Entries in cyclocross equipment (35)
The season has ended. Sigh. I don't know what I'm going to do with myself! As I was preparing the bikes for their hyperbolic chambered rest as I switch to the fat tires, I decided to snap some photos and comment about the most excellent equipment I used this year. It is surreal the abuse this equipment takes each week from August through December and I hope it can help you with your 2009 equipment plans!
Click on the photo below to take you to my Flickr set and each photo is commented including on-photo notes.
Most of all I want to thank Paul at Rock Lobster, Shotty at SRAM, Lance at TRP, and the entire Boulder Cycle Sport crew (Brandon, Mike D, Jeremiah, Dwayne and Coleman) for all the work and support this season!
So Scott, a reader of mine from DC, sends me this simple question:
Thanks for your thoughts.
Scott has started a religious debate, methinks. To which I responded with the following. I have received the question quite a few times, so I figured I'd broadcast the answer.
Thanks for the note, man. You have asked a very religious question! for me, its sort of a confluence of materials, custom sizing/geometry and finally 'cult' status. I've raced a variety of off the shelf bikes from Kelly (a production/non custom steel frame), Felt and Scott and of course my various Rock Lobsters. Let me net it out this way:
a) Scandium rocks: The material of choice for me is scandium. It's SUPER light, SUPER strong and has a variety of characteristics I like that frame builders can literally 'tune' the design to how you want it to ride. As an example, I had Rocklobster's Paul Sadoff give me super rigid chain stays (for power transmission) yet the scandium down stays provide some level of flex for comfort. I get exactly what I want in a 3.0 pound frame that is roughly a 59cm (so that light in a larger frame size). Carbon's good, do not get me wrong, but it has limits (for me) on sizing, geometry, colors, et al (see b. next).
b) Custom sizing/geometry: A lot of these off the shelf manufacturers think that sloping top tubes and lower bottom brackets are 'cross' geometry. It's MARKETING geometry. They wouldn't know a cross bike and how it should ride from a commuter bike with 700c tires and cantilever brakes. A horizontal top tube and high BB are CORE cross with near road geometry...albeit just ever so slightly slacker. I personally think Ridley and Colnago have it nailed on the production side (wonder why the best teams ride these frames in Belgium?)...the latter requiring a double mortgage on your house to afford. Paul has built cross bikes for 20+ years....for many national champions and Europeans. His geometry stands the test of time. I have one special requirement though on my frames he builds.....OK 2: First, I run double chain guides with a single ring. I have him specifically crimp the right chain stay to allow for this clearance AND ensuring I can fit a 34 tubular in the stays with appropriate mud clearance. He nailed that. The second thing is that if I want to run a double ring up front, I would (personally) ask him to route my f. der. cable on the top tube. He likes the down tube routing. This may have no bearing on your tastes/desire though.
c) Cult: Support your local frame builder! OK, Paul's in Santa Cruz....but he WAS local to me when I lived there! Ha! I have an affinity for the hard working manufacturers of the sport...who are artists in all senses of the definition. Paul is an artist to me before he is a bike frame builder.
Hope this helps you! In fact, I may post this as it is a question I get often!
Check out Dubba's overviews with Neal Rogers on 'cross equipment and technique....sort of a high level re-cap of what we teach on the Wednesday clinics. Speaking of which, I'm not going to be at BCS tomorrow night as I am on the road for work! Call the shop ahead 303.444.BIKE to ensure there is a clinic tomorrow as we have great coaches stepping in when Dubba and I can not make it.
I've a had a boat load of folks over the last two weeks or so ask me various questions about the single ring set up I have been using for years. Well, roughly since 2002, anyways. I think the most important question, however is why? At first, I ran it because Bart Wellens ran it when he was winning WK's for Spaar Select, so OF COURSE I had to run it! But in all seriousness, I wanted something reliable, always shifted (or more accurately...didn't have to WORRY about shifting the front) and would basically help ensure I could keep going on lap after lap when I had no pit support back in the day.
My initial experiences racing in CA in torrential mud on certain courses (remember El Nino, CA 'crossers in like '98??) taught me quickly that trying to get from the 46 to the 39 was a challenge and I would find myself looking down WAY too much and stressing about not being able to shift. Forget about going back to the 46! So I just dumped the two ring thing and never looked back.
So, for the last 6 years or so, it's been a 42t x 12-25 or 12-27. Personally, I've found that I've never missed anything (e.g. gear-inches) by not having the 46. I could see how it's needed on Euro courses where they've turned into grass crits. But here, the courses are still technical and I think tuned perfectly for a singe ring. In my case, I am running 175 SRAM Red cranks (130bct) with FSA carbon guards. The 42t FSA ring is mounted on what would be the 'big ring' side of the crank, utilizing extra long crank bolts (you can find them at most good MTB shops.) The rest can be explained in pictures...
I live in the world of product management. That is, when I am not with my wife and kids or on my bike getting in the efforts. What is that world? Well, it is like the proverbial ‘swivel chair’ situation….where you are a breed of person that are required to swing radically to face different constituencies…all with different attitudes and motivators…. in an effort to get something created, marketed and shipped. We face customers, empathize with their plight and challenges and conversely get inspired by hearing their needs….and quickly swivel that proverbial chair around to face our internal folks…likely engineers who need to translate those requirements into a realistic and actionable plans which lead to product. But all the while there is iteration….
And this is an archetypal story of iteration...and consumer/racer inspired product design. After sitting with Donn Kellogg of Challenge USA tonight and hearing the history of the making of the New 2008 Fango, Challenge's recently launched mud-specific tire, it is clearly about listening to what people want and giving them it.
First, some history that Donn walked Matt Pacocha, Technical Editor for Velonews and I through (FYI: stay tuned for Matt’s extensive testing of these new products on VeloNews.com!). Loosely documented here, The Challenge we know now is an Italian-based company which had its roots created from the historic Clement tire manufacture of yore. Roughly 8 years ago, Pirelli Tire Corporation had purchased the assets of Clement and then moved their production to Asia, where in recent times, they decided to exit themselves from this niche vertical and spun off the bicycle tire manufacturing assets. These were then acquired by the major shareholders of Challenge and Challenge USA, a combination of efforts between Mr. Alex Braun and Mr. Donn Kellogg who is based here in the US and a veteran of the industry for more than 35 years.
Once these assets were acquired and operations set up here in the US, it was very clear that Challenge saw the US market as a viable place to put a stake in the ground and fundamentally set their sights to be the premier purveyor of cyclocross rubber…but in a method that didn’t require secret handshakes, trips to Europe, and offering next of kin for the suppleness of handmade tubular tires. The rising popularity of cyclocross here in the States and the clear void of cross-specific parts and equipment was becoming increasingly frustrating for core racers. Local bike shops could not supply a demand that was clearly not going to stop as the word was out that tubulars rule the day for the cross specialist. So someone had to give the people what they wanted.
As part of this process, Donn and the Challenge team listened to their consumers. At first this was primarily hardened racers from teams like Fidea and sponsored rider and Danish National Champ, Joachim Parbo. The feedback was roughly the same: The Grifo is a timeless tread pattern, often copied and suitable for a variety of courses and conditions. But (there’s always a ‘but’), not suitable for the way cross courses were changing and becoming increasngly jmore technical. Sand (e.g. Koksijde) and relentlessly muddy fields (e.g. Hamme-Zogge) were forcing the riders to move towards other brands which offered variety in tread pattern…’stretching’ sacred contracts to the limit of what the definition of a contract's ‘exclusivity’ really means. Dugast’s Pipistrello and its Rhino were game changing for their new patterns could now help their pilots float across sand and grass with nearly zero resistance or rail the muddiest of corners with the Rhino’s new mud specific side 'paddles'.
A reaction had to occur and Challenge stepped up to the…challenge. As stated simply by Donn: “We wanted to produce the best tires in the world at the most realistic price points with the most diversity in our line-up and deliver it all in a manner that makes these products available to any racer looking for performance advantages right from their local bike shop”. That is a business plan any company can hang its hat on.
As part of this reaction, Donn leveraged his ecosystem of hardened US racers….as passionate about their sport as they come…and certainly have lots to say about product requirements for our backyard courses. Donn reached out to Katie Compton, Mark Legg, Brandon Dwight and Matt Pacocha along with Joachim Parbo while here in the States and started planning for an aggressive tread pattern, tough enough for many of the US-based ‘dirt crits’ we experience here in the US in addition to matching up with the handling characteristics of the Rhino in muddy conditions.
Iterations began like all good ideas do: Scribbling on a piece of paper, the very paper seen here.
These ideas were then circulated to the various 'team members’ during each stage. As an example from the transferring of that scribbling to true CAD designs…
...and from the CAD designs iterate into tooling/mold prototypes to begin to gauge knob size, placement etc.
From here Donn worked as pointman in all capacities....as 'field intelligence gatherer', pit crew, marketer....you name it....to learn about the needs and conditions and continued to vigorously communicate with this team of influencers until the product met its criteria and production run begun. Start to finish: Roughly less than a year. Incredible in any industry...especially manufacturing.
You have clearly seen some of those initial photos of the Fango Tubular on places like CXMagazine, however behold, I am happy to inform you all that Challenge will offer that SAME Fango tread pattern as a clincher! A Mud and Cowbells exclusive.*
So what is the moral of the story here? It is obvious to me that this is a company which wants dominance in a market...the large and still growing US cyclocross market. Further, they are doing what they need to with the unbelievably small resources they have to get it done and push towards offering the best product which will meet up to the standards of the worst conditions.
As mentioned, stay tuned for Matt P's tests of the Fango and deeper technical descriptions of the product.
So KP's comment to my last post about Fidea moving to SRAM and seeing Niel's Dura Ace 7900 levers made me take a deeper look. While he switched bikes considerably between his 7800 equiped Stevens bikes and 7900, the edition he used and proved worked under the stress of 'cross was indeed the 7900 Electronic Shifting edition....
But all in all, this was a major day in the life of cyclocross technology with Niels taking on the role as technology validator....and taking home the "W".
Back in the day, say '99...maybe 2000... when I was racing the in California, I'd watch Carmen D'Aluisio rock it out in her races with this set of shoes which I LUSTED (note: most men would be watching her...here I am scoping out her shoes...). My bud Evan, fellow equipment weenie, clued me in: "Oh yeah man. Those are the Time World Cups. Total cult. Hard to get unless you're sponsored." And so, he was right. Extremely hard to get as a mere mortal. I searched and searched...but to no avail.
BUT, yesterday I swung by The Pro's Closet and what did my eyes spy in a box, hidden away on some lonely shelf? The glimmer of yellow made me walk towards their sheen and....alas TWO pairs of these bad boys! Then the let down for me: for 'little guy feet'...e.g. 41's. If you have boy-sized feet, I'd ABSOLUTEY suggest you snatch these up. Priceless shoes.
See the posting here on The Pro's Closet.
...but in the KP's house. You bastage, KP. Did you trade one of your newborn twins for these??
Kurt is now in possession of The TRP EuroX Magnesiums. Yum.
These will be run on my rig come hell or high water too.
Holy crapolee, it's already here. It's starting weeks earlier than year's past with respect to when I started rolling in earnest for 'cross. Dubba, Von and I got our Sunday AM session on to kick off the season...all at the right pace and effort mind you. Thank God as I would have soiled my chamois for sure if we went any harder. We will be turning up the knob each Sunday until burn into cross season in September. and JUST like last year, without fail we had a nice rattler encounter....or at least I did. I literally endoed into this thing and it went nuts. I literally jumped like 4 feet backward (into a pricker bush) and the thing rattled for the next two minutes as it slipped into the brush.
I literally took the bike down off the wall, still bespeckeled with Belgian mud. I did however bring out my Retul measurements and my allen keys and set up the bike according to my new fit. WOW, what a difference. Seat is 3/4" more forward and post height is an astonishing 3/4" higher as well. Bars are roughly 1/4" higher but I have tuned up the hoods just a bit as well. The combination of these things is unbelievable. It feels 'right'. I feel like I am on top of the pedal stroke as opposed to 'behind' it. I may make afew more adjustments in the coming weeks but this set up feels awesome. Amazing that it feels this way after running the same exact dimensions since 2003.
All the cross wheels came out of hiding as well. Tons of work to do here with some Dugasts to stretch and glue only after I yank off the Rhinos from last season. I am going to try and bribe Dubba with Chocolate to help me glue these beeatches again this year. I still don't trust myself....