Cyclocross racing is not for those with minimalist tendencies. There is gear for warming up, gear for racing, gear for cooling down, gear for the bikes and gear for creating a fun and enjoyable atmosphere. In addition, it is often not enough to have a single piece of equipment or clothing; several may be needed for the day. Only rookies show up with a single pair of gloves. A simple 45-minute race may require more gear than a week-long summer tour, but without the right gear your day can quickly go downhill.
As we all know, much of the allure of ‘cross racing is the atmosphere. The noise, electricity and madness of it all come together to create what is the heart of cyclocross. A good set-up area gives your friends and family a place to hang out and enjoy the atmosphere and it gives you and your teammates a place to get changed, select gear, and relax post-race.
In order to give yourself the best chance at racing well and to help you enjoy the atmosphere of the event here is a list of items you should consider:
1. A good base layer is critical when choosing your clothing for the day. This layer has to keep you warm but it also has to breathe well to keep you dry and it has to do this without being bulky. Too much air coming in and you get cold, not enough going out and you sweat too much. Craft’s Zero and ZEROextreme layers come in short and long sleeve and defy logic by being incredibly warm yet highly breathable and ultra thin. For extra protection go with the GoreTex WindStopper front. www.craft-usa.com
2. Gloves, arm and knee warmers are another key component to your clothing choices. The Equinox glove from Specialized is thin but keeps your hands warm and dexterous. Knee and arm warmers keep you warm and dry pre-race or add another layer of protection during the race. Pearl Izumi’s Thermal line of warmers are fleece lined and use anatomical construction to fit well and not bunch up.
3. A good warm up is an absolute necessity for a good race. Start by using The Stick to get the muscles prepped for the effort ahead. The Stick is a great self-massage tool that works great on your quads, calves and hamstrings. It is also great for post-race recovery. www.thestick.com
4. Knowing the course and choosing the proper set up is critical for any serious racer, so riding a few warm up laps are a must. While you’re out there you’ll need to stay warm and dry. Schlamm clothing comes from the U.K. where if they only rode in good weather, they would rarely ride. The Portland Rain Suit is aptly named and will keep you dry as you warm up on the course. Your pit crew can also wear it while you’re out racing. www.schlamm.uk.com
5. After you’ve ridden a few laps and have your gear selected, continue your warm up on a trainer to do specific efforts. The Road Machine from Kurt Kinetic has a smooth feel and a small footprint so it’s great for traveling. The optional computer has speed, heart rate and computes wattage using its own algorithm. www.kurtkinetic.com
6. Go near any professional or die-hard ‘cross racer and you will catch the distinct smell of menthol and eucalyptus as racers rub in warming lotions to help them stay warm during the race. Also known as embrocations or Belgian knee warmers, these oils help promote circulation and keep you warm. From Germany comes Sixtus who has two great options. The Start Oil is non-greasy, has a medium heat and wipes off easily, making it great for the cold. Sport Creme is best for wet conditions and uses lanolin to repel water and provide protection to bare legs. www.sixtususa.com.
7. Tired of pinning numbers on your jersey? 3M General Purpose 45 Spray Adhesive is a quick way to get your number on. Just spray the back of the number and slap it on your back. It looks cool, works great and keeps you from having to poke holes in your new jersey. www.shop3m.com
8. If your bike is clean after a race you did something wrong. Clean your rig quickly and avoid standing in line at the wash station with the Nomad Portable Pressure Washer. This unit is easy to carry, runs on a rechargeable battery, has a pocket big enough for brushes and rags, uses an adjustable nozzle and holds 3.5 gallons of water so you can clean multiple bikes. At only 90 P.S.I. it won’t strip paint and is gentle on bearings and pulleys. www.nomad2go.com.
9. To really get the bike clean you’re going to need to do some scrubbing. Park Tools’ four-brush set covers you from drive train to frame. Each brush has a specific application in mind and will get your bike running smooth in no time. www.parktool.com
10. After cleaning the bike it’s time to clean yourself off. Dried mud from racing is not the same as a spa treatment and can start to burn or sting as it dries. Power Shower Body Wipes from Nathan Sports are essentially baby wipes designed for athletes. These handy little towelettes are great for getting the dirt, mud and grit off and will leave you smelling better for the ride home. www.nathansport.com.