Monday, April 9, 2012

One for the gear heads

Race week at last! I’m super excited to be at the pointy end of my training and racing block. It has been such a special experience having this opportunity to live and train in Europe so I can arrive in the best possible condition for the World Cup in Belgium. I’d like to thank everyone who made this possible especially my hosts Vaughan and Rose who opened their home to me in the Swiss Alps. It wouldn’t have been possible without you – Merci!

I’ve compiled a list of equipment I have also found indispensible in the Euro conditions so, as well as being a plug for some of my sponsors, I hope you can find it useful if you are thinking of making the trip or just searching for some better options for the local trails.

Sram XX 26-39 Chain set

Initially running a 28-42 I swapped to the smaller chain rings before I headed to NZ as I remembered how steep the World Cup courses were. Having the 26 is great for keeping the legs at a good cadence while climbing and the 39 means I can ride longer in the big ring when the course calls for it. XCO courses don’t call for a 42-11 combo so it’s no loss, but I’ve kept the bigger rings for when I’m racing marathons.

Adidas windproof jacket

Surviving the cold is all about layers. Having a wind and waterproof jacket helps take out the ‘chill’ factor that makes cycling most uncomfortable in winter. Wearing arm warmers, a jersey and an undershirt beneath the jacket was enough to get me through 2 degree training sessions. The advantage with the jacket is when it gets warmer I just folded it up and put it in my back pocket. Very handy.

Thermal gloves

The extremities always take the brunt of the cold weather so even when the body is warm, the hands are likely to be cold due to reduced blood flow. A good pair of weather proof gloves literally saved my life – not being able to brake when you’re hands are frozen is sub optimal. They give a bit of a ‘michelin man’ feeling so not ideal for mountain biking, but for road sessions which tend to be faster and windier they were a godsend.

Adidas Evil Eye Half Rim Pro Glasses

I have 2 sets of these glasses, one for racing and one for every day. I love the lenses, which are interchangeable, but the LST Actives are great for the varying light conditions of MTB. They feel really firm on your face and even after some of the biggest crashes I’ve had they are still stuck there! An absolute must shading the retinas and keeping pesky branches out of your baby blues.

Santa Cruz Carbon Blur XC

Okay, so a dual suspension is not the obvious choice for racing world cup and I am among a small minority, but it is a seriously fast bike and also a lot more fun for general riding. With a 69.5 degree head angle it’s slightly more relaxed than an XC racing hardtail (between 0.5-1.5 degree) but still feels snappy in the single trail and more confident in the steep descending. At 9.6 kg it’s on par with the pro 29ers so there’s no weight penalty either. The guys as NSDynamics worked their magic on the RP23 shock so it pedals efficiently to the top of the hill while saving my butt on the way down.

So that’s just a few things from the armoury. I’ll wait until I see the course in Belgium to decide between the Schwalbe Racing Ralphs or Nobby Nics but the latter certainly have the mud clearing advantage. Crank Brothers Egg Beater 11 pedals really come into their own around here too when you’ve hiked-a-bike and need to clip in with muddy cleats. It’s a brave soul who runs Shimanos and a frequently frustrated one as my riding buddy found out yesterday.

Next week will be my race report from the Houffalize World Cup. Thanks for reading! J

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