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Hi everyone!

 

We're working on a feature for the website about tips for new cyclocross racers. Does anyone have a great tip you'd like to share? (Something you wish you'd known when you started racing)

 

And if you're a noob, do you have any questions you'd like to see answered?


Thanks everyone!

-Molly

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I'm a noob and I'd like to know if my bike has to conform to certain standards. Like can I race with bullhorn handle bars or do I have use those uncomfortable drop down bars?

At some events they do not let you use front facing handle bars. so the answerer would probably be no.

sorry :(

I am a bit curious about story behind the "uncomfortable drop down bars" comment, but would say there are lots of riders that never put their hands down on the lower part of the drop bars instead riding on the brake/shifter hoods or the flat part of the bar.  In the non-pro categories you can also ride with straight mountain bike style bars. 
Around here you can't ride bullhorns or anything with bar ends.  If you don't like the drop bars you can try a mtb handlebar or some mustache bars which might be more to your liking
I think it would help noobs if you profiled some of the more elite/seasoned cx'ers bikes and components, why they choose what they have, etc.

Also their are so good little trick out there like putting griptape on your shifter levers, and top tube.

 

I'm just a master's mid-pack hack, but FWIW, I choose carefully but don't worry much about the bike and components.  I like to keep it cheap and reliable and easy to maintain, my equipment doesn't help or hinder my racing as long as it's adjusted properly, properly lubed (components) adjusted and glued (tires).

 

I had the pleasure recently of spending the weekend with both the illustrious Mike Zanconato and venerable Richard Sachs including a few fun hot laps of a Zank designed cross course with some other plebians.  Both of these guys have forgotten much more than I'll ever know about cross bikes.  And despite their experience in building some of the best designed most beautiful cross bikes on the planet, their message about the bike?  "In a cross race, you won't be thinking about the size of your top tube, or your components or your bike at all..."  My interpretation- it's not about the bike.  Ride what you like, but just RIDE!  I should stop there, because that's all that's important.  But I'm a (cheap) cross bike geek too, so here's what I like.  But really, stop reading here, it doesn't matter...

 

've been racing since 04 (12-20 events/year) on Shimano 8 speed Ultegra/105, the last couple of years mixed with Campy Veloce 10sp shifters. Because it's cheap to replace stuff, it works as well as anything, mud and grass friendly cog spacing and tougher chains compared to 10sp.  I prefer compact cranks 36-46 or 34-44 (If 34-44 is enough gear for Katie C it's more than enough for me!)- I can turn over higher, but I'm slower.  Wide profile cantis with threaded (MTB Vbrake style) brake pad posts are easier to set up and adjust so Tektro CR720, Kore, or Paul brakes rather than TRP smooth post style brakes- they all work fine once adjusted properly with good pad material (Kool stop multi or salmon colored).  Brakes mounted moto- left lever = rear for smoother dismounts. Your first CX season is fine on clinchers or tubeless- your skills will be by far the limiting factor rather than tire choice in the beginning.  I like Michelin Muds or Mud front/Mich Jet rear as an all-around combination mounted on something like Mavic Open Pro rims- if I had one set of wheels and they were clincher, that would be what I raced all season.  Later, you'll like tubular tires- I'm not an enthusiastic tubeless convert yet for cross. Velocity Major Tom tubular rims rock for cross because they're wider with a basetape channel and reasonable cost compared to carbon wheel sets- I like aluminum brake surfaces and I like not worrying about what a mishap or crash might cost me in a busted wheel. Challenge Grifo or Fangos as go-to tires for everything but mud, I like the new Vittoria XM's for mud, never tried Dugasts or FMBs because of the expense.  Haven't liked Tufos although I haven't tried the higher end Flexus models.  I like having a pit bike but don't really NEED it at my level.

All of these are such great ideas, thanks a lot! I think the first few responses lead up to an article about what you can/can't legally do in a CX race. And profiling elite components/talking about what's out there is a great point. Little tips and tricks to improve your racing as another great idea as well. Thanks everyone, and keep the ideas/questions coming!

Noob tip: No baggy shorts, it's going to mess with your remounts.

 

(and yes, I was wearing MTB shorts when I first started)

And while I'm at it, howabout "don't look at too many dramatic photos of racers caught in the instant of a high-flying remount" before learning how to do it. That image tends to exaggerate the motion. It's much closer to stepping onto your bike than taking a flying leap...
how about how to decide on a category, if you're new-ish to cx but accomplished on the road or on fat tires?
It depends.  Assuming your objective is to gain skills and speed, you're best racing with others who push your limits.  Your progress will be slower if you are not challenged to stay toward the front of the easier field, and you will not really get better by riding your own race by yourself near the back of a field that you can't hope to stick with. Struggling to stay with a field, watching the lines they take, trying different transition styles, challenging through the technical sections with riders a little better than you is the sweet spot for improving IMO. Riders with experience in other (road, MTB, track, Tri) events are usually surprised at the level of difficulty and skills required for cross in their first few events.  It IS different.  The learning curve for these people is pretty steep though, it doesn't take long before they're at or near their respective level in their other events. For riders below Cat 2/Expert in other events, I'd do a CX race or two at beginner/Cat 4 level to get your feet muddy, then see how it goes. If you're placing in the front half of the lower race then upgrade to the Cat 3/"B" races, or do a few more beginner races if you want, but don't get too comfortable and cocky- the sooner you upgrade the faster you'll improve.  If you have the fitness, I'd consider doing both the lower and higher category races, especially if you have a bit of a break between them, you should be able to stick out a few laps with the later (higher cat) race and get the experience of a few faster laps before you explode.  Then you can puke and go get a beer knowing you worked as hard as anyone on the day.

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