In my first season of Cyclocross racing I learned some racecraft, qualified to move up to Category 3, and figured out my weaknesses. I also found that my equipment was adequate but not perfect. This short piece is a summary of what upgrades were implemented.
'Blue Moon' is my name for the same Blue Norcross SP frameset based cyclocross race bike that I assembled for the 2013 season. Changes made for 2014 include:
- Tektro CR720 wide profile cantilevers were added for better mud clearance.
- A used Terry Zero saddle, my personal favorite, cut some weight.
- Crank Brothers Eggbeather 3 pedals replaced SPD system pedals. They shed mud well and are used by a good percentage of cyclocross racers.
- Built a 24/28 spoke count tubular wheelset with Velocity Major Tom rims, Wheelsmith double butted spokes, and Tufo Flexus Cubus 33SG mud tires. This wheelset is signicantly lighter than the Shimano WH-R550 clincher wheelset used last year. Tubulars are generally agreed to be superior to clinchers for Cyclocross. When compared to the Michelin Mud 2 clinchers the Tufo tires seem to have a rounder profile where they meet the ground.
After a single test ride I can make these comments regarding the changes:
The cantilever brakes are a bit weaker than what they replaced as I set them up to maximize mud clearance. This was not a surprise and might improve slightly as the pads bed in.
The egg beater pedals feels slightly different on exit and entry. Exit seemed to require a bit more torque compared to my SPD's but is not a significant change. Entry, on the other hand, seemed to require a bit of a back to front motion instead of straight down. This will require additional rider training before it becomes automatic.
I tested the bike at Fort Steilacoom Park under dry conditions. The tires felt quite skittish at 28/30 psi. Side bite was not as solid as the Michelin Mud 2 clinchers I've grown accustomed to. The front was especially loose. Lowering tire pressures by a couple pounds increased side bite and also balanced traction front to rear and allowed me to corner with confidence. Compared to the Michelins climbing traction was superior.
Check back soon for a race report where these equipment upgrades were put to the test.