Cyclocross is here once again, but is your bike ready? Did you ever get around to fixing that loose brake and creaky headset that you just managed to ease through the end of last season? Nothing’s worse than arriving at the race course or pulling your bike out before the year’s first race, only to discover your tubeless tire won’t seal or your disc brake pads are worn through. Shops are busy and trying to fix a nagging mechanical in a rush is no way to start your fall racing.
Here’s a quick checklist of mechanical issues to help make sure you’re bike’s ready for the first ‘cross race of the season.
Do you have the right tires for early season racing or are there still heavy mud treads on your race wheels? When racing kicks off in Sept., courses tend to be faster and dryer as the true cold and damp weather hasn’t wreaked havoc yet. Come Oct. and Nov. you may need to keep your mud tires close at hand. At the start of the season, you’ll likely be reaching for a faster tire more often than not.
If you’re running tubeless, its a good idea to check to make sure the sealant is still liquid, not all dried up. Even if there’s still some fluid, it’s probably a good idea to add some fresh sealant just in case. You don’t want to be racing on a tire that’s prone to flatting.
Wear on disc brake pads is harder to monitor but the rigours of cyclocross are such that your pads will wear down quickly. Regardless if you run disc or rim brakes, it’s always a good idea to start the season with a fresh set of brakes. Ensure you won’t be caught off guard starting your season with brakes that are not effective.
Headset and bottom bracket
The mix of mud, rain and sand that makes cyclocross so much fun isn’t very good for your bike. I once watched a mechanic pull out a bottom bracket cup to reveal several centimeters of sand accumulated at the bottom of the frame. If your headset is grinding or creaking or your BB isn’t spinning quite as smooth as it used to, it’s better to fix that right away or it could cause damage to your frame.
Fresh cables and new hydro fluid
Having a bike that brakes and shifts precisely can be a real game-changer for your race season. While the mud and sand of cyclocross can greatly interfere with how your bike is working, starting the season with new cables and fresh hydraulic brake fluid makes a big difference. Cable wear happens gradually but can be exacerbated in ‘cross conditions while impurities such as dirt and water can contaminate hydraulic brake cables reducing braking effectiveness and power. It’s a good idea to have the fluid replaced each season to ensure you never get surprised.
Squeaky disc brakes
Few things are as irritating as riding with disc brakes that emit a high pitched squeal every time you brake. The noise is also probably a warning that the pads or rotor on your bike have been contaminated and are not working as effectively as they should be. To right this, clean the rotor with something like isopropyl alcohol which won’t leave any residue. Brake pads are a little trickier to clean. In most cases, replacing them is the best option but you can try rubbing the surface of the pad on sandpaper to scrap off any contamination.