Our team just concluded it’s season with the gnarliest race we’re been at in a while, JingleCross. The course contained every type of mud imaginable. Some of it was sticky, some of it had gravel, some of it was clay, and some of it was soup! Mud was packing into every imaginable place of the bikes, often causing broken derailleurs and chains.
At a cyclocross race, your crew in the pits can often mean the difference between a win and a DNF (not even finishing a race). Since you are allowed to switch bikes in the “pits”, many riders opt for having at least 2 bikes for 1 race. As they race, riders will ride into the pits and drop off their dirty or broken bike and switch it out for a clean bike. They can do this twice per lap! The job of the pit crew is to clean off the bike and have it ready for the next time the rider comes though the pit area. Bring in the pits is almost as much fun as racing, you get to be an important part of the race while cheering and you have something to do! Here’s some things we’ve learned this year in the pits:
- Nothing is worse than wet feet on a cold day. Get some rubber boots. I really like the LaCrosse Boots I picked up a couple years ago for hunting. They’re tall, neoprene lined, warm, easy to run in, and easy to take off. They were not cheap, but they were a great investment. A farm supply store should have a wide selection of waterproof rubber boots.
- Bring a garden sprayer. We purchased a couple of these for our team a few weeks ago. Filled with warm water, they are a great way to finish off cleaning a bike after doing the dirty work with a pressure washer. A little windshield wiper de-icer goes a long way in cleaning up frozen bikes.
- Tampico cone brushes rock. We only bring two brushes to the pits. You only have about five minutes to clean off a bike, and a couple great brushes makes the job a lot easier. Tampico doesn’t spread oil and grease like a nylon brush can. They’re also easier on the paint.
- Put some chain lube in your pocket. Use it. After pressure washing the bikes, it was a good idea to put some heavy chain lube on chain and pulleys. It wouldn’t last long, but I am sure it helped.
- Have a plan for a ripped off derailleur. We saw dozens of mechanicals during our 3 days at Jinglecross. Buy a spare hanger, chain, and cables/housings. If you can afford it, have a spare derailleur. In bad conditions, you’re likely to need them. There are always plenty of mechanics around to install it, but there are never enough spare parts.
- Bring a 5 gallon bucket and fill it with HOT water and a dash of soap. Not only does hot water cut through most of the mud and sand your rider will pack the bike with, warm water is way easier on your surely frozen hands.
- Rain pants and rain jacket. It might not be raining, but you’re bound to get wet.
- Pitting is way easier with 2 people supporting 1 racer. The first guy grabs the used bike and runs to the pressure washer while the second person keeps an eye on the rider’s progress and position. You don’t want to miss your rider as they come through the pits.
- Bring a propane blowtorch on cold days. Shimano pedals are bound to get clogged with snow and mud. A blast from a propane torch melts all the gunk off faster than you’ll ever pick it out with a screwdriver.
- Focus your cleaning efforts on the pedals, brakes, gears, and derailleurs. Mud under a saddle won’t ruin someone’s race, but a chunk of mud and grass in the cassette will. Pay special attention to the pulley wheels on rear derailleurs. Those seem to clog up the worst and cause the most damage.
Nicholas Moroder is the everyday face of Belgainwerkx. He has been wrenching on bikes for 10 years and is a Certified Retul University fitter. He’s the kind of guy who can tell you what tire is best for your wet rides, or what brake pads will make your rims last the longest. He manages the service, product , fitting, and day-to-day operation of the shop.