In less than two weeks, nearly everyone racing the Crusher will be questioning or confirming a much anticipated decision. What is the perfect steed for such a race? CX, MTB, Road? Other questions that factor in may possibly include: How will the race be played out? What is the terrain like? And the most important of all: Will I get crushed? I intend to answer those questions, based on my experience with the race and training from last year in contrast to my training from this year.
For the inaugural race in 2011, I was wavering back and forth. In my mind, a cyclocross bike was 100% the ticket. There was no question about it. But, due to my lack of CX bike and experience, I was hesitant to pedal that road. So, I took my Trek Superfly hard tail, mounted up some 700x45c cross tires and wen’t for it. After testing the tires out on a few ride, I fully changed my mind. I was certain that the 29er MTB, with skinny tires was the ticket. I felt very comfortable on the bike making the decision even easier. If I was going to embark on a 70+ mile race with 10k+ of climbing, I wanted things to feel familiar and comfortable.
Race day came and all the preparations I had made were in line. I was feeling great leading up to the race and was really excited as I read the start list in the Open category. I couldn’t wait to battle it out with a handful of some of the best riders from around the US that the Crusher drew for its opening race.
Not too long after the race started, is when things began to go south for this kid. I’ll spare you the details but you can read about them here. I pushed through, though and finished but in the end, I got CRUSHED. It had nothing to do with the bike. It was all me. The bike performed as I hoped it would. It climbed well and descended even better. For the most part, I was able to make up a fair amount of time on the descent, due to the fact that I was on a mountain bike, but keep in mind… this race is way more climbing that it is descending.
For 2012, things have changed a bit. I’ve invested a little more time on the CX bike, just to see the other side. I had to make a few changes but the most important aspect, is spending time on the bike. Climbing steep, gnarly dirt roads it’s much different than my 29er. In fact, I sort-of feel like it’s a bit faster from time to time, as it should be. But what goes up, must come down.
Descending on the CX bike is a whole new ball game. Everything changes and if you’re not accustom to it, you’re going to be in a tight spot, physically.
Descending on a CX bike usually requires you to be in the drops. You’ve got way more control over the handlebars and much more power on the brakes. Just makes sense. Because of this, there’s an abundance of pressure on your hands and wrists as well as your shoulders and neck. The tension builds quickly and fatigue is the last thing you want when you get to the bottom of the DH on the Crusher.
To solve a few of my braking issues, I consulted a few of our local cx legends, and ended up swapping my TRP’s for some Avids which helped a lot, but the biggest improvement was all in the pads. The folks at ENVE, know how to make some stoppers. After installing new pads, my confidence went up as I found it much easier and a hole lot less work to slow down or even stop 🙂 After this, a few cockpit adjustments, I felt like my Crusher bike was ready to go. It just needed to be tested.
So I stepped into my back yard and up I went. To the top. Multiple times and multiple times more as the race gets closer. The first few times, I found it pretty wrenching still, on my neck, and wrists. Compared to my full suspension Rocky Mountain, mountain bike with hydraulic disc brakes, it was a bit more taxing. But for sure doable. The more and more time I spend on the cx bike, the more and more convinced I am, that this is the better bike for races like the Crusher. It does seem to be faster on the climb, but will that even make a difference when it comes to the loose, steep dirt roads in crusher country? I guess we’ll find out in less than two weeks.
I’ll never grow tired of this view. I’ve been climbing this road since I was in Jr. High. I’ve spend more time on my bike up here than anywhere else and plan to keep it that way.