Gear Up For Cross

Here at Performance Bicycle, there’s a palpable excitement in the air. Because it’s that time of year again. A time when the nights feel cooler. When the smells of embrocation and frites are in the air, and the ring of cowbells resounds across the hills. A time of year when we trade in our skinny tires, glorious afternoons spent on sun dappled stretches of road, and retiring mid-ride banter for the mud-slinging, loosely organized bit of mayhem we know as cyclocross.

If you’re interested in trying out cyclocross, or just want to learn more about it, check out the Cyclocross Basics article over in the Performance Bicycle Learning Center.

So what do you need to get your season start off right? Performance Associates Ben and Ross are here to help guide us through Gearing Up For Cross Season.


7 Essentials To Start Your Cross Season Right

1. Cyclocross bike: it’s important to have the right tools for the job. We’re pretty big fans of the 2013 Scattante cyclocross bikes (if we do say so ourselves…), including the all-new Scattante CFX bikes, now equipped with either Red 22 Hydro or Force 22 to get you to the top of the podium.

2. Mountain bike shoes: it’s not very easy to run in road shoes. Mountain bike shoes have a lugged outsole to make it easier to leap over barriers or run up hills. Mountain bike pedals are also used, since they are easier to get in and out of and shed mud well.

3. Helmet: when you’re riding like a madman (or woman) through mud, running with a bicycle on your shoulder, and leaping over barriers, it’s a good idea to make sure that your head is protected.

4. Long sleeve jersey and bib shorts, or a skinsuit: ‘cross races have a reputation for being challenging, so the last thing you want is to worry about being too cold or your saddle rubbing you the wrong way.

5. Cantilever or disc brakes: either one is fine so long as they fit your bike, but these brakes have enough clearance to allow even the muddiest tires to keep spinning.

6. Eyewear: it’s inevitable that you’ll end up getting sprayed in the face with mud, sand and who knows what else. Protect your eyes with a quality pair of sunglasses.

7. Knobby tires: knobby tires give you just enough traction to keep rolling through the mud, but without slowing you down on the flat and fast parts of the course.

Real Advice: Wheels

Today we continue with our Real Advice series – hard-earned practical knowledge from real riders here at our home office. This week Brian, a member of our content team, is going to share with you some thoughts on wheels.


Several years ago, when I got my first carbon fiber road race bike, I was so amped. It had SRAM 10-speed Rival on it, a full carbon frame and fork, and a carbon seatpost. I’d even splurged on some carbon fiber bottle cages. In those days, this was some pretty heavy artillery to be bringing for the level of racing I was at. Admittedly, I didn’t know an awful lot about bikes at the time, and I hadn’t ridden the bike much before the race. All I knew was I had the latest and greatest carbon 10-speed stuff, while most of those other chumps were rockin’ alloy 9-speed gear. According to all my mental math, I was already standing at the top of the podium.

When the race started, everything seemed to be going fine. I rode well and felt strong. Until I got out of the saddle at speed or tried to sprint in the drops. Every time I did, I could hear the rim hitting the brake pads with every pedal stroke, shedding speed and momentum. When I leaned into a corner, the rims squealed against the brakes the entire time, slowing me down drastically, and I watched furiously as other riders flowed past me, despite me having the extra 10th gear.

After the race, I was fuming. I had just spent all this money on a carbon fiber frame that I believed to be about as stiff as a wet noodle. I ranted to another rider about how flexible the frame and fork were, and how poorly the bike had performed. The other (more experienced) rider took one look at my bike and said simply “dude, it’s not your frame—it’s your wheels.” I did the next race on a borrowed wheelset that proved him right.

For most riders, whether you race or not, wheels are the most overlooked and important upgrade. It’s incredibly tempting to upgrade your bike with the newest drivetrain, or all the carbon fiber you can find. While the performance gains you get from those parts are significant, they still pale in comparison to investing in a great set of wheels. Among the many improvements you’ll get will be stiffer rims, lighter weight, improved handling, and greater aerodynamic performance. But before you buy, here’s a quick guide to help you find the wheels that are right for you.


  1. What kind of wheels do you need: The first step to buying new wheels is ensuring they will work with your equipment. It may seem like a wheel is a wheel, but asking a few basic questions can help you get it right the first time.
    • Does your bike have rim or disc brakes? If disc brakes, what kind are they?
    • How many speeds is your drive train (ex: 11-speed cassettes usually require 11-speed freehubs)?
    • What brand of drive train do you have (SRAM, Shimano, Campagnolo)?

    These DT Swiss XM 1650 MTB wheels will work with center-lock disc brakes, Shimano cassettes, and tubeless tires.

  2. Know what you want: Few wheels can really be placed in the do-it-all category. Knowing what you want to get out of your rides can help you narrow things down.

    A pair of lightweight alloy clinchers, like these Easton SLX wheels, can shed significant weight from a bike, making them ideal for climbing

  3. Alloy vs. Carbon: This one is entirely up to you, and a full discussion would be another blog post, but here’s a basic breakdown:
    • Alloy wheels are usually more durable, less expensive, and offer better braking performance, especially in wet weather, but tend to be heavier and less aerodynamic than carbon wheels
    • Carbon wheels are much lighter, aerodynamic, stiff, and (according to some) cooler looking than alloy, but are also much more expensive. Carbon road wheels also can have diminished braking performance, especially when wet (this isn’t a problem with MTB carbon disc brake wheels)

    Carbon wheels, like this pair from Reynolds offer significant aerodynamic and weight savings

  4. Tubular vs. Clincher vs. Tubeless: These are the three basic types of bicycle wheels, and each have their pros and cons.
    • Tubular wheels require tubular tires (tires with an inner tube sewn inside) which have to be glued onto the rim. They are very lightweight, and offer unsurpassed road feel and cornering abilities, but they require a special technique to mount and may be difficult  to change if you flat on the road.
    • Clincher wheels are the most common, and use a tire with a separate inner tube that hooks onto a bead on the rim. Clincher wheels are very convenient for most rides, since it’s very easy to change a flat, and some of the best clincher tires approach the road feel of tubulars. The drawbacks are that clinchers are often heavier than tubulars, and if the tire is under inflated or flat it can sometimes roll off of the rim.
    • Tubeless wheels are quickly becoming de riguer on mountain bikes, and are finding their way onto the road. Tubeless wheels require the use of special tubeless tires and use no inner tube. The bead on both the rim and the tire is made very tight, so as to make an airtight seal when inflated. The benefits of tubeless tires are legion, specifically that they virtually eliminate the chance of flatting. The downside (for the road at least) is that they are the heaviest type of wheels.

    These Reynolds Assault CX tubulars are perfect for cyclocross season

So there’s a basic breakdown of wheels. For a little more information on other upgrades you can make, check out this article in our Learning Center.

Performance Bicycle Racing Team – Winning Leadville

On August 14, Performance Bicycle Racing Team member Cara Applegate, with her husband Andy Applegate and their tandem mountain bike, lined up alongside 1500 other brave competitors – including current ProTour riders, National Champions, and Olympians – to compete in the 17th annual Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race in Leadville, CO.

The couple’s goals were lofty – to complete the 100 mile race, which climbs more than 10,000 feet at high altitude, in under 10 hours, a time which coincidentally would have won the tandem race in 2008 and 2009.

The riders were greeted with chilly air but clear skies as they took to the start line in the wee hours of the morning; once the sun broke through the last remnants of night it blazed a comfortable path for the remainder of the day.

The duo battled with another tandem team early in the event, suffering a race-threatening mechanical little more than 35 miles in. They repaired the issue quickly without too much time lost; by the midway point the Applegates were able to amass over an 8 minute lead on Jay and Tracey Petervary of Idaho.

The Applegates steadily increased the distance between themselves and their closest competitors, completing the course well under their goal in a time of 8 hours 42 minutes, earning themselves the coveted silver and gold belt buckle given to competitors who finish under 9 hours, as well as 80th place overall. The Petervarys were the second tandem across the line, 27 minutes back.

So congratulations to the Applegates, for winning the tandem division and for setting a goal and then knocking it out of the park!

Next up for Cara: a brief break from the bicycle, having just completed her goal race of the year. Don’t expect this to be the last you hear of her – she’ll soon be storming the cyclo-cross world alongside her teammate Evie Boswell-Vilt on the team’s Focus Mares cyclo-cross bikes!


Performance Bicycle Racing Team – Roswell Store Ride

Some members of the Performance Bicycle Racing Team recently took part in a group ride and clinic at our Roswell, GA store, and from their report it sounds like everyone had a great time:

People always say that we’re crazy for riding road bikes. Usually I disagree, but this past Wednesday night I think I may have agreed with them! Icy water bottles in hand, riders from the Atlanta, GA metro area braved the 100 degree heat to join myself, Kate Mahoney, along with Kirsten Davis and Dana Martin from the Performance Bicycle Racing Team for a 22 mile Fun Ride.

As the riders assembled in front of the Roswell, GA Performance Bicycle store, it was great to hear the excited conversations as we all began to get to know each other. Riders traded stories of how long they’ve been riding, how they got into cycling, and why they keep at it.

I talked with a woman for whom this was her 5th group ride EVER, as she’d just bought her bike at Performance a little over a month before! I met a couple who have been riding road bikes together for the past 20+ years; a fellow who LOVED hill climbs (the longer, the steeper the better); a man who hadn’t had time to ride his bike much lately but saw that we were coming out from the Performance Bicycle Racing Team and said “I’m going… I need to make time to ride!”; a woman who, this year, had learned that century rides (100 milers) were her passion; a man who was riding so he could keep up with his son on the bike; and so many more great people and great stories! This is why I love cycling!

Since our group ran the the full range of experience levels there were lots of cycling tips, tricks and tools being shared before we hit the road.

How much water should I drink? “Sip at least every 15 minutes!” “Don’t wait until you feel thirsty!” “Hydration begins the day before.”

How do I get used to using cycling shoes with cleats? “Ride in the grass!” “Practice by sitting on your bike in a doorway!” And my advice? Laugh when you have your first (or second) slow motion fall! It happens to everyone! (if you join me for a ride I’ll tell you my story where I slow-mo fell next to a city transit bus full of people!).

Soon it was time to head out. Ryan, the store manager, gave us the details on the route. Covering 22 miles of beautiful rolling hills outside the city of Roswell, the route is well suited to both newer riders, who can ease up on the hills, and experienced riders, who can punch it up the hills for a good leg burn.

On the road, Kirsten, Dana and I had a great time. As the three of us moved through the pack, it was like a clinic in motion! People had lots of great questions for us as situations popped up: “What’s the best gear for a hill this steep?” “When should I stand up to climb?” “What is a good cadence?” And, despite the heat, people were having a great time! Working together, watching out for each other, and talking, joking, and laughing as we clipped along… It was awesome!

At the end of the ride, we were having too much fun to head straight home. Dana, Kirsten and I hung out at Performance post-ride, talking with a number of folks who had joined us on the ride. We LOVE to talk cycling, so happily answered questions on everything from our team bikes (the beautiful Fuji Supreme SL), to good hydration tools like NUUN, and what it’s like to race a road bike.

I met so many great people and it was such a beautiful ride! Thanks to the Atlantans who came out to join us, and next time we promise to do the ride when it’s cooler!


Performance Bicycle Racing Team – Race Across the Sky on a Tandem

Seemingly few people who participate in any organized cycling event in the continental United States remain unaware of the race made famous from a certain ProTour rider’s experience, chronicled in the 2009 film “Race Across the Sky.” The Leadville Trail 100, a 100 mile mountain bike race held in the high mountains of Colorado, annually tests the grit and mettle of more than a thousand brave souls who take to the start. This year, Performance Bicycle Racing Team elite rider Cara Applegate will tackle the race on August 14, but in a slightly unusual fashion – on a tandem mountain bike with her husband, Andy Applegate.

While the couple has been racing tandem bikes on the road for more than seven years – and share four elite national time trial titles and three masters road race and time trial titles – they have been riding the mountain bike tandem for a relatively short period of time, slightly more than a year and a half.

“We’ve both been racing bikes for a good long while – Andy 25 years and me 14 or so – and every year we seem to tweak our goals to include a new experience that will challenge our collective fortitude. A 100 mile off road endurance race in the high mountains seems to fit that bill,” explained Cara, a subtle smile of determination on her face.

The Applegates are not approaching this race unprepared however; they’ve spent the majority of their 2010 racing days at endurance mountain bike events, either on single bikes or the tandem. You can expect to see the Applegates at the front of the tandem pack come race day. Check back here for more details after the race.


Performance Bicycle Racing Team – Winning at Masters Nationals

If you missed it on our this blog last week, 2 elite riders and 1 development rider from the Performance Bicycle Racing Team were racing for tandem glory at the Masters National Time Trial Cycling Competition in Louisville, KY, last week.  Evie Boswell-Vilt and her mom Georgia (who is the development rider, in case you’re wondering) were riding in the age-graded competition, while Cara Applegate and her husband Andy were competing in the elite mixed tandem division.  So how did they do?  We’ll let Evie tell you in her own words, but let’s just say that they all came back with some new gold hardware when all the racing was done!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My mom, Georgia Boswell, born in 1933, anxiously waited in the Red Roof Inn in Louisville, KY. She was hours away from her first attempt at becoming a National Masters Champion.  The thought of being awarded with a stars and stripes jersey was enough, but the gold medal she might soon have hanging around her neck made her absolutely giddy with anticipation. “Do you think all my training was sufficient?,” she asked me, her daughter and tandem partner. I thought back to all the conversations we’d had over the last few months when she would call, from that ‘high’ most athletes feel post workout. She and her friend, Herb, had borrowed a tandem from friends in Sun City Hilton Head, SC, and had been riding 3-4 times a week. Mom would then call me and report on their endurance workouts and interval training. Just in case you didn’t catch it, my mom was born in 1933! She just turned 77 in March of this year and, in addition to her cycling, has a daily regimen of yoga, weights, tennis (her tennis partner will be 100 years old in January), bridge (to keep her mind sharp) or her favorite pastime: line dancing.

As the time neared for our departure to the course, we put on our Performance Bicycle Racing skin suits (a one piece spandex outfit that helps to increase a cyclist’s aerodynamics). My fiancé, Brian, helped pack the car and checked over our list of things we needed to bring to the race. We then traveled the 30 miles south from Louisville, KY to Taylorsville, KY. Once at the course, we pinned the two numbers on the back of my mom and made last minute adjustments to the bike for comfort, flair and, of course, speed! The weather was hot and sticky, with temperatures reaching over 105 degrees; keeping cool out on the sun-baked course became a priority. Teammate Cara Applegate suggested we fill our back pockets with ice as well as carry an extra bottle of ice water.

Cara and her husband Andy then started out on the course and set the fastest Man/Woman Elite Category time to claim the stars and stripes and their gold medals (and yes, in case you missed it in the video, Cara and Andy are preparing to race the Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race, on a tandem, this weekend!)

The races at Masters National are broken up into individual events and tandem events. There are numerous categories by age for each of three disciplines: Time Trial, Road Race and Criterium. For the tandem events, the rider’s ages are added to determine their category. My mom and I, aged 34 and 77, competed in the 110+ category. Though we didn’t have any competitors this year, we were very pleased with our time.

My mom was super fierce and nervous up to the final moment.  We settled into quite a rhythm on the hilly and windy 14 mile course. Coming across the finish line she let out a triumphant shout and pumped her fist into the air.  It was a lot of fun and I hope we are fortunate enough to be in Bend next year to ‘defend our title!’

As members of the Performance Bicycle Racing Team, and The SpokesWomen Syndicate, we feel a sense of duty and excitement to inspire other women in the US to attend and race at the US Master’s National Road Cycling Championships (next year athletes from all over the US will converge at a new host site in Bend, OR).

While driving back from the course, “National Champion” Georgia Boswell sat in her stars and stripes while animatedly reporting her success to all her fans on her cell phone. She is already planning to upgrade to clipless pedals as well as sign up to race her Scattante road bike in the individual events for 2011. We hope to see you in Bend next year!

So please join us in congratulating our new national champs, Cara, Evie and, of course, Georgia.  These women epitomize the credo of the Performance Bicycle Racing Team: to compete, encourage and inspire!

Plus look for more updates soon from Cara and Andy, as they race the epic Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race on a tandem (and they’re racing to win!)


Performance Bicycle Racing Team – Riding a Tandem at Nationals

It’s been a little while since we’ve caught up with the women of the Performance Bicycle Racing Team, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve been taking any time off.  As you can see by their results so far this year, they’ve been busy at the races all summer.

But today we wanted to highlight the newest member of the team, development rider Georgia Boswell.  You may recognize the Boswell name from elite rider Evie Boswell-Vilt, and indeed you would be correct to make the connection.  This is a family affair, just not in the way that you may be thinking!  Georgia is actually Evie’s mom, and they are teaming up to tackle the 2010 Masters Road National Championships in Louisville, KY… on a tandem!

The Masters Road National Championships are open to competitors over 30 years old, and divided up into age-graded races to determine the Masters national champions.  For tandem riders, the age groups are sorted by adding together the age of the competitors, so Evie and her mom will be racing in the 110+ womens’ division.

Here’s a video of Evie and Georgia going on their maiden tandem voyage together, and training together for the big race (which takes place on Tuesday, August 3):

Inspiration is a big part of the mission of the Performance Bicycle Racing Team, so it doesn’t get much better than seeing Evie’s mom out there competing with her daughter!  Good luck Evie and Georgia, we know you’ll do great on the roads at Nationals!


Performance Bicycle Racing Profile – Bergen Watterson

Meet Elite Rider Bergen Watterson

Age: 30
USCF: Category 2
Hometown: California is where my cycling started
Current: Chapel Hill, NC
Profession: Graduate Student at UNC in Planning

Bergen comes to Chapel Hill, NC from the crucible of Northern California Cycling.  She cut her teeth with Roaring Mouse, making a quick name for herself with her speedy ascent to a cat 2 level amidst some of the Nations best amateur riders. She comes to Performance Bicycle Racing with a new focus and new roads to explore.

Read more of this post

Performance Bicycle Racing Profile – Chris Tommerdahl

Meet Elite Rider Chris Tommerdahl

Age: 23
USCF: Category 2
Hometown: Chapel Hill, NC
Current: Still in Chapel Hill, NC
Profession: Self-employed

Chris is a swimmer at heart, but began cycling in order to take up triathlon several years ago. After a few years of improvement on the bike, her swimming and cycling were finally strong enough to offset her running deficits so that she could turn pro. As practice for her draft-legal triathlons, she decided to give bike racing a try in 2009. After learning that it’s difficult to race individually against several teams and that you can’t expect to win if you pull the entire race, she was able to find enough good results to upgrade to a Cat 2. In the end, she decided that cycling races are a pretty fun way to get a brick workout in, so she’ll give it another try in 2010. Read more of this post

Performance Bicycle Racing Profile – Gina Voci

Meet Elite Rider Gina Voci

Age: 35
USCF: Category 1
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
Current: Atlanta, Ga
Profession: Emergency Medicine Physician

Gina’s successful cycling career started after after a friend dragged her to a mountain bike race.  White-knuckled and determined, she rode away with the win and a new passion for racing.  Eight years later, she’s racked up results in some of the hardest races in North America.  She’s tough. Beside just shaking off the normal race catastrophes, she once chased down and stopped a car trying to steal another team’s bikes — and that was after a race.  When she’s not racing, she’s an ER doc and enjoys the finer things in life:  ATL Hip Hop and finding bargains at boutiques.


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