I went down in the basement yesterday and found a dirty, forlorn thing hanging from a hook and felt a huge wave of guilt wash over me. While my wife would hope that it was the mountain of storage containers that have overtaken most of the basement floorspace during our months of basement wall repairs and are awaiting me putting the finishing touches on the new shelves I have built to hold them, the thing that made my heart shudder was my 'cross bike. Covered in a thick layer of dust from having one of our foundation walls replaced, missing the saddle and devoid of pedals, my much loved 'cross bike hung neglected and nearly forgotten.
But the end of the Tour and the beginning of a new school year signal the giddy weeks that lead up to the start of cyclocross season. Around our shop, 'cross is pretty much the best thing you can do on two wheels. If you know 'cross, you know what I'm talking about, but if you have never tried it - be forewarned, 'cross will break you and remake you in short order - and you will be a better cyclist for it.
With 'cross, everything is a nit to be carefully picked. A big box arrived with brown Santa at the shop yesterday. Upon opening it, Jeff started pulling out 'cross equipment for new bikes being built up by Beerman and the Guru. The first item out of the box were Grifo Fango tubular 'cross tires. Heck, tires alone ended up being a topic of careful conversation between Jeff and I for at least an hour - and we still haven't figured out what we are going to run this season! But that is one of my favorite parts. Every aspect of the 'cross bike must be carefully chosen, evaluated and tweaked in order to tune the bike to the rider, the course and the conditions. Miss the right set up and you will have an excellent view of the leaders of the race as they lap you.
But the bike is just the start. 'Cross is such a beautiful blend of all the aspects of cycling that it favors the rider who is not just fit, but smart and adroit as well. Handling a bike, reading a course, finding the fastest lines, having solid dismount/remount technique, all of these things are key. Where criteriums favor the big engined horses of cycling, 'cross can make mincemeat of cyclists who are "all horsepower and no steering wheel". The beautiful thing is that you can always improve, always learn something new and do better because of it.
Our 'cross season starts Oct. 3rd and 4th with the first two races of the TN series. The NC series begins Oct. 23rd and 24th. As always, we will do cyclocross training clinics to help with all of the ins and outs for what is to most people a new sport. If you have never tried 'cross, come let us usher you into a whole new two-wheeled world.
And so begins my epic poem of this 'cross season. A dirty, neglected bike is walked from my house to the shop, beginning its process of rebirth and renewal. And hopefully, I will follow the same path.