This week for Mechanical Monday, we asked some of our favorite mechanics to weigh in on what people should be doing to their cyclocross bikes during the off-season. The three wrenches who weighed in all seemed to agree that the big thing to start thinking about is how you plan on upgrading in the coming season. That means what new parts you need, if you need that new frame (or full bike!) and the ever important “Is your saddle working out for you?” question. If your bike is already ready to go for next season (and you know that it is from reading our Post-Season Bike Inspection article), check out our past columns on storing gear in the off-season. And if you’re in the market for a new bike, check our huge bike review section.
“What should you be doing with your bike in the off-season?”
Jason Gardner, Jinji Cycles:
My first thought on this question was, “Riding them, they should be riding their bikes.” But it sounds like they’re after more than that. Now is actually a good time to be thinking about upgrade parts. There’s generally more options available right now in the used and discount categories because everyone else isn’t scrambling to get their parts together. Additionally, it’ll give you plenty of time to ride your new stuff, do some training on it, and get used to it. Don’t wait for race season to acquire and learn about your new equipment. Take the time to find some stuff you’ll love and want to spend your dollars on.
Think about your bearings too. Cables, brake pads and bearings are easily the things I replace most during the year and while most home mechanics can do their cables and brake pads, very few I’ve worked with do any service on their bearings. Unless your wheels are new, go ahead and get your bearings serviced or replaced. When you do, look and ask around if there are better options than the stock stuff (hint: there are). Finally, think about your saddle. If you’re not on a saddle you love, do some shopping. Many shops let your take a saddle for a ride or two and try a different one. Find a shop that does that and take the time to find something that keeps your bottom happy.
On a slightly different topic, start a race fund. Stash some cash away and maintain a little personal and domestic bliss come race season.
Right now is the time to be looking for any parts you wish you’d had last season. The secondhand market is pretty cheap right now since there’s little demand. The next big rush is August/September when everyone is trying to sell last year’s stuff to fund the 2012-13 season.
It’s also a great time to get a fit on your “other” bike (road or MTB), since you’ll be riding that way more right now. Then, based on how that feels, you can figure out how you want to transfer that to your cyclocross position. They won’t be the same, but it gives you an idea of what direction you want to go for your ’cross fit.
Honestly, really there’s not much to be done with your cyclocross bike right now, really. You’re probably knee-deep in your other season. One of my bikes got converted to rain bike. The other got cleaned at the end of the season and is just hanging up right now. I’ll get them both into ’cross shape in late July with new tape, cables and chain.
The off-season is no reason to shelf your ’cross bike for the summer. There are plenty of reasons and opportunities to stay on your ’cross bike all year round. There is a growing interest and a series of ultra-CX races going on around the country these days (like Southern Cross) and the summer is a great time to work on your handling and technical skills on your local trails. Chances are, your bike is in need of a little love after a long ’cross season before it is ready for action. The East Coast saw a lot of mud this year, which greatly increases the amount of wear-and-tear your bike suffers and there’s a good chance that your bike needs an overhaul.
New cables, brake pads, chain and cassette will have your bike feeling refreshed and ready for some summer adventures, and if you ride in wet conditions frequently, a nice set of full coverage fenders turns your ’cross bike into a fine rainy day road bike, so you can stay outside and off those awful stationary trainers.