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Home > Magazine > Bikes > "No Sport for Young Men": Old Bike Works Fine at CX Race

"No Sport for Young Men": Old Bike Works Fine at CX Race
November 19, 2012

Well, I did a CX race yesterday on my new old bike, a 36-yr-old Nishiki Comp.

I wore the green'n'white iBOB jersey for the first time in an event! (Subhead: "Leather, wool, steel." With OYB sewn on the back.)

(Wool jersies, esp SS, don't have a great slot in my seasonality line-up. But once it gets cold I'm all wool tee's, wool button-ups for everything, indoors and out. Funny what works.)

I had a fun if painful time. It was a lovely too-warm, sunny day here in mid-MI, about 60F it seemed.

But I figure if I can't ice skate or snow ski I need to find something that suits the climate. I'm all about matching the season, even if I get global-warmed, so CX is pretty good. Its flow and handling vibe seem quite close to XC at times.

I was in the Old Men C's -- ~25 of us. The course is pretty smooth, tacky and twisty with some offcambers. The other bikes were a mix of carbon, steel, alum and ti, nearly all real CX bikes. Some team dudes. (About 8 Young C's, 25 B's, 15 A's, 6 Ladies, 2 Jr's.)

I went too far into the zone of pain. I wish I could be more patient or satisfied with a hair less speed. Thankfully, I backed off slightly and recovered somewhat so I could make another rush after awhile.

I used my stealth weapon sewup wheels and they didn't roll (off, that is), but they did squish like snakes a couple times, a weird feeling.

Near the beginning a guy took off and got a gap and everyone jabbered about him blowing up. I tried marking him and keeping track of who else was taking off. But everyone got quickly mixed in with an earlier field and lapped riders.

I gradually passed a few of our gang then saw I was gaining on the guy who took off at first, maybe. I'd heard about this need to know who was who in CX races but it was the first time I experienced it. It's fun being in the mix. I wish it was even more crowded.

I did a CX race here a couple months ago on my old Trek, which broke in half near the end. That time I entered the B Race and was riding near the back -- I think that was partly because it seemed like I never could find a good gear -- either too easy or too hard. I'd felt frustrated and slow. This time I felt fine.

So I finally caught the erstwhile lead guy and was hoping none of the spectators realized it. I heard other names being shouted and gaps called out. Then suddenly I heard "Get going, man, his bike is older than you!" and the jig was up. I worried that he'd get a fresh spark, but it didn't happen. I tried passing him in the twisties -- which would've been fun -- but ended up doing it near a straight, but he never fought back.

I had no idea if he was the real lead guy and just kept riding hard. I couldn't tell who was who ahead or even what lap we were on but suddenly it seemed like it was all over. It turns out I got 3rd. Cool! Podium! I even got some swag! I have no idea how far ahead the other two were.

People were laughing about the old bike and admiring it. I said I might go for an upgrade sometime and they said No, it's cool! OK, maybe upgrade a little but not too much!

I'd say the bar-ends need tuning -- they were lame and cost me serious momentum as I had to shift to the gear above or below the one I wanted then shift back. Ugh. I bet if I redo the cables they'll be dandy. The narrow bars are a little silly, too -- 36's! I spose I'll slap on some 42's with Tekro's. And I'll even add bar-tape: my bare bars were a little silly. The low-trail, long-rake forks seemed like they wanted to dish-out on some turns, a bit touchy, but maybe I can relax more into them. The dang thing is 44" long! I would really like to try a real CX bike sometime just to see what folks are talking about. I notice that 2nd-hand Giant TCX frames go for $150: seems like a great, fast allrounder concept. Not as distinctive, but hey, genericness can be cool, too. Especially with all the old parts I'd be slapping on. And especially if it works great! ...Dudes at the race did tell me that my bike was probably way cush and that I should appreciate not having numb hands. It was a smooth course but I did see dudes shaking their hands afterward -- actually mine got numb out there, too, and I rode one-hand for awhile.

I got to participate in beer and Jaeger hand-ups for the rest of the races then helped tear down afterward.

There were little kids around. The group was friendly. One said CX is fun coz it's a little weird, what with the Euro angle and all. I liked hearing the cowbells and tambourine. We needed some brass though. --There are good horn players at some of these. I coulda brought one -- next time!

Another guy said he really liked how a CX bike could do anything -- he had a $5K carbowonder. Dang, that's a light bike.

I also liked how people did several races, sometimes riding off the back of the A's -- they didn't care if they were over their head. As one guy said, it's a great day to ride. Sadly, I kinda poisoned myself and laid it all out there and both wanted to ride more and didn't want to. If I'd toned it down a hair I might've hopped into other races, too. Extra races were only $10 ea.

Mike Seaman did the Louisville GP event last weekend -- a prime-up for the big World's there in Feb. He said there were 5 dismounts per lap. Cool! We only had one. Anything to make the field bunch up more is good -- for me, and for spectators.

I enjoy seeing the tactics -- and trying a few myself. In CX you can rest a bit then make a rush.

The overheads I noticed did make me wonder. Standing in registration line for a half hour was sociable but... Putting up the tape'n'stakes takes the organizer SIX HOURS. I tore down a third of the course in an hour, but it was intense work. It made me think of CC running races and how they just spraypaint the ground. The org said CX is too twisty for paint to be enough. He says the work isn't too bad and he wants the course to be compact and complex for skilz and spectating.

Another neat thing is the ephemeralness of the courses -- here today, gone tomorrow -- they can be different each time. This lowers their impact as well. I suppose there's a repair routine if done in a park and it's a muddy day, but it's not like a mtbike race where there's a big old trail that needs a lotta care and requires mileage and massive acreage.

But I couldn't help but contrast our MiBC ski races and fun events that get up to 30 people (so far) and have no rules, fees, or forms. No impact. Just skiing, beer and bonfire. Well, there are all sorts of ways to skin the cat. The main thing is to enjoy them all, don't get stuck in one rut. (Like, I notice there's only one ski racer on the CX circuit. Seems like more would be doing it.)

Only about 6 women in a wide range of skills. Makes ya wonder how tri and running have half women. How to widen the appeal?

Maybe 3 juniors. ..."No Sport for Young Men." Would be nice to fix that, too. Maybe if more realized they could use a wider range of bikes? I saw a few mtbikes and even some semi-slick street tires out there.

I even saw a few actual elderly spectators who were really interested. I think they were fiesty old adventurers. It was nice to see them so peppy and engaged.

My only regret is that I forgot a folding chair.

iBOB jersey at a race!

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