Working in the pits for a friend can be just as rewarding as racing in a cyclocross race … right? OK, odds are good you got roped into being in the pit, or bribed with promises of post-race beer, or you lost a bet or a game of rock-paper-scissors. But whatever the reason, you’re in the pit, so you might as well do it right. Today, Brett Rothmeyer shows us how it’s done.
by Brett Rothmeyer
So you’re working the “pits” at a cyclocross race. One time or another, we have all chipped in to help out a friend, teammate or an out-of-town elite racer by just being there for them, just in case. I have to admit that throughout the many seasons I have worked the pit for my friends and cyclocross comrades, I have really not seen much action. There are so many one hour intervals of standing, waiting, cheering, encouraging and moving back-and-forth with the respective racer’s pit bike rarely to be called upon.
When the moment finally comes when your services are needed, I feel that the key to being a good pit mechanic is like being a good Boy Scout or camper: be prepared and be prepared for the worst.
Start with a good multi-tool. Almost every bicycle manufacturer has their version of one, and make sure that you have a full compliment of Allen wrench sizes. Multi-tools that have a flathead and philips screwdrivers included will help out if you have to adjust certain cantilever brakes or limit screws on front and rear derailluers. I also like to carry a 10mm allen wrench in case a crank arm comes loose, now that many frames are coming with BB30 or other forms of a press-fit bottom bracket where the fixing bolts are 10mm.
Having a good chain lube like triflow will help to keep things running smoothly in adverse conditions. I like to use the spray cans because you can hit everything real quick, even cables that are starting drag a bit from mud and dirt.
Lastly, if you are at a race that is of the muddy variety and there is no bike washing area provided in near the pit, you may want to at least take a bucket of water and big scrubbing brush to keep the moving parts of the bicycle clean. If you want to take your pit mechanic duties seriously, check out what Park Tool and Pedro’s have to offer, both have a variety of tool set ups and packages to get you going.
Having all the best tools in the world is great, but if you are not paying attention to what is going on in the race and around you in the pit area, things can go wrong really quick. When the conditions are rough like they were at Nationals in Madison, Wisconsin, this year, the pit becomes a chaotic wild place and it is very important to keep focused on what you are doing and where your rider is on course. Sure, Stu Thorne might be four slots down and, yes, those are the Rapha-Focus guys holding J-Pow’s bike right next to you, but don’t be intimidated. You, like them, have a job to do. The key is to stay out of each other’s way and to communicate with everyone around you.
If you have a rider coming in, let everybody know by yelling as loud as you can that they are indeed coming into the pit area. If possible, see if someone will help you during bike exchanges by catching the bike that your rider is dropping off, in order to help smooth out the transition and lessen the chance of mishandling a bike exchange. If you keep your wits about you and stay calm during repairs and bike exchanges, the pit is a great place to watch the race unfold.
Summer is almost here which means fall is not far behind, I’ll be gathering my tools and stretching the new tires soon, see you on the starting grids and in the pits soon!