NC Cyclocross

NC Cyclocross Clinic Recap

This past Sunday I dragged myself out of bed at o’dark 30 to prep myself and brain for my first cyclocross “clinic”. At around 7 o’clock teammate and all around awesome guy, George Berger, picked me up in his little Prius and we were off into the sunrise. The goal was to get to mountains of Boone North Carolina and the Pirate Race Products Cyclocross Clinics.

NC Cyclocross

Walking into a cyclocross clinic I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have participated in cyclocross practices, and various other road/mtb clinics before but never dedicated for cyclocross.

Here are the things I did know:

The clinic was segregated for women and men. There ended up being roughly 12 women that showed up which seemed to be a decent group for learning and trying new things with two instructors.

It would be a long day. The clinic was scheduled from 10 to 4, and I knew from cyclocross practices that I would be completely worn out doing these quick burst of anaerobic effort.

NC Cyclocross

There would be good food. Burrito’s from Black Cat in Boone, if you haven’t been there – go visit soon.

I had no goals. There were things I want to improve on in cyclocross this year, but a specific skill other than not hurting myself, I didn’t have one dead set in mind. Oh wait, that is a lie.I want to be able to do the “flying squirrel” remount by the end of the season. You know that one were you “hop” off the ground and gracefully slide over your saddle like a cowboy on a bareback horse? Yes that is what I want to be able to do.

Drills and practice makes perfect

For 6 hours I was taken back to high school. All the drills and random technique forming (brain numbing) things you would do, and hate, wanting to just PLAY the game you were practicing for. You didn’t want to practice sprints, side to side, crazy legs, etc.

Quickly these feelings went away and I was left really enjoying myself and fellow company. I hope to have video’s of all the things below later this week. Video editing is just not in the time early this week.

Crazy 8′s -  You basically take two objects, maybe 20-50 feet apart, with a partner you circle the objects/cones/trees/phone poles in a crazy 8 fashion. Learning how to take the corners properly at speed, while at the same time making sure your partner doesn’t catch or pass you (especially in the corners.)

Hill Climbs – This is the one I avoid, I did it twice and stopped. Find a hill and run up it with your bike. At the top either walk down or hop on your bike to ride back down. We started off slowly, simply picking up our bike and walking up the hill to learn where to place the bike on our shoulders and how to use our free arm to propel ourselves up. After a few times in slow, we then would ride into the hill, dismount and “scurry” up the hill.

Dismounts – A great thing for someone getting used to hopping off the CX bikes, especially with clipless pedals. With some momentum unclip your right foot and swing it over the saddle to be behind your left foot. Simply glide in that position. Once you feel comfortable doing this, repeat but this time swing your right leg back over to and clip back in. Next step is to complete the dismount. There were two schools of thought for this, sliding your right leg between your left leg and bike, or swinging your right leg behind your left and allowing the momentum to unclick you. I don’t feel comfortable the first way, and I’m much faster with the second.

Mounting – At a walking pace work on hip rotation and in motion of your walking stride take your right leg and slide it over the saddle so you “catch” yourself on your inner thigh right below your groin. Work on getting faster and “pushing off” your left leg so you get more speed into the sliding onto the saddle. (This is the one I need to work more on.)

Starts- Try out different gearing for your start, where should you be on your seat, do you do better with your hands on the shifters or in the drops, learn your limits so that you can push them but also land in the top positions in the start of the race. It is always better to allow people to pass you than to pick off people through out the race.

Other things gained at the NC CX clinic

NC Cyclocross

The drills were awesome. Having 12 women to talk about womens CX and learn their ways of doing things, was awesome. Having “hot laps” at the end, was awesome. More than anything I believe the best part was meeting 12 semi-local women that will be on the courses beside me. Having people to talk with, making new friends and hopefully helping grow the sport.

Kuat Rack Review

Testing out George’s new Kuat rack was also very informative, if only they came out for a hitch for my new car!

I feel more motivated and able for the season. All I need to work on is my motor and I have over a month to work on that one. Here’s to NC Cyclocross! You can find all the photos over yonder.

Race Day Rituals

Pre-Race Preparation, Rituals and Stupidity

What are your race day rituals? I find that rituals are so different between the niches of cycling. You can easily identify someones personality by how they prepare for a race. Is your gear in a box all organized? Are your bottles prepared the night before and put in the fridge with your gels already under the cap? Do you warm up on a trainer, or in your jeans on the road?

Mud and Cowbells put together a great Powerpoint deck of pre-race rituals for cyclocross. Click through but please share your setup and rituals in the comments below!

Pre-race Rituals for Cyclocross

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Tech Tuesday: Check Your Suspension

While riding around in circles tonight at a local 3.5 mile mountain trail I realized something was off more than normal. My pedals were hitting things that I normal don’t and my turning felt slow. As I slowed to a stop I watched my fork spring back to life after I unweighted the front end. This meant only one thing, my air suspension fork didn’t have enough air in it or the air was equal between the top and the bottom chambers.

I finished out my lap and thankfully had thrown a shock pump in my car a few weeks prior, always forgetting to check my fork’s pressure before the ride!

Tech Tuesday

Make sure to visit the sponsors of this posts.. Problem Solvers!

One concern that so many women (and guys) have with owning a bike is the basics of fixing it, or how to do basic road side repairs. I do recommend that as an avid cyclist even with some mechanical skills that you should become best buds with your local mechanic (beer or ice cream works well.) I also want women to feel empowered and to have a better idea of what they are talking about. Tech Tuesday is the remedy for common tech questions!

With technology progressing it is easy to forget the bicycles we are riding today are very advanced and need some thought in maintaining them at the level they belong. It is often that people come in to the bike shop with 10% of the air they need in their suspension, wondering why their bike feels like they are riding a flat tire. Or even better is when they ride their bike for 2-3 years and never take the time to get it serviced, when the estimate of replacing that rear shock comes in they are sticker shocked. What they don’t know is that your suspension (especially air shocks) needs serviced based on hours of ride time. Your bushings between your shock and fork wear out, your fork needs new oil and so on. Technology brings more things to pay attention at and keep up with maintenance.

Our friends over at London Cyclist recently posted a great how to for checking sag in on a mountain bike fork.

Suspension on a mountain bike reduces rider fatigue and improves the bike wheels contact on rough terrain. When adjusting, your aim is to balance between a soft and a hard setup. Too soft will result in your bike wheels not travelling far enough in a dip and too hard will cause your bike to bounce off rough terrain.

The sag determines the amount that the mountain bike suspension compresses.

Andreas did a great job, so instead of rewriting what he has already covered please check him out. In the mean while I have a friend coming over where I will be putting together a video of the exact how to for a full suspension bike!

Tech Tuesday

Tech Tuesday: Tools of the Trade

Make sure to visit the sponsors of this posts.. Problem Solvers!

One concern that so many women (and guys) have with owning a bike is the basics of fixing it, or how to do basic road side repairs. I do recommend that as an avid cyclist even with some mechanical skills that you should become best buds with your local mechanic (beer or ice cream works well.) I also want women to feel empowered and to have a better idea of what they are talking about. Tech Tuesday is the remedy for common tech questions!

A few emails have come through since I started this series that interest of what tools I recommend to start their tool collection. While I have a large collection that is only missing a couple (very expensive and very unique) tools. Sometimes it is best to buy as you need, but if you find a good deal on a tool kit or a shop closing – jump on it!!! While most of the links below are affiliate links that I gain a very small commission, they are all products I use daily and recommend to all. If your local bike shop carries them, order it there!

Starter Kit

These are the tools and accessories I recommend to anyone that owns a bike.


Testing Out the Waters

You are learning how to work on your own bike, the multi-tool isn’t cutting it and you want tools with more leverage and use.
  • A Repair Stand - The first thing that will make you feel like you are working on a bike like placing your bike in a repair stand. Get up off the garage floor.
  • Full size allen wrenches – Don’t use the ball end to tighten as you’ll strip out the wrench or the bolt, but you won’t ever go back to using multi-tools for major servicing.
  • Gear Brush - Maintenance starts with keeping that drivetrain clean!
  • Lube - Make sure to lube your chain after cleaning it
  • Grease - Grease and lube are very different. This goes on bolts (that don’t screw in to titanium or around carbon)

The Kitchen Sink

Simply put go buy the Professional Kit from Park Tools.
Adjust Avid BB5 Brakes

How To: Properly Setup and Adjusting Avid BB5 Brakes

Tech TuesdayOne concern that so many women (and guys) have with owning a bike is the basics of fixing it, or how to do basic road side repairs. I do recommend that as an avid cyclist even with some mechanical skills that you should become best buds with your local mechanic (beer or ice cream works well.) I also want women to feel empowered and to have a better idea of what they are talking about. Tech Tuesday is the remedy for common tech questions!

As you know I have beenrocking the Airborne Delta CX bike for this summer going into cyclocross season. Originally I was struggling to adjust the Avid BB5 road calipers that come stock on the cyclocross bike. (Yes, it is a disc brake cyclocross bike.) After several tries at adjusting the brakes as Avid outlines on their website I finally started from scratch using good ole common sense! Once I sorted out my disc brake issues I was getting messaged and questioned about what I did to get them to stop well and not rub!

There are tons of great resources out there showing you the basic ways to adjust the brakes, but they left out key details. Let’s forget about those other instruction and start from the top.

Tools You’ll Need

Tools for Brake Adjustment

Torx wrench, 5mm allen, business card and a computer to read this how to on.

Setup and Adjusting Avid BB5 MTB Brakes

Avid BB5 Brake Diagram

Click to Enlarge

Check brake pads for wear. If your brakes are used at all there is a great chance the pads were worn incorrectly and will never align right. Remedy by sanding or replacing the pads, normally sanding with a fine grit will fix this problem.

Loosen the mounting bolts for the caliper, some bikes have the caliper mount directly to the fork, loosen those bolts. This will allow the caliper to move side to side. Check if your washers are worn or if you can see any grooves out of the normal. If you do, file/sand down or replace.

Adjust Avid BB5 Brakes

Loosen brake cable fixing bolt, this will allow the fixed pad to pull all the way out.

Turn the adjustable brake pad (red knob with Torx in middle) counter clockwise to turn out.

Business card in Disc brakes

Place a business card between a the fixed pad and rotor. Fixed pad is on the outside (look at diagram above)

Adjust BB5 Torx Brake

Turn the adjustable brade pad (red knob with Torx in middle) clockwise, use a Torx wrench if need be to tighten down as tight as you can with out breaking it!

Tighten the mounting bolts to the caliper.

Pull the brake cable tight to the fixing bolt, make sure the barrel adjuster on the caliper and the barrel on the brake lever both are turned in all the way, then backed out a full turn and a half. Tighten down the fixing bolt on the brake cable.

Back out the adjustable brake pad one or two turns, counter clockwise so  it isn’t touching the rotor. On the back of the Delta I had to back out an extra 1/4 of a turn for out of the saddle movement of the rear end.

Pull out the business card.

Use the adjustable brake pad to change the feel of the brake lever, use the barrel adjusters to adjust cable tension as well.

Check over all bolts and proceed to ride beautiful riding Avid brakes.

North Carolina Cyclocross

Follow Friday Links: Training for Cyclocross

North Carolina Cyclocross I’m officially getting pumped for the upcoming cyclocross season. Maybe it is delirium over the heat lately, or maybe the simple feeling of setting a goal for myself and really wanting to meet it?

Over the years I have compiled a great list of resources for inspiration, information, tips and basic outlines of creating a training plan for the season. By no means am I recommended that any of these are replacing a dedicated coach, but it will give you some structure and inspiration! Next week I’ll work on the ‘cross blogs worth your following!

Training Peaks – Tons of training plans, great coaches, and their personal workout/food/training online system is killer. With a free option, or for a small fee a year they will track all your workouts, weight, nutrition and goals with ease! (I personally use this system, and have used it for the past 4 years.)

Cycle Smart - You can’t be in the cyclocross industry without hearing Adam’s name, or see the Cycle Smart kits. Adam has been an online friend of mine for years and always an inspiration come June/July through the winter.

CX Magazine – Daily news, tips and resources for the cyclocross racer.

Bike Radar - How to fit cyclocross training into a full time job

NC Cyclocross – My local series, come play with me!

Tech Tuesday

Tech Tuesday: MTB Bike Component Levels Explained

Make sure to visit the sponsors of this posts.. Problem Solvers!

One concern that so many women (and guys) have with owning a bike is the basics of fixing it, or how to do basic road side repairs. I do recommend that as an avid cyclist even with some mechanical skills that you should become best buds with your local mechanic (beer or ice cream works well.) I also want women to feel empowered and to have a better idea of what they are talking about. Tech Tuesday is the remedy for common tech questions!

A common inquiry I receive is whether a certain component is worth the upgrade. To begin I’m going to simply touch on mountain bike parts, next week touching on road. I’m going to do my best to spell out the two main component brands, SRAM and Shimano, and their levels of parts. There are several other component manufactures out there and if you have specific questions please comment below.

SRAM

SRAM Logo

From Wikipedia:

SRAM Corporation is a privately held bicycle component manufacturer based in Chicago, Illinois, founded in 1987. SRAM is an acronym comprising the names of its founders, Scott, Ray, and Sam, (where Ray is the middle name of company head Stan Day).[2]

In 2008, the company received a strategic investment from Trilantic Capital Partners, formerly known as Lehman Brothers Merchant Banking, the buyout arm of Lehman Brothers. The firm invested $234.8 million in SRAM in a deal that closed Sept. 30, 2008.[3][4] On May 12, 2011, the company announced in a filing that it intended to raise up to $300 million in an IPO.

SRAM was first known for grip shifters, which are still used to date and are normally featured on internally geared hubs, children’s and hybrid bikes. Grip shifters can be found on the higher end bikes, but are not available in the new 10 speed components.

SRAM also owns RochShox, Zipp, Avid and Truvativ that make up a complete component line of shocks, wheels, brakes, handlebars, seatposts, pedals, cranks, etc.

SRAM Mountain Components

SRAM was the first to bring 10 speed drivetrains to the masses with XX, or 2×10. The 10 speeds in the rear is now available from both SRAM and Shimano. For me SRAM and Shimano don’t have even playing fields in mountain since the XX technology is far lighter than the XTR from Shimano.

Heirarchy of 2011 SRAM Mountain Components

XX - the best. If you have the money, or must have the lightest parts. This is the level
X0 – Traditional the best from SRAM, but was trumped by XX. 2×10 technology (Comparable to XTR)
X9 – Shifts amazing, a bit heavier and no carbon! Go with if you are worried about weight, but don’t want to break the bank. 2×10 technology (Comparable to XT)
X7 – The most affordable of the 2×10 technology, will last and give you the advantage. Not the lightest, but won’t break your wallet (Comparable to SLX)
X5 – Found on mid level, what I would consider the lowest end for off road worthy parts. 9 speed(Comparable to Deore)
X4An entry level, found normally on hybrids or mountain bikes not intended to be ridden off road. Perfectly fine if not abused or ridden off road.
X3 – Normally found on kids bikes or very entry level bikes. Will need more maintenance and parts will wear out more quickly.

Shimano

Shimano LogoFrom Wikipedia:

Shimano, Inc. (TYO: 7309) is a Japanese multinational manufacturer of cycling components, fishing tackle, and rowing equipment. Shimano product sales constitute 50% of the of the global bicycle component market. Its products include drivetrain, brake, wheel and pedal components for road, mountain, and hybrid bikes.

Shimano is the best known name within bicycle parts. The first to introduce mountain bike specific groups (Deore XT) and continue to push the envelope with electronic shifting to the masses, and innovation technology.

Shimano Mountain Components

XTR has been known over a decade as the bee’s knees of mountain bike parts. Still to this day, the clean and etched look of “XTR” on your rear derailleur or cranks will show folks you know your parts.

Shimano Mountain Heirarchy

(Much of this was borrowed from Wikipedia)

XTR [M980] – Top of the range for XC mountain bikes. 10 speed, comparable to SRAM X9
Deore XT [M770] – The longest running of a mtb component line. Amazing shifting, with a bit more weight than XTR. 9 and 10 speed, between SRAM X9 and X7
SLX [M660] – The best bang for the buck in the mtb line, still great shifting but more weight and won’t last as long as XT. 9 and 10 speed, comparable to SRAM X7
Deore [M590] -  Entry level, good place to start but will wear out after a couple years of hard use. 9 speed, comparable to SRAM X5

Trekking component

Deore XT
Deore LX
Deore

Downhill/Freeride component

Saint [M810] – Top of the range for downhill and freeride bikes, and many components are based on the XT groupset but more durable.

Recreational mountain bikes component

Alivio [M410 and M430] 8 and 9 speed
Acera [M360] 8 speed
Altus [M310] 8 speed
Tourney 6, 7, 8 speed – Includes several different levels of quality, and can be found on department-store bicycles

Tech Tuesday

Tech Tuesday: Trail and Roadside Repairs

Make sure to visit the sponsors of this posts.. Problem Solvers!

One concern that so many women (and guys) have with owning a bike is the basics of fixing it, or how to do basic road side repairs. I do recommend that as an avid cyclist even with some mechanical skills that you should become best buds with your local mechanic (beer or ice cream works well.) I also want women to feel empowered and to have a better idea of what they are talking about. Tech Tuesday is the remedy for common tech questions!

You’ve branched out on your own, you want to ride on your own or not be worried about basic repairs that happen on the road side.

Changing a Flat Tire

A while ago I did a basic video on how to change a flat, and boot your tire. This is probably the most crucial thing to know when you venture out on the road or trail as it is the most common issue. Someday in the future I need to update the video since I have a better camera and audio microphone.

Chain tool and quick links

It doesn’t happen too often, but you are able to break your chain. When this happens you can often trim your chain and use a SRAM quick link to put it back together. You’re gears will be limited but you’ll at least be able to ride the bike home.

If a Spoke Breaks

Another thing that doesn’t happen too often is breaking spokes on your wheel. Normally on an older wheel, or after a crash you’ll start breaking spokes. On the side of your ride you need to move the spoke out of the way. On some front wheels you can actually remove the spoke by pulling it out of the wheel. If you have disc brakes or if the spoke on the back wheel you’ll need to bend the spoke around another so that it doesn’t get in the way. Open up your brakes if you have v-brakes or u-brakes. This should make enough room for the wheel to spin freely, if not you’ll have to tighten spokes or in a last ditch effort remove the wheel and bang it against a tree. I try to avoid the last two since it is harder to repair once you get it to a shop.

Other Things to Know

Go confident on your bike ride. Things break and sometimes you can’t fix them. Bringing a multi-tool helps with many things, but if you are going to venture more than walking distance (6 or so miles) bring a friend or a cell phone until you learn more things.

Problem Solvers

Tech Tuesday: Bicycle Maintenance Check List

Make sure to visit the sponsors of this posts.. Problem Solvers!

One concern that so many women (and guys) have with owning a bike is the basics of fixing it, or how to do basic road side repairs. I do recommend that as an avid cyclist even with some mechanical skills that you should become best buds with your local mechanic (beer or ice cream works well.) I also want women to feel empowered and to have a better idea of what they are talking about. Tech Tuesday is the remedy for common tech questions!

Proper basic maintenance on your bike can prevent major road or trail side catastrophe’s, keep your bike running smoother and save you money in the long run.

Before Every Ride

These are things I check over before every ride. The below takes less than 5 minutes once you get a hang of the routine.

  • Wipe off lube I applied after my last ride
  • Tires pumped up properly
  • A quick brake and gear check prior to starting down the road or trail
  • Make sure you put your front wheel’s quick release on tightly

After Every Ride

The below should take no more than 10 minutes.

  • Spin the tires to make sure there is no glass or cuts you didn’t notice before. While doing so quickly make sure the wheels are true (not wobbling side to side).
  • Wipe down frame, checking for anything odd especially if you crashed on your ride.
  • Wipe off chain and lube, if needed. Normally I leave the lube on until I ride again, wiping off before I leave. (Gives the lube time to soak in.)

Monthly

This list is more labor intensive but will keep your wheels and drivetrain last longer!

  • Clean your entire bike, including rims (use a degreaser on the wheels) and drivetrain
  • Make sure wheels are true
  • Check tires for wear and cuts
  • Check brake pads for wear
  • Put a tool on every bolt on your bike. This doesn’t take as long as it sounds.
  • Check drivetrain wear with a chain checker.
  • Lube SPD style pedals (mountain bike)

3 Months

  • Check over your bike for bent or worn break pads
  • Check for bent chainrings and rear cassette/freewheel teeth

6 Months or Annually

Take your bike to a bike shop or qualified mechanic to get an overhaul. This is when they take the entire bike apart, re-grease, re-cable and your bike as good as new without replacing all the parts.

Other Notes

The timing above is all based on how often you ride. If you ride daily, the scale may need to be sped up, if you ride once a month, the scale may need to move back. Some things such as pumping up tires, lubing your chain and a safety check are all important, being handled often.

Going forward I’ll work on some basic video’s on how to do the above!

Kids Fix Bikes

Introductions and Questions: Tech Tuesday

Kids Fix Bikes
With the wild success of Motivational Monday, and a ton of “tech” questions rolling in to our email what is a better way than to have a tech clinic day each week?!?!

Starting next week we will be starting to have a tech article every Tuesday. This could be steps to changing a flat, how to tighten a stem, what tubeless means, etc etc. For this to work, I need to hear from you. What tech questions do you want answered?

Thanks to Livestrong.com for the use of their photo