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Old 12-03-09, 12:06 PM   #1
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Thoughts on bike handling

I've picked up a lot of tips on handling from the forum, as well as Mike Birner's free sessions at the beginning of the year. I won't blame any of the following on them, but I thought I'd post my current understanding here for further comment and/or (especially) correction:

Descending off camber to turn back across face of hill – weight on outside pedal; weight towards front tire (better to have rear tire slip around than have front tire give way); I find this hard to do, but when I get it right, man it works

Riding through mud – do not hesitate pedaling when hitting mud, if anything gear up and keep going; sitting, weight towards rear, let front find it’s way/light grip on bars; if you're gonna run it, well run it

Up hill – weight back far enough to prevent wheel slippage, but beware of pulling up on handle bars lest one pop a wheelie

Moderate descents – even weight distribution; out of saddle a bit, like riding a horse

Sharp descents – weight back; out of saddle to smooth out shock of flattening out

Tire pressure - seem like low is good (30-35psi) unless you are on a dry, flat, relatively smooth course, then splurge on 40-45psi.
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Old 12-03-09, 12:38 PM   #2
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Brake prior to a corner and not in it. You should not be breaking while turning in most turns unless it is super technical.

Plant your wheel on steep uphills by getting your butt in more of a time trial like position on the seat. You also can increase traction by pulling down and back on the bars in a somewhat like rowing motion.

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Old 12-03-09, 12:48 PM   #3
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I always drop to a harder gear before a mud section and build up some speed, then sit and churn. Spinning in mud just doesn't work, at least for me. I find that in deeper barely ridable mud it's faster to run it, plus I feel that I use less energy.

Tire pressure depends on mud conditions and course bumpiness. I find the lower pressure helps smooth out the bumps; too low and you'll bottom out your rim on harder hits.
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Old 12-03-09, 01:11 PM   #4
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i shift down before mud to keep my cadence high. i expend much less energy riding through something than running.
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Old 12-03-09, 01:56 PM   #5
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I'm convinced that higher pressure is good for a really muddy course.

Who's going to compile these tips and put them in the sticky thread?
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Old 12-03-09, 02:08 PM   #6
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I agree with everything you are saying. A little different from your post, but here are some of the key lessons I learned this year:
1. pre shifting is key
2. don't brake in a corner and gun it coming out
3. never give up, keep pushing, everyone's hurting
4. first wheel on the corner owns the corner, 'it's my line, you react to me'
5. play to my strengths - e.g if I get gapped on a straight, I'll catch him in the chicane's
6. be patient, pass smart, but pass
7. lean back, loose grip in sand, gun it coming out
8. high cadence, lot's of power through mud, gun it coming out

You see a trend here - gun it after technical features of the course. It seems guys in the 4's get a little lax right after something tricky and for me, if I focus on the next step, I can create gaps or pass at these points in the race.
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Old 12-03-09, 02:12 PM   #7
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Tire pressure depends on mud conditions

This is so true. Thorne (cyclocrossworld.com) will have his racers (TJ, JD, et al) run different PSIs and widths depending on mud consistency. I read this. The point being, in some mud you need to get through the top layer to the sweet, hard stuff for good traction.
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Old 12-03-09, 02:26 PM   #8
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You see a trend here - gun it after technical features of the course. It seems guys in the 4's get a little lax right after something tricky and for me, if I focus on the next step, I can create gaps or pass at these points in the race.
That's a great tip. I hadn't thought about it before, but I think you're spot on.
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Old 12-03-09, 03:00 PM   #9
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Sharp descents – weight back; out of saddle to smooth out shock of flattening out
Hands in the drops or, if you have sissy levers, on the bartops. The hoods are not secure enough for a sketchy descent.
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Old 12-03-09, 04:43 PM   #10
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You see a trend here - gun it after technical features of the course. It seems guys in the 4's get a little lax right after something tricky and for me, if I focus on the next step, I can create gaps or pass at these points in the race.
Depends on what you mean by "gunning it". Mid-race gaps or passes are pretty meaningless, unless you are trying to demoralize/drop a specific opponent. Also, you say to gun it coming out of mud or sand; better to gun it beforehand, to lead your group in, avoid traffic, and choose the best lines. You also wrote "if I get gapped on a straight, I'll catch him in the chicane's". Better to grab his wheel on the straight, and have him pull you to the chicanes.

In other words, energy should be expended strategically (i.e. what will give me the best overall time) rather than tactically (i.e. what will temporary place me ahead of this guy).
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Old 12-03-09, 05:10 PM   #11
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Depends on what you mean by "gunning it". Mid-race gaps or passes are pretty meaningless, unless you are trying to demoralize/drop a specific opponent. Also, you say to gun it coming out of mud or sand; better to gun it beforehand, to lead your group in, avoid traffic, and choose the best lines. You also wrote "if I get gapped on a straight, I'll catch him in the chicane's". Better to grab his wheel on the straight, and have him pull you to the chicanes.

In other words, energy should be expended strategically (i.e. what will give me the best overall time) rather than tactically (i.e. what will temporary place me ahead of this guy).
It's not about dropping, gunning it means pedal your arse off and make the pass. If you go into sand equal or behind racers, they may lesson their intensity out of the feature. The As and Bs don't, but Cs do. Saying you should "gun it" out of the sand doesn't mean you shouldn't beforehand. You have to carry momentum into sand whether you plan to run it or ride it. The list was of lessons learned this year, I learned that one last year. Getting gapped is not always in your control. E.g. roadies gap me every time on paved straights. Why expend energy to "grab his wheel" when I know I will catch the guy in corners? Let him blow up on that straight. Not sure I've been pulled anywhere on a cross course and grabbing someones wheel usually means mud in my face, no thanks. The word "demoralize" doesn't exist in cross...passing is passing,htfu.
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Old 12-03-09, 06:24 PM   #12
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[R]oadies gap me every time on paved straights. Why expend energy to "grab his wheel" when I know I will catch the guy in corners?
Bike Racing 1A. You spend a little effort grabbing his wheel and then get a free ride. Then instead of merely catching him in the corners, you pass him and put a gap on him in the corners.

Here's a book you should buy:

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Old 12-06-09, 05:54 PM   #13
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Bike Racing 1A. You spend a little effort grabbing his wheel and then get a free ride.

Here's a book you should buy:
Everyone understands what drafting is and what the benefits are. The guy just - politely - told you why he thinks that drafting is of little importance in cyclocross. I don't know if you meant it that way, but your reply doesn't sound nearly as polite.

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About that book: is there perhaps a subtle clue in that picture that could indicate it wasn't written with cyclocross racing in mind???

And I'll add the lower speeds in cyclocross make drafting much less beneficial: aero drag wattage goes with the cube of speed, so e.g. the benefit of drafting at 20mph is less than half that at 30mph.

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Old 12-06-09, 05:58 PM   #14
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About handling a crosser off road: learn to use the front brake. It's where the power is, because almost all the traction shifts to the front under heavy braking. You can brake faster without skidding with aggressive front brake, so you can leave braking until later. No, you won't go over the bars - not if you keep your weight where it should be.
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Old 12-06-09, 06:12 PM   #15
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The only variation I'd put on that, is that the mtb guys were doing some pretty cool power slides down a difficult hill today. Not something I could pull off.
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Old 12-07-09, 06:05 AM   #16
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The only variation I'd put on that, is that the mtb guys were doing some pretty cool power slides down a difficult hill today. Not something I could pull off.
A power slide being where you deliberately skid both wheels so that the bike travels sideways as a way of making a corner? No, I don't think I could manage that on my crosser either.

Otoh it's worth mentioning that you can use a little too much rear wheel brake to skid the rear for a skid turn.
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Old 12-07-09, 07:11 AM   #17
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About that book: is there perhaps a subtle clue in that picture that could indicate it wasn't written with cyclocross racing in mind???
Who's the snark now? Logic and the laws of physics still apply. If you really need an appeal to authority, read the "Racing" chapter of Burney's cross book, where he and Brandon Dwight (in a sidebar) clearly acknowledge the role of drafting.

Back to specifics, dadoe wrote: "roadies gap me every time on paved straights". It's a rookie mistake to give up that wheel; instead, you shift up a couple cogs, put in a few hard pedalstrokes, and then enjoy the ride. Ignore the fact that I'm a snarky ass and try it some time.
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Old 12-08-09, 05:29 PM   #18
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Back to specifics, dadoe wrote: "roadies gap me every time on paved straights". It's a rookie mistake to give up that wheel; instead, you shift up a couple cogs, put in a few hard pedalstrokes, and then enjoy the ride. Ignore the fact that I'm a snarky ass and try it some time.
I've raced quite a bit of cross this year and have also raced mtn bikes and road. I know what drafting is, and I know that there is very little drafting on cross courses around here even on faster, paved straights. Like Meanwhile said, the speed just isn't there, but there may be occasions that you can "grab a wheel" I guess. Either you are pro and racing at 30 MPH, or are confusing crits with cross. It was kind of snarky comment, dickish actually, but whatever, you race your way, I race mine. I live in Boulder and race the same local courses Dwight does, I see him every weekend out there. The thing is, on our courses there are few places where drafting could come into play, but I guess if drafting was to happen it would be in the Open race. But still, "enjoy the ride", give me a break.

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Old 12-08-09, 06:37 PM   #19
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i don't draft someone...i just follow...it helps me find a pace while i figure out my stamina level (still new to this)...then when the time comes and i sense my ability to do so, i pass...

yeah, the flats get me good....but i gain it seems (being a mtbiker) on the technical stuff, barriers, run-ups, off cambers. how to get speed and stamina and pure power altogether is the trick!
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Old 12-08-09, 08:30 PM   #20
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i dont know what races you guys are doing but I find plenty of time to draft in cx races
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Old 12-09-09, 12:26 AM   #21
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i dont know what races you guys are doing but I find plenty of time to draft in cx races
Every race I do, drafting has been relevant.
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Old 12-09-09, 07:55 AM   #22
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All depends on the course, the conditions and the level - at Hyattsville, it was dry and there was a gently curved, flat grass section followed by a straight, flat asphalt stretch were even the Cat 4s could really go hog wild if they had the legs. I'm sure drafting matters there, especially for the A and B races (and all you sandbagging Cat 2 roadie bastids riding in the C race). But at the Winchester Apple cross? You were in technical turning sections, going up or going down, all on wet/muddy ground - very few places where it really opened up.
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Old 12-09-09, 08:02 AM   #23
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in just about every singe race ive ever done you could almost always draft through the start finish line at least.
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Old 12-10-09, 02:27 AM   #24
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All depends on the course, the conditions and the level - at Hyattsville, it was dry and there was a gently curved, flat grass section followed by a straight, flat asphalt stretch were even the Cat 4s could really go hog wild if they had the legs. I'm sure drafting matters there, especially for the A and B races (and all you sandbagging Cat 2 roadie bastids riding in the C race). But at the Winchester Apple cross? You were in technical turning sections, going up or going down, all on wet/muddy ground - very few places where it really opened up.
if there are cat2 road riders in a c race you should let your local officials know that they should be checking all licensing for each rider as cat2 road riders should be racing cat2 for cross as well

here is a slightly antiquated chart, but it gets the idea across
http://www.usacycling.org/news/user/story.php?id=2221
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Old 12-10-09, 07:38 AM   #25
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if there are cat2 road riders in a c race you should let your local officials know that they should be checking all licensing for each rider as cat2 road riders should be racing cat2 for cross as well

here is a slightly antiquated chart, but it gets the idea across
http://www.usacycling.org/news/user/story.php?id=2221
My other idea was to donate to crossresults.com and ask for the feature where a rider's road cat is printed on there. So that when the cat 1 or 2 roadies win c cross races, it stands out.
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