Tuesday 26 August 2008

i've been Rapha-d

Hi, my name is crossjunkie and I have been a Rapha-holic for 6 months now.

Whilst there is no 12 step programme I've heard of for cycle clothing addiction, and my finances certainly don't allow me to explore fully this affliction, I have become strangely fixated by the Paul Smith-esque Cool Britannia phenomenon coming out of London.

Useless for cyclocross, blindingly expensive and elitist, favoured by wealthy Southerners/Londoners - how many more reasons not to favour this brand are there? Yet there is something undefinably alluring about the attention to detail, subtle designs and overall quality of a Rapha item. My wife says I am a marketing persons dream, taken in by style and image over substance. However, as most women know (and some men too) there is something deeply comforting and confidence giving about those special articles of clothing in ones wardrobe that ooze quality, fit soo comfortably and just feel fab to wear.

The Gilet is easily the most comfortable and minimal I have ever worn and yet it sheds rain and keeps wind at bay better than all the others combined. 'Sportswool' sounds like a bad invention from the start, yet the Classic jersey is comfortable when hot, wet, cold or any other time, and manages to simply disappear from consiousness when worn, like all good vestments should do.

The price? Whether anything is worth it's price is a judgement only the buyer can make, but the world is full of items that cannot justify their price in terms of materials or manufacturing alone, and so must offer something more than mere utilitarian efficiency.

Call me all the names you like but when a long hard or special ride is planned, I will reach for the Rapha every time. Now, what's the max on my credit card..............

Thursday 21 August 2008

bring it on!

Oh I hope it keeps on raining...........

british cy-clean-ing up

The Beijing medal haul from our track cyclists has been impressive and well deserved. Paul Manning (Team Pursuit Gold) summed it up in many ways when he commented that his/their Gold was the culmination of 10 years work. Certainly, the organisation that is run with military precision, business acumen and incredible attention to detail by Dave Brailsford has provided a near perfect platform for our cyclists to express themselves to the utmost of their ability.

Central to this has been the team approach over the years - not by chance have many of Britain's Olympians and star riders found themselves accommodated at some point in a cheap house in Manchester, required to attend sessions at the velodrome on a constant basis and supported as a unit rather than a lone athlete. Anyone with even a passing interest in cycling will have observed this over the past few years and the results that have been evident on road and track.

All the more gratifying as well as mildly amusing to hear pundits and athletes from track and field (and other sports) expressing an interest in the cycling team model and asking why track and field does not reinvent itself along these lines with a central team identity. Undoubtedly this is a good idea though given Manning's and others comments about the length of the process, it begs the question whether there is enough time before London 2012 to reap the full benefits from the Brailsford method. Time will tell.

As for cross, well it seems to have missed out a little on this phenomenon. In any case, a British centre of excellence would need to be Belgian based to reap full benefit from the Euro scene! English speaking riders like Helen Wyman and Jonathan Page have made great strides in breaking into a Euro dominated cyclocross scene but it requires strength in depth and staff over in the cross heartlands to really make a difference. Nice thought though - Team GB cleaning up in the 2015 Cyclocross World Championships leaving a crestfallen Belgian and Dutch public to rue the days when they dominated the sport.............

Wednesday 20 August 2008

gluing cross tubulars

Opinions on gluing cross tubs are as numerous as conspiracy theories for 9/11. I have had a few requests on how to do it, so thought it might be a timely point in the seasons preparation to put some thoughts down.

There is no hard and fast method that one has to use, though most of the accepted methods overlap in many areas. In the end it's best to use what works for you - if you have confidence in what you have done, it will save time on the course and avoid skin-threatening moments.

For a great insight from a Euro pro racer, Greg Raine, scroll down for post entitled Sticky Fingers http://crazyfast.blogspot.com/2005_10_01_crazyfast_archive.html

Stu Thornes' (CyclocrossWorld.com) Belgian method – this is slightly more controversial as some people suggest that no Euro/Belgian mechanics are doing this. Either way it is fast and the tires seem to stay on very well (from personal experience) http://velonews.com/article/10774

My method is set out below and is adapted from Simon Burney’s book as well as advocated by Richard Niewhus who owns and makes Dugast:

1. Lightly sand new carbon rims/lightly sand and clean old rims

2. Put new tub on old tub rim , inflate and leave for a few days to stretch. DO NOT inflate above 50 psi or it may explode. I have heard horror stories about people using 90 psi and wondering why their new Dugasts went pop – they are not designed to run much over 50 psi!

3. 1 thinnish layer of glue on carbon rim (Vittoria or Continental) – leave overnight

4. 1 more thinnish layer of glue – leave overnight. Ideally do 1 more layer as well to be sure – leave at least 8 hours to dry as always.

5. Put 1 layer of glue on base tape allowing it to soak in as much as poss. When dry after an hour or so put back on old rim to keep stretched. Leave 8 hours again to cure.

6. When you have done all this (phew) then you are ready to assemble – 1 more layer (thickish) on rim followed straight away by final layer on base tape (no more than 2 as it stiffens the tape too much). Leave no more than 10 mins max and put tire on rim. Careful – check the tread direction on the back wheel as you do not want to take off again. Place valve in valve hole, and pull either side of tire outwards before settling on rim. Check valve is not twisted to side. Continue to pull tire on rim trying not to get glue all over you and all over side wall. If it has been stretched enough and taken off rim at last minute then this should not be too much of a struggle. I use feet without shoes to hook toes over bottom of rim whilst pulling tire on at the opposite side.

7.Now inflate to 40 psi or so and roll tire with weight across floor to help push tire onto rim. The edges are where the tire sticks, not so much the centre so always glue the edges well and pay them attention. Leave at least 24 hours before riding.

Done. It is not as bad as it sounds once you have done it a couple of times and got well organized. Time and patience are the key and I have not rolled tires that have been glued on with multiple layers over several days and with love and attention.

Reward yourself with a Duvel, Vedett, Chimay or similar Belgian brew. Always more fun with a Euro cross race playing on DVD in the background.

Tuesday 19 August 2008

back into cross circuits

Went back onto my regular cross circuit in the woods for the first time this season - bumpy track into single track descent, dismount for the steps down (too risky to ride regularly), back on for the twisting track along to more steps up, back on avoiding falling off the small cliff into the river, off again and running up the hill, down onto the road, fast dismount through the double barriers, up the long climb and back down to start another lap.

I had forgotten how good it was - it uses every technique for getting on, off and forward needed in cross. And its hard too - 'bout 10 mins but with a lot of climbing and only a little resting on the descents.

What's even better was realising the power gains since I was last on it the previous year. Sitting down for climbs that required an out of the saddle effort, crushing the road section into the barriers. Things are looking up - stay healthy, do some double days with run and bike sessions and manage the consequent fatigue. Stellar. Oh and keep off the Belgian brews.

Bike preparation is coming on too. Six out of 9 tubs glued and most of a second bike built. This year I will run orange FMB SPs on GP4s and Race X Lites for general conditions and Rhinos on the deeper carbons for mud and gloop. And a special front wheel with a green Michelin mud made by Francois at FMB. The way the rain has been coming down and the saturated state of the ground at the moment suggests that the Rhinos will be out early on in the season.........

Thursday 14 August 2008

the unexpected flop

This week has brought it into sharp focus - Olympians singularly failing to perform close to expectations and on a slightly more mundane level, my own efforts in this weeks evening 10 mile time trial.

The omens were not great - a good soaking just before sign on, plenty of hanging around getting cold and an abortive attempt to get warm and warmed up before the start. A minute slower than last week in similar conditions, and the consequent bruised ego led me to muse on those performances that singularly fail to impress ourselves, let alone anyone else.

What then drives us non-olympians on again - certainly not the prospect of gold at the next games, or the world championships next time round. Maybe its just the sheer pleasure of getting out there again, trying once more and suffering yet again that bizarrely spurs us on regardless of the results.

Thursday 7 August 2008

pre-season 08 winding up

The yearly ritual has begun - grabbing odd moments to layer glue on rims, stretch tubs and then the tedious yet satisfying efforts to glue and reglue each tire needed for action later in the year. Not to mention that naggin feeling that the 2nd bike still isn't ready or even properly built up. Cross has a rhythm to it even when it is the off season - all thoughts, all tasks go toward the opening race and getting it right for that day. After that, well it seems to take over and each race leads to the next via each training session, good or bad.

This year, whilst the ritual feels familiar, new approaches to training are being put in place. As ever my lack of real racing since the last season hinders potential results in the season openers. However, a series of evening 10 TTs for the next 5 weeks should put some zip in the legs and to some degree accustom the brain and body to the unique pain that is the 1 hour of gut wrenching effort required to race cross. Base miles (ie the lack of) are perhaps less of problem this year as a number of longer rides and sportive goals led to above average time on the bike since last season. Some morning or evening runs combined with bike sessions have also led to my feeling of increased preparedness this year.

The big hole this summer is caused by the absence of the 3 Peaks - sometimes there is only so much I can juggle and new commitments for the family and a busy calendar in the league leave little time for the kind of obsessive approach the Peaks demands. A strategic withdrawal seemed the sensible option - the race is so oversubscribed that someone else will doubtless be itching to hurl themselves enthusiastically at the Dales hills and roads come the end of Sept.