come in handy here.
Other kit to keep your cool
Other race day must haves for us include a generous supply of clothing (pre-race, pre-race warm up, race and post-race), towels for drying off at the end of the race, some kind of pressure washer set up to get your bike to an acceptable level of clean for the journey home, plenty of snacks (granola bar anyone?) and, if you’ve got the space and want to lux it up a bit, a stove and aeropress or helix pour over coffee maker for making a proper post-ride coffee… now you’re talking! Incidentally if you are looking for options for making coffee on the go, our friends over at Pannier can sort you out with some really nice travel coffee making kit.
And if you’re in the market for a cyclocross bike
We couldn't have finished this blog without a mention of our select range of bikes and frames. If you’re thinking a cross bike might be for you (or maybe thinking a second bike could come in handy), there are a few nice options from Cinelli and Ritchey. The Cinelli Zydeco is a popular lightweight aluminium cross bike with a Shimano Tiagra 2 x 10 gear set up, mechanical disc brakes, ergo section on the top tube for more comfortable bike carrying as well as mounts for rack and mudguards for more versatile riding opportunities. The Ritchey Swiss Cross Disc is a finely tuned steel cross bike (with carbon fork) equipped with Shimano Ultegra 2x11 gears and Shimano’s drop bar hydraulic braking system, for the optimum in brake performance.