This is part of an ongoing series of national championships-related articles to get you ready for KC as a racer or spectator. You can view the rest of the series articles here.
Gear to Keep You in the Clear
With just a few days until the kickoff of the National Cyclocross Championships, eyes are turning to Kansas for the week’s events. The 2007 championships showed the harsh reality of the Midwest as snowstorms, frozen ground, and mud added to the always expected wintry chill that is oh so common in Kansas in December.
Have no fear, Cyclocross Magazine is here! Although the outlook appears promising with days set to creep into the mid-to-upper forties, we are here to provide you with a packing list of everything you need to succeed (unless your fitness is the lacking factor… we have a special packing list coming shortly especially for you.)
Although the weather seems it won’t be the monster it was for last year’s festivities, for those of us in the tropical paradise known as the Southeast (or Southwest) United States, it will be below fifty, therefore it should and undoubtedly will be treated as the coldest conditions faced all year, and will be packed for accordingly. Growing up in Ohio, and beginning my cyclocross career there only a year ago I learned quickly that there is no such thing as over packing when hitting out for ‘cross in the Midwest. The following clothing items are a must as morning temperatures are expected to be a nippy twenty-some degrees for the early category races.
- Base layer, wool or thick synthetic (as many as possible)
- Thermal Jersey
- Rain jacket
- Rain pants
- Jerseys and shorts (two of each)
- Leg warmers (two pairs)
- Arm warmers (two pairs)
- Knickers or tights (ideally, two pairs, and zip-off)
- Knee warmers (optional with leg warmers)
- Skinsuit (essential only if wanting to look pro)
- Headwear of some type
- Several pairs of wool cycling socks
- Shoe covers (neoprene or thermal)
- Glasses (clear and dark lenses)
- Long finger gloves.
- Towels (two)
- Knee warmers
I know winter cycling apparel can be pricey, but for most who race ‘cross in bad weather they are a part of normal training and riding, and many of these items are a normal choice for my ‘cross arsenal. These items really must haves for a place like Kansas City and highly recommended.
In terms of base layers many times you can find decently priced ones online, or eBay, but at this point, call your local bike store if you need something for your trip. I have personally found success in Descent, Craft and DeFeet base layers but will be riding a Hincapie Merino wool piece. These are my personal experiences and most clothing companies make equally comparable products that are worth looking into.
In regard to jerseys as well as leg and arm warmers, the reason I recommend two pairs is simple. Regardless of how dry it is out, these tend to get damp. After several laps of warm ups, I like to change out of the sweaty items I warm up in, and get some dry ones on to finish my warm-up in before popping on the skinsuit on my way to the line. Unless you enjoy the feel of a damp cold chamois on the rump, freezing sweat on your chest, you really should bring extras to change out of between warm up sessions. I really like getting out on the course for a warm up session, before retuning to the car for a second warm up on the trainer.
When looking at head-wear, don’t be picky. A great deal of body heat can be lost through an exposed dome, so cover up and keep warm. Looking at shoe covers, and long finger gloves you really should look more for durability and warmth than style. I have found some bargain buys with cheap Velcro fasteners and more re-enforcement than a Kevlar bullet proof vest and I couldn’t be happier. In terms of gloves, unless it’s epically cold out look for some versatile neoprene glove possibly with some sort of wind-proof Gore-Tex material. Also, if you don’t want to invest in the uber-warm gloves slip on a pair of knit wool base gloves such as Castelli Unico’s or DeFeet Handskin’s. Again nearly every clothing company makes similar products so look around. These are just two I have ridden, but I am no pro. I just know that I don’t like being cold, wet, or unprepared.
Finally towels are your friend. Not only do they keep your nakedness hidden when changing into that slimming skinsuit, but having two means that after your winter wonderland sufferfest you can actually clean your crusty legs off with one and undress in another avoiding the pleasant situation of finding mud nuggets in your briefs, thong, or whatever (if anything) you fancy for underwear. Not to mention if you cleaned off that pre-race embrocation with that towel and it managed to clean certain “areas”, you really are not going to be happy. Believe me – it’s not fun.
I suppose we can thank the founding fathers of ‘cross for creating a sport that gives us reason after reason to buy extra bike parts simply to serve as, well… extra parts If it weren’t for cyclocross we parts junkies would have no reason to own as many pairs of tubular wheels and tires as we can get our hands on.
Spare parts are a must when it comes to cross racing. Do you really want miss the opportunity to race for the national championship of your country, because you didn’t bring one of the five extra sets of pedals you have laying in your garage back in Vermont? If so, then you’re a liar and your can enjoy the beer from the sideline watching me suffer my life pointlessly away for an hour in the freezing cold. Your loss. Wait, that actually sounds pretty nice…Hmm. Anyway, below is a list of parts you should really consider toting along with you as you head toward the arctic oasis of Nationals.
- Race Wheels
- Spare Wheels
- Versatile tires (and spare tubes)
- Tubular tape and glue if using tubulars (you won’t have time for the glue-only method)
- Extra cables and housing (shifter and brake)
- Wet and dry conditions lube and grease
- Allen wrenches
- Pedal wrench
- Multi tool
- Chain tool
- Cable/housing cutter
- Electrical and duct tape
- Bike pump and gauge
- Toe spikes for your shoes
- Extra pair of cleats
- Extra pair of pedals
- Bike (Race and pit bikes if possible)
Now I will go ahead and get my rant out of the way now. For those of you lucky enough to have a spare bike that’s great! Congratulations. For those of you who don’t, don’t think into this too much. There are people racing and winning national titles who don’t have a pit bike (See the interviews with each winner of the ’07 nats in Issue 2 of Cyclocross Magazine). It’s not the end of the world. So make do with what you have. If that’s a set of old training wheels that don’t look as bling as Joe the Plumbers, it’s not the end of the world. It’s better than a first lap DNF!
The idea of bringing tools is pretty straight forward. Yes, SRAM neutral support will be there to do the dirty work for you but let’s be serious people. If your seat post slips, do Jose and friends really want to have you rolling up to their Volvo interrupting their hot chocolate break? I think not (by the way Jose if you read this I owe you a seat post collar from the Derby City Cup). Be considerate and pack your tools. Even if you only bring a chain tool and multi-tool, bring tools. There is no reason to lug your bike around the course on your warm-up because your crank arm fell off. O.k., maybe a multi-tool wouldn’t fix that but I have seen it happen, so plan for it. Which leads me to my next and final point on bike parts; come prepared and check your parts before you race. Again, you really don’t want to leave lovely SoCal for the bitter cold of Kansas and have your race end because you wash out in a turn and leave a Dura-Ace shifter laying somewhere on the side of the course for some lucky spectator to find. There’s nothing wrong with giving someone an early Christmas present but I personally would opt for a gift card or box of Clifbloks. You’re choice I suppose.
Countdown to fun!
By the time you read this you will probably be well on your way to packing and preparing for the Kansas road trip that awaits you. Hopefully this list of things has been helpful for getting you as ready as you can be for nationals. If it’s your first time, no worries, enjoy yourself and take it all in, it really is a one-of-a-kind event. Just enjoy yourself and relax. If you crash who cares. Most likely I will too and we can find each other in the beer tent for ice rash show off sessions throughout the week!
To everyone the best of luck! Until then safe travels and see you in Kansas! Did I leave out something you think is essential? Drop a comment below. Stay tuned for our packing list for those who have no hope of winning.