A mechanics advice to triathletes

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Triathletes, roadies don’t like them cause they don’t follow the ‘rules‘ and they are are the bane of bike mechanics cause they show up at the 11th hour before an event they have been training for months if not years for expecting you to be able to drop everything and service their bike for them by the afternoon. I myself have a bike with bars that point forward so I feel I am allowed to rip on them, though I would die before you caught me riding in compression socks.

Having just spent 9 hours sitting on the back of a motorcycle last Sunday tending to the needs of unfortunate and or ill prepared athletes at the Ironman Copenhagen I feel like I have some pearls of wisdom to share. 
 
Pearl #1 

Compression socks increase blood flow in your legs and help aid in recovery. When you are out killing it on an ironman course your legs are doing everything they can to move blood around your body, socks aren’t going to change anything. Plus it will help cut down on the roadie-hate. While we are at it, lose the white kit, there is only one person that can pull of the white kit look and they have these lovely little rainbow stripes on them. 
 
#2 

Test your equipment before you need to use it. I have tried this one myself. Do the valves on your spare tubes match your rims? Does the head on your CO2 pump fit your valves? Do you know how to change a tube? Did you choose fancy lightweight tyres or something a little more practical? Are you running latex tubes, and if not, why not? 
 
#3 

You have spent months training, thousands of kroner on a race entry, for gods sake why don’t you buy a new set of tyres before the race? (And put latex tubes in them) 
 
#4 

Aero bike, aero helmet, nice tight suit, good position, and sporting the ZZ Top look? Beards aren’t aero. Enough said. 
 
#5 

Position. So many people sitting badly on their bikes. It made me wince. Get help, you need it. Gitte, #106, get some tri bars, you are missing out on free speed, 2km/h over 180km is a whole lot of time. But to the one guy I saw riding a flat bar city bike with mud guards and a carrier on the back, respect, that shit was mad. 
 
#6 

If you are going to ride tubulars then for fucks sake learn how to glue/tape them on! And if you don’t know (which is a stupid idea, learn that shit) then get a shop that knows what they are doing to glue them on for you AND prep your spare tyre with a stretch and a round of glue. I saw some tyres holding on to the rim by what the danes would call a ‘pussy hair’ and then got replaced with an unglued tubular, made me wince, again. 
 
#7 

Once more, learn to change a tube. 
 
#8 

If you would like your bike checked before you race then I suggest you put as much effort into that as you have everything else and BOOK A TIME.

n+1

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Everyone who is semi-serious about bikes has probably heard of n+1. It is the formula for working out how many bikes you should own. n being the number of bikes that you currently have. So you get the picture, the collecting never ends. There is also another version of it called n-1, this time n equalling the number of bikes that you can own where it results in your partner leaving you. I think it is a funny way of looking at it, but too often I feel it is used to cover up the materialism that underlies our culture. People use it to laugh off having among their other bikes, six steel race bikes with period components that they have found at garage sales that just need a finishing touch before they are ready to be put on display. That is where I start to distance myself and ask ‘why?’, are you starting a private museum? I am guilty a bit too. I own an undisclosed number of bikes stashed in 3 different countries. I used to look for those bargains that the local paper sometimes coughed up. Not because I needed a mint condition Gios Torino or a Klein Quantum Race but because I saw them as beautiful steeds that I wanted in my stable. Until I started to notice how the bikes I had once lived for riding on, my Cinelli Supercorsa, Santa Cruz Bullit, now collected dust. They weren’t made for display, they were made to be ridden. And so my collecting stopped. I still have a couple of bikes that it is exceptionaly rare for me to ride, but I like to think that I use what I have and I have put n+1 behind me.

Well, that was until not long ago…

Loke got a BMX for christmas and after we got home from New Zealand we finally got a chance to take it out. Now if you ever thought an adults bmx looked small then wait until you see a 16″ one for a 7 year old. They are very cute. We went to the skate park in Fælledeparken, the second largest of its kind in Denmark. Part of motivating Loke however involved showing him things. There weren’t any other BMXers to be inspired by so I had to step up. Wow, it was a lot of fun! I kept telling myself ‘you don’t need another bike, you don’t need another bike’ but by the end of two days in the park I could see that it was inevitable. One of the joys (read: dangers) of working in the industry is that it rarely takes long to go from thought to action (complete bike). In This case, text to Travis at BMX Butikken, Sunday night, stop by the shop to talk about it Monday morning, and then this Monday evening

 

And no, it wasn’t a fun ride home with both this and Loke on my singlespeed.

My first day out riding was in this place

 

Port4130. Now I have done a lot of crazy things on bikes but it has been a very long time since I was this scared. There isn’t even a ‘nice’ way to get into this thing. For Andreas and I (the token rookies and evenings entertainment) we had to lower our bikes and slide in.

The rookie corner

The rookie corner

It is extremely intense and demanding riding. A lapse in concentration can cost you dearly and it pays to keep your runs short to avoid confusion. But wow what a feeling!! It is addictive and hard to stay away from, I want to go to the park more now than I do the forest. But for the next couple of weeks I can do neither. The story of how this new addiction lead to me breaking my arm, well that can wait for another day…

The advantages of being small…

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There are a few positive things about being the little fish in a big ocean when it comes to racing cross and one of them is getting to pick my sponsors. Ok, I am maybe making that sound a little more glamorous than it really is, but what I am getting at is that I choose who to contact first regarding doing a deal. So I start with the brands that I know and like to begin with and work my way down from there. If I am lucky I strike gold on the first attempt. This was case with Catlike. I have been using their helmets since we started selling them in Track Bike Shop. I liked the look and fit of them (good for small heads) So much so we had a batch of them made custom for the shop. I must admit they had some teething problems at the start with the retention systems at the back, but the service was always good and defects were quickly replaced. The Kompact Pro was such a favorite of mine that at last count I still have three of them kicking around (though two live in New Zealand).

My helmets and I have been some pretty good places

My helmets and I have been some pretty good places

So I was pretty stoked when their new helmet the Mixino showed up in the post. A better fit than the Kompact and the retention system has moved light years since the last time I bought a Catlike. I have been in helmet bliss since then and the Kompact Pro that I raced in last season has moved on to greener pastures (recycling depot).

My helmet was definitely looking better than me that day...

My helmet was definitely looking better than me that day…

Another thing I have been really glad for this season has been the Science In Sport energy products I have been using. Again I was a fan from way back and they were on the top of my list. I like the complexity of their recovery products and the thought that has been put into the ingredients. Ok, they still use Aspartame as a sweetener but you have to go pretty far to find a sports supplement that doesn’t. I like their recovery drink Rego so much that there have days where I have not been in the mood for finishing the workout where just the fact that another 15min of training will mean that I have ‘earned’ my right to have one. (based on the idea that extra protein is unnecessary after any training of less than an hour in duration) Their other hit with me is the Overnight slow release protein mix. For use again only during periods of intense training it also contains tryptophan which helps produce niacin and seritonin which in turn aids sleep. The irony often of many hard training sessions is that it can sometimes be even harder to sleep afterwards.

The shelf of goodness :D

The shelf of goodness :D

I’ll be looking forward to trying out their new mountain bike shoes this summer!!

The trip north

One of the things I love about road tripping in New Zealand is that you don’t have to necessarily commit yourself to anyone activity. In the ‘old’ days’ when I still lived here it wouldn’t be unheard of to leave home with a kayak and surfboard on the roof, and climbing gear in the trunk. Things have changed a little, I didn’t ride back then, but I most certainly do now. So when dad, Loke and I left Christchurch on a trip it was with 3 bikes and a surfboard. You never quite know what you will get up to ;)

Our first stop was an area known just as ‘The Sounds’. This incorporates three sounds (a bit like a fiords) Queen Charlotte, Keneperu, and Pelorus. My dad has a summer house in Keneperu which (after a long and windy drive) offers amazing views, fishing, shellfish collecting, and amazing walks/runs.

The view from my bed

The view from my bed

It is a holiday after all...

It is a holiday after all…

One of the great walks of New Zealand, Queen Charlotte, goes almost past the back of his property. Whilst our fishing endeavors while we were there did not bear fruit, Loke and I had a great mussel collecting mission and besides we had bought lamb chops as a back-up. The trail running here is nothing short of epic. Not only are the forests, both flora and fauna (plants and animals) amazing but the terrain is quite challenging. Every time I run here I take photos as it always blows me away, but it is hard to capture quite how crazy it is on a picture.Dad and Loke hiked up to the highest point in the area and me not being one to say no to a challenge, after my usual rounds in Mistletoe bay, joined them at the lookout.

Trail running

Trail running

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The view from the top

The view from the top

The Queen Charlotte track is a pretty wide walking track but in recent years has been turned into dual use allowing mountain biking on it as well. When it was time for us to leave I took a bit of a head start and rode out on the track. It isn’t super challenging, but the scenery is stunning and the descents are looooong.

The way out

The way out

Our next stop was a bay called Kaiteriteri. The camping here is great, Loke always manages to make new friends and it has a Mtb park about 200m from the campground. Although I have ridden the park a few times before it did not happen this time. Instead I rode the Rameka track from the top of Takaka hill down into Golden Bay.This offers about 8 km of track constantly descending, first in native forest, then a little farmland, some pine forest, and at the bottom it just follows a river out to the flat. While the track is very ‘natural’ at the top once it emerges from the forest it becomes more designed. Some of the best riding is when it enters an area called Project Rameka, a private piece of land owned by mountain bikers, offering beautiful and well thought out singletrack. I will probably be repeating that sentence a few times here as I have yet to ride anything since then that ‘beautiful and well thought out’ does not aptly describe. The last time I was here the ride really ended after Project Rameka and you finished off rolling dirt road to get out. Now some lovely little trails have been put in, squeezed between the road and the river, that allow you to play all the way to the bitter end. 

The road into the trail

The road into the trail

It all starts here

It all starts here

Soooo nice!

Soooo nice!

The best riding was yet to come though. I had an ‘after work’ date with Dylan from Alton Street Cycles in Nelson, to go riding up the Maitai, a stones throw (short ride) from town. Due to my punctuality I just drove straight to the bottom of the trails. I ended up in what would be the 2nd car park as there were many others that had the same idea as us. F**k it was hot! Dylan was sweating buckets, from the heat I am sure, but the ride up was over surprisingly fast. I had requested ‘fast and flowing’ when asked what trails I would like to ride. We were two on single speeds and two on fullys, it seemed an appropriate choice, and boy was I not disappointed! Wow! I started with chasing Dylan which was good cause it pushed me harder than I had ridden until now. There is nothing quite like riding so close to the limit on trails that you are not familiar with, watching the local rider in front, reading his body language and reacting accordingly. When I led I could hear Dylan close behind on the descents, only losing distance when we had to climb a little and he used his gears. Beautiful beautiful trails, it was hard leaving there, next time I will simply have to stay a little longer in Nelson…

Mmmmm, summer…

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Our little adventure in New Zealand started in Christchurch. In spite of the devastation wreaked by two huge earthquakes there are loads of cool things happening here and it is still one of my favorite places. Christchurch also has some great riding to offer and this is but a sample…

Worsleys forest is a favourite of mine on the Port Hills and has had a ton of new trails put in since I was last there. Although I find that it isn’t super single speed friendly (well not with a 32×16 gearing anyhow) as it involves a pretty heavy climb followed by some rather fast descending. My adventures this time sent me off on trails that I could see were not dug with a rigid hard tail in mind, but were fun and challenging none the less.

Nice views to be had from Worsleys

Nice views to be had from Worsleys

Macleans island was a new one for me. There has been a bit of money sunken into about 10-14kms of trails out there but unless you are taking your kids out riding or like riding ‘singletrack’ on your road bike you won’t find it very challenging. I would even have trouble squeezing the word ‘fun’ into the description. Boring and monotonous would be better. On the good side it was a short drive from my dads and was very 32×18 friendly. Next time I might pop a 14t on the back though…

There was nothing worth taking a photo of at Macleans Island, so here is a random sign.

There was nothing worth taking a photo of at Macleans Island, so here is a random sign.

Haven Mtb Park, hidden way up a steep dirt road near Gebbies Pass, with almost no sign posting, nor instructions online on how to find it really is a hidden gem. Kelly was the only person I know that even knew it existed and I attribute that to her having had lived on the actual property until not long ago. So having met the guy behind it all at the pub, driven out there thinking I could find it, finding out I was wrong, finding out there is no mobile phone reception within 2km of the place, getting better instructions from two random guys out riding near it, I finally found the place. P.S. if you don’t have a 4WD then don’t even contemplate going all the way up the driveway. After you have passed these first tests then you have earned the right to sample some lovely little trails, 22km in all, that I think few others have tried. There has been done a lot of digging and trails have been carved, allowing you to climb and descend, on some very steep hillsides that would otherwise be impassable. There was good flow and variation in many of the places I went and it was well suited to my single gear. If I had one complaint it would have been that the one serious climb trail that there was had hairpin turns too tight for the longer turning circle of my Travers and it was impossible to ascend without putting a foot down. So if you are in the area then I seriously recommend going to the trouble of checking it out ;)

A lot of work has been put in up here$

A lot of work has been put in up here$

The climb...

The climb…

The Worlds

The real blog post from the Worlds can be found here

A really nice write up and photos by my manager Pieter can be found here (in Dutch)(not the photos though)

This is a collection of some of the photos that didn’t make it to either ;)

When in Tabor

When in Tabor

Camp Team New Zealand

Camp Team New Zealand

Lunch

Lunch (Kiwi ingenuity at it’s best)

Belgian Fans

Belgian Fans

Swiss Fans

Swiss Fans

Early morning fans

Early morning fans

They do it a little differently in the Czech Republic

They do it a little differently in the Czech Republic

A bit of U23 action

A bit of U23 action

Photo - Tom Prenen

Photo – Tom Prenen

Photo - Tom Prenen

Photo – Tom Prenen

Photo - Tom Prenen

Photo – Tom Prenen

Photo - Tom Prenen

Photo – Tom Prenen

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Souvenir

Souvenir

The road home...

The road home…

What a day!

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It has been a fantastic day of racing today at the Cross Worlds in Tabor. First Simon Andreassen killed it in the Juniors, to quote the American commentator, ‘it was almost a human rights violation’. Then came the most heavily contended women’s race I have ever seen. The crowd was good, not as crazy as I have seen, but maybe they are saving themselves for tomorrow. Then there was the commentator. He was in Hoogerheide last year too. That time I just appreciated being able to understand what was being said during the race and even be able to follow some of the action at the front. But today because I was watching I got to enjoy the barrage of cliches, similes, and metaphors that just streamed out of his mouth. Here are just a few:

‘Her face is looking like the bank just rang’

‘She’s keeping her powder dry’ – in response to a rider shouldering her bike a little earlier

‘He’s sliding all over the place like Jerry Lee Lewis’

‘This is almost a human rights violation’

‘She had a 5lb hammer and now she has gone in the shed for a 7lb hammer’

It was golden! I wish we had more of it in Europe.

Managed to squeeze in next to the Danish team in an overfilled carpark :)

Managed to squeeze in next to the Danish team in an overfilled carpark :)

Team Malteni/Niner reaching new levels of professionalism

Team Malteni/Niner reaching new levels of professionalism

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CX hairs

CX hairs

Tomorrow bids a track with about 1cm of mud covering frozen ground. This means it will be very slidey with frozen ruts telling you where to go all the time. The forecast is for lots of crashes, with me trying to avoid having to change bikes cause I only have one set of mud tyres. If it snows it won’t be enough to change the game, just enough to be really annoying and make you wish you had glasses. If you are looking for predictions of who will win, my money is on someone in light blue or orange kit. The guy wearing black and white will be busy focussing on keeping the two in white with green and yellow stripes behind him ;)

 

But why?

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Bender and I have just gotten back from a managers meeting in Tabor. There were a record 24 countries represented and I was proud to be one of them. First we were welcomed by the head of the race committee in Czech, which was then translated. After came a short stint in english and then we went on to the main part of the meeting, in French. French is the language of the UCI apparently and is seems that if you don’t speak it then that is your problem. Now I have been to enough of these meetings for this to not be the first time that I have encountered this problem. I would also say that World Cup manager meetings are quite standard and there is seldom anything new. This isn’t the case at the Worlds. They compensate for the unfortunate few that don’t follow by putting the main points in bullet form on a projector. This is how it goes:

On the projector:

  • Maximum tyre width 33mm
  • No spikes or studs allowed

What the dude says:

No frigging idea but he spoke for a whole minute about tyres alone (I think) He even paused a couple of times and scanned the room to see if everyone understood.

For the start of the race they seem to have strict guidelines for who can be on the start grid and what time they have to leave, but again I am a bit of a blank on that one too.

It is just frustrating and leaves you with a ‘you don’t belong here’ feeling…

Warning!!

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The latest news from Tabor!

http://www.cyklokros.cz/cz/wc-tabor-2015/news/330-no-entry-with-alcoholic-beverages

I am not sure how this is going to affect the hard core Belgian fans that are making the pilgrimage from the motherland, but it looks like those schnapps bottles are going to have to be emptied before entering the race area. I hope that this does not dampen their enjoyment of the race. I can personally vouch however for the incredibly cheap beer that can be found over here. Bender and I were pushed at Tesco’s to find anything that cost more than €1. I can also say that things are warming up nicely in Team New Zealand’s preparations for the Worlds, just a few days from now.

 

The word from the pit…

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Hi there. This is Anders, Angus’ mechanic. If you’ve followed the blog you’ve seen me mentioned as Bender which was my call name when I worked as a messenger here in Copenhagen and that’s where I met Angus.

Pieter2

That might seem as irrelevant information but being new in the elite world of cyclocross actually reminds both of us of what it was like being a rookie messenger. The guys who have been in the game for a long time have seen rookies come and so you have to prove your worth by coming again and again. There are ways to do things that you only learn by doing them wrong and getting looked at funny or stand in the wrong place at the wrong time and finding out the hard way.

Pieter

For an example for my first world cup in Valkenburg last year our pit box, that had been assigned to us at the managers meeting the night before, got completely taken over by the Dutch mechanics. And when I tried to squish in between them, they just looked at me like I was the one that wasn’t supposed to be there. That taught me three things, one: English is not the Dutch mechanics strong side. Two: why nobody chooses the pit box next to the Dutch  (really, its the last one to go at every WC managers meeting). And three: the big teams with star riders stand in whatever box they like whenever they like.

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At every race there is a new thing that I learn, sometimes small, sometimes big. The biggest one had to be tire pressure. If I had to say what is the most important thing on a cross bike, I’d say tire pressure. In the beginning we thought we knew what we were doing but looking back, we had no idea. And its not something that you just go and ask another mechanic for advice on. I’ve asked other mechanics twice what pressure they were running and both times the answer was something like “the right one” followed by a big grin. Like Tyler Durden said “you do not talk about tire pressure!!”.

Dave (2)

On a smaller scale another thing I learned was what’s best to wash first, the wheels or the frame. That is a little thing but it is a thing that matters in the pits. If you wash the frame first you can do it all over again after you’ve washed the wheels. There is more to bike washing then you think, not really but it’s one more thing to geek out on and that’s nice. So that’s what I do, geek out, and youtube is great for that. A couple of weeks ago I saw a video on the web about how to wash your cross bike, thought I could pick up a few tricks. That wasn’t the case but one thing did catch my attention, the guy said that the teams you see on TV/internet washing the bikes with pressure washers can do so because they have chains and cassettes from floor to ceiling, or something like that. I can assure you that that is not the case for all the elite teams. The idea that we use pressure washers because we can always just change the chain, is just wrong. We use pressure washers because we have between four and eight minutes to get the bike clean before the rider comes around and swaps again. Flemish mud is no joke. I’ve tried with a normal hose, it can’t be done.

Last year we went to a few Cat 2 races and the pits were packed with the riders’ friends, family and girlfriends, who where all as clueless as I was. Some of them were more clueless than me so it was nice to feel like the experienced one for an afternoon. But it made me realize that at the elite races those mechanics have been doing what they do for years and years and its second nature to them.

 

Dave

One thing that I noticed in a race last year was how the mechanics from one of the bigger teams used the pit in a tactical way. At every UCI race there has to be at least six (pressure) washers in the pits, I’ve never seen more than eight and that has only happened once. So it doesn’t take a whole lot of math to figure out that at the really muddy races a line for each washer will form pretty quickly. The leaders mechanic got to the washer first and saw the mechanic of the rider who was in second or third standing in line, he made sure to take his time to get the bike nice and clean. In most of the races this will never become an actual obstruction for the top ten riders because they’ll have two bikes in the pit. But when it gets really muddy and the rider expects a clean bike every half lap, this can become really annoying, even for us who’s not directly in this little drama but it effects everybody who’s standing in line.

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And that’s another thing about elite cross in general. There’s the elite and then there’s the elite-elite. We are just elite. Hell, even the UCI calls every country except Belgium and Holland “developing countries” to our faces. It’s the truth so there’s nothing to get offended by but it makes it pretty obvious that we are there as part of the show in this Flemish “national” sport and some people would like it to stay like that, they couldn’t care less. That’s quite alright though. I like that we come to the races in a station car packed to the bursting point, and everybody else has a campervan and a mechanics van. I like that my workstand is the bikerack on the car and I like that Angus has a beer when he gets on the rollers to warm down after a race. I like that we can show them that their national sport is catching on around the world and maybe they should start thinking about that.

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