Tuesday, November 25, 2014

On a Muddy One

Photo by SL Images https://www.facebook.com/SL1643

Trig's Broom

Anyone who rides cyclocross will know the havoc it wreaks on your bike. My trusty Cannondale CAADX 5 is not quite 3 years old but is already a bit like "Trig's broom". New wheels (now on their second set of spokes), cassette, stem, seatpost, right STI lever, bottom bracket, three chains, front brake, two rear derailleurs and gear hangers have all been added to the excellent frameset in the last 18 months or so. Some of these have been improvements, but most are due to the accelerated aging process brought on from riding through mud and grit. The most recent casualty was that second rear derailleur. Riding hard up a grassy slope during Tuesday night training I was greeted with the sickening crunch of the rear mech detaching itself from my bike and meeting the spokes. It's a common problem in cyclocross when mud and grass jam the jockey wheels and the chain pulls the mech over the top of the cassette. Initially relieved that this happened in training and not a race, I soon realised that my chance of competing in the Notts and Derby race at Markeaton had diminished somewhat. Despite the best efforts of our coach Nick Walling and his wondrous shed of bike bits, I was going to be without my race bike.

The Book of Genesis

Fortunately, help was at hand from the unlikely source of my commuting bike. I bought my Genesis Day One Disc singlespeed on the bike to work scheme, needing a low maintenance ride with excellent stopping power. I've done a few bridleways on it, but away from the daily commute, it has mostly served time as a winter trainer. With a steel frame and workmanlike wheels, it's no flyweight, but it's sturdy and reliable and I love it. Inspired by this article on Sheldon Brown I decided to save my race. A freewheel was purchased, giving me a 42/21 ratio. New mud tyres were added and the paraphenalia of commuting stripped away, producing a respectable 10.5kg steed. Despite this, it was with some trepidation that I approached race day - would my legs be up to the task?

Mud Glorious Mud

I've spent the season so far riding in the West Midlands league and this was to be my first race at Markeaton. An exchange on twitter gave me an idea of what to expect "the slippiest mud you've ever ridden, and much hilarity". The warm up lap confirmed this to be the case with several unrideable sections and a ridiculously tricky corner involving a slippery bank and a tree:

Photo by Mick Bown

Fortunately I coped with that bit much better during the race, mostly through never attempting to ride it. Not every rider was so lucky as this brilliant set of photos from Mick Bown shows. In the end the singlespeed served me well - it was only in the last lap where the weight of the mud I was lugging round the course finally took its toll. A number of mistakes saw me lose a few places to riders benefiting from bike changes. Still a final position of 20th represented my best result of the season so far... might even ride the Genesis for my next race. I just need to convince Kirsty of the merits of standing in field for an hour with a jetwasher.

There's a chainset in there somewhere

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