Stripped and ready for the rebuild. © Jamie Mack

Stripped and ready for the rebuild. © Jamie Mack

by Jamie Mack

The pile of parts laying on the workbench was, until 15 minutes ago, a very serviceable ’cross bike. Looking at the components strewn across the surface, I can’t help but be amazed, and a little concerned, at where I can get with a couple of Allen wrenches and a little too much free time. The annual tear down and rebuild of the ’cross bike is an important event in my shop, but rather than one etched on the calendar it’s often something done spur of the moment out of boredom or at the sudden appearance of some elusive spare time.

But the relaxed attitude I take in the approach to the work does not make it any less vital to success. There are some obvious reasons that you need to undertake proper maintenance. Riders who have spent any time on a ’cross course, and that’s most of us, know the beating that the equipment can take over the course of a race, not too mention a season. Regular maintenance is an often overlooked – at least in my case – aspect of bike repair that has caused many a DNF.

Turning back to the workbench, though, I realize that I’ve blown by regular maintenance, careened off tune-up and smashed head on into full rebuild. And that’s not a bad thing. Now, before you get the notion in your head that I’m just an overzealous, wannabe shop rat with one wrench and an inflated sense of ability, let’s set a few things straight.  First off, I have more than one wrench. Secondly, contrary to what some of the situations I’ve gotten myself into with those wrenches would indicate, I do have some actual shop experience and a home shop filled with the tools of the trade.

The depth of maintenance that I’ve dived into is not to be undertaken lightly. Returning successfully to a fully functional ride takes patience, a certain amount of knowledge and usually an upgrade or two. There are a few specialized tools required, but they are readily available at most shops, and a good shop will even walk you through how to use them.

Now, back to the reason I have stripped my frame of everything not welded down. The tune-up that I’m talking about is not all mechanical. There seems to come a time every year where I’ve lost focus, let my mind wander and come up with a thousand reasons (OK, excuses) and things to do other than ride. The act of tearing down the bike and giving in to the mechanical part of my ’cross persona seems to have a renewal effect on my mind and body as well.

As I bolt the parts back onto the frame, my attitude turns around. The excitement of last season’s highs comes back as I remove the material left behind. I relive the season’s lows as I finally get around to fixing that part that limped through the last few ’cross practices. With each part added back on, the enthusiasm comes back and I start to plan out the season ahead. Already looking forward to the highs – and lows – that make ’cross, well, ’cross.