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Well, let's hear it!  What upgrades or replacements are we working on?  I'll start.  This year I switched over to Crank Brothers Smarties, Lazer Helmet and finally, FINALLY, got a carbon fork form my ride.  What about everyone else?  OR what is your planned upgrade for next season?

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due to a recent broken elbow it looks like I will be upgrading to a set of flared drop bars, also will be going with the smarties this year instead of shimano's.
No significant new gear this year, but did a complete rebuild of my bike. Stripped it did a new basecoat/clearcoat paintjob. Capped the paint job with 3M protective shield on the chainstays and under the downtube. Changed the chain and put my improved 'sealed' cable system on the bike too. No races yet, but we're 2 weeks out now from the first I can hit....

VCRC Pro Stem! I recently was in need of a new stem so I decided to go off the
beaten path and check out VCRC Performance Upgrades. I was prompted
by CliffLee's write up about VCRC in November and I decided, why not? Let me say
for the price I was cautiously optimistic about the quality but was pleasantly surprised
by how amazing this was. It weighed less than I had expected and is really
stiff. The price was right on and the shipping was free. Here's what made the
whole experience perfect: The stem that I had ordered was a 120mm but realized
that a 110mm felt better. After following their return procedure I was able to
exchange for the correct size without any hassles, and to top it off all
communication and correspondence was lightning fast!!! I sent it back they
received it on a Friday and I had the replacement on the following Wednesday.  They always have deals and promos, infact for less than the price of most stems of the same quality you can get a stem with bar and ti bolt upgrade.  Next is a new frame!!!

I raced my first CX race last weekend at Northeast Velocross in Londonderry, NH. I purchased a left over 2010 Gary Fisher Erwin for my cross bike. Really like the steel frame and carbon fork. What would you suggest as my first upgrade this winter? I am thinking brakes since the factory ones seam really week for a 225lbs rider.

Right on Jeff!  First, what brakes are you using now, and what conditions do you predict you will be racing/riding in?

It came with Avid shorty 4's. Just doesn't seem to have the stopping power I need. Or is that just the nature of CX brakes? I ride in NE so the conditions are cold, wet and muddy!

Typically, low profile cantilever brakes such as the Avid Shorty boast better stopping power over a wide profile brake like a TRP Eurox or similar.  There are a few things you
could try before you spend your hard earned money on a set of new brakes that
may add stopping power. 

First: Pads.  If you are using your stock pads toss them and get a set of salmon pads from either Kool Stop or Yokozuna.  These are designed for wet weather conditions and will increase stopping power. 

Second: Straddle Cable Height.  You can increase or decrease the mechanical
advantage of the brake caliper by raising or lowering the height of the straddle cable.  Proper setup will add to the stopping power of any brakes on the market. 

Keep in mind that in muddy conditions, you want some pad clearance, so you will need to adjust the spacing of the pad to the rim to find a happy medium.  If you are not handy with a wrench, ask someone who is.  Setting up brakes can be a little intimidating at first.  Ideally you don’t want to lower it TOO much especially in muddy conditions since mud will glom on to it.  I heard that the cable yoke should be no less than 2-3 fingers above the tire.

If you experiment with the pads and setup you may find that you may increas the stopping power.

You can find great tips in the print mag or on the website, are you a subscriber?  If not it is worth it.  Issue 7 has a great article about brakes and set up as well as reviews of all the major cross brakes and it is still available to purchase.

Someone once said “Cyclocross brakes aren’t meant to stop you, they are meant to slow you down”.

Keep us posted.


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