Cross is Upon Us

Cross is officially here. Prepare your equipment for the challenges that lie ahead this season with these tips and tools.
Optimizing Tire Pressure For Cross
Of all the cycling disciplines, CX is the one which has led the way to lower and more rational tire pressures more than any other. CX combines the need for aggressive cornering, flotation, low rolling resistance and impact absorption all in a
tire which is in many cases limited in maximum width by the rules. World class racers have long suggested that the ‘ideal CX pressure’ is ‘as low as possible’ but how do we define that and what variables come into play when fine tuning for your optimal pressure.
One of the simplest rules of thumb on CX tire pressure is to pick a pressure that has you (lightly) bottoming the tire on the rim once per lap. This is an easy one to say and understand, but can get you into trouble for one very specific reason: you are not pre-riding the course at race speed. It is important to remember that bottoming out over a root or rock at warm-up pace could result in rim or tire damage at race pace. We also find it important to note that we often see riders pre-riding courses not only at lower speeds, but in less aggressive riding positions than they may be racing in. This makes sense when you consider how low and forward a rider will get on the bike under heavy efforts. As a rider adopts a more aggressive position, the weight shifts forward on the bike. This forward weight shift combined with higher speeds during racing combine to form a significant risk to front wheel and tire when racing compared to warming up.
Even just a few years ago, we were still suggesting front pressures as much as 8-10% lower than rear pressures, but as our data set has grown larger, we find that some of the most successful CX racers at the professional levels are running front pressures within between 0-3% lower than the rear. We’ve even found that front pressures are occasionally higher front than rear if the course has particularly steep downhill sections with roots, rocks or other obstacles where
rim and tire damage seems to be more concentrated on front wheels.
Tire size and choice. We strongly recommend the largest tire you can fit in your frame or if
you are racing UCI, the largest tire that will fit within the rules. There are no courses or conditions we have ever seen in cross that favor narrower tires. For years the conventional wisdom was that narrower tires were faster on
harder pack surfaces when conditions were dry. It was believed that the narrower tires would roll faster at slightly
higher pressures and also that the reduced weight was a significant advantage. Modern data collection
combining power measurements with highly accurate GPS have shown this to really never be true. The weight advantage of a
1-2mm narrower tire is very small and the rolling resistance penalty to higher tire pressures on rough surfaces can be quite high. For this reason, we recommend the lightest, most supple tire you can find at the widest width you are allowed to use in
your event. And of course, if you are not running tubeless, then you MUST be running latex tubes whether you are
riding clinchers or tubulars. Latex tubes have lower rolling resistance by as much as 3-4 watts per tube, are more
resistant to pinch and puncture flats, are lighter weight, and provide significantly improved ground feel through the tire. It has been shown over and over again in testing that riders on latex tubes are not only faster at the same power
output, but also have a better feel for what is happening at the contact patch of the tire.

To start optimizing your pressure, we recommend
1. Keep a log book or journal of your experiences.
Since no two riders will sit on the bike in the same way or pick lines
in the same way, your optimal pressure will be specific to you and to each
course. Using the experience of others
is a tremendous time saver in establishing a baseline, but it is important to
note that another rider of similar size and weight will almost certainly have
an optimal that is near, but different than yours..and for this reason, keeping
a journal will help you dial your numbers faster and with better certainty than
any other method. This will also give
you a solid baseline for future events on a given course.
2. Buy a high quality gauge or pump with high quality gauge and ONLY use it.
All gauges are subject to various types of error.
Buying a high quality one will ensure your numbers are more accurate,
and using the same pump or gauge will ensure your precision is high. I always refer back to my Paris-Roubaix story
where we found the 3 pumps on the CSC truck at Roubaix varied by 12psi when
exposed to the same pressure, and the team was breaking rims and flatting
because of it. Standard gauge error is
+/-5% on most bicycle pumps and +/-3% on most digital gauges (SILCA gauges are
all either +/-1% or +/-2% with precision of better than 1%) this means that 2
of the ‘identical pump’ can have as much 2-3psi difference between them at CX
3. Use the ‘conventional wisdom’ of others as a starting point.
If you have a teammate or friend similar in size, use their experience as a starting point.
If not, start a little bit high and comedown. For 33mm wide tire, 150 lb rider,
I’d start at 28psi and work your way down.
At the top UCI pro level we see riders at this weight commonly running
pressures in the low 20’s and lighter weight riders in the UCI women and junior
fields have been known to run in the 17-19psi range with success… but it is
important to remember that as rider weight goes up, the minimum pressure should
go up as well. Also note that more
experienced riders tend to ‘ride lighter’ than less experienced riders. We see that at the top UCI level, riders can
generally run as much as 1psi lower than their weight might suggest. Again, this is an area to exercise caution as
riders will tend to ‘ride heavier’ as they fatigue which brings us to our next
4. For non-professional CX racers, we recommend reducing pressure until you experience
1 light bottom out of the tire through the roughest section of your course.

I recommend re-riding this area numerous times to be sure that you are
comfortable with it, you may also find certain lines to be softer than
others. Then, we recommend adding
0.5-1.0 psi to that pressure knowing that your race speeds will be higher than
your pre-ride and also that you may have less choice of racing line during your
event. If your event is longer than
typical for your category, we recommend adding 1.0-1.5psi over this bottom-out
pressure. So if you are generally riding
40 minute races and you are entered in one that is 50 or 60 minutes, add another
0.5psi. This can be critical in mitigating
rim or tire damage. We commonly see that
riders who do suffer equipment failures of this type most often do so at the
end of their event, and if the event is longer than standard the likelihood of
damage can be even higher.
5. Write it all down.
The more data you compile, the better your knowledge will be as you move forward.
Top teams and riders keep highly detailed notebooks on pressure and tire
type and other critical course details.
Our experience shows that with some minimal effort to log your
performance you can gain critical seconds per lap and reduce or eliminate the
likelihood of a pinch flat or rim damage.
Want to begin the process of optimizing your tire pressure and machinery for this cross season? Here are a few items from us to help get you started.
Quality Tools
T-Handle Folio
A cross bike takes a physical beating throughout the season so odds are you'll need to make some adjustments. This sliding t-handle set gives you the ability to make a variety
of adjustments and the bag it comes it makes it ideal for taking with you to have in the pits just in case.
Versatile Pump
TATTICO Bluetooth
Every cross course has it's own unique challenges which can make optimizing your tire pressure for one a daunting task. This mini-pump features a Bluetooth gauge that's as accurate as our floor pumps. Take it out on course with you before the race and make your adjustments as you go.
Durable Chain Lube
 Adverse conditions are synonymous with Cyclocross. While fun to race in, these conditions can wreak havoc on your drive-train and if not serviced. This chain lube is some of the most durable on the market and was formulated to perform in tough conditions for hours.
Log or Journal
Anniversary Journal
 Take notes of your experiences and the experiences of similar sized riders with this special edition Leuchtturm A5 notebook. Keeping a log of your pressures and the results is a tremendous time saver and will help you get dialed in with more certainty compared to other methods.