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Old 01-09-18, 11:39 AM   #1
JeffOYB
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How much better is a nice bike for racing?

I'd think the most impt things for racing cross are first the fit then the tires. Once you have those two things, what's next? Does a better frame help you move up in places? I could see something like the frame having more of an effect on the hour-race dudes. They are out there a long time and subtle things could really add up. Could moderate Masters types also feel the difference of a better frame? Maybe in frame design you start to get more into preference rather than outright works better.

...Like, a sweet handmade tubie tire that matches conditions and is the right pressure is simply faster, better, in every way. It will move you up. Sure, you need to learn to ride them and take advantage of them, but they seem pretty definitely superior to me. Significantly.

Are there aspects of frames that are like that, too? Would that mostly be WEIGHT? Like moving from aluminum frame up to carbon. That's probably a biggie.

Would the next significant thing for race results be going from a 18/19-lb bike to a 15/16-lb?

Or are there design factors, angles, BB height, tubing diameter, that riders in the know can really use to their benefit? Like, do some riders consider certain tubing diameters to make a 'dead' feel that they say bogs down maybe?

Then there's moving up in components. What wd be smartest there? Upgrade anything w bearings? Or are a lot of bearings (hubs, BB) today all in a close-enough ballpark. Do the sweet shifter groups really lift a rider?

...Maybe out of the parts-race the most impt are BRAKES. Like, are riders getting a lot of gain out of hydro disks... Maybe disks let riders go faster into corners, coz they let them brake later.

Lastly, is a bike that really helps boost our racing also fun for JRA?

???

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Old 01-09-18, 12:39 PM   #2
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My first cross mentor, when I asked this question, said a frame is a thing you hang your components on. Great advice at the time. I would rank importance of equipment in this order.

- Tire choice and tire pressure
- Brakes, hydro disc performs consistently and you can slow in the same locations each lap.
- Gearing performance. Do you have the right gearing for a course and how fast can you get into the best gear when your hands are frozen or wet.
- Pedals. How fast can you clip and start pedaling in either normal or muddy/icy conditions
- Fit and geometry of the bike. Are you a climber or cornering daredevil and does the bike fit your style.
- Small things that add up to be big things. Bottom bracket seal drag is very useful because then my cranks don't rotate on me when I drop the bike back on the ground. Are there cables in the way of where you try and grab the downtube. There are more of these...
- Overall weight.
- Saddle, is your kit hanging up on it, remounts are maybe easier with a smoother saddle.
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Old 01-09-18, 01:21 PM   #3
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nice.

i forgot about pedals! holy crap, you need to have pedals sorted bigtime when the mud or slush or freezing gets serious. basically, my old SPDs are trash in a weather challenge. i shd change those out pronto. they've messed me up. who needs the grief? i have a set of eggbeaters...jeez, just gotta install and get used to them.

...but i'm thinking there's a chance that tubing diameters/wall thickness and the resulting areas of flex might be impt. but i wdn't know. maybe that's more a thing for folks doing longer rides and races? so far i've been using a cheap stiff soda-can frame.

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Old 01-09-18, 06:42 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by ldmataya View Post
My first cross mentor, when I asked this question, said a frame is a thing you hang your components on. Great advice at the time. I would rank importance of equipment in this order.

- Tire choice and tire pressure
- Brakes, hydro disc performs consistently and you can slow in the same locations each lap.
- Gearing performance. Do you have the right gearing for a course and how fast can you get into the best gear when your hands are frozen or wet.
- Pedals. How fast can you clip and start pedaling in either normal or muddy/icy conditions
- Fit and geometry of the bike. Are you a climber or cornering daredevil and does the bike fit your style.
- Small things that add up to be big things. Bottom bracket seal drag is very useful because then my cranks don't rotate on me when I drop the bike back on the ground. Are there cables in the way of where you try and grab the downtube. There are more of these...
- Overall weight.
- Saddle, is your kit hanging up on it, remounts are maybe easier with a smoother saddle.
I can get behind this. Good tires made me much more confident and fast. I think riding SS put me in a mechanical advantage to some of the geared 4/5 folks.

And good brakes, even just better pads can help. I recently changed pad brands and I think it might have been a big part of a really bad crash I had Sunday.
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Old 01-10-18, 07:36 AM   #5
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Interesting thread since I just did almost ALL of those things when I upgraded my CX bike a few weeks ago. I went from a AL Salsa cx/gravel bike with mini V brakes to a Focus Mares CX that is full carbon, hydro and more CX geometry

I found racing the Salsa was stable on straights but like turned a Suburban on the corners. I did not trust the mini v's to give full braking so i'd have to either go slower through stuff or brake early. The 105 shifting was perfect and the only thing i'm worried about switching to SRAM (will spend the next 9 months getting used to that). The cables are also all routed on above the top tube and the center frame area is very easy to get on my shoulder.

Tires I have good ones for pretty much any course.. Clement LAS for gravel/hard pack, Swalbe Racing Ralphs for dirt and Clement BOS for when you just want all the grip
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Old 01-10-18, 12:39 PM   #6
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I think in cross weight actually matters more, having to shoulder a heavy bike sucks and when I'm redlined and not thinking straight a light bike is just easier to manage.
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Old 01-10-18, 06:44 PM   #7
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I think in cross weight actually matters more, having to shoulder a heavy bike sucks and when I'm redlined and not thinking straight a light bike is just easier to manage.
not even just run ups.. running barriers after a few laps you're like ahh dammit this carrying crap again and even a quick suitcase carry is not fun. i'm happy about the carbon for that too.
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Old 01-11-18, 09:46 AM   #8
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I figure the weight angle would come on for the hardcore Hour riders.

I didn't notice my 20-lb bike in my half-hour beginner races. But I noticed carrying a bottle in hot 40min races.

I've only dared one Hour race so far. Right when I got my "real" CX bike. I thought "more time is more fun." Dang! So many laps and so many barriers -- I started feeling my knees swell and stiffen more and more.

But more than weight, I'm more about frame feel and flex and if that affects performance noticeably -- that is, measureably.
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Old 01-11-18, 10:33 AM   #9
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I did my first couple Cross races this past fall on a 23lb steel bike with Sora triple drivetrain, long reach caliper brakes, and 30mm cross tires. Both were hot dry races, so braking and traction were not a problem at all. Things I would change, in order of importance:

1. Chain retention: I have since installed a Dog Fang chain catcher, as I lost my chain off the inside once in each race. Really makes you want to go 1x...otherwise from that single incidence each time, I was happy with the drivetrain and shifting. Second race I was able to get going quickly and pass quite a few people...but the first race it relegated me to the back, only caught and passed one person.

2. Tires. My bike will only fit 30mm tires in the back due to chainstay clearance, but I may get a 33 or even wider (non-regulated races) in the front, where my fork has much more room. The second race was very bumpy and jarring.

3. Weight. I have no real intention of getting a new bike, but the weight was most noticeable on runups the first race. The second race I was able to stay on the bike and power up almost everything. Getting over hurdles was no problem.

4. Frame geometry for carrying...my steel bike has a sloping top tube, which combined with round tubes makes it awkward and painful to shoulder...I can see how the shape and feel of the inner triangle would make that a lot easier.

Fyi, if I went for an upgrade, it would be the Giant tcx advances sx, carbon with Apex 1x hydraulic geoupset...but that likely won't happen. I'm content for now.

Things that imo don't matter much:
-level of drivetrain...all the major brands stuff works, from Sora to apex.
-weight. (I know I listed it above...but for overall race performance, unless you are really competing to win, the effect of 2-3 lbs is unlikely to make a big difference. If I got a 15 lb bike, yeah, that would be very noticeable...but going from 17-18 to 15-16...I doubt it.

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Old 01-11-18, 11:43 AM   #10
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well I raced part of the year with a cheapo univega hybrid frame I built up into a CX bike, weighed 30lbs and I more recently got a new Raleigh rx 1.0, with maybe weighs 21 or so. I wish I could say it made a huge difference in my placing, but no, the bike couldn't help my lack of race fitness lol

That said, things I do appreciate: 11 speed vs 8 speed, lighter for carrying/climbing, chain catcher (dropped my chain once with the hybrid), more comfortable geometry. With my recent improvements in overall fitness and then maybe a year where I can actually work on race specific fitness hopefully I can be way more competitive.
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Old 01-12-18, 02:32 PM   #11
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I've raced all kinds of frames but my favorite is steel for CX. It's the most forgiving and shock absorbing frame material. It's heavier yes, and that is a downside especially compared to carbon, but it's worth it to me as I get older I'll never ride another aluminum cross frame again.
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Old 01-12-18, 09:52 PM   #12
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Wed was Collegiate nats and junior flew out his steel bike he bought used guessing about 20# - never weighed it. I brought the MASI we build up a bit < 17lbs. Could get to 15lbs if I worked at it. this was 4th cross race so hard to make a big statement. I didn't see shouldering. Nobody I saw road over the barriers, and I think I saw 90%.
Anyway there was a bike change. The steel was noticeable. It took a bit more energy that lap. If seriously competing for a podium, I think it matters a lot. Well this race, the winner was so dominant, maybe not, but looking at the results from other races, that few seconds a bike setup makes could matter.

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Old 01-16-18, 03:46 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by JeffOYB View Post
I'd think the most impt things for racing cross are first the fit then the tires. Once you have those two things, what's next? Does a better frame help you move up in places? I could see something like the frame having more of an effect on the hour-race dudes. They are out there a long time and subtle things could really add up. Could moderate Masters types also feel the difference of a better frame? Maybe in frame design you start to get more into preference rather than outright works better.

Would the next significant thing for race results be going from a 18/19-lb bike to a 15/16-lb?

???
Answer: 6.7%*

My experiment was with the purest form of cycling: Velodrome. I went from a decent steel bike (~20lbs) with normal components to a new aluminum track bike with some top shelf components (UCI min weight: 6.8kg)
The difference: It was literally like shifting gears. The weigh and responsiveness were like shifting from a 16t cog to a 15t cog.

A lot of it was weight and responsiveness. Track is such a tight discipline – the differences were easy to consistently see and measure.

For CX, the same applies – weight, acceleration, responsiveness. I think the geometry has to be pretty far off to cause a problem as people are pretty adaptable. But weight and components can make a big difference. Its just that, not riding in a paceline, its hard to see where the bike will cause me to get dropped or loose significant time.

Material:
I like steel, but find it too heavy and noodly to be effective for racing. It’s a nice ride though.
Aluminum: Stiff and light, I like racing with it. I use my tires and seat post to take a stiff responsive aluminum frame and make it cush and comfortable
Carbon: Stiff and uncomfortable used to be in fashion, but these days it’s all about vertical compliance and lateral stiffness. Makes for a nice race bike.

I don’t find carbon to be faster than aluminum per se, unless the carbon is designed to give you a steel like ride (which is hard to do with Aluminum). Still, brands like Salsa say their new AL bikes are as stiff and more compliant than their previous generation Ti bikes.

*And then there is this measurement.
Road bike vs gravel bike: 6.7% faster
Old bike vs new bike 10.1%
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