Cyclocross Tubeless Wheels and Tyres.

We have full inflation!

We have full inflation!

I dedicate this article to those in search of full inflation who despise mopping up pools of liquid latex. At times my bike shed has looked like a scene out of Ghost Busters, with pools of ectoplasm everywhere!

The search for a tubeless set up for my cross bikes has been both long and painful. I like the idea of not having to think about pinch punctures whilst riding my local gnarly trails and for events like the Three Peaks Cyclocross Race. However the worry of whether they would stay inflated just became all too stressful.

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Those close to me, know the trials and tribulations of Phelan’s tubeless conversion kits. I had tyres which stayed inflated for a year, then others barely making a week. Another tyre decided to dump it’s contents in the back of the car. I have enough stress in my life and I certainly don’t need worries with my hobby.

My last Three Peaks made me realise that for the sake of reliability I just had to dip my hand in my pocket, flash the cash and sort it. There’s no point travelling to an event only to find the night before, your bike sitting in a pool of ¬†latex. Yep one back tyre did that at 9:45 p.m in the B and B and another on my spare bike did the same when I reached Helwith Bridge. I only had a few miles to go which kinda made me laugh. I’m getting older and my bikes are all deflating! Is somebody trying to tell me something? Well I’m not sure about that, but Phelan has had enough.

IMG_2022Now I am not really a bike geek. If somebody I respect tells me something works, that’s usually good enough for me. All I did know was that some tubeless tyres don’t seem to seal well with certain tubeless rims. So off I trotted to The Bike Factory in Whaley Bridge, to ask their advice.

I am now the proud owner of some lovely wheels built on Stans No Tubes ZTR Alpha 4000 rims with Hope Pro 4 Hubs in a rather yummy go faster red. As for tyres I opted for Racing Ralph Evo CX s. Well that was about four weeks ago and I am still fully inflated.

IMG_2024So the moral of the story is, if someone says this has worked well in the past, it probably does. We can read articles until we are blue in the face but experience is everything. ‘Well it is for me anyway’ as she pedalled off into the distance ūüôā

Big thanks to Fred Salmon and the team at The Bike Factory!

In The Green Zone

 

In the green zone on Axe Edge

In the green zone on Axe Edge

It’s been nearly two months since my last cross race and I have to say I haven’t felt the ‘love’ for all things muddy. Finishing the season blasted and with a niggling injury, I’ve been happy to take things easy and slot in a bit more running. There’s a simplicity to running I love. No bike washing,decreasing, soaking clothes in a bucket…… just one pair of muddy shoes by the back door.

You can only sit on your laurels for so long before the urge rears it’s ugly head! It’s been happening for a few days and so today I had planned a 3hr+ ride over the Cat and Fiddle on a road bike. That’s all I’ve been riding recently. I like the idea of park and go when I return to the house and giving it a token squirt of WD40. The whole operation can be completed in about 10 minutes, if you get a real shift on. You can imagine my horror when I looked out of the window this morning and was faced with snow. So that was that, cross bike out and bite the bullet!

Going up in Macclesfield Forest.

Going up in Macclesfield Forest.

So glad I did. I have had such a fantastic ride today. Admittedly at the beginning I tried to scoot round any mud but once my mud head was on, off I went. Today I have ridden along a disused railway path; nipped along roads; negotiated snow packed bridleways through Macclesfield Forest, and joined the 4×4 brigade on a tiny road covered in snow. As well as topping out on the Cat and Fiddle along with loads of others, admiring the Winter Wonderland.

‘Yes’, to the man in the LandRover, this bike is the 4×4 of the cycling world and I am having fun. I am emulating my childhood, out on my pony, going where ever I fancy, be it road, trail or track. ‘No’ to the lady fell runner, I’m not going to fall off in the snow because with a bit of skill and a sense of adventure, I can do anything on this baby! ‘ Yes’ I am no longer a spring chicken, but I still love the thrill of riding something technically difficult and the sense of achievement of arriving on a summit.

Opposite the Cat and Fiddle

Opposite the Cat and Fiddle

Cross bikes, the true ‘do what ever you fancy bike’. I love them with a passion. Today Phelan has truly been in the green zone, have you?

http://believeperform.com/performance/emotional-thermometer-controlling-competition-anxiety/

 

The ‘Newbies’ Guide to Surviving a Cross Race

First mud fest of the year.

First mud fest of the year

Last weekend was my first really muddy cross race of the season. As I approached the car and began sorting myself out, I felt rather pleased with myself. It wasn’t about my result, because that was the performance I had expected, but rather that I was now, a well organised cross racer. You might think, what the hell is she on about? But I can tell you life is much improved from my initial mud fest in Baggeridge Park a couple of years ago.

I recall approaching the car with it’s light blue upholstery, my backside and gloves plastered in mud and everywhere else, an interesting shade of brown. It was freezing and I knew my priority had to be getting dressed and warm. But how? I didn’t know where to start! I was on my own, but somehow, had to galvanize myself into action. How could getting undressed under a towel be that hard? I opened the car door with filthy hands, covered everything, and sure enough the car door closed on my muddy bum, as I reached over to fetch my clothes. There went the nice light blue interior and you can only imagine what it was like trying to ram a muddy bike into the back of the car.A total freezing mucky hell!

This isn’t a guide to buying a big van, pressure washer or organising staff to help you. We all begin by going to small races on our own with minimal kit. So how can you make it a bearable experience? Well here is my personal guide to surviving and making the whole thing enjoyable.The key is organisation.

I have the luxury of two bikes which are carried on a tow bar mounted rack. This has been the best present I have every had. No more mucky bikes in the car! I always pray for rain on the journey home, hoping I will arrive back with two sparkly bikes.

All post race clothes, shoes etc are thrown into a special plastic tub which can be swilled later.¬†I do carry water, but usually a fair bit of this has to be used to wash the bike down after the practice ride, so there is little left for washing.Yep that sounds dreadful but believe me if you attempt to clean up with limited resources, the mess seems worse and most of it’s left on your towel. It seems better to just let it dry and jump in the shower at home. The use of a wet wipe on your face may be useful if you need to buy fuel or heaven forbid, talk to the RAC on the way home!

Faced with muddy wet legs, nice stretchy trousers like joggers or lycra bottoms pull on easily over filthy legs. Go for ease and speed, this is no time for vanity. You’ll just look like one of the ‘in crowd’!

On the way home I usually stop at the jet wash. I am slowly redistributing parts of the country, to a garage forecourt in Leek. Speed is your friend because by now you are dreaming about sitting on the settee with a well earned cup of tea¬†and it’s beginning to get dark.

Once at home, all the muddy clothes are left soaking over night in a preprepared bucket outside by the back door.The washing machine usually gets a reprieve until the next morning.

So there you have it! Phelan’s guide to making a muddy cross race as easy as possible. I have no doubt you may have some additional ideas yourself. All you need to fret about, is how to pedal fast.

An after thought – Do you think dried mud under lycra feels like varicose veins? Not that I have got any but it does feel weird, Let me know? lol

The Lapierre Cheshire Cobbled Classic

Enjoying a well earned class of Leffe

Enjoying a well earned class of Leffe

As a fully fledged Belgian, not to take part in a sportive promising a hilly 100km ride, with five cobbled sections, would have just been crazy! As it also includes the infamous Corkscrew climb, with a gradient of 45%, this was not going to be a day for the faint hearted!

The event started in the gorgeous Lyme Park, near Disley, home of the gorgeous Mr Darcy. With feed stations stocked with Belgian chocolate and waffles, along with the usual carbo gels, it was like being in Belgium for the day. All good fun with hills to rip your legs off and cobbled tracks to test your skills.

It really was a fantastic day. As expected there was lots of fun on the Corkscrew, with people busting a gut to try and get up it. It took me three attempts just to find the smoothest line.¬†I remember thinking,¬†‘What the hell are you doing woman, playing here when you’ve still got miles to go?’. ¬†The boys were spurred along with the promise of their own body weight in Leffe, if they got to the top. Apparently sixty tough souls made it, in stark contrast with the previous year, when in wet conditions, no one made it!. See it does stop raining in the Peak District, honest!

The remaining cobbled sections, with the toughest climb at 20%, seemed a doodle in comparison. Eventually we left the hills of Derbyshire and made our way over to Alderley Edge, and the delights of the Cheshire cobbles, notably Swiss Hill. All too soon we were swinging round to the finish, to be welcomed back with a glass of Leffe and our very own cobble to take home!

Debating the best line!

Debating the best line!

The severity of the climbs is not to be underestimated and I have to say having a 11-32 on the back, was a good choice for me. It made the whole thing much more enjoyable. My days of mauling are over! As for tyre choice, I put my Vittoria Open Pav√©s back on. I love riding on these, having got round Paris Roubaix puncture free. It always makes me smile as I hack as fast as I can over the rough stuff,¬†cyclocross style. ‘Hell’s teeth woman you’re on your road bike. It’s amazing what you can do with a bit of determination and the right kit.

I’d like to thank Francis Longworth and his team for a fantastic day. At ¬£25 it’s an absolute steal and gets you into the National Trust Parkland for free. I enjoyed it so much that I am going to have a spin around the Lapierre White Roads Classic, inspired by the Strade Bianche, on July 12th. A bit of Italiano down in Oxfordshire, sampling some of the gravel and chalk roads of the Ridgeway. Some people will do anything for an espresso and a glass of prosecco at the finish!

Letting My Air Down!

Picture: Roxanne McNaughton

Picture: Roxanne McNaughton

I do not profess to be an expert in tubular tyres, but as someone who has used a pair this season for the first time, I thought I’d share my ramblings for the uninitiated.

After much thought and picking people’s brains, I plumed for a set of Challenge Limus 33s. Designed for muddy conditions, I went for a tyre I felt would get round most courses. Let’s face it, we all know that at some point we will end up riding in a mud bath!

Well that was the easy part! As for which pressure I should ride at, that seems to be a journey of discovery. Much to the amusement of my friends, I have developed a habit of squeezing the tubs, of those who seem to know what they are doing and asking ‘experts’.
“Don’t mind me, I am just feeling your pressure!” I say smiling sweetly!

Lots of people have helped. Steve Douce took lots of air out at one race, and Chris Young insisted I really ought to put some back in! All helpful information, for which I am really grateful. I seem to be happy at around 20 psi at this stage. I am frightened of bottoming out and sometimes I feel like the bike is wobbling round the corners. However I am also mindful, there’s no point running tubs if you don’t have them low enough to reap the benefits of extra traction.

My initial instinct was to ride at too high a pressure, however with experience I have begun to understand the advantages, on some courses of running them lower! Onwards and downwards Phelan!

Want more information? Have a look at Fluent in Cross.

 

So what should you choose? Discs or cantilever brakes for cyclocross?

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A much debated question to which the answer may be dependent on what you can buy. The ‘die hard ‘ cyclocross riders, looking to the continent for their lead, still can’t see a place for them in traditional cross races, but what about us weekend warriors? I know I am not the first person to suggest this. Sure they add weight, but do the disadvantages out weigh the benefits? I still wasn’t really sure about this myself until this weekend.

 

This Sunday I nipped over to the Yorkshire Cyclocross League race near Sheffield to ride a challenging course in the mud. It had all the usual features plus some interesting downhill grass sections with turns at the bottom. Looking at the mess of other people’s bikes, I thought I’d ride the ‘disc bike’. Did I have leaves stuffed under the brake straddle wires? No ! Did I have to drag the brakes down the slope in order to take the speed off? No! I ripped down and slammed them on and off at the bottom. For me ‘it’s a ‘no brainier’ ! I can stop at the last minute with my hands on the hoods and in difficult conditions, only used one bike. May be its a good option if you haven’t got a spare bike in the pit. Might just get you round with a bit more.

I have included a link to an article published in Velonews. See what you think. May be its a case of ‘horses for courses’?

http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/02/news/cyclocross/the-fall-of-discs-what-weve-learned-about-cross-disc-brakes_274587