“Death. Taxes. Katie Fn Compton,” commented James Joseph on our report of Katie Compton winning her 15th straight Elite Women’s Cyclocross Nationals.
You could add our profile of her winning bike to that list. You might think it’s identical to her winning bike from Hartford or Reno. Yet when you’re the best-every U.S. cyclocrosser, the devil is in the details, and Compton and mechanic husband Mark Legg have made quite a number of changes over the last two years, some of which are quite eye-catching.
Sparkling you might even say.
First, a little history. When you’ve won 15 Elite Women's Cyclocross National Championships, chances are you’ve ridden a lot of different brands of bikes. Compton has thrown a leg over many different bikes, including winning on frames from Redline, Primus Mootry, Stevens and Giant before aligning with Trek.
Since joining forces with the Wisconsin-based Trek Compton has taken victories on a 2013 National Championship-winning Trek aluminum prototype, an aluminum Trek Crockett and a Boone she debuted on January 1 and won on in Boulder.
Her Boone victories kept coming, with a stars-and-stripes-themed ride in Austin, a baby blue, FMB-equipped model in Asheville, and then a white Clement-dressed Front Isospeed-dampened Boone in Hartford.
Fast forward two years to Louisville, and while the frameset remains the same, Compton and Legg have made a number of notable changes.
A Little Old, A Little New
Now that she is in year two of racing full time in Europe, Compton has U.S.-based and Belgium-based sets of bikes. Compton brought one of her new 2018 bikes back with her from Belgium for Nationals to join her two U.S.-based 2017 builds as her choices for the muddy Louisville race.
Compton's plan was to use the new 2018 build and one of her 2017 bikes as her two bikes on Sunday. In case of emergency, last year's Reno-winning bike with some older components was also available.
Compton started the race on the new 2018 bike and then pitted every half lap.
She finished on the 2017 bike with black bar tape, which we are profiling today.
A Clutch Ride for #15
Legg is quick to point out that he and Compton purchase their Shimano components. Shimano is not a sponsor of their program, so they are free to pick and choose from components as they see fit. As a result, Compton’s bikes differ from the typical European Shimano-sponsored cyclocross pro who rides complete groupsets from the company.
Although Shimano stated their RX800/RX805 clutch-based derailleurs are designed for gravel, Legg opted to replace the Dura-Ace Di2 rear derailleurs with the new units. “I find they work really well for cyclocross,” Legg said.
He likes the low-profile of the Shadow design and finds the longer cage allows an extra chain link for less cross-chain friction. The clutch also helps keeps the chain quiet when conditions get bumpy.
Reno Re-Use, Re-Cycle
The two bikes Compton used at Reno Nationals are now her U.S.-based fleet of bikes. The one she finished her Louisville win on was her pit bike in Reno.
“These bikes work so well, we’ve only used them for two or three races last year, so we thought there’s no reason to get a whole new stack of bikes,” Legg said.
The frame isn’t the only thing held over from previous seasons. Some parts are from as far back as three seasons ago. “We actually buy our Shimano [parts], I want something that lasts I can continue on season to season,” Legg said. “Most of the equipment is from last season. The cranks are three years old.”
Compton used the new ST-R9170 dual control levers thanks to their weight savings but paired them with older-series BR-RS805 calipers. As she has in the past, Compton uses Bondic on the shifters for extra feel.
Her front derailleur is a hold-over from the Dura-Ace 9070 groupset, as is the Dura-Ace 9000 crankset.
Compton has won both on Boones with and without Front IsoSpeed, and while Legg says she notices the difference, he admits that on the smaller bikes like Compton’s with smaller head tubes, the benefit isn’t as great as on taller frames and there is a weight penalty.
Last year, Compton switched from then-Clement tires to Challenge's Team Edition tubulars. In Louisville, she used—not surprisingly—Limus mud treads run at 11.5psi mounted to her Knight Composite 35 Disc Tubular wheels with DT Swiss 240s hubs.
Bringing the Bling
Most noticeable this year were the small details to aesthetics. Legg loves using heat shrink tubing and pairs the rear brake hose and Di2 wire into one white heat shrink tube, but it’s not just any tubing. He has the tubing custom printed in Canada with “Katie Fn Compton” on it.
Her top cap caught our eye and might be worth more than some bikes. The pair teamed up with Anemoni Jewelers of Delaware to create a top cap filled with 12 of her Zircon birthstone gems. Legg was giddy talking about the upcoming, updated top cap that he’ll be installing soon.
On Compton’s 2018 bikes, Legg replaced the steel bolts with purple anodized alloy bolts, both for weight savings and to celebrate the 90s mountain bike trend, an era that both Legg and Compton remember fondly. On the bike she finished on, the bolts were alloy and titanium but in either gold or their natural color.
While Legg obsesses over every detail, he doesn’t want to spend more time than necessary doing maintenance. Compton’s bike rolls on Enduro bearings in the bottom bracket, headset, front and rear hubs and pulleys.
Legg emphasized the ceramic derailleur pulley bearings are largely maintenance free. “I do zero maintenance on them all season,” Legg said. “I wipe them down, and they’re good to go, and that includes Belgian sand.”
Compton has doubled down on dual chain rings and has changed from 44/34t to 42/34t chain rings from WickWerks for this season. Out back, she used an 11-30t cassette.
Legg says the smaller jumps with the double chain ring system reduces the neuromuscular stress racers experience when going from spinning to grinding. “All the top riders in the world are on double chain rings,” Legg argues. “Wout was on them until this year, because he’s testing the [1x12 eTAP].”
Compton also famously uses 175mm crankarms. While the much-taller Wout van Aert and fellow National Champion Stephen Hyde use short 170mm cranksets, Compton keeps the same length cranks she used as a Paralympic tandem captain. Although she’s experimented with 172.5mm cranks, finds her power much better with the longer cranks.
Those sticks on the crankarm covered in mud are for WickWerks and KMC. According to Compton's pit crew member Josh McKinney, parts of the stickers got blasted off thanks to the high pressure in the pit pressure washers.
Katie Compt0n is now back in Europe getting ready for the second half of her 2018/19 European campaign. Her A bike from Sunday is back in Belgium, while this bike heads back to storage where it will sit until she likely calls it into service again for the 2019 U.S. World Cups.
For more on Compton's bike, see the photo gallery and specs below.
For more from Louisville, see all of our 2018 Cyclocross Nationals coverage.