While it's not the complete cyclocross bible by its own admission, Skills, Drills and Bellyaches is one of the best ways to improve your season for under $25. The primer is a muddy symphony of practical advice and beautiful photography.
The second part of the primer focuses on the racing itself, both employing the drills a rider practiced from the first part as well as situations a rider will likely encounter. Schieken and Tille examine everything from pre-race food and warm-ups to tire and clothing selection.
The primer is called Skills, Drills and Bellyaches, not the Barnett Bicycle Institute’s Manual, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a tool section in the back of the book. Schieken and Tille present a no-nonsense pit kit for any budding mechanic looking to help their friend out in a race, and they even provide a few DIY projects that can keep a mechanic from breaking the bank on tools. While Skills, Drills and Bellyaches offers a guide to each tool it presents, extra information about the tool’s application could have helped. For instance, while power-washers, portable washers, and buckets are explained in detail, the reader could benefit from advice such as avoiding hitting bearings directly with a power washer, or cleaning the bike after a race from saddle first and working downwards (the primer does mention the importance of a cleaning the drivetrain in the pits, however).
While you can fully expect a guide packed with skills and drills, the bellyaches are few and far between. I define “bellyaches” as those annoying training sessions that physically exhaust a rider by the end (think intervals that turn the stomach inside out). The alternate dictionary definition of a bellyache is “to complain in a whining manner.” Either way, Skills, Drills and Bellyaches lacks the final descriptor, but that’s hardly a bad thing. The point of the primer is not to give you a training plan to get you physically conditioned for cyclocross, but to provide the techniques that can offer “free speed.” To its credit, the book makes this abundantly clear on the back cover, stating, “If you master the skills and techniques covered here, you can go into the cyclocross season with the same fitness you had last year, yet achieve better results.”
Still, the few gripes I mentioned above are trifles when I compare them to the wealth of knowledge presented by Powers, Schieken and Tille. In fact, there are few, if any, products that will improve your season, dollar for dollar, as much as Skills, Drills and Bellyaches for $21.99.
As an end note, the only element of the primer that might rival the invaluable drills for all skill levels is the gorgeous photography by Bruce Buckley. While the book contains several photos that readers could easily lose themselves in, there are hundreds more that explain techniques in ways that words or black and white photos never could. Along with the abundantly large acknowledgement section, Skills, Drills and Bellyaches is clearly not just the opinions of a single person, but the culminating project of a talented team passionate about the sport.
More Info: crosshairscycling.com