CX ’15: How To Set Up Your Cyclocross Bike

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One of the best ways to be fast, on any bike, is to be comfortable. When you’re comfortable on the bike you can pedal more efficiently and spend more time focusing on performance and less time squirming on the saddle or constantly changing hand position.

Setting up your cyclocross bike is pretty straight forward, but still a little bit different approach from your road bike.

 Handlebar Height

Most riders prefer to have their cyclocross bikes set up with the handlebars a little taller than on their road bikes. Being low and aerodynamic is less important in ‘cross because of the slower speeds.

Using stems of different lengths and drop angles allows you to customize the fit of your bike

Notice how the CX bike on top is set up with a taller stack and shorter reach than these road bikes, for more comfort and easier handling

 Bar Tape

Using thicker bar tape than on your road bike can help eliminate a lot of the jolts and jars that happen when riding your bike off-road.

Beefier bar tape can make riding off-road more comfortable

Beefier bar tape can make riding off-road more comfortable


Saddle Position

To avoid back pain and limit the jarring impact of the remount, it can be helpful to have your saddle further forward than on your road bike. This will limit the amount of work your hamstrings have to do while slogging through the mud, and help limit back pain.

Wheels

No matter what braking system you use (cantilever or disc), choosing the right wheels is super important. One secret of many successful CX racers is using a deeper dish wheel. It doesn’t necessarily have to be carbon, but looking for a wheel with a more aero profile will help keep mud from glomming on to the rim.

Wheels a one of the best upgrades you can make to any CX bike

Wheels a one of the best upgrades you can make to any CX bike


 Tires

Choose the right tires for the course conditions and your area. If it’s going to be hard and dry, you might be able to get away with a more minimal tread, but if it’s going to be muddy, go for something with plenty of knobs. If you run tubulars, make sure you pick a good intermediate, all-around tire.

Picking the right tire can make all the difference on race day

Picking the right tire can make all the difference on race day

 Chainrings

(this link goes to an MTB article…but it works for your ‘cross bike too)

One or two? The choice is up to you. Two chainrings give you more gearing options to suit different conditions, but running a single chainring eliminates weight and limits the number of possible mechanical failurs. But before making a decision, you may want to check out an online gear calculator and play around with different combinations to find the right one.

And remember, if you’re running a single chainring up front, you either need a single-ring specific chainring, which will have specially designed teeth, or a chain keeper.

One or two chainrings? It's up to you.

One or two chainrings? It’s up to you.


Gearing Options

We definitely recommend running an 11-28T cassette. Combined with a traditional 46/36 CX chainring combo or a 40T or 42T single ring should give you all the gearing options you need.

Getting the right gearing in the rear can make all the difference

Getting the right gearing in the rear can be one of your biggest decisions


Saddle

A lot of CX bikes come with road saddles, but this might not be the most comfortable for you. There’s nothing wrong with running a mountain bike saddle on your ‘cross bike for more comfort and padding.

Picking the right saddle can have a big impact on your race

Picking the right saddle can help prevent everything from saddle sores to lower back pain

CX ’15: Choosing the Right Cyclocross Tire

 

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There’s a lot of reasons to invest in a cyclocross bike– not only are they excellent for actually riding ‘cross, but they make great adventure bikes, gravel grinders, commuters, and road bikes too. Whether you’re using your bike to chase down some adventure or the front of the pack, picking the right tire will go a long way towards enhancing your ride. Since cyclocross bikes can be used for everything from road riding to racing on conditions from asphalt to mud pits, you need to choose a cyclocross tire based on the terrain and weather conditions where you live, and your own personal riding style and goals.

The two biggest things to keep in mind when shopping for a new set of cyclocross tires are tread pattern and tire width.

 

 Shop for cyclocross tires on Performancebike.com

 

Tread Patterns

Tread patterns are the next most important factor in picking a tire. Not all tread patterns are good for all conditions, but there are some really good all-around ones out there. It’s important to consider your local conditions when looking for new tires.

The tread pattern on the Clement MXP is a good, versatile, all around one that should perform well in most conditions

Knobs

These are the main “treads” of the tire. Some are very aggressive with high knobs and hard edges, others are lower and more rounded. Generally, the more aggressive the tread, the more it hooks into the ground—but at the cost of speed. The lower the tread, the faster, but the less traction you’ll get.

Shoulders

These are the side treads of the tire, and they help with cornering. A good cross tire should have plenty of sharp knobs on the outside edges to help bite into the ground and keep you from sliding out.

Pattern

Generally speaking, chevron-shaped tread patterns offer lower rolling resistance so you can ride faster, but don’t have quite as much traction and can easily pack in with mud. Blockier tread patterns improve traction and easily shed mud, but have a higher rolling resistance.

Slicks

Yes, they do make CX slicks. If you’re somewhere with fairly hard, dry soil or on the road you can probably get away with these, but we would highly advise keeping a set of knobbys on hand as well.

 

 Shop for cyclocross tires on Performancebike.com

 

Width

Width is a really important part of picking the right cyclocross tire. Generally, the wider the tire, the wider the contact patch and the better the traction. However, if you’re racing in a UCI-sanctioned event, or even some local events, your tire width might be limited to 32mm. Another limiting factor is frame and fork tolerance, but most cyclocross bikes can easily handle up to a 38mm tire without any problems.

 

Performance Rides the Zolder Circuit

On our trip to Belgium we got to do a lot of cool stuff. Touring the Ridley factory was really interesting, and riding the Ronde van Vlaanderen Sportif was awe-inspiring. But the most fun we had on the trip was the hammering the pace line at Circuit Zolder. This legendary F1 track is normally used to car racing, but a few nights a week it opens up for cyclists for a mere 3 Euro entry fee.

So what made it so fun? One word: Speed.

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Crossing the finish line at Zolder

Imagine having a wide open, immaculately paved road, free from cars and without any speed restrictions. The track was teeming with groups riding at different levels and different speeds. You just jump on with a group that feels good to you, give a friendly nod to the people around you, and hold on for dear life. Our home offices have plenty of Cat 1 and 2 road riders who can put some hurt on, but the level many of the Belgians ride at was beyond compare.

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You had to fight to hold your line in the S-bends!

At Zolder we saw cyclists of all stripes. From middle aged folks just out to ride some laps on flat bar road bikes, to pro’s from United Healthcare and Liv Pro Cycling putting in some speed work, to juniors learning how to ride in a group. We saw carbon super bikes, TT speed machines, older steel Pinarello’s and De Rosa’s hung with vintage Campagnolo, and more Ridley‘s than you could shake a stick at (seriously, it seemed like every third rider was on a Ridley).

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Don’t lose the pace heading up the hill on the backstretch!

It was fast, it was exhausting, and we still fantasize about going back. And lest you think you have to go all the way to Belgium to get to experience something like this, take heart. There are plenty of places like this around the world. Here in America, you can check out the Mazda Speedway in Laguna, CA; Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX; and Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada.

 

Check out our galleries below to see more.

 

Heading In

Make Way For The Pain Train…

Young Guns

Calling It A Day

Shop for Ridley Bikes

 

See more about our trip to Belgium Here

 

Wordless Wednesday

Eddy Merckx impersonator at the Tour of Flanders

5 Easy Spring Upgrades

When we think of upgrades, we often think of parts for our bicycles. But this doesn’t always have to be the case. You can get a significant performance advantage by updating some of your older, worn out gear without dropping a bunch of coin.

Here’s our suggestion for 5 easy upgrades that can help you go faster, be more comfortable, and be safer. And the best news is that there’s plenty of options to fit any budget.

1. Helmet

Did you know that most cycling helmets should be replaced after 5 years, regardless of whether or not you’ve been in a crash? If you’ve been in a crash that involved a head impact, replace your helmet immediately, even if it looks fine. Fortunately for you, helmet technology has come a long way. Helmets now are lighter, breezier, and more aerodynamic than ever.

New helmets have more vents, are lighter and more aerodynamic than older models

2. Shorts

After about 50-100 washings, most cycling shorts are about ready to call it quits. The chamois pads become compressed with repeated use and cease to provide enough support and cushioning, and the lycra will wear out and become more transparent (which might be why nobody wants to ride behind you). If it’s been a while, you might be surprised by how comfortable a fresh pair of shorts feels.

Give the guys behind you a break, and get some new shorts. Our newly redesigned Ultra shorts are engineered for speed and comfort

3. Sunglasses

We used to think that sunglasses were simply sunglasses…until we got to try out some of the new ones available. Today’s glasses have features like photochromic lenses that change tint in the sunlight, hydrophilic construction so the glasses won’t slide down your face when you sweat, and lighter, tougher frames.

Newer sunglasses, like these Scattante Mestre shades, are packed with features to help better protect your eyes and enjoy the ride

4. Water Bottles

Hopefully you took our advice and gave your old ones a thorough cleaning, but sometimes it’s just nice to have a new set–especially if your old ones are leaky. New water bottles can be a fun way to add some color to a ride, or replace those old leaking bottles you’ve had forever.

New water bottles that don’t leak, like this insulated one from Camelbak, won’t get sticky hydration drink all over your frame

5. Socks

Ok…this one isn’t so much of an upgrade, we just love cycling socks. New socks are a good way to express yourself in a sea of lycra. Whether you go super serious with some all black tall socks, or let out the wild side with a bright pattern, new socks can make even pasty winter legs look good again in the spring.

Land of Enchantment indeed. Socks are an great way to spruce up those pale winter legs

Up Close With The Pro’s: Diamondback and Optum Pro Cycling

Optum Pro Cycling Training Camp, Feb. 2014

If you haven’t heard yet, one of America’s top pro teams has recently made the switch to Diamondback bikes for this upcoming season. The Optum Pro Cycling Presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies men’s and women’s team will be riding Diamondback’s amazing, and much lauded, Podium series bikes during the 2014 season. You’ll be able to spot these bikes everywhere from the Tour of California to the U.S. Pro Challenge.

Diamondback visited the Optum men's and women's team training camps in California

Diamondback visited the Optum men’s and women’s team training camps in California

To get a more in-depth look at what’s going on with the team, Diamondback took a trip to their training camp in Oxnard California.

Check out some photos here.

U.S. Women's National Champion Jade Wilcoxson was riding well at training camp

U.S. Women’s National Champion Jade Wilcoxson was riding well at training camp

While there, they caught up with U.S. Women’s National Champion Jade Wilcoxson and got to ask her a few questions.

Click here to read the article.

The team mechanics have their work cut out for them to prepare all of the team bikes for the season

The team mechanics have their work cut out for them preparing the team bikes for the season

They also took an opportunity to visit with the team mechanics and get the scoop on the new Diamondback bikes.

Click here to see what they had to say.

Meatball doesn't like being called Meatball. Can you think of a better nickname?

Can you think of a new nickname for this guy? Also, those socks are amazing.

And, of course, they got up close and personal with the delightful Mike “Meatball” Friedman. Apparently, he doesn’t like the nickname “Meatball” though.

So it’s time for a contest: Suggest a new nickname for Mike, and we’ll select the best one to receive a $50 gift card – just post your suggestion in a comment below by the end of the day on Friday 3/7/14.

To read the interview with Mike, click here.

The Diamondback Podium Optum Team Bike is now available from Performance Bicycle

And, of course, you can check out the whole line of Diamondback road bikes, including the new Optum Pro Team edition Diamondback Podium, at Performancebike.com.

Ridden and Reviewed: Fuji SLM 29er 1.1 Carbon Hardtail Mountain Bike

Race-ready with the Fuji SLM

Our coworker Eddie getting ready to race with the Fuji SLM

We first had an opportunity to throw a leg over the Fuji SLM 29er 1.1 at the Outdoor Dirt Demo. It was hot off the presses at the time and was something like the 48th bike claiming to be “The Ultimate Bike Ever Made” that we’d seen that day. By this point in the afternoon though, we needed to see some proof in the pudding. You can’t imagine our surprise when after a couple of laps the Fuji SLM 29er 1.1 turned out to be our favorite bike of the day.

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About The Bike:

The Fuji SLM 29er 1.1 is a 29″ carbon fiber hardtail bike that’s tailor made for the XC and racing markets. Reading over the Fuji SLM 29er 1.1 parts spec, there’s a lot to be impressed by. This is a carbon fiber hardtail that’s dripping with XTR. XTR shifters and derailleurs, sure. But brakes? Cassette? Chain? This bike is decked out in Shimano’s highest level of racing components with only the carbon Oval M600 Crankset breaking the pattern. Why would Fuji decide to pass on Shimano’s crankset? As anyone who has recently spec’d a mountain bike will tell you, Shimano doesn’t make their XTR crankset with a true PF30 spindle. You can get an adapter for the Hollowtech II spindle, but if you truly want to take advantage of the increased stiffness afforded to you by the SLM’s PF30 bottom bracket, a crankset like the Oval M600 is going to deliver.

The Oval M600 crankset gives you the benefits of a 30mm axle spindle

The Oval M600 crankset gives you the benefits of a 30mm axle spindle

The next area that the Fuji SLM 29er 1.1 excels in is the frame. Rather than trying to pass off some lesser carbon fiber as the next big thing, Fuji actually uses the next big thing. C15 super-light high-modulus carbon outfitted with internal shift cable routing, the aforementioned PF30 bottom bracket, a tapered headtube and wide 142x12mm dropouts. This makes for one of the lightest hardtail frames available while also providing stiffness to spare. The bike darts uphill so fast you will leave your friends in the dust.

Fuji also offers Fuji SLM 29er 1.3, 2.1, and 2.3 to make it easy for riders to find the 29″ hardtail to fit their needs and skill levels

The (almost) full Shimano XTR group delivers pro-level performance

The (almost) full Shimano XTR group delivers pro-level performance

The Ride:

Enough about the components, let’s get to the riding! The very first experience we had on board the Fuji SLM 29er 1.1 was one that would be repeated with nearly every ride: the tester riding the SLM 1.1 had to wait at the top of the climb for everyone else to catch up. The 29” wheels and knobby tires gave confidence to spare on the descents and it even held its own through moderate rock sections. Where this bike truly excels, however, is the climbing. You’ll float uphill as though the tires are filled with helium.

Another thing that became clear in the ride quality is that this bike was spec’d by someone who really rides and understands mountain bikes. A perfect example is the handlebar. Sure, it was probably picked out of Oval’s lineup for being the lightest bar they make at an amazing 185g. But that’s not all a bar is about. This bar is 710mm wide and has a 9 degree sweep giving the rider confident handling and a comfortable hand position.

Well spec'd parts, like the bars, give the bike an amazing ride feel

Well spec’d parts, like the bars, give the bike an amazing ride feel

The Verdict:

Thoughtful component choices and a finely tuned ride quality make this one of the finest hardtails we’ve ever ridden. This bike is for the rider who wants to squeeze every ounce of performance from his machine, who wants to win races, and who will settle for nothing but the best.  The XC racing bike snob will be as happy as the everyday trail warrior. They are all sweet perfection in mountain biking, balancing weight, comfort, and performance. If you’re thinking about buying a hardtail that you’ll never want to part with, look no further than the Fuji SLM 29er 1.1. The bike was so fast, that we all started arguing about who would get to use our demo model for the upcoming race season. Sitting atop the Fuji, our coworker Eddie rocketed straight to the top of the podium.

Most races on the SLM end only one way: the top of the podium

Most races on the SLM 1.1 end only one way: the top of the podium (#3 left early, it wasn’t just a two person race)

71 Reasons We Love Cycling

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It’s Valentine’s Day, which means we want to give a special shout-out to our sweethearts, waiting at home for us to take them out for a nice evening. We’re speaking, of course, about our bicycles.

Whether you’re young or old, a seasoned vet or shopping around for your first bike, you’ll agree that there’s a million reason to love cycling, but we probably can’t think of them all ourselves. So help us out, what do you love about riding?

Here were our Top 71 Reasons To Love Cycling

  1. Unwinding from a long day
  2. Spending time outside
  3. Nothing makes you tougher than riding in bad weather
  4. It makes your legs look ripped
  5. Going farther than you thought possible with your own power
  6. Getting to tell other people “I rode here”
  7. Earning the descent by climbing up first
  8. The first day of the year when you don’t need arm or knee warmers
  9. Those conversations you can only have during a long ride
  10. Feeling dog tired and completely happy
  11. Achieving personal bests on long climbs
  12. Post-ride beers
  13. Trying to turn your significant other into a cyclist (your results may vary)
  14. New Bike Day
  15. The feeling of triumph when you fix your first flat
  16. Those days when you get on the bike and just feel strong
  17. The taste of a fizzy, sugary drink at the finish line
  18. Long, lazy evening rides
  19. Battling the elements
  20. Knowing, in your head, you are a 5-time Paris-Roubaix winner
  21. Having a whole other set of clothes just for cycling
  22. The sound of cycling cleats on coffee shop floors
  23. Passing all the cars stuck in traffic on your way to work
  24. Falling in the rock garden, then going back and nailing it
  25. Letting yourself get lost, and discovering a new route you never knew existed
  26. The feeling of freshly shaved legs
  27. Pre-race jitters
  28. The Zen of Bike Washing
  29. Discovering a new favorite gel flavor (here’s to you chocolate ClifShot)
  30. Riding with no hands
  31. That feeling of flying when you hit the right line on a descent
  32. Unzipping your jersey on a climb
  33. Picking out your favorite bottles
  34. Meticulously unpacking and repacking your hydration pack
  35. Driving home with a muddy mountain bike
  36. The first time you perfectly wrap your handlebars
  37. Learning to unclip without tipping over
  38. Charity rides: doing something you love for a good cause
  39. Secretly watching Le Tour on your computer at work, then minimizing it real fast when your boss comes to your cube
  40. Coffee
  41. Having a shed full of tools Bob Vila doesn’t know about
  42. Seeing things you’d never notice in a car
  43. Sunsets
  44. The agony and the ecstasy
  45. Managing to put on your rain jacket without stopping
  46. Sitting on the top tube at a traffic light
  47. Railing the berm
  48. Vowing to race ‘cross next year
  49. Telling everyone who will listen that you could have gone pro if you’d started earlier
  50. Ride mileage that gets longer with every retelling
  51. Having a rapport with your mechanic
  52. Checking the weekend weather forecast on multiple apps
  53. Driving to the ride
  54. Riding to the ride
  55. Post-ride meals that taste like manna from heaven
  56. Because some of my best thoughts have come while riding a bike
  57. The open road or the perfect trail
  58. Freedom
  59. Meeting new friends
  60. Spending time alone
  61. Learning how to fix it yourself
  62. Sharing tips with a new cyclist
  63. Talking about the ride after the ride
  64. Wearing spandex in public
  65. Losing weight
  66. Getting up before dawn to go for a ride
  67. Chasing the sunset on your bike
  68. Spring Classics
  69. Watching the Tour
  70. Zero emissions
  71. No gas, no parking fees, no insurance

And, of course, to find that perfect Valentine’s Day gift for the cyclist in your life (or your bike), you’ll find everything you need at Performancebike.com, or your nearest Performance Bicycle store.

Wordless Wednesday

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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.

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.

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