As we approach the week of Cyclocross National Championships, we know that some of you will be making the trip for the first time, or perhaps this will be the first year you convinced your spouse/buddy to come with you and act as your pit crew. We spoke with some of the best respected mechanics and team captains in American cyclocross to give their list of the biggest Do-and-Don’ts in the pits.
Want to make sure you’re no committing a serious faux paux on race day, or want take your game to the next level? Check out their tips below.
Calvin Jones hardly needs an introduction; his face is shown on the back of the Park Tool Big Blue Book of Repair, and is the tool company’s Director of Education (as well as a current USA Cycling Race Mechanic Clinic Instructor and the former Chief Instructor to the Barnett Bicycle Instructor). Donn Kellogg is the team leader and manager of The Raleigh-Clement Cyclocross Team, one of the biggest professional cyclocross teams in the United States with their riders Jamey Driscoll and Caroline Mani winning the overall Pro CX Standings. Bill Marshall is the team manager of the KCCX cyclocross team and a WD-40 team member who has also wrenched for Cal Giant/Specialized and the Mercy Elite Cycling Team, and will happily admit being a bike mechanic since birth.
If you enjoyed a few of their tips below, stay tuned for some of their funniest stories from the pits, as well as advice on changing brake pads halfway through a race.
Calvin Jones’ Tips:
DO: pay attention. The race is not “mechanics’ social hour”.
DO: give useful information as applicable. Gap times, placing, who is ahead or chasing.
DO: be friendly, to everyone. Be kind to other mechanics, all racers, promoters, officials everyone. We live in a small small bubble.
DON’T: expect Neutral Support to help. The good NS crews are in fact helpful, but be self sufficient when at all possible.
DON’T: expect any help from other mechanics. Like #1 above, pack your own parachute, and then a second.
DON’T: be a coach if you’re not, and don’t be a tufosi, screaming blithering platitudes like “GO GO GO!!!”
Donn Kellogg’s Tips:
DO: watch the pros like Stu Thorne (Mr. Cyclocross of Cannondale) and be a quick learner. Other great teams to watch (other than the Raleigh-Clement guys, of course) are the Rapha-Focus and Noosa mechanics.
DO: come with an organized set of tools and be prepared for different circumstances.
DO: raise your hand and yell your rider’s name when they enter the pits. In the chaos of the pit, it can be difficult for a rider to find their mechanics, especially when they are riding at high intensity.
DO: turn the bike around in a 1/2 lap if possible. The rider might have a mechanical issue by the next time they come around to the pits and could use their other bike.
DO: prioritize cleaning and repair, drivetrain first, brakes close second, cleaning out pedals third.
DON’T: go to the fence (meaning crossing the lane that the riders come through). Too often, mechanics get into this area to communicate with riders coming through, and it is far too easy to get distracted here.
DON’T: go in to the pit area without any bike exchange practice. Especially if you are a spouse, unpracticed transitions are a major source of tension. Find a time beforehand to practice the exchanges.
DON’T: force bikes into a rider’s hands. When in doubt, let the rider take the bike. Pushing the bike out towards them takes lots of practice.
DON’T: quietly catch the rider’s bike if your job is to take the muddy/broken bike. Yell at a rider to “let go” of the bike because their instincts are to hold on to the bike.
DON’T: be too picky about the rider taking more than two steps between bikes, as per regulations. Officials have more important things to concentrate on than the exact amount of steps a rider takes from bike to pit bike.
Bill Marshall’s Tips:
DO: respect the leaders or people in front. Usually new people are good about this, except during nationals.
DO: get flow of pit.
DON’T: push and shove a pit bike forward when your rider is 50 people back. You have to pay attention. When you step in the pit, find out where you belong in the hierarchy.
DON’T: go into the pits with dog and beer.
DON’T: take it too seriously. The pits should be a fun place to be, especially during elite races.