Monday, February 24, 2014


Great success! 105 miles, no one got hurt, no one moaned, despite the wind, the distance and the final sting in the tail up Mott Street in Epping Forest - all in, a GOOD DAY.

And we're going to have a bit of money to donate to the Dave Rayner Fund. Nice!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Science of Pitting

I feel the need to address a few issues I had today while being a pit bitch at a local cross race.
At world and national level cross races, a double pit (DP) is par for the course. For those of you not aware of how the DP works, it effectively enables two bike changes per lap by placing the pit area (PA) on a piece of ground where the riders pass at approximately 3rd lap distance.
Here's a basic scribble I did to illustrate.

This does away with the need for two separate pit areas. There are courses such as Koppenberg in Belgium where separate pits are set up, this is due to the topography of the course but we won't go into that.
Most local races have a single pit (SP) for very much the same reason as Koppenberg.

The PA has the following features;
- Entrances
- Exits
- Cleaning/Jet washing area
- Rider transition zones (RTZ)
- Safe zone (SZ)

Here's another scribble to illustrate that bit.
The solid line is the course, the dashed line is the RTZ and hatched area is the SZ.


Entrance and Exit speak for themselves, these are usually indicated by yellow flags and ALL bike transitions should be carried out between the yellow flags. Failure to do so could result in disqualification of the rider.
Cleaning and Jet washing areas are usually away from the SZ and the RTZ.
The RTZ is separated from the course by tape/barriers. Riders will signal their pit crew (PC) when approaching the PA and the spare bike can be readied and introduced to the RTZ in readiness for a swift transition. The dirty/broken bike is whisked away to be cleaned or repaired.
All the while the PC's are not carrying out transitions with their riders, they must remain within the SZ so as not to interfere with the other PC's going about their business.
Sometimes, there are fights.

Things I saw at the race today.
- 2 x Entrances
- 2 x Exits
(these two things indicate DP)
- 1 x RTZ
(this indicates SP)
- 1 x SZ
- A rider coming into the pit at the Entrance (good so far), riding some way along the RTZ, dismounting and handing his bike to his PC, then running backwards within the RTZ (dangerous) and collecting his spare bike from near the entrance, saddling up and rejoining the course via the exit.
- A rider coming into the pit at the entrance, again, this is correct procedure, dismounting and changing bike all by himself (no PC was present), then running back to the entrance and using it as an exit. This is not only a bit dangerous, but also silly as any time spent going backwards in a race is counter productive.
- Many people, including riders who had abandoned the race loitering in the RTZ and therefore hampering the riders trying to change bikes.
- Some bell end standing the wrong side of the bike whilst doing a transition. This resulted in the incoming rider needing to duck under the 'helpers' arm to grab the new bike - idiot!

Now this may seem like a moan and I imagine you're reading this thinking, "get a load of old know it all over there", but I do appreciate the efforts made by organizers and promoting clubs to give the racers the best possible courses and facilities, but, a little research and time would have done away with this near shambles.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Do you remember the first time?

I like getting muddy.  I like bikes.  I want to share my passion for cycling with my family.  Attending a Rapha SuperCross last year with my family I was struck by the something-for-everyone nature  - this was an event, not just a race.  So I bit the bullet, invoked the N+1 rule and ordered a ‘Cross bike.  And now I am here. 

I line up amongst the Juniors and Seniors, a novice amongst professionals and amateurs.  In an hour, Rob Partridge will wipe the floor with the rest of the field – I won’t care then and I don’t care now.  This race is personal.  This is man and bike versus grass and mud.  I will slip on a corner and come off.  I will hit a muddy bit and slow to a crawl, forgetting I am allowed to get off and run.  I will remember to get off and run, and I will lose my footing.  My lungs will burn, my legs will burn.  Every muscle will beg me to stop.  And even though I think there’s no more, I will find just a little bit extra for those handful of seconds every lap when my kids run alongside me screaming encouragement. 

Every lap of the race the course changes and evolves– the off-camber corner that catches me out on lap one, I better on lap 2, is treacherous on lap 3 and has deteriorated to swamp by lap 4, destroyed by the procession of wheels and boots.

By the last lap the bike weighs double than at the start, everywhere clogged with grass and mud and shit.  There is a slug on my crank, completely unphased by it’s transition from bush to bike.  I am caked, covered in bruises from instantly forgotton knocks.  My throat is dry, my heart pounds and I am desperately searching for the line.

What do I learn in my first ‘Cross race?  Tyres are everything.  Tread and pressure, pressure and tread.  Water is everything.  Beer is everything.  Frites are everything.  A clean T-Shirt is everything.  Taking my children to play in the discarded foam wall is everything.  And I do it all again next weekend.