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Measuring Your Legs at the Start of the Cyclocross Season: Race Report from Whirlybird

Measuring Your Legs at the Start of the Cyclocross Season: Race Report from Whirlybird

Whirlybird Cross was our 2019 development cyclocross team’s first race! Most of our teammates were going to be out racing, and we were really excited for them to experience cyclocross. Today, Kathryn Cumming shares her thoughts from the kickoff races of her season, and finding a way of measuring your success in the early goings.

by Kathryn Cumming

The energy was high as Andrew and I hopped in the car on Sunday morning, but I knew I needed to pace myself throughout the day if I wanted to have a good race. 

I feel fortunate to have so many good friends and teammates present at local races, but I can get distracted and end up feeling rushed or a little drained before I even hit the start line. To avoid this, I outlined a race day schedule to make sure I ate, pre-rode, and warmed up when I needed, and I spent most of my time cheering from our team tent rather than running around the course.

Kate Whirly.jpg

After our teammates finished racing, I snuck away to my car to prepare. In order to gain energy for races, I need to have some time to myself, and I enjoy quiet time when I am riding the trainer. My legs and mind felt good and I was looking forward to the race.

The course was going to be fun. It was shortened from previous years and removed a section of woods. I found the updated version to be more engaging. The shorter course meant you spent more time riding near the spectators and announcer, providing more of an event atmosphere rather than feeling like you were riding alone in a grass field all afternoon. 

I also appreciated the grass corners. Everyone could ride the corners without concern of crashing, but time was gained or lost depending on how the corners were approached. Racers were rewarded for choosing good lines, but beginners felt totally safe and comfortable on course. 

Local races have a much more relaxed atmosphere around the start line than UCI races. As we lined up, friends were chatting and telling jokes.

Kate Whily two.jpg

After the whistle, I found my pedal pretty quickly and saw an opening to jump between Stacey Barbossa and Vicki Barclay. This put me on the wheel of Lauren Festa heading into the first corner. The turn brought us on to a wide open grass straightaway and I jumped past Lauren on the right. I was on the front with the goal of being first into the upcoming off camber, barriers, and 180 degree corners. I wanted to choose my lines and ride my own race rather than entering into a tactical battle. My power numbers have been steadily improving and I wanted to put the fitness to use! 

Early on I kept telling myself “smooth, smooth, smooth, ATTACK!” I wanted to corner well and then push the pace as soon as I hit a straightaway. My gap grew to about seven seconds on lap one and I set out to increase this on lap two. I followed the same approach of pushing the straightaways and climbs with the objective of being out of sight of my chaser, Stacey Barbossa, at certain points on course. Racers often look at courses in short sections, and if you can already be through one of these sections before the next racer enters, the gap seems larger than it is. 

My lead continued to increase and I started using heart rate numbers as a motivator. My goal was to stay above 180 bpm. The overall intensity of GO Cross in Roanoke had a positive brainwashing effect on me. After hitting 195 bpm both days, riding along at 180-182 bpm felt really sustainable. 

This season I have started racing with my heart rate displayed on my bike computer. In the past, I would usually tuck my computer in my jersey pocket and check the data after the race, however, I am finding a heart rate reference is helpful in pacing. In Roanoke, when it was hot and the field was incredibly fast, I used heart rate to ensure I did not blow up. At Whirlybird my heart rate numbers served two purposes: early on I knew I could keep pushing because my heart rate was at a manageable number, and then once I had a good gap, I used heart rate to ensure I did not let off the intensity.

During the last few laps I focused on cornering well and having fun. I ended up rolling across the line in first with a little over a minute to second place. With good weather and lots of friends around, it was an awesome day to be racing! 

Being able to grab the win at Whirlybird provided a nice confidence boost after Roanoke. I knew the Roanoke UCI races would not be my best results for many reasons, but I was left wanting more. Whirlybird confirmed my training is paying off and has me excited for the rest of the season! 

Kate Finish Whirly.jpg

Three races into the season, I am most excited about the improvement in my starts. I have made significant gains in my top end power, but my start line mentality has made the biggest jump. I used to stand at the start line thinking about what could go wrong. Last season before I went to the World Cup in Bern, Switzerland, Andrew spent some time coaching me to take control of my starts. I had a bad habit of waiting and reacting to swarming fields and chaotic starts, and he helped train me to be aggressive and forecast gaps that could be taken. He encouraged me to get excited about starts rather than being scared. I had a few friends who helped me further train these skills all summer, and now I am looking for openings and trying to set a new five second power record every time I am on course. I know not every start will be perfect, but it is nice to head into a race with this more aggressive mindset. 

This weekend I am heading to Colorado for my annual hiking trip with my mom! Once I am back, more local racing is on the schedule for September, then we will head into a big UCI racing block in October.

Race Report: Testing the Racing Legs Before the Cyclocross Season at the Jersey Devil

Last weekend at the Jersey Devil, Jalapeno Cycling founder, Kathryn Cumming, grabbed her very first state road championship. Usually more focused on heading towards the cyclocross season this late in the Summer, Kathryn explains her decision to enter the race, and how her win played out.

by Kathryn Cumming

When I signed up for the Jersey Devil State Championship Road Race, I had only raced twice in 2019, and my last event was on April 6. Overall I’ve been feeling great on the bike. It’s been a fun spring and summer of riding and my power numbers and Strava segment times have been improving. Yet, I had not competed against my peers in months. The unknown always presents a mental challenge, and I started experiencing some pre-race nervousness on Saturday. It was tough to know how I would do. I focused on my primary goals of having fun and training some big efforts before cyclocross season.

I was excited about the course which consisted of 4.5 mile laps with almost 400 feet of climbing per lap. My field would race eight laps. Climbing and physically demanding races typically suit me. I do not enjoy sitting in a group at a moderate pace. If the pace was slow, my plan was to attack and see what I could do.

Lap one was pretty steady and the group stayed together. It did not take long for things to get interesting on lap two, though.

A breakaway of five was established on the climb early in lap two. One of the most experienced racers coached us into a paceline after the descent. The group worked well together to keep the pace high and solidly our gap over the rest of the field. With lots of climbing, it appeared like it would become a race of attrition on the hill.

We dropped one of the five racers on lap four and then one more racer two or three laps later thanks to a well timed increase in the pace from one of my competitors, Shaina Kravitz. Our breakaway was down to Shaina, Austin Barth, and me. On each of the remaining laps, we continued to work well together, trading pulls and keeping the pace steady and strong.

During the climb on the last two laps, I moved out of the paceline to ride next to or behind the other women in the breakaway. I wanted to be able to see an attack rather than have someone launch one from behind me and catch me off guard. They were both maintaining great pace up the climb and I was unsure I would be able to chase down a move from the front of the group.

I would love to pretend I felt in control and dictated the pace for the entire race, but I definitely felt the intensity on the last two climbs. On the final go around, my legs were really heavy on the steep, early part of the climb and my heart rate soared. Thoughts such as “you’ve had a good race so a podium would be solid” started to creep into my mind. I worked to re-frame my outlook, focusing on embracing the intensity. Heart rate stayed high and I stared at the wheel in front of me, holding it and thinking you got this. No one made a significant move on that climb, and we started the downhill together.

As we descended for the final time, I knew I did not want to end up riding at the front of the group. We had a big gap and I knew the cat-and-mouse tactics were going to start as soon as we approached the flats. Typically, when riding in a paceline, one rider will pull off the front and the next will come through to do the work. However, with full use of the lane and the goal of having ideal legs and positioning for the sprint, when, Shaina, the leader went to pull off, Austin and I just stayed on her wheel and followed her across the lane. We wound our way back and forth across the road with the finish line getting closer. I knew the 100 meter mark would be my attacking point. I made sure I was in my drops and was ready to shift one more time. It seems like Shaina had the same plan. We both launched our sprint at almost the same time, and I moved to her left and was able to overtake her just before the line to take the win.

Right after I rolled across the line, my legs totally cramped. It was actually quite satisfying to push that deep and fully commit to the sprint. It was extra special to take the win on a road bike Andrew designed. Riding and racing are a family affair for us, and I'm lucky to have his support.

I’ve never won a sprint in a 1/2/3 road race or crit, but I’ve been working on my top end power and we finished almost all of our 2019 group rides with a sprint point. I have been sprinting against some strong guys in these training rides which has really helped my confidence. This may have been the first race elite race where I truly felt I could win the sprint.

The positive energy surrounding the event reminded me of a cyclocross race. Everyone wanted to race hard, but was then excited to chat about the race and support one another after we crossed the finish line. Before and after the race I was able to catch up with friends and exchange hugs and high fives.

Last season I suffered a bit of burnout. I’ll touch on it more in another post, but after that experience, I wondered how I would feel when I returned to racing. The atmosphere, energy, and intensity of the event confirmed that I do love to race my bike! Even if I hadn’t won, it is exactly how I would want to spend a Sunday morning. Now I am even more excited for cross season!

Opinion: Lucinda Brand Isn't Going to Drastically Change the Way She Dismounts Anytime Soon

At the highest level of cyclocross, technique becomes less of a matter of right and wrong, and more of a matter of risk vs. reward. While amateurs and faux pros might be able to benefit from unsolicited advice, the world caliber riders are intentionally choosing to practice and implement a personal technique. Kathryn Cumming examines the World Championships and the reactions in light of a dominant 2018-2019 season by Lucinda Brand.

by Kathryn Cumming

If you watched the Women’s Cyclocross World Championships over the weekend, you probably gasped along with the rest of the cycling community when Lucinda Brand hit the ground during a bike exchange in the pits. Brand was riding at the front of the race and the botched exchange allowed a group to pass her and sent her on the chase. A pre-race favorite, Brand finished in second. If you have not watched the race, the entire duration is worth checking out. The women put on a show!

Predictably, following Brand’s crash, social media blew up with opinions. Some were quick to say that Brand would not have crashed if she had used a different dismount technique, that she should have unclipped her left foot and rested it on the pedal before dismounting. As you can imagine, the Brand incident provided a good opportunity for racers and coaches who use this method to highlight a worst case scenario at the front of the world stage.

Watching the replays over and over was a good reminder technique is personal. While unclipping your left foot early works for many racers, the majority of the top cyclocross racers in the world choose to dismount differently. Most unclip their left foot as they are dismounting. Presumably they feel confident they can unclip in time and consider this to be a faster way of dismounting.

As the top racers come into the pits, many dismount and hand off their bikes with different styles. Katie Compton unweights herself from her left pedal by pushing off of her right arm on her top tube while dismounting. Marianne Vos often steps-thru during races, placing her right foot in front of her left as she dismounts (making the unweighting process even more vital). And Lucinda Brand, as we saw, keeps both hands on the hoods as she prepares to unclip the left foot.

I am certain Compton, Vos, and Brand all know about the option to unclip their left foot and rest it on the pedal prior to dismounting. They still choose not to. At the top of the sport, each second makes a massive difference. Elite racers will often weigh risk versus reward in a different way than a local racer. These women were all racing to win, not just to ensure they stayed upright. Vos can win a World Cup by attacking the barriers with her step-thru speed. If the goal is to win, this is working for her.

I also have a feeling these women crash less than the majority of racers. Saturday’s fall just came at a high profile time.

Andrew and I choose to dismount differently from each other. I actually first learned to step-thru, but after several unnecessary crashes, realized it was not for me. Vos, on the other hand, can clearly execute the step-thru under pressure. I now dismount with both hands on my hoods. I am more confident approaching an obstacle at speed in this stance rather than with my right hand on my top tube. Andrew opts to use his top tube to unweight himself, and will often risk stepping-thru when the barriers are designed with a high speed approach.

Our household has attended clinics with Jeremy Powers and Tim Johnson, and each taught dismounting. Both men choose to unclip their left foot as they are dismounting rather than ahead of time. While some may find this to be risky, it is worth noting they have each won several Elite National Championships with the technique, so it can be considered effective.

To go along with our different dismounts, Andrew and I also use different pedals. Andrew rides Crank Brothers Candy pedals, while I ride the Ritchey WCS XC pedals which use a cleat nearly identical to a Shimano SPD. He appreciates how easy it is to unclip from the Crank Brothers in any condition, while I feel more stable when pedaling on an SPD-style pedal. I agree with Andrew’s assessment for himself, but we have chosen different priorities.

This is my long-winded way to explain that there is no right or wrong, but a preference combined with a tolerance to accept certain risks. The best racers in the world spend ridiculous amounts of time riding their bikes and working with experts in the field. Most likely, they have chosen their technique and riding style for a reason.

My biggest takeaway from the race was Brand’s on-course response to the crash. She reacted with unbelievable composure as she immediately popped up, grabbed a fresh bike, and began chasing. There was no pity party during the race. She was pure focus and this is one of the reasons she is at the top of the sport. It is a reminder to all of us that mistakes happen. Once the mishap has occurred, you can only control your response. Brand’s response showed a mental strength to which we can all aspire. Plus she has an insane number of watts on the straightaways!

Sanne Cant rode a flawless race and deserved to win the rainbow stripes, but I was okay with seeing Brand take a few tumbles. On a slick course with changing corners, Brand pushed the limits rather than focusing on just reducing risk. It came with the consequence of second place, but I appreciate that she raced for first rather than just accepting second.

Riding smooth is definitely fast, but do not let the risk of a slip-up hold you back. A bobble in a corner is far different than an epic, bike-breaking spill. Mathieu van der Poel had to put a foot out several times early in Sunday’s men’s race, but he was much smoother after he attacked. He found the traction limits early, pushed when needed, and was rewarded with the win.

I love cheering for people who are willing to go all in, who are willing to risk vulnerability and exposing weakness for success. We can all sit on our couches and talk about their mistakes, but their full commitment to a result is one of the reasons we are at home on the internet while they are racing.

In the heat of the moment when excitement and heart rates are high, mistakes happen from racers and mechanics. The incredible depth of the elite women’s field is allowing us to see riders push their speed and bike handling to the extreme.

Personally, after getting dropped by so many of these women at the Bern World Cup, I am taking notes for next season.

Revised Resolutions: Try Cyclocross This Fall! Our 2018-19 Development Season in Pictures

Revised Resolutions: Try Cyclocross This Fall! Our 2018-19 Development Season in Pictures

The 2019 World Cyclocross Championships are wrapping up its final day today, so we at Jalapeno Cycling are looking back at our 2018-19 season with our development team. We wanted to congratulate all of our athletes on a great year!

We’ve had a great year of personal and team successes, and more importantly, loads of fun. It was a muddy season, and for everyone who has muscled through the year, here’s to a mix of dry and wet races next season!

Never tried cyclocross before, and live in the NJ/NYC area? Consider marking in Jalapeno Cycling’s Cyclocross Development Team as the New Year’s Resolution you don’t have to start until the late summer! Every year, Jalapeno Cycling takes riders with little to no experience, and guides them through a season by preparing everyone with fitness training and cyclocross-specific techniques.


Facing the Best: Swiss World Cup Race Report

Facing the Best: Swiss World Cup Race Report

Last week, Jalapeno Cycling’s owner, Kathryn Cumming, was invited to compete in the World Cup in Bern, which is a special treat as only a limited amount of racers from each country are allowed to participate. The culture, environment, and level of competition are far different than a local race, or even a standard American UCI race. Today, Kate writes about what it was like to head to Europe to race against the best in the world.

words by Kathryn Cumming, title photo by Elisa Haumesser.

Andrew and I were excited to travel to Switzerland. The opportunity to race a World Cup doesn’t come around often, but the location of this event also played a big role in our decision to attend. We try to take advantage of exploring everywhere we go, and a quick Google search of the Old World city of Bern had us convinced that this was going to be an awesome trip!

I must admit that I was intimidated looking at the start list. I had only watched several of the top contenders on TV, and I still remember spectating in awe as Marianne Vos won the World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky. Vos is a legend and being on course with her was going to be special but brutal.

There are plenty of races at home where I still get my butt kicked, but the best in the world were converging on Bern, Switzerland, and it was going to be worthwhile to check it out. Fields that deep have a way of pushing me to my limit. The energy that accompanies these deep athletic efforts carries well beyond the event itself, and I find myself striving to be better. The intensity and drive is contagious.

My experience racing World Cups is limited, but the feel of racing a European World Cup is very different than racing an American World Cup. Unless you are at the front of the field (which I am not in a World Cup), American World Cups feel more like a local race. You know who you are battling and it’s mostly known factors. Often the races play out as expected. On the other hand, in European World Cups, there is an unknown to many of the competitors, and it forces you to be on your toes for the entire race.

It was helpful to see some familiar faces during the pre-ride, and Katie Compton’s husband, Mark Legg, was kind enough to offer support and advice for the American women throughout the weekend.

Our first success of race day came when Andrew and I scored a great parking spot. Parking in the UCI lots in Europe can be an ordeal, as the spaces are tight and limited and everything is being guarded by European mechanics and team managers. Most areas are covered in a haze of cigarette smoke. Each team setup even has ashtrays for the support staff; it seems a little counterproductive for an athletic-focused event.

Much like the World Cup in France and those in America, the environment around the race was upbeat, with smiling faces and cheering families. The course was like one big playground, with drainage ditches, bunny hopping, and ramps. Europe has been dry all fall, and the gravel and grass seemed more like dust in many areas. It was going to be FAST!

After Andrew and I watched the Junior Men’s start, the rest of my day became consumed with self talk. The start was so fast I stood in awe. This race was going to be as fast as they come and I needed to remind myself that I deserved to be there.

During my warm-up on the trainer, I played through some of my racing successes in my head, a necessary positive reinforcement that I could handle the speed.

After receiving my call-up, I went full Euro-mode and proceeded to cram my front wheel between the riders in front of me on the starting grid. While we remain in orderly lines in the US, in Europe you fight for every millimeter before the light even turns green. Our eight-row starting grid was probably condensed to four rows. My handlebars were between the hips of the riders in front of me, elbows out, ready to go.

About thirty seconds or so before the start, they cut the music and started playing a heart beat loudly over the speakers. Nothing like growing the tension. You could visibly see the shoulders of riders tighten up. I kept breathing trying to relax. The start was long and there would be plenty of time to move up.

The light turned green and I found my pedal right away. It finally felt like all of my top-end power work paid off as I snuck through every opening I could find. I had to take advantage of gaps or else they would close instantly. We turned on to the gravel with speed, and rocks were flying everywhere. I kept sprinting to move up every time I saw an opening. Next we hopped a curb onto a grass straightaway filled with rock gardens. It was a pure drag race to maintain power through the bumps and avoid the booby traps waiting to claim a tire or wheel.

We hopped the drainage ditch and I heard a handful of clangs, several carbon wheels didn’t survive. We then hit the dusty off-camber climbs. They were steep and slippery and I had dismounted and was running with traffic before I even hit the first of the three climbs. In an effort to gain spots, I was running downhill as fast as possible, desperately grabbing the wooden stake at the bottom with my left hand to slow myself in time.

Racers were battling for every corner like it was the last on course. A half lap in my mouth already had the metallic taste of blood. This was going to be crazy.

The pace did not slow, and at one point I remember thinking “How is everyone riding that section so fast,” then I had to remember that I was racing in a European World Cup. There was nowhere to hide your weaknesses.

For the first time ever in a race, I desperately drafted through the start/finish chute. I frantically chased down the wheels in front of me when I hit the pavement, thinking this was my only chance at survival. As soon as I caught the wheels, I had to tell myself “BREATHE, BREATHE.”

I felt great on the power sections and through the corners, but chasing on after the bunny hopping and loose, rutted corners eventually took its toll. I started moving backwards in the field. The tank was pretty empty and all of the downhill running and sprinting were making my quads feel like they could seize up at any minute.

For the first time in probably five years, I rolled through the finish feeling proud that I made the lead lap. The race truly made every crit and road race I have done in the last several years feel slow, and with Marianne Vos leading the charge, I was excited to have kept the time gap from her to me somewhat reasonable.

I knew I would not be going to Europe to score some incredible result. This opportunity was all about racing against the best in the world. Although, I must admit, with a bit more training of my weaknesses, I would love another crack at that field.

It was helpful to have complete confidence in my bike. While the course may have looked like a road race, there were lots of rough, bumpy sections, several loose and dusty off cambers, ruts, and steep climbs. Furthermore, we were hitting course obstacles at faster speeds than I thought possible. The risk factor was high. My Sage PDXCX held its line through everything and then responded to each acceleration. It played mountain bike, road bike, and cross bike without missing a beat. While I was exhausted after the race, my body did not feel thrashed from the bike, just from the intensity.

Thinking about the race still gets me excited. Being surrounded by the top level of competition and having to fight for every spot was so much fun!

Cyclocross racing is short and I would not have it any other way. While it can be enjoyable to see how long and far your body can go, my preference is to be fully consumed by the event. Every pedal stroke, every line, every heartbeat, and every breath seem to matter during a cyclocross race, and I find myself wanting more of this each week.

I am blown away by the support I received from our community, both in Bern and from afar. Bikes bring people together in a special way, and the text messages, emails, and words of encouragement really hit home.

Best Cyclocross Venue in the United States: 2018 Charm City Cyclocross Race Report

Best Cyclocross Venue in the United States: 2018 Charm City Cyclocross Race Report

Charm City Cyclocross is one of Jalapeno Cycling’s perennial favorite races on the cyclocross calendar. Not only is the course tough, but it continues to get more interesting with each year. Charm City holds plenty of memories, too. It was the final 3/4 race Kate competed in before moving up to the UCI fields, and two years later, it was the first time she landed on an UCI podium in the United States. Today, she reflects on what makes the race special, looking back at her performance from last weekend.

by Kathryn Cumming

Charm City Cyclocross is a race weekend like no other. I cherish every aspect of the weekend, from the punishing but fun racing, to the competitive fields, to the social and uplifting atmosphere.


This year my parents made the trip, only adding to the enjoyment. They’ve been selflessly supporting my passions since I was a kid, and they make the experience better in every possible way, assisting with coffee runs, dog walking, pit support, and cheering.

The Charm City event continues to impress me every year. They have grown into one of the biggest race weekends in the country while still maintaining a grassroots feel. Course features have become more demanding but are still safe and doable for the entry level fields, and the promoters continue to give prime tent space to club row rather than focusing solely on the pro teams. As a faux pro team, we fully support this move!


Many racers, myself included, were scrambling to make sure the mud tires were ready when we arrived to discover a waterlogged course this year. Pre-riding was interesting because I wanted to inspect the sloppy course sections, but the limited number of hoses and power washers meant it was difficult to get my bikes cleaned up. I resorted to one full pre-ride, several partial laps on the dry sections of the course, and a significant amount of time spectating to determine the best line choices. I hate being rushed on race day, and knowing my bikes were washed well before my race puts me in a better mental state.


With a star studded front row featuring the most recent World Cup winner, Kaitlin Keough Saturday was full gas from the start. I actually made good use of my call-up, and thanks to some practice sessions with Andrew, I was able to slot into the top ten or fifteen right away. From there I used the running sections and long climbs to move solidly into the top ten.

I must admit I was surprised when someone ran the stairs with me and then accelerated past me on the climb, leaving me in eighth place. I take pride in making passes on the run-ups. Then I realized it was Georgia Gould (two time mountain bike Olympian) and it all made more sense. I’m targeting for her next time, though.


Ninth place was charging hard behind me. She had me on the limit as we hit the final mud pit of the second to last lap and I slid out and found myself laying on the ground. I was able to recover before she could bridge and went all in on the final climb to solidify the gap with a half lap to go. Erring on the safe side, I dismounted and ran the mud right before the finishing chute to ensure I didn’t crash myself out of eighth.

This was not my best race as far as formal result, but based on the competition and the way I felt on course, this race felt like one of my best ever.


Sunday was a different story. I have struggled in the heat and humidity this year, and day two of Charm City was no different. My start was not great, but I was able to make up some places on the long grass climb that was part of the prologue. From there, I settled in until the scaffolding stairs when I made a big move to pass four women. I knew this section was a strength, but after I jumped the group, my legs blew up.


This is the same reaction I had in Roanoke when I pulled out of the race on day two. In the heat, my body just couldn’t recover from a big effort like it normally can. My legs were powerless like they were in Roanoke, but unlike Roanoke, I was not experiencing symptoms of heat-related illness. Knowing I was not risking my health or safety, I stuck it out to roll in for sixteenth, bleeding places until the very end.

As awesome as it is to have a great race like I did on Saturday, it’s uplifting to feel the support from the cyclocross community when the race doesn’t go as planned. The hugs, high fives, and watermelon slices meant more on day two. The cyclocross community shows respect for everyone who races, and it’s one of the many components that keeps me coming back every week.


Racing Tactical Cross: 2018 KMC Race Report

Racing Tactical Cross: 2018 KMC Race Report

Last weekend, Kathryn Cumming grabbed a podium spot at the 2018 edition of KMC Cyclo-Cross Festival. Today, she reflects on the nature of the pavement track course, as well as tactical nature of the race.

by Kathryn Cumming

Sunday’s KMC race was going to feel more like a crit than a cross race. There was a lot of pavement on course and at points we were able to use the entire width of an auto race track. The technical features were fast and short with a lot of off-cambers.

Honestly, the course felt like it just packed all of my weaknesses into each lap. The wide-open, paved straightaways would promote group racing and tactics, and the transitions were comprised of loose gravel. Give me grass and mud instead!


I spent a lot of time pre-riding, doing four or five laps to get my mental outlook in the right place. I needed to switch from focusing on my weaknesses to enjoying the ride. It worked; while KMC would never be my favorite course, throughout my pre-rides I gained an appreciation for the different features and the skillset that would help you excel during the race.

My goals for the race were to make the lead group and practice racing at the front. Races always feel different when you are out front compared to when you are just chasing as hard as you can.


I definitely wanted to contest for the win as well, and I chose my tire pressure accordingly, running significantly more pressure than normal. The racing was going to be close, and I knew I was competing against successful road racers, so I figured I would try to grab an advantage where I could. I wanted my tires to roll fast and decided it was worth it to have less traction in the loose corners.

The race started off on a long, paved straightaway. I battled for position at the start and was able to move up to approximately the top six as I made a few more passes on the pavement. The first feature, which would prove decisive later in my race, was an off camber corner with a high line and a low line. The low line was the better choice to ride. With the leaders going low in a single file fashion, I dismounted and ran the high line to grab a few more places.


We rode as a group until the end of lap one, when there was a bit of crashing and tangling up at the final feature before the short climb to the finish line. Everyone recovered quickly, with a lone leader attacking and our chase group of three forming. I pretty much just stayed on the front and we were able to bring the leader back by the end of the lap and then drop her on the following lap.

At this point, the battle became tactical. With the exception of a bobble or two, I led our group of three for most of the race. Tactics may have said to pull off and let someone else work, but I was trying to play into my strengths and open up gaps where I could.

In general, I am more of a diesel type of racer who likes to gradually pull away, and while I could grab a one or two second gap here and there, I couldn’t quite make a big enough move to open things up.

With two or three laps to go, I bobbled on the first off camber corner of the lap. All in all, I just hadn’t mastered the feature, and the two I was riding with it knew this. I tried to attack as we hit the pavement near the start of the last lap, but it wasn’t enough. They bridged back and attacked me on the off camber, opening up a gap I couldn’t close. I eventually rolled in for third.


While I probably would’ve preferred some slower course features, like more climbing and running, one of the great aspects of cyclocross is that we race on different courses every weekend. This forces racers to be well-rounded and also keeps the results exciting. Combine this with all of the competition in the women’s field and there is never a dull moment in UCI racing.

I try not to focus too much on good days or bad days, as we are all going to experience both, but it always feels good to land on a UCI podium!

A Taste of Belgium in New Jersey: Bridgeton Cross Race Report

A Taste of Belgium in New Jersey: Bridgeton Cross Race Report

Bridgeton Cross, formerly Beacon Cross, is an iconic New Jersey cyclocross race held at the southern tip to the state. Between a wicked run up, heart-pummeling beach runs, and get-lost-in-the-woods tracks, it is a race not to miss. The Jalapeno Cycling team ventured down last weekend. Both Kate and Andrew have offered their race reports below. All photos by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling


Kathryn Cumming’s Race Report:

I got the hole shot!!!

After Nittany Lion, I was really focused on improving my starts. I spent a significant amount of time in the off-season working on all aspects of my top end power, from strength to speed, from five second power to one minute power. I improved and have enjoyed using this power around the course. I’m accelerating faster and gapping riders on short straightaways.

My starts, however, have needed more than just power. UCI cyclocross starts are chaotic and aggressive. There is a battle for position and with precious points on the line, everyone is eager to get the upper hand. If you leave an opening because you’re being “safe,” someone will take it. That is smart racing, and while I sometimes back down and settle in, I’m excited to get in the mix a bit more at the starts.

Last Sunday the New Jersey Cyclocross Cup kicked off with Bridgeton Cross. Bridgeton has one of the best courses around for racers. The promoters manage to connect some crazy run ups and a beach to wooded double track. The course rides heavy and while it is technical, there’s still plenty of room to pass.

This race offered the perfect opportunity to work on my start. A long, paved prologue followed by a wet corner offered a start that mimicked a UCI race. With some great competition toeing the line (we are fortunate to have a stacked lineup at local races), I wanted to attack from the whistle and be at the front around the first corner. From there, the rest of the race would be about enjoying the fun course.

Mission accomplished! I got off the line first and held my advantage into the dirt. Once we were in the woods, I was passed and lap one was a back and forth battle. After we started the second lap, I opened up a gap and was sitting in first, but Laura Van Gilder was on fire. She looked like she was cruising on dry pavement when she passed me towards the end of lap two (I think, races blend together a bit for me) and the gap just continued to open.

I worked my way around the course, enjoying the turns, running, and trying to embrace how heavy my legs felt. It was enough to roll in for second.


It was a perfect day to improve your handling skills. Grit was causing brake pads to fail all over the course, which meant you had to plan your lines, make good decisions, and stay relaxed. It was important to pedal through the slick sections and avoid oversteering. I was caught fish tailing more than once, but was pleased that all of my time on the trails has me feeling composed in these situations.

For me, local races are treated like practice. I focus on one key aspect of the race and other than that just enjoy the ride. Cyclocross racing takes significant energy and it is tough to push yourself to the limit every weekend. The details really do make a difference, but there is only so much time you can put in to prepping bikes, food, and clothing. Local races offer a chance to go out to dinner the night before and throw a bike on the hitch rack in the morning with the same relaxed nature as if you’re heading out for a training ride.

On Sunday, this approach offered the added “benefit” of my lacking mud tires on a slip and slide kind of day. Between deteriorating brake pads and a lack of traction, I definitely learned a thing or two about line choice and maintaining forward momentum.


If you raced on Sunday afternoon, you got a taste of what racing in Europe feels like. My experience there is incredibly limited, but the courses are heavy, you’re running a lot, and you pretty much feel like your legs have been weighted with cinder blocks. We are lucky to have such a great course right here in NJ!

Andrew Reimann’s Race Report:

Last year at Bridgeton Cross was a bit bittersweet for me. My fitness and technical prowess weren’t anywhere close to where they are now, but I gave everything to keep away from being lapped by Philly’s UCI male cyclocross hero, Dan Chabanov. I barely made my goal, crossing the finish line just before Dan turned on to the finishing pavement for his final sprint. Because I was so close to being lapped, the USAC officials opted to pull me from riding my final lap anyway. I was plenty bummed not to get my full hour-plus race in.

This summer, I trained my threshold far more than my high-end power. Fresh sprinting has always come natural to me, but maintaining power and recovering from loads of lactic acid surges are not my strong suit.


Kate helped me put together a training program leading up to the cyclocross season to train my weaknesses. I also opted to take the Alec Donahue/Scott Smith approach, and train all summer on 32mm road tires off-road.

I’m not suddenly at the front of every Elite race, and I’m not foolish enough to think that gains come that quickly, but I could feel that the training more than paid off this year at Bridgeton. I was able to fight my way up the pack at the start. It wasn’t anywhere close to Kate’s holeshot, but I slotted into sixth after the prologue.

Then came the corners. They were an absolute joy. I felt almost spoiled getting to grip around those muddy Bridgeton corners with a meaty tread rather than the slicks I was used to. Both the tight course and getting pummeled with rain meant that the pack split up fully in the second lap, and everyone was doing their own time trial in the woods with other riders barely in sight.


I was really having fun in the woods. I completely ignored that stupid voice that comes on in the middle of a cyclocross race, telling you that you’re falling behind, or that it would be easier just to pull off and create some excuse for the bad showing.

Still, I figured that people were pulling out behind me, and it was inevitable for the leaders to come around and almost lap me like last year. I just made peace with it, and tried to perfect every corner. There was a downhill hairpin into a flat back section where I was dabbing a foot and taking off much faster than I would have been trying to ride it. There were a few sections I experimented with, seeing if I could intentionally fishtail my back tire around tight corners.

Instead of worrying about getting lapped, I was just trying to have the best ride I could, finding an overwhelming sense of calmness in the chaos of the mud and cheering.

By the time I finally finished seven laps, I raised my hand to the promoters, and thanked them for letting me finish the last lap instead of pulling me. I got a few raised eyebrows, and the promoter started laughing and joking around.

I didn’t realize until soon after that I had finished more than comfortably ahead of getting lapped. Pulling me wasn’t even in question. I had split a proper Mid-Atlantic Elite field in half for the first time in my life.

As one of the co-owners of Jalapeno Cycling, I should reiterate that we are the exclusive New Jersey dealer of Sage Titanium bikes, so obviously I have a bias (added to this is that Kate is the exclusive UCI rider on Sage Titanium Bikes). However, I would be remiss in not mentioning that I was able to take out the shop’s Sage PDXCX demo bike for this race. Its back-end tracked those tight corners insanely well, and descending singletrack is a dream on that machine. We do have several demo sizes in stock that we are happy to bring along with us, so be sure to reach out to me by email if you are looking to see how West Coast titanium rides out here!


Chasing Back On: 2018 Nittany Lion Cyclocross Race Report

Chasing Back On: 2018 Nittany Lion Cyclocross Race Report

This year at Nittany Lion Cyclocross, Jalapeno Cycling Co-Founder and Main Faux Pro Rider, Kathryn Cumming, grabbed to top-ten finishes in an international field. At both days, the start of her race did not go as planned, so this week, Kate’s race report looks at coming back from the unexpected.

words by Kathryn Cumming, photos by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

Both days of Nittany Lion cross played out similarly for me. The short version of the weekend is that getting caught up in the chaos at the start left me chasing the lead group to get a good place at the finish.

On Saturday, while we were hammering the prologue, I heard a loud clang and hoped it was no big deal. Turns out that the fork of the rider behind me went into my rear wheel, leaving me with several broken spokes. I tried to stop a few times in hopes of suddenly becoming a race mechanic, but with no ability to fix the wheel and keep the spokes out of my brake rotor, I pedaled with loud noises to the pits. My friend Willem was waiting with my second bike and away I went, about one minute or so behind the back of the field. With nothing to lose I went all in, picking off as much of the field as I could. I made one final pass with half a lap to go to ride in for eighth. I proceeded to fall over soon after.


I enjoyed chasing so much on Saturday that I decided to let everyone pass me at the start of Sunday’s race. We hit a mud bottleneck pretty quickly in the lap and I did not battle aggressively enough for position prior to this point. Well out of the top ten, I set my sights on the lead group and started digging every chance I could get. I gradually made up spots and was sitting in 9th with 1.5 laps to go. I could hear words of encouragement all over the course and went all in on the stairs to make up ground on a group of three. I eventually caught this group during a series of tight turns that came near the end of the lap. With nowhere to pass, I recovered here and jumped the group through the start/finish chute as we heard the bell. I knew I had to go crazy in the straightaway that followed to make the pass stick. Fortunately this effort put 5th place in my field of vision.


Knowing the stairs are a strength of mine and wanting to get ahead before the tight woods section, I took the longest, most powerful strides I could to get up the stairs, telling myself that cramping would be better than not trying. This allowed me to slide into 5th. I held my position in front through the woods, then put in an attack to give myself room before the final corners. The effort was rewarded, and I held on to 5th, once again hitting the ground as soon as I rolled off course.


The cyclocross community continues to amaze me every weekend. Hearing my name around the course was a huge motivator and truly kept me going while my mouth hung open, desperately trying to grab any oxygen I could. Friends showed a contagious enthusiasm for everyone’s race efforts. And when all the competition wrapped up, post race hugs, high fives, and watermelon slices were shared amongst the field.

Nittany Lion Cross was the perfect reminder of why we race. I truly loved taking on the course and seeing how hard I could go. At one point I was so exhausted my head dropped and I almost hit a course stake on a straightaway. Fortunately, words of support from a photographer brought me back to life at the right time. This feeling of being completely depleted is something I cherish.

I would be lying if I didn’t mention that I’ve spent the last few days trying to figure out how to be more aggressive at the start of races. While I do enjoy the chase, losing 15-20 spots in the first 300 yards can pretty much remove any chance at a podium. However, I can still walk away from the weekend with complete clarity regarding the way I spend my time and energy. Regardless of the result, I will continue to dress up in bright colored lycra to ride circles in grass fields with friends.


“We definitely did NOT win, but there were snacks!” These words of wisdom came from my five year old nephew, Noel, after his first soccer game on Saturday, and pretty much reflected my race weekend. Noel told me all about how hard he worked on the soccer field, how he kept trying even though he was losing, and how he and his friends had snacks after the game. As I processed that conversation, I realized how similar our weekends were. As a 32 year old, I am lucky enough to share the same enthusiasm for my weekends as a 5 year old.

Three Big Tips for Racing Cyclocross in the Mud: Whirlybird Race Report

Three Big Tips for Racing Cyclocross in the Mud: Whirlybird Race Report

This weekend at Whirlybird, Kathryn Cumming grabbed a first place in the Women’s Elite Field! It was a power-sucking course, forcing riders to churn at low cadences, as you can see from Kate’s strava file from the race. This week, Kate offers three major tips on how she was able to approach the course differently from the standard dry and grassy race day. (Title photo taken by Lauren Twombly).

by Kathryn Cumming

Whirlybird was awesome! After suffering in the heat in Virginia over Labor Day weekend, I was pleasantly surprised to see rain and cooler temperatures in the forecast for Sunday’s race in PA.

In the past, this race has played out like a grass crit, complete with drafting and tactics. While I completely respect this style of racing, I was excited to experience a race with heavier conditions so early in the season.

By the time my field was going off, almost everything between the tape was wet mud. We would be slogging through every stretch of the course and would even be pedaling the downhills, trying to maintain traction and forward momentum anyway we could.

A long straightaway at the start gave me time to find my pedal and get the holeshot. I was overtaken by two riders after the first corner and followed them downhill. As we flipped a 180 and started trudging up a muddy climb, we all began picking our own lines while climbing as quickly as possible.

After a few corners and climbs, gaps began to open and I drilled a long straightaway heading towards the pits. This gave me enough room to focus on riding the slick sections smoothly and cleanly and then apply big power when I could to gain more time.

It was fun to catch up with the local race scene and to grab my first win of the season!

There were three deciding factors for me in the race:

1. Seated Power: Being able to maintain power while pedaling seated at a low cadence was essential. If you needed to stand to generate power or your saddle height was too high and you could not get enough leverage on your cranks, you would lose traction with your rear wheel and forward momentum would be lost. This type of pedaling is something we train ourselves and with cyclocross coaching clients to prepare for heavy, slick conditions.

2. Proper line choice: Cyclocross courses are usually pretty wide and choosing where to ride between (or pushing against) the course tape saved a lot of time and energy. The center of the course and the apex of each corner was a muddy mess. My entire focus was on looking for green anywhere I could. Frequently this meant pushing against the course tape with my handlebars, elbows, and hips to expand the course and get some extra traction. It also meant taking less conventional lines through the corners to avoid the slop. The goal was to find green wherever I could: grass = traction.

3. Riding vs running obstacles: I decided to run the log and off-camber obstacles. Both of these obstacles were rideable, however, I felt riding would be slower and less consistent. The approach to the log was after a really slick section of mud in the woods. You had to clear several roots en route to the log and your legs would be heavy when you went to hop. Furthermore, the easiest point to hop the log was on the right, but the ideal entrance and exit were on the left. While the dismount may have cost me a second, I am confident I made up more time by approaching the log with speed and exiting along the ideal line which had the most traction. Similarly, the off camber was slick and sketchy. A dismount at the top of the downhill guaranteed you would clear the section smoothly. In my field, this is where second place was decided, with one woman choosing to ride and falling while the other ran cleanly through the section and opened up a gap.

These were three great tools to have for a constant-power muddy race, but they are not universal for all cyclocross races (which is a part of what makes this sport so fun). Looking ahead at the weather, the Nittany Lion UCI weekend is looking like a return to a hot, fast course!

There will be loads of tips, power files, and cyclocross advice for both sides of the race tape to come. If you’re interested in being the first in the know, be sure to sign up for Jalapeno Cycling's weekly newsletter!

Race Report and Power File: Jalapeno Cycling's First 2018-19 Cyclocross Race at Go Cross

Race Report and Power File: Jalapeno Cycling's First 2018-19 Cyclocross Race at Go Cross

The cyclocross season began last weekend in Roanoke, Virginia, at the GoCross Cyclocross race. Saturday saw a nice muddy course while heat and humidity reigned on Sunday. You can see Kathryn Cumming's race data file here, showing that the GoCross was a course defined by loads of consistent pedaling and little recovery. Kate's heart rate spiked at 192 bpm by lap two and held above her usual race average. Be sure to stay tuned for more race reports and power files as the season continues!

by Kathryn Cumming

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

As the season opener approaches, there is always a sense of uncertainty. It’s easy to second guess the work you did in the off season. 

I have very rarely started the season off with my best results. It seems to take me a few races to find my sharpness. To counteract this in the past, I have managed to hit training races before the UCI season kicks off, but with a crazy August schedule, this year was all about fun in Roanoke. I knew I worked hard and was stronger and more skilled than this time last year, so the plan was to enjoy racing the course. 

The course was fast and flowy. It was easy to carry speed through everything, meaning attacks would be necessary for gaps to stick. 

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

I decided to lower expectations during my start on Saturday, when I missed my pedal and briefly took a break by sitting on my top tube. While it looked a bit ridiculous, this was my biggest victory of the weekend: I was able to recover quickly and pick up a bunch of spots by the time I was up the first climb. I actually found myself in a better position after the first few corners than in many past races. Some of the training was paying off.

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

I jumped on some fast wheels and fought to stay near the big, strung out group of leaders. In doing so, I tested and exceeded my limits, sliding out a few times around corners. At this point, despite my hammering, the gaps remained and I entered that dark but oddly energizing place where you see how how much you can keep pushing. This tunnel vision can be invigorating as you test both your physical and mental abilities. 

After almost four solo laps, I crossed the line in 9th.

As I met Andrew and my parents (who are amazing and traveled all the way from Michigan) after the finish, I could do nothing more than smile and lay down. I rode as hard as I could and my heart rate data very much confirms this (you know I like data!). There are obviously ways to improve, but if there weren’t, I wouldn’t continue racing every weekend.

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

Sunday was a different story. Temperatures were brutal and my body just didn’t respond the way I wanted. I was trading places with a few women and on about the third lap, I put in a dig to try and solidify the gap. This spike in my heart rate put me into the red and I just couldn’t recover. I was squirting water on myself, but started getting goosebumps and chills. At this point, the lights went out and I was done. I had to pull out of the race.

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

A DNF always leaves you questioning yourself, but Andrew and my parents were there to tell me I made the right decision. For me, conditions were getting dangerous and as much as I love racing, it wasn’t worth the risk. Friends at the race and at home offered words of support that have me feeling as positive as ever about the cycling community. Every cyclocross race will have ups and downs and I’m so lucky to have a support structure that allows me to keep the right perspective.

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

photo by Andrew Reimann/Jalapeno Cycling

Overall, the speed of the races was fierce and it was difficult to recover from mistakes. This is so awesome for the women’s field! The competition makes everyone better, improves the atmosphere at races, and also means more women are putting time and energy into cyclocross. I am pumped to start my season off with a top ten and some UCI points and am excited to continue challenging myself in this elite field.

Sage Titanium Bicycles Gets Spicy for 2018, Sponsors Jalapeno Cycling's Kathryn Cumming

Sage Titanium Bicycles Gets Spicy for 2018, Sponsors Jalapeno Cycling's Kathryn Cumming

Jalapeno Cycling's Co-Founder and Team Captain, Kathryn Cumming, has been busy preparing for her cyclocross season and getting the new development team ready for the fun that awaits them. One of the worst kept secrets around the shop for the 2018-19 season is that she will be riding the smooth but stiff titanium cyclocross rigs from Sage Titanium. She is looking forward to putting her leg over the Sage and getting her season underway!

by Kathryn Cumming


If you’ve spent any time at the shop or have gone riding with me, you know I haven’t kept this a secret (I hate surprises), but it’s official: I’m going to be riding Sage Titanium bikes this cross season!

I can’t believe I get to race these dream bikes! The Sage PDXCX is the best cross bike I have ever ridden. The ride is smooth but snappy. The bike eats up bumps and tracks well through rough terrain, while still accelerating quickly. The high bottom bracket allows for constant hammering of the pedals over cyclocross specific terrain and the aggressive geometry plays nicely into attacking out of the saddle. Not to mention, the frames look fierce and are light and durable (remember, I break a lot of stuff).


I am very cautious when partnering with sponsors. Product support makes life easier and it’s always cool to announce partners, but I will only partner with brands I completely believe in; the products have to be something we can stand behind and recommend at Jalapeno Cycling and our brand values must be aligned. Between the awesome bikes and great people who are committed to cyclocross, it was an easy decision to partner with Sage!

My 2018-19 cyclocross season will include a mix of UCI races, local races, and hopefully a World Cup or two. As a shop owner and coach, the US World Cups are difficult to attend; they occur during a busy time at Jalapeno Cycling and the locations are too far for a day trip. Instead, we will be focusing on East Coast UCI races and jumping in the local scene on off weekends. The grassroots scene around the mid-Atlantic is booming. We plan to take part in this and hopefully bring some of that energy to our local New Jersey series too.


Once the cold weather leads to quieter weekends around the shop, if the opportunity arises, I will definitely get to the start line of a European World Cup.

My season will kickoff on September 1-2 in Roanoke, VA for the Deschutes Brewery’s GO Cross for the UCI C2 events. The Labor Day holiday makes it the perfect weekend for us to take a trip.

As lame as it sounds, my goal is just to have a great time out on the course! Racing cross is a blast, and I think we all race better when we are enjoying ourselves. Cross is an outlet, and while I love a good result (who doesn’t), I never want racing to become a source of stress or worry in my life. That’s not to say I haven’t been training hard. The year has been full of intervals, long days in the saddle, skills, and fun on the trails. 

I’m getting excited just writing this - let’s get the season going!


Looking to follow Jalapeno Cycling's adventures in the upcoming season? You can sign up for our newsletter here. If you are drooling over Kate's new race machine, be sure to check out the full titanium collection over at Sage Titanium!

Want to Try Cyclocross (Or Know a Friend Who Should Try It)? Applications for the Development Program Are Open NOW!

Want to Try Cyclocross (Or Know a Friend Who Should Try It)? Applications for the Development Program Are Open NOW!


What is the Jalapeno Cycling Cyclocross Development Program?

Jalapeno Cycling is a shop committed to growing cyclocross. Last year was the flagship year of our cyclocross development program, where we taught riders the skills and hosted training to set goals and have fun.

If you have never raced a cyclocross race, but want a cycling challenge, this program is PERFECT for you! We are open to accepting riders with a little experience, provided they have not raced more than four races. Why do we set this limitation? First, Kathryn Cumming, New Jersey’s top cyclocross rider, tailor makes the program for beginners to familiarize themselves with the early techniques needed to start having fun. We’re not going to be going over the far more advanced stuff! Second, instead of looking to put our jerseys on the podium, we’re more looking to grow cyclocross in the area!

We have five major goals for the program:

  1. Discover self-motivated people who have either never tried cyclocross, or those who have only raced less than five races.

  2. Prepare the development riders ahead of the season, giving them the tools they will need to both safely navigate cyclocross courses and have the most fun possible.

  3. Have all members of the team compete in six different local races during the season, helping to grow the sport in New Jersey.

  4. Help grow a community of cyclists who cheer on each other’s accomplishments.

  5. Develop a competitive but respectful spirit against other development programs.

What are we looking for?

In return for months of training and coaching, applicants will be required not only to commit to their own season, but those of their fellow devo teammates. Cyclocross is a fun discipline, but it can also be a very tough challenge on the motivation, which is doubled by the days getting darker and colder. We ask that you see your first season fully out, both for yourself and the support of your teammates.

You will be required to have a bike for the season. This can be a dedicated cyclocross bike or a mountain bike. Loaner bikes from your friends for the season are acceptable, provided that it will be 100% guaranteed available to you for all practice and race days.

Practice will be held twice a week before the season begins; a hard indoor training session in the morning during the weekday, and an outdoor skills practice in the morning on Sunday. Both of these sessions, but especially the indoor class, will become increasingly challenging as the season approaches. Riders who miss more than two training sessions may be asked to leave the program at directors' discretion.

If you are interested in the program, be sure to stay apply here!


For the Love of Type B-Personality Races: Virginia’s Monster Cross

For the Love of Type B-Personality Races: Virginia’s Monster Cross

February is outdoor cycling’s worst month, at least if you live north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Sure, cyclocross often gets its big World Championship race, followed by a few swan song events, but that’s Europe. In the United States, UCI caliber events are done and dusted in early January. For the first time in five years, Kate and I sat out the National Championships, which meant that we haven’t touched a race course since New York City’s Rainey Park.

Most years, I’m able to wait until my early March Birthday to get back into racing, often with crit events like Grant’s Tomb or the Branch Brook Park Series. But two months away from racing left us a little more champing at the bit for the start of 2018. So we decided to break tradition and find something competitive.

Cue the Monster Cross Race.

Every February, the Richmond area of Virginia holds a 50-mile gravel race, complete with closed crossings, pavement stretches, loose singletrack, and loads of fire roads. Coupled with a predicted 55 degree day, it was a hard race to pass up, especially now that Haymarket put the Monster Cross Race at the start of their new Mid-Atlantic Champions Series. Gravel in February is a new concept for both Kate and I, and so we wrote a race report on our experiences of the race below.

Andrew’s Race Report:

One of my biggest concerns leading up to this event was that unlike Kate, my outdoor rides had been practically non-existent since the cyclocross season ended. Now don’t get me wrong, my indoor training has probably never been so consistent during this time of year, but most of it is building a base for the New York City Triathlon. Loads of on the bike rides have been on my road bike, pin-pointing zones to the exact percentage: exactly the stuff you expect from a Type-A Personality bike racer in the NYC area.

The week before, I hopped on my Cross Bike and hit the trails as hard as I could. The day after, by body, and especially my quads, ached in ways I had long forgot about.

I realized my hyper-forward time trial position, complete with an ISM saddle and aero bars, was significantly different than my cyclocross bike. So in a moment of slight recklessness, I swapped the saddle and put on an absurdly aggressive stem to get me close enough to the position I had been riding in. If that wasn’t enough, I opted to run 40psi in my LAS tubulars, easily twice what I usually ride on cyclocross courses.

In short, I was really putting all my eggs in the basket that the course was well-packet and tame as I saw on the prior year race videos.

The starting grid gave me a little pause, though. At least half the hundreds of riders were on mountain bikes, and many of those on gravel bikes were rocking 38-40c tubeless tires. It was way too late to change my setup at this point, and I mentally prepared myself for a long walk in the worst case. I made a comment about having to drive through a five-hour snowstorm the night before, and a rider behind me, with a thick, Virginian accent, was in disbelief that I drove all the way from Northern New Jersey for this “little thing.”

In East Coast cyclocross races, starting grids are organized with Newtonian precision according to series, crossresults, or UCI points. In gravel racing, it is more like kindergarteners rushing forward to a nondescript start line all at once, vaguely organizing themselves by class color. In a way this has always been bizarre to me, as being at the front of a gravel race is almost as important. Sure, you don’t have to weave through riders in tight sections, but on fast roads and trails, the leaders’ group and drafting comes into play in ways that it never will on a cyclocross course. I started alongside Kate in the fourth row, and after a slightly chaotic start and a crash of younger riders on an early bridge, I realized I was now chasing rather than with the lead group.

I don’t think I could have ended up riding with a better group of racers on the first 25 mile lap. While I was pulling at the front of this chasing group for over 90% of the time, the riders were pretty cool to let me stay upfront in the tighter sections and get rad across the entire width of the course even though they could have nailed those turns on their wider tires a bit faster. I kept getting the best feedback from the back, such as “right hairpin turn coming up,” or “sharp rocks in this creek,” and I happily hammered at the front in the flats, doing what I could to keep everyone in hopeful contention.

Closer to the end of the first lap, I heard a cheering section tell us that we were a full seven minutes back on the leaders. Since I was going beyond my 50-mile limit 25 miles in, I knew there wasn’t a chance I’d bridge up to those front guys.

In the final 1.5 miles or the lap, the course became far more wicked, to the point that any mountain bikers who were able to linger in groups had a bit of an advantage at the end of the race. In this section, my upper body started feeling the effects of that high tire pressure and body position that allowed me to efficiently nail the hard packed dirt and pavement earlier.

I lost about twenty seconds on the group I was with through this section, and tried to make up for it after crossing the lap. I could still see them ahead of me for most of the rolling hills, but I lost sight of them at the worst possible time. In a pavement straightaway, I caught a race sign that stated “right ahead” followed by a cone. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember this turn on the last lap, but considering that I couldn’t see those guys either, led me to believe that I had to make the corner.

All of these thoughts didn’t happen in a split second either. I was standing at that corner like a chump for a short bit before darting to the woods. There were tire tracks… but not many. There were trails… but way too many leaves considering several hundred riders were passing through here. And I realized almost a mile in that it had been a wrong turn. Yea, I swore a little and was frustrated by getting lost on the course. By the time I got back, I still couldn’t see anyone in either direction: another common sight in gravel racing.

Below me, my cycling computer was tallying up the extra distance I had ridden along with the time, which was creeping by much slower than the last lap. I decided I had enough of the digital mockery for now and to get into the spirit of Gravel racing by switching the computer off.

Between the unyielding accordion of the start and not having dedicated, bright race tape to mark every centimeter of the course, gravel racing is a far cry from cyclocross, but in a way, there is something liberating about it that cyclocross, criterium, or triathlon events don’t have.

Gravel racing isn’t a game of perfection or inches.

More pre-race prep goes into attempting to control the uncontrollables, such as mechanicals and flats, than warming up on a trainer or dialing in the corners in a pre-lap. Sometime on the course, you will be on the wrong bike. Gravel bikes won’t be able to jet through a fast, root-laden descent as well as mountain bikes, and mountain bikes will feel like they’re slogging up a climb. Gravel teaches you to make peace with that.

I ended up taking a 28th place finish, far from the top ten I was secretly hoping for. Still, the Monster Cross course was able to give me personal achievements I could celebrate: chasing the leaders well on the first lap, and tearing through the last two miles really well on equipment not suited for it, passing a few more tentative riders in the process.

More importantly, it was the first time in a while where I just unplugged myself from the raw data of winter training and just got a good opportunity to literally get lost in the woods for while.

Kate’s Race Report:

Bike: VonHof Steel ACX with 42t chainring and 11-36 cassette
Tires: Challenge Chicane Tubular @ 35 psi
Nutrition: Infinit GO FAR (2 bottles)

The mass start of gravel races is something I haven't quite figured out, but I've blown up chasing some of the men enough times in the past that I decided to play it conservative and avoid bonking early. Sunday's race mantra was pretty much "don't bonk, fuel now, don't bonk". As a cross racer, I'm not used to fueling during races and I find I have to really make myself grab a bottle.

The start proved chaotic as expected, but after about the first three miles, everyone settled in to their own race pace. I had no idea where I was in the field, but figured I came for a fun ride and a solid workout, so I just needed to get after it. I started moving up on the climbs but struggled early with the loose descents. It's been a while since I bombed a fire road on 33mm file treads. This saw me trading spots every few minutes with some racers on mountain bikes - I would hit the climb hard and they would pass me again on the way down.

It can be ideal to start riding with a group and share the workload, but I  wasn't ready to give up my control of the pace.

Riding my own race was proving to be a good idea as we hit an extended section of pavement around mile 10. My legs felt strong and the file treads were flying. I decided to go hard here to gap a woman I had been riding with, but apparently I went a little too hard and messed up the course directions. After seeing a sign that said "Right Turn" and an orange cone at a trailhead, I turned on to the trail and continued attacking. After a half mile or so, everything seemed oddly quiet. Fortunately the woman behind me gave a shout and we both turned around (apologies to her for leading her off course, she was a good sport about it). I guess the orange cone was blocking the trail. Back to the pavement we went to resume our chase.

At this point I was even more clueless about my standing in the field and kept reminding myself that it's February and you came for a good ride. Going hard for the entire race and trying to improve my descending became the only objective. I started working my way back into the field, finding myself moving through groups, bumping into friends along the way, and enjoying the exchange of friendly words with fellow racers. My predominantly solo effort continued and I was able to appreciate the awesome course the promoter created.

The last five miles required that I use every gear choice and cadence possible to avoid cramping. My power meter became a great reference to keep me from soft pedaling. Some of the cruelest climbs on course were saved for the end of the lap. The support and encouragement from lapped riders as I attempted to get out of the saddle to give an extra push really made a difference.

I crossed the line after about three hours and fifteen minutes of racing, completely depleted and satisfied with my day on the bike. It was enough for fifth place. Andrew was waiting, equally exhausted but also pleased with his ride. We both felt better about our mental state as well when we learned we had taken the same detour. Who can complain about more miles on a beautiful day though?!

One of my favorite aspects of gravel racing compared to road racing is the all-out racing from the start. Generally in a road race, you have to play the tactics game and there's often even a neutral start. I love that gravel racing is on from the whistle, allowing me to truly see the capability of my legs and mind. The roadies are as strong (if not stronger) and wiser (I hate playing chess with them), but I enjoy the simple, physical efforts of gravel racing.

I'm a sucker for these unsanctioned, low barrier events. The racing is challenging and competitive, but in different ways for all participants. There is a shared camaraderie between pros looking to test their legs for prize money and first timers hoping to finish the course on an old bike they found in the garage. Words of encouragement are shared all over the course, assistance is offered by way of pulls, mechanical help, and nutritionals, and conversations are had between athletes who would not normally interact. We are all equally drained from our effort at the end and everyone appears more relaxed in their raw, depleted state. Recovery drinks are traded for fried chicken and beer, stories of triumphs and mishaps on the trail are exchanged, and then we head our separate ways, knowing we have a home in the cycling community.


Jalapeno Cycling is a Cyclocross/Gravel Faux Pro Racing Team, with a bike shop located in Bloomfield, New Jersey. You can follow them on Instagram or Facebook, as well as sign up for their weekly newsletter about Cyclocross and Gravel events here.

Our Faux Pro Predictions on the 2018 Elite Women's World Championships of Cyclocross

Before the World Cups showed up in the United States in September, Valkenburg in the Netherlands was one of the common earliest World Cups, a race that many UCI athletes looked forward to with fear or ambition as their points would reset to include all of the early races of the season.

This year, Valkenburg will instead host the World Championships of Cyclocross in early February. When making predictions for the race, it would be easy to fall into a trap of using riders’ past performances on the course. The biggest problem with this is that the typically dry Valkenburg course of October is likely going to look nothing like the near guaranteed slop fest of February (rain is predicted for almost every day between now and next weekend).

Secondly, we have it on good authority that Adri Van Der Poel (former World Champion and father of Mathieu), is going to be bombarding the course with unique features that riders haven’t encountered before. Sure, the long Valkenburg staircase is likely still going to be there, but riders hopefully are not going to expect the rest of the course to be the blazing fast, technically tame (for a Euro World Cup) course that they’ve encountered or watched play out before.

I didn’t want to jump on the overhype bandwagon, but unless the mud turns to superglue peanut butter for the weekend, this race is shaping up to be just as good as the World Championships in 2015 when Pauline Ferrand-Prévot drag raced Sanne Cant to the line with three other riders not far off in tow. Still, some of the biggest players have loads of incentive to break away earlier in the race, so there is a solid chance that we’ll see a lone frontrunner with two or three laps to go.

Sunday early morning, my money would have been on Ferrand-Prévot to take her second World Championship win. The course isn’t a far stretch from the features of Tábor, although that Czech Republic course was loads colder than the well above freezing conditions in Valkenburg this upcoming weekend. In any case, PFP has been on an absolute tear in December and January from a bad row call-up.

But that crash at Hoogerheide leaves her fans in doubt of her even making an appearance at the World Championships, let alone having a 100% showing. No, she doesn’t have any fractures, unlike Jolanda Neff, who is having surgery on a collarbone, but that crash must have left Ferrand-Prévot feeling a bit battered. If she bounces back to form though, I think she’ll employ her usual tactics of keeping the group together and hunting down any breakaways, leaving the race to an exciting finish.

The big contender who won’t be a presence in the Elite Race is Evie Richards. The first-ever U23 World Championship winner will be racing in the U23s again for the third year in a row. Considering she has won an elite level World Cup in mid-December and stood on the podium at Hoogerheide, Richards is plenty capable to race at the big show. Still, the choice to jump to the elites is irreversible, and Richards still has many, many years ahead to showcase her talent at the Elite World Championships.

Because of the few aforementioned factors, I think the closest thing to a bet with 1:1 odds or better should be on Sanne Cant.

Cant has once again raced a very long season, and found herself on the top step of the podium in close to half her races. She wrapped up the overall World Cup winner in France, not even needing her Hoogerheide win to take the series. However, she’s far from invincible, as her two 12th place finishes in the later World Cup rounds reveal. A few of her World Cup loses have come on courses with heavy conditions in sand and mud, leaving me to wonder if she’d prefer a day of greasy mud or a fast, dry course to leg-sapping conditions.

And what if Valkenburg turns into a heavy, powering course? Well, forget what I said about the overhype bandwagon. Americans should be loving Katie Compton’s chances if the course looks remotely anything like Nommay. Her best shot is not an exciting finishing sprint, but putting the whole field in the red early. Don’t let her results at Hoogerheide dissuade you from thinking she’s not a contender: she has never had a good relationship with that course. Compton is looking just as good as ever going into the World Championships.

I usually fanboy Eva Lechner in my Championship predictions, and usually eat my cycling cap because of it. That now makes me a little more tentative to really boost her chances, even though she’s ranked in the top five in the UCI standings and has been consistently getting stronger with each World Cup showing this year. Did she look very good at Hoogerheide? Absolutely. But, unlike Compton, she has a friendly history with that course, including a win right before the World Championships three years ago. If Valkenburg ends up soaking in most of the rain and the new course features don’t heavily factor into the race, Lechner has a great shot here. She’s the last rider to win in Valkenburg (which was a bit wetter that year than usual), but again, it’s doubtful that this course is going to play out in the same way that it does in the early autumn.

The rider who I’m guessing will throw a wrench in everyone’s fantasy draft list one way or another is Marianne Vos. Never in her career has she had a full season of cyclocross racing under her belt like Ellen Van Loy or Sanne Cant, but never has she gone to a World Championship event with so few races in her legs. How will that pan out? Well, judging by her fourth place result on Sunday, she has the ability to stay near the front. I think with her history as one of the winningest cyclocross worlds racers in history, she’ll be on everyone’s mind to take a win on home soil, but between her missing the Dutch National Championship and not finding the podium yet this season, a 4th-6th place finish is likely a safer bet. Still with so many top riders injured, sick, or like in the case of Sophie de Boer, just taking a recovery from the sport, Vos could take advantage. If she is lingering near the front in the finishing stretch, she will take advantage of that frightening sprint of hers.

Having said that, Sanne Cant has been especially wary this season of last minute heroics, and when she is near the front of a major race, she has consistently attacked in the last lap and a half, depriving sprinters of their chance to shine in the last 200m.

The two racers this year that played the role of the chaser were Katie Keough and Helen Wyman. There’s a good reason why both of these women are ranked so well in the UCI standings, and both have well deserved a front row call up out of amazing consistent results. I wouldn’t be surprised one bit to see either or both of them on the podium. They both have the ability to win, but they also have a knack to over-churn themselves inside out when they are at the front of a race. A lot of their consistency comes from chasing down a lone leader rather than being the one to solo break from the field. Having said that, this is cyclocross, and those consistent second or third places could turn into a victory. If they are pursuing someone near the last few laps who is making mental mistakes, either Keough or Wyman will pounce to rainbow stripes. It’s also worth mentioning that Valkenburg will make Wyman the female rider with the most World Championship experience: she’s been continually racing the championship race since 2004, marking this year as number 15.

There are a few riders that I am admittingly overlooking, with the biggest two being Katerina Nash and Maud Kaptheijns. Both riders have won a World Cup this season, with Nash taking the first race at JingleCross and Kaptheijns capturing arguably the best result of her career at Koksijde, although at the time it didn’t come as a big surprise considering how she had been ripping up the Superprestige series. It would be hard to argue against labeling Kaptheijns as the best cyclocross racer in October. But with a long season heading into February, neither Nash nor Kaptheijns have posted World Cup results like they did earlier in the season. Still, both racers are more than capable then making me look like an idiot for downplaying their chances. Nash has a long track record of capping off her season near the front of the race. On the other hand, this will be Kaptheijns’ first ever Elite World Championship. She landed on the podium during the inaugural U23 World Championships, and didn’t compete last year.

Jalapeno Cycling will be watching the races live on Saturday and Sunday! During our Anniversary Party on Sunday afternoon between 1-5PM, we’ll be celebrating with VonHof, Van Dessel, and Ritchey, loads of local cyclocrossers and other cycling friends with drinks and snacks. We’ll be watching full replays of the Elite Races, so if you leave a comment either here or on Facebook, you can feel free to swing by a rub my face in the fact that Lucinda Brand bounced back from being sick and completely shattered my thoughts on the Elite Women’s Championship predictions.

Rolling Resistance of Cyclocross Tires: Faux Pro Tests and Results of Mud, Chevron, and File Treads

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Rolling Resistance of Cyclocross Tires: Faux Pro Tests and Results of Mud, Chevron, and File Treads


A little less than three years ago, the founder of, Colin Reuter, tweeted to Cyclocross Magazine something along the lines of: Can you do something sciency on the different rolling resistances of cyclocross treads?

Being a cocky newbie editor at the time, I fired back: “Challenge extended, Challenge accepted” (pun intended). I didn’t have a great idea of how I was going to accomplish this goal, but I knew it was something interesting and worth doing. After later inquiry, Colin wanted to know the differences between file treads and the treads of common "all-arounder" tires at different pressures. I think that most cyclocross racers have a good gut feeling about how certain treads slow them down on a flat stretch of the course, but having quantifiable numbers might impact the decision making process before the season begins and we load up on different types of tires. So even though I am no longer the editor at Cyclocross Magazine, I still wanted to create a test all of these years later.

There are sophisticated websites out there, such as, that solely focus on the rolling resistance of tires. Like much of the cycling world, they extensively test road and mountain equipment and screw everything cyclocross, which means there is a vacuum here for some needed data. However, they have sophisticated equipment and a temperature controlled lab, and I don’t. On the flip side, their testing is limited to simulating the road, while I have slightly more versatility.

For a common test at other websites, they hook up a wheel to a smooth drum, and with an electric motor, they turn the tire on a wheel until it gets the drum up to a rotational speed of 18MPH, and then calculate how many watts it takes to keep it at that rotation for 30 seconds.

Due to lack of that equipment, I was forced to take the opposite approach: ride at a consistent power, and measure the speed differences each tubular tread has. My way has loads more variables and room for error, so unfortunately, I had to do a lot more tests than just three 30 second run-throughs before I got comfortable enough with the results (sure this is faux science, but there’s no need for me to be sloppy about it if I can avoid it). At the very bottom of this article, I go in to boring length about all of the methodology of this test, but there some major disclaimers I want to get off my chest for all readers before I talk about my findings:

1) The conditions I tested were limited, and are not close to representative of all the features you can find on a cyclocross course. While I would love to test the differences of tread in gravel, sand, mud, snow, and rooty paths, I am not confident in anyone’s ability to consistently ride near same power to collect speed data in those conditions. I tested these tires in two separate conditions: on pavement (that you’ll likely only encounter at the start and finish) and on beaten down grass (that you’ll likely find dominating a local, non-UCI race).

2) I wanted to test a file tread, a chevron tread, and a mud tread. While I used each one of these, my tire choices added in variables that really devastate the goals of the scientific method. I used Challenge Chicanes for file tread, Challenge Grifos for chevron tread, and Clement PDX for mud tread. Using the same manufacturer across the board would have been ideal, but the fact that I used two tires with cotton casings and one with pre-coated sidewalls hurts even more, and created an interesting result that you’ll see below that I can only guess the reasons for instead of conclude with more confidence.

3) I didn’t measure acceleration or cornering speed, two of the most vital parts of cyclocross. All of those rolling resistance articles you’ll find out there for time trials and triathlon tires make sense since those races by-in-large feature constant momentum. Similarly, I only collected speed data when my power was consistent, but unless you are racing on the most boring cyclocross course on earth, this data isn’t directly translatable to the punch and go of racing. In fact, if a course is nothing but winding corners, I would much rather have a tire with plenty of grip that can hold a corner the best and maximize a high wattage acceleration right after.


Below is the averages of the three tires on pavement, both at 17PSI and 24PSI:

See anything interesting here? We’ll get to the results of the PDX tires later on. But for now, I want to focus on the groupings of the results.

For starters, these results show that pressure, not tread selection, has one of the biggest impacts of efficient rolling resistance. I chose to test at 17PSI (1.17 Bar) and 24PSI (1.65 Bar), mainly because the former is the lowest I will run at a race, and the latter is a pretty common pressure for me when I see roots or a rough transisiton to pavement on the course. That 7PSI might sound paltry, but it makes an enormous impact. The least efficient tread on pavement at 24PSI still outperforms the most efficient tread at 17PSI.

When comparing each tire to itself at the different pressures, we are talking about a full difference of two miles per hour, with the higher pressure offering the higher average speed for the same amount of effort. Compare that to the difference of the Grifos and the Chicanes at the same pressure. At 24PSI, those two tires are less than a tenth of a mile per hour apart from each other, which might be close enough to be considered negligible considering I was measuring speed by GPS.

How would these differences in speed play out in a cyclocross race? Well, let’s pretend that you have an identical rider that could handle a cyclocross course the same way at different pressures (not a big stretch, since this would be an insanely boring paved course with no drafting allowed). A rider on Chicanes at 24PSI would almost certainly lap the identical rider who has Chicanes at 17PSI if we assume a two to two-and-a-half mile course. By comparison, we have two identical riders, one on Chicanes, and the other on Grifos, running the same tire pressure. During this race, the one on the Grifo would likely still be within eyesight of the counterpart on Chicanes at the end of the race.

That’s a huge difference, and one that shows that we might be better off not being so finicky about our tire choice, and a hell of a lot more picky about our tire pressure.

Still, although it is much easier to gather data in a flat, long parking lot, a full cyclocross course on pavement isn’t even applicable to actual cross racing, which is why I made sure to test the treads in at least one more applicable setting: the beaten down grass course. You can skip down to that section below. Otherwise, directly below are my observations about the strange data gathered form the average speed of the Clement PDX tires.

When I first looked at the first set of files, I assumed that I made a mistake in matching the tires to each recording, and I was ready to toss all of that data out as an outlier or a really stupid slip-up until I realized that the tests on the other days were giving me similar averages.

Inexplicably, the Clement PDX mudder is more efficient on pavement than the Grifo or the Chicane. The difference is noticeable at 24PSI and strikingly obvious at 17PSI. My assumption from years of racing was that the tread pattern on a mud tire was far slower on pavement. If I had caught this on the first round of data collecting, I think I would have immediately went out and got a pair of Limus tires (a cotton casing mud tire), because I would have been interested to see if the speed on those tires were similar to those of the PDX tread. Unfortunately, since I waited until after all my testing was done to look at any of the data like a chump, I am limited at some of the conclusions I can confidently make about this result.

So here are some of the possibilities I am considering of why the PDX rolls faster than others at sub-25PSI inflation levels:

1) The contact patch of the mud tread, while clunky on pavement, is still much smaller in overall surface area than a chevron or a file tread WHEN THE INFLATION IS LOW. This option makes sense when you think about treads on a hard surface like ice, where a mud tire has little traction while a file tread can grip ice much better (due to both the larger contact patch and the way file treads can hold onto ice). If this was the correct reason, my guess is that if I blasted both the Chicanes and the PDX tires to 65-75PSI, the file treads would overtake the mudders in terms of efficient rolling resistance. It also stands to reason that it wouldn’t matter if I was using PDXs or Limus tires if this possibility held true.

2) The Clement tread and pre-coated casing is more efficient than cotton casing on a smooth surface. My testing ground was an Elementary school parking lot that had been paved over less than a month ago, so it was about as crack-less as you can get. My assumption is that a cotton casing would deform more efficiently to any surface, including a flat surface, than pre-coated sidewalls, but if this possibility were true, it could once again turn my assumption on its head.

3) This is not one I’m actually considering, but weight of the tire could be another factor in a different test like this. As I’ve written before, weight distribution at the outside (rather than the inside) of a rotational object provides more efficient momentum once an object gets up to speed (it is also slower to accelerate to that speed). My problem with using this as my explanation is that the listed weight of PDX is noticeably less than that of both of the Challenge tires I tested.

Again, if you have any ideas as well, I’d be happy to hear them. I’m fully aware that I’m not in an enclosed laboratory setting with the same sophisticated machines that you see testing rolling resistance on road tires. I would love for you to see my methodology at the bottom and see if there is something I’ve seriously overlooked.

Does that mean everyone should run out, buy a bunch of mud tires, and blast them up at high PSI? Not at all. As I already said, while there is pavement on most cyclocross courses, it is such a small part. So before we jump to any more conclusions, let’s take a look at some of the data from the beaten down grass.

Below is the averages of the three tires on grass, both at 17PSI and 24PSI:

Thankfully I have a nearby park where Kate and I also host a weekly cyclocross practice, so we have already burned in a nice flat section where the grass is seriously beaten down (it would make no sense to ride along fresh grass since the tire that gets tested last would get to deal with the least resistance during every day of testing as you wear down the grass).

The results here are almost identical to what I expected in both cases before I started any testing to begin with. The first thing that should almost immediately jump out here is how much different the PDX is compared to its performance on pavement. While it rolled well when the ground had almost zero give, it is a slogger off-road, even on a really well burned in course.

Especially take a look at it at low pressure. It looks a little bit more drastic than it actually is because the Y-Axis is a little tighter than in the pavement graph before. Still, that PDX is nearly a full mile per hour slower than the two Challenge tires when all are running 17PSI, which amounts to around a half of a lap extra when considering our identical rider scenario for a sixty minute race on your standard length UCI course.

Again, I know I can’t accurately measure the performance of these tires in other conditions, not even by the faux science standards I’m using for this test, so I won’t even try to create a test for the mud. Unfortunately, that means that this test is really geared towards the file treads. Still, it doesn’t take a wannabe Bill Nye to tell you that file treads pick up peanut butter mud while a mud tire like the PDX is designed to shed it off the rubber.

However, this test does reveal how your race might be impacted if you decided to exclusively use a mud tire for the full length of your season.

On the other hand, there is a strikingly similar result from the pavement test. All of the tires moved at a higher speed at the same force when pumped up to 24PSI. The PDX, on average, still performed much better at 24PSI than the Chicane did at 17PSI. The PDX also got pretty close to the Grifo’s speed at the same pressure when a little more power was applied to both tires.


So my fear is that after reading this, a few people will look at this and think they are justified in buying loads of file treads and pumping them up to 24PSI and above, because according to the data, they will be a whopping 0.3 MPH faster than the next best thing.

If cyclocross was a matter of riding a bike in a straight line on grass, that conclusion might be great. Hell, you might even want to try a Challenge Paris Roubaix Tire and pump that baby up to 120PSI if that was the case.

Unfortunately for data (or at least our current ability to measure data), there is still very much an art to cyclocross. While one tire might give you little rolling resistance in the back straightaway of a course, it also might have little traction in a corner, or a weak ability of transferring power to the grass while accelerating out of a corner.

And it bears repeating, yet again, that this test heavily favors a file tread. Each tread has its own strength: mud for mud (and apparently pavement?); file tread for snow, ice, grass, and sand; and chevron for loose dirt, grit, and gravel. Being lucky enough to race on the UCI scene on the East Coast, Kate and I are able to experience all of these different kinds of conditions, and I think I would still stubbornly prefer to stick with the treads I am used to for each course even though this data suggests that some treads are pretty darn close to others overall.

For those riders out there that stay local, and have a similar course type, I think there is a bigger takeaway from this data. If you don’t have loads to spend on different wheelsets, at least invest in an accurate pressure gauge and start testing corners and speeds for yourself.

If you live in an area where you know you’ll at least have one muddy race, you shouldn’t feel like the rest of your season is in shambles if you have to use a mud tire for everything. In fact, there might be a good segment of a race where you are fighting against the same resistance as the guy or gal next to you running a chevron tread. You should certainly be feeling great if you see your nearest competitor pumping his or her tire without a gauge.

As for my own racing, I realized that I am usually prone to finding where I bottom out on a course during pre-riding, and then adding a touch of air. While I still think this is a pretty good approach, especially for a UCI style race with pro-only sections, there are power-heavy courses I can think of where I could use a little less rolling resistance instead of greater traction.

Below is the methodology I used for creating this test. I was considering starting with it in this article, but it’s probably insanely boring for a vast majority of people. Still, I know there are people who are critical enough of tests who want to know how research was obtained (which is a great trait to have in this day). So the following is for you…


So I’m glad Reuter said sciency rather than science, because you’re insane if you think these tests are just as accurate as road tire tests on websites like Rolling Resistance. Still, I did try and think of loads of variables as best as I could. Due to the nature of these tests, I can’t just throw a Vittoria, Tufo, or Dugast on my wheels and retroactively compare them to my former tests, and you’ll see why here.

First off, my testing was done on the same bike, with the same power meter (an insanely heavy but amazingly consistent InfoCrank), and the same wheelset. Because I had some overwhelming fear that different bearings might put up different resistances (which might have been a case of overthinking since I’ve just installed new Enduro cartridges in most of my wheels for pre-season maintenance), I rode the same wheelset with the tires unglued to the rim.

As you might have guessed, I did the vast majority of the testing on grass first before the pavement (although I showed the results above in reverse). I didn’t want pavement wear on the treads affecting the other tests. Over the course of two weeks, I tested the tires a minimum of three times per pressure and condition, not even bothering to go out on days that the Weather Channel reported wind above 5MPH.

In every test, I had to at least gather data for every tire, knowing that rider weight, clothing, temperature, and ground conditions would vary enough day by day to throw off the data significantly (for instance, if I had decided to only use Grifos one day where the ground was dry and harder, it would give those tires a serious advantage). My largest concern was finding the relative speed of the tires against each other.

The most difficult part of the test was maintaining constant power. I can get pretty consistent (within 2-3 watts on my reading) on a flat stretch of pavement, but beaten park grass took all of my concentration on the power numbers and more tests to get usable data. I had originally intended on also getting data from 300W averages, but I wasn’t able to manage to hit those numbers with any level of consistency on grass. Obviously I didn’t just average the readings of an entire ride, but used Garmin Connect to analyze the speeds in the areas where I hit the longer power plateaus.

While I’m sure there are variables that I overlooked (and would be glad to hear them), I am at least comfortable enough with how the tires performed in relationship to each other to state that pressure is a very large factor, at least when it comes to the grass crits of the cyclocross season, and if you brought two sets of tires with you to a race, you might be better off testing separate pressures on your pre-rides to get your laps dialed in rather than mulling over which tire to use.

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It’s Just a Ride in The Park: Why You Should Try Cyclocross in Words and Photos

It’s Just a Ride in The Park: Why You Should Try Cyclocross in Words and Photos

It has been three days since Jalapeno Cycling released our announcement for two development teams (a men’s and women’s) geared for riders who have never raced cyclocross before, and we’ve already got a great group of people from New Jersey and New York City (and even well beyond) who have filled out the application. I’ve spent the last few days chatting with local folks from running groups, roll-out bike clubs, women’s cycling groups, and a triathlon club to drum up interest. In a lot of cases, I get both excitement as well as a quick follow up of “OH DAMN, I couldn’t do something like that.”

To me this is a strange reaction, but I’ve been racing cyclocross for a good while now. During the offseason, I proudly compete in 10K runs and triathlons. Both cyclocross and these running events are some of the safer forms of competitions. Certainly you might find someone getting medical attention in both places, but due to the low speed of these competitions, injury through falling is just not common place. And yet, cyclocross is seen as an X Games worthy endeavor while some people see a January Resolution Run as a harmless way to sweat out their New Year's hangover.

I have griped enough on how cyclocross promoters, racers, and spectators have a tendency to push and promote the crashing that happens on courses or sections that amateurs are not even allowed to race on. Instead, today I want to focus on what I think runners and triathletes are usually doing right, and how cyclocross can fit into this picture.

Before, during, and after, the focus in triathlons and running events is personal achievement. Whether you get in the top 10%, beat your old time, land on the podium, or just want to finish the race, the focus is on preparation, training, willpower, and accomplishment. (Even a quick search of crash reels in running usually showcase someone falling, getting back up, and finishing the race in first against all odds). As far as disciplines that play out in a similar way, the only thing that even comes close to cyclocross in this regard is perhaps gravel racing.

So if you are looking to give yourself a challenge, why bother with cyclocross when you already are engaged in a safe athletic competition? Here's why...

1) Every cyclocross course and venue is drastically different. Some courses are in an open field without a hint of shade in sight. Others are winding through nothing but trees. Some have steep climbs you have to run up, and others have thick grass you have to try and push through. Every course gives you a different mental challenge. You can’t just expect to show up and systematically count your splits. The more you try and shut your brain off and muscle your way through something, usually the harder you are making the race for yourself.

And because cyclocross is becoming global, the more you seek out adventure, the more you’re rewarded. From the dry earth of Colorado races, to the bogs of the Northwest, to the city parks of the lower Mid-Atlantic, to the epic coastal scenery of New England, the challenges only get better, and I’ve only touched on one country.

2) Cyclocross is a game of do-overs. Preparing months for an event only to come down with the flu the day before a race is heart breaking, or perhaps you had a mechanical that you had to get off your bike and fix, or a shoe lace that broke. These problems are not so drastic in cyclocross. Usually there is two races at the same venue every weekend, so a bad Saturday can be followed by a personal best on Sunday. If you’re lucky enough to live in the NYC area, you can practically find several different cyclocross races every weekend from September to November and still race into December.

This do-over idea can even be applied to a more micro level! The length of every course is different, but you’ll likely be racing between three to six laps when you start racing for the first time. If a corner, or a run up, or some other feature trips you up on one lap, it can be your next challenge for perfection on the following lap. If you want it, cyclocross can be a game of chasing perfection.

3) Breaks up your winter perfectly. Enough said. Cyclocross is the reason I look forward to the waning daylight instead of dread base mile time in the basement.

4) You are always fighting for something. No matter whether you’re avoiding being lapped at the back of the race, or you’re vying for a top ten, there is always something to fight for during the 30-40 minutes you are out there. With the advent of, you can even track the other riders who are very close in ability to you in order to paint a friendly target on a rival’s back for the next event.

5) Cyclocross is a social sport. Racing is only part of the fun. After you are done, it’s time to pull up a chair and see how the more experienced racers take turns and features. Cheering and friendly heckling is all par for the course in one of the most fun disciplines to see play out.

Still wondering if cyclocross is safe enough for you? Rather than focus on some of the hardest pro features that you won’t see unless you are an elite racer, I wanted to show off an honest look at the spirit of cyclocross in pictures. If you enjoy them, consider putting your name in the running for our development team before July 25th

Jalapeno Cycling's New Cyclocross Devo Program is Now Accepting Applicants!

Jalapeno Cycling's New Cyclocross Devo Program is Now Accepting Applicants!

2017 Application for Cyclocross

Jalapeno Cycling’s Cyclocross Devo Program

Jalapeno Cycling is expanding our cyclocross team in 2017 to include two development teams: a women’s team and a men’s team. Our goals for the program are as follows:

  1. Discover self-motivated people who have either never tried cyclocross, or those who have only raced less than five races.

  2. Prepare the development riders ahead of the season, giving them the tools they will need to both safely navigate cyclocross courses and have the most fun possible.

  3. Have all members of the team compete in six different local races during the season, helping to grow the sport in New Jersey.

  4. Help grow a community of cyclists who cheer on each other’s accomplishments.

  5. Develop a competitive but respectful spirit against other devo programs.

Jalapeno Cycling is not just a cycling team, it is a fully integrated program organized by a couple passionate about growing cyclocross. Kathryn Cumming is a dedicated coach and the highest ranked cyclocross athlete in the state of New Jersey. Andrew Reimann is a high-level bicycle mechanic and an elite cyclocross racer as well. We are not just offering insight into our vast experience, but some training and bike shop perks for your first cyclocross season as well.

However, be forewarned that you should not take this application into the program lightly. Accepted applicants will be required not only to commit to their own season, but those of their fellow devo teammates. Cyclocross is a fun discipline, but it can also be a very tough challenge on the motivation, which is doubled by the days getting darker and colder. We ask that you see your first season fully out, both for yourself and the support of your teammates.

You will be required to have a bike for the season. This can be a dedicated cyclocross bike or a mountain bike. Loaner bikes from your friends for the season are acceptable, provided that it will be 100% guaranteed available to you for all practice and race days.

Practice will be held twice a week before the season begins; a hard indoor training session in the morning during the weekday, and an outdoor skills practice in the morning on Sunday. Both of these sessions, but especially the indoor class, will become increasingly challenging as the season approaches. Riders who miss more than two training sessions may be asked to leave the program at directors' discretion.

You’ll buy a team jersey and bib shorts. You'll race in that kit for the 2017 season with your teammates, including the six required races. Dues are $25. Team jersey + shorts are $150. Expected race fees are ~$280 (annual license at $70 and six races at $35 each).

*Weekend AM rides may be substituted with a race on select weekends, as per schedule below.

**Team commitment is for the CX discipline, for the remainder of this season. Participants will be welcome, but not required, to race other disciplines as part of Jalapeno Cycling.

Cyclocross DEVO Schedule

Nittany - 9/16
Bridgeton Cross (NJ) - 9/23
Hippo Cross (NJ) - 9/30
HPCX - 10/28
Bubble Cross - 11/11
Supercross - 11/18

At the conclusion of the season commitment, participants are welcome & encouraged to continue racing as part of the Jalapeno Cycling Devo team.

Sound like it is for you? Then be sure to fill out this application by July 25th!

Paying More to Downgrade: The Pricier Components That Don’t Make Sense for Cyclocross Races


Paying More to Downgrade: The Pricier Components That Don’t Make Sense for Cyclocross Races

Last week, we talked about the types of things you can do in the late spring and early summer to both mentally and physically prepare for the cyclocross season ahead. One of the factors we considered was thinking about upgrades for the bike, and adapting to them now instead of a week before the season begins. In this spirit, we wanted to take a closer look at the value (or specifically the lack there of) with certain “upgrades.”

You may have heard of the cycling equation of a $1 per gram. It’s a hilarious amalgamation of American currency and the metric system, where an upgraded part needs to subtract a gram of weight per dollar spent to consider the purchase a “good investment.” For example, if you wanted to buy a $200 carbon stem to replace your stock $40 stem, it would need to shave off 160 grams (or over a third of a pound) from the original part for the purchase to “be worth it.” (Note: I incorporate the value of the original part into the equation, with $200-$40=160 grams. Others only look at the price of the new part, and would require the part to save 200 grams).

Today we’re not going to talk about the merits of the “$1 per gram” equation, overpriced or great value upgrades. Instead, we’re going to be focused on the more expensive products that will perform WORSE over the course of a cyclocross season compared to their less expensive counterparts.

Yes, you read that correctly. There are literally products out there that run opposite the phrase “you get what you pay for.”

In most of these cases, these are absolutely wonderful products for road cycling or mountain biking that get lost in the translation to cyclocross. In a few other cases, there are products designed for cyclocross that would work ideally in a vacuum, but just fail to meet the practical needs of most (unsponsored) racers.

Here’s our list of some of the biggest culprits, to be avoided for your next cyclocross season:

1) Hollow Plate Chains.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m a big fan of cheap chains for cyclocross, and not just because of my wallet. Sure, chains with solid pins and plates feel like they weigh three times as much when you hold it in your hand against a great road chain like the KMC X11SL DLC 11 (which retails at over $180), but all of those little openings in the latter chain are great places for dirt and sand to get lodged in.

Hollow plates.jpg

Hollowpin chains are becoming increasingly difficult to avoid, and often come stock on cyclocross bikes with a 1x drivetrain, but these chains are not nearly as much as a concern to me. Dirt can sneak into those hollow pins, but when it comes to chain wear, grit in a hollow pin will wreck far less havoc than the grit that collects between the pins and the plates.
Sand and dirt that makes its way into a hollow faceplate, on the other hand, comes in direct contact with the teeth of a cassette and chainring.

A few of these pins have filled with dirt, but they are not as problematic as mud-filled hollow plates.

A few of these pins have filled with dirt, but they are not as problematic as mud-filled hollow plates.

I would guess that hollow plate defenders would call this technology “dirt shedding,” suggesting that the holes in the place are a great way for dirt to escape compared to solid plates. As someone who has spent years on each level of chain, and has serviced more cyclocross drivetrains than I could possibly count, I can attest that hollow plate chains don’t shed anything; they’re a magnet for anything on a cyclocross course and they’re harder to clean, suggesting to me that drivetrain wear and performance will take a hit over the course of a season much faster.

2) Carbon Fiber Handlebars.

I fully understand the appeal of carbon fiber parts on a cyclocross bike. Anything to make your bike lighter and take a bit out of the sting of a jarring course makes sense to me. Of all components, a carbon fiber fork is my favorite in this regard. By far and away, my least favorite would be the carbon fiber handlebar. In fact, I’m pretty sure my personal hell would be me acting as a lone mechanic for a big cyclocross team that exclusively used carbon fiber handlebars.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that carbon in this regard is great for road and mountain bikes if you can afford the big chunk of change, but for cyclocross, I consider it to be a horrible liability.

Kate's alloy bars might be a disadvantage in weight, but they don't come with as many uncertainties after a minor crash on a cyclocross course.

Kate's alloy bars might be a disadvantage in weight, but they don't come with as many uncertainties after a minor crash on a cyclocross course.

The problem comes with crashing. Every time you do it, you must inspect parts no matter what they are made out of. I know this is a generality, but in most cases, cracked metal and failed welds are far more glaring than micro-cracks in carbon fiber. With mountain bikes, you can see much of the carbon on a handlebar like any other component. Even though road bikes are covered in bar tape, crashing shouldn’t be very common on pavement.

Crashing in cyclocross typically results in less/milder injuries. You’re racing at slower speeds, and when you do fall, there is a very good chance you are landing in dirt, mud, grass, snow, or sand instead of asphalt or rocks. However, crashing in this sport is a little more common, if not somewhat expected. Between finding the limits during pre-riding, and racing a course, I would have to guess that the Jalapeno Cycling Team of Kate and I must crash on average somewhere between 4-7 times per weekend. (Don’t let that number discourage you if you are thinking about racing for the first time; more cautious, lower category, riders can avoid crashing altogether by taking far less risks than we do.)

Alloy handlebars are not bulletproof, but unless they directly hit the ground hard, I generally don’t obsess over one of these 4-7 small crashes during a given weekend. As I said before, if that alloy is about to fail, usually it’s pretty obvious, even if it’s wrapped up. Cracks in carbon, on the other hand, can sneak up on you, and those 4-7 small falls would dictate that I unwrap those bars 4-7 times per weekend and inspect the surface for microcracks.

So why do I call this an expensive downgrade? Because I know human nature. Even the most patient mechanic or rider isn’t going to unwrap and re-wrap bars that often, and it will bite them.

You might think I’m being dramatic, but I’ve seen enough handlebar failures in the Elite and Masters fields. In the case that sticks out most in my mind, a Pro rider who constantly podiumed in American UCI races admitted to me that his handlebars breaking on Sunday during the KMC Cyclo-Cross Festival were almost certainly the result from a crash he bounced back from on that Saturday.

3. “Team Edition” Cyclocross Tires

Racers obsess over tire choice. Twitter is filled with lobs of insults between Elite and Master Cyclocrossers who use cotton casing tubulars (Dugast, FMB, and Challenge) and those who use pre-coated sidewall tires (Tufo and Clement). Emotions can run high during debates over the best tread out there. So it would be easy to mistake a very expensive tire as your best choice because it boasts features like being the most supple, having the best grip, or weighing the lightest.

When it comes to pulling out your wallet for tires, though, the most expensive tires, sometimes labeled “Team Edition” tires, are more likely to offer performance losses during the course of your season.

Okay, so I’ll admit I’m being a little weasely calling these tires an expensive downgrade, because a fresh pair of Team Edition tires will outperform a fresh pair of standard tires. But the advantage doesn’t last for long.

Several years ago, I was invited to sit down with the designers and engineers behind one of the bigger tubular tire brands, who gave me a sneak peek of the high end prototypes that their European teams were racing on. They admitted that they had been reluctant to release this lighter, more supple compound to the wider American market because we often demand plenty of mileage out of our tires (some of us will go through a few seasons on the same tire, others will expect it to last through both cyclocross and gravel conditions).

Many non-"Team Edition" or "Team Issue" tires, like Kate's Clement PDX shown above, come with a thicker tire compound. While this makes them heavier and less supple, it also gives them a big edge in terms of lasting wear and duribility.

Many non-"Team Edition" or "Team Issue" tires, like Kate's Clement PDX shown above, come with a thicker tire compound. While this makes them heavier and less supple, it also gives them a big edge in terms of lasting wear and duribility.

When I asked one of their sponsored racers (who was ranked in the top five in the world at the time), how long he thought he would use the same set of tires, he guessed that he only used them for several weekends before his mechanics ripped them off, threw them out, and re-glued fresh ones to his wheels.

Less than two weeks. Four days of racing. Let that sink in for a while.

I know that’s an extreme case. With a near unlimited supply of sponsored tires and full time mechanics at their disposal, the highest level Belgian and Dutch athletes have every incentive to swap their tires over at the first sign of tread wear. Except I’m not making a nitpicky case.

Unlike those athletes, amateur racers and privateer elite racers will likely put more mileage out of a single set of tires during those weeks. Warm ups, pre-rides, pre-race day openers, Wednesday Night World practices, cool-downs… the average North American racer is FAR more likely not to swap their race wheels for a set of training tires, and all of that tire time is likely to translate into wear.

The grippier, lighter compound of those higher end tires might sound attractive at the onset, but if your chevrons or file treads are looking more like a beat up 33mm road tubular come October, you won’t exactly be overtaking anyone in a corner. 

(One important note on the “Team Edition” designator is that it is not a universal one across all tire brands. FMB has standard tires and Pro tires; the latter models, as of this writing in the 2017 offseason, can be recognized by their green or pink sidewalls. These Pro tires actually have a more durable casing and are designed with an increased longevity in mind.)

4. Shimano XTR Pedals

This one is often mentioned online on many cyclocross-focused websites, but considering that this one is easily the biggest complaint I still get from newer cyclocross racers, it bears repeating here. XTR pedals are a dream for dry conditions and mountain biking. They are far from ideal for mud.

Judging by the fact that these XTR pedals have won readers’ choice awards from Cyclocross Magazine in the past, I’m guessing that this one might be a little more subjective than the other components on this list. Still, objectively, the distance between the axle and the engagement of the pedal is much smaller than the less expensive Shimano models, allowing far less room for mud to go.

Unlike the last item on our list, looking at what the pros use is a good indication. Unless they are using prototypes of XTR pedals with taller engagement claws, the vast majority of Europeans use the XT pedals instead, which are not nearly as pricy as Shimano’s top shelf pedal. There are also plenty of low weight, better priced SPD pedals that offer cyclocrossers a great retention without sacrificing the ability to clear mud. Some of the favorites we’ve tried this offseason belong to Ritchey and iSSi.

5. Power meters for your race day wheels

(Note: This is one product on the list that Kate and I disagree on. She says that there are enough lessons from race day power numbers to avoid calling this one a “downgrade.” As I explain in the following section, I disagree.)

If you have the time and passion to sift through your training files, or you have a coach who does all of the analytical reading for you, a power meter is literally one of the best training component upgrades you can get. For racing on the road, especially at events like time trails, or during triathlons, power meters are a wonderful guide to measuring your effort.

If the main reason for buying a power meter is to read your watt output from cyclocross races, you are not only better off spending your money elsewhere, but you are putting your performance at a slight disadvantage.

Cyclocross is a sport of far too many variables compared to racing on the road or the track when it comes to cleanly reading power for a purpose. Did you dismount earlier on one lap, did you get caught behind someone with no handling skills in the narrow back section of the course, did you take the lower line that allows you to pedal harder but puts you in a terrible position for the next corner, did you choose a completely different gear when you went through the sand on lap three, did your back wheel lose two psi during the last half of the race?

These questions all effect the readings, and none of them even takes into consideration that you might have a pit bike that you use, which might have a different tire tread, tire pressure, calibrated power meter (in the extremely rare case where you decided to splurge on a power meter for both bikes anyhow).

Don’t mistake my meaning. I think that power files from cyclocross races are extremely interesting, especially when you can actually keep track of how you rode differently on a particular lap, or (more importantly) when you look at the much bigger picture and analyze your lap averages. However, the data from your training days will comparatively be much more readable (and beneficial to decisions you make about adjusting your future training and scheduling an off-week to avoid overtraining).

I know this doesn’t have to be a choice between using a power meter either during training or racing, and that you can have both. In light of this, race day wheelsets with a power-measuring hub might be a bad investment if you are unwilling to ride the “Team Edition” tubular tires glued to them during your mid-week training rides.

Secondly, those power meters also have a weight penalty attached to them, not for added performance, but just for the benefit of measuring power. In my experience with the vast majority of current power meters out there, the more consistently accurate the power meter, the heavier the weight penalty. I personally have a power meter on my road bike, and I feel like the weight is an acceptable penalty for the feedback I get mid-race. For cyclocross, those mid-race power numbers will provide useless information during 99% of the race unless you’re on a flat grass oval, and as I’ve already stated, your post-race viewing of those numbers are not nearly as beneficial as training day numbers.

When I used to race cyclocross with a power meter years ago, I had a crankarm-based Stages. Even then, if I knew the course was going to be muddy, I usually just swapped it out with the crankarm that the bike came with on race day because 1) the original crankarm was carbon and much lighter, and 2) I decided that I didn’t want to risk destroying a $700 power meter if a mechanic was a little overzealous with the power washer.

A factor of this list is admittedly risk vs. reward, and the upside of the data you are getting on race day just isn’t enough to make power meters avoid the downgrade designation.

6. Cooling Brake Rotors and Carbon Rim-Specific Tubular Glue

I bet you’re scratching your head at this pair, but yes, they’re both what I consider more expensive downgrades, and for a similar reason. But before I dive into why these are on my list, please note that this list pertains to cyclocross racing, and not gravel and I’ll explain why.
Both vented rotors (such as Shimano’s IceTech or Jagwire’s Elite CR1) and carbon rim-specific tubular glue are designed to mitigate the effects of heat buildup during long, consistent braking. None of these should seriously come into play for cyclocross, and not because cyclocross takes place in cold weather.

On the road bike (or an all-mountain/downhill/trial bike), putting constant pressure on disc brakes during a long descent is often a fact of life. The heat buildup from this constant braking is magnitudes higher than grabbing a fistful of brakes all at once, even if that latter braking is far more aggressive in the moment. The aluminum plates in “cooling” or vented rotors, don’t exactly keep the brakes cool, but rather draw the heat away from the braking surface and towards the center of the rotor, which prevents any heat problems with your brake pads or hydraulic fluid on those long descents.

Same with carbon rim-specific tubular glue. The goal of this product, which is close to twice the price of your standard rim cement on average, is to resist the heat buildup from a carbon rim paired with a rim braking system. Contrary to rumor, this product is not “kinder” on carbon fiber rims. (Obviously, if your cyclocross bike has disc brakes, there will be no heat buildup at the rim).

While some cyclocross courses have a few longer descents (the pre-2016 Rochester Full Moon Vista course, Dallas Resolution Cup, Charm City CX), even these 6-10 seconds worth of braking won’t come close to creating the same heat that road and mountain bikes will be able to create, and I am mentioning the extreme examples. The vast majority of cyclocross courses only require seconds of braking at a time.

This sharp feature at Cycle-Smart International looks steep, but only a few seconds of braking are needed, if that. Hardly enough to head up either brake rotors or a rim braking surface.

This sharp feature at Cycle-Smart International looks steep, but only a few seconds of braking are needed, if that. Hardly enough to head up either brake rotors or a rim braking surface.

What are the disadvantages of these products? Well, for vented rotors, the biggest drawback is the weight penalty that comes with the added aluminum inserts. That’s obviously not an extreme loss in grams, but why pay more for a product that is slightly heavier than the non-cooling rotor counterpart. For the carbon glue, the disadvantage is far worse, probably one of the worst on this list.

While carbon rim-specific tubular glue is acceptable at holding a tire on that is often held at 90-140 psi, I have never been impressed with how weak it is resisting the lateral forces of a tubular cyclocross tire at low pressure compared to standard rim cement. What does that mean? Well, your 20-25psi tubular tire has a great deal of unique forces on it, between tight, fast corners, or off-camber descents. In situations where your tire wants to rip off sideways from your rim, the standard rim cement holds a tire far better, in my experience, than carbon rim-specific tubular glue.

Again, this is when applied to cyclocross. If you use your cyclocross bike in the spring for gravel racing, you will likely see plenty of long, winding descents coupled with loose gravel that would encourage checking your speeds.

The Jury is Still Out on a Few

Certainly, there are likely other products that we have overlooked, and we’d be thrilled to hear about them from you in the comments. These are products that hamper your season-long performance but cost more than another common product. So while large jockey wheels with ceramic bearings might not be the best dollar per watt benefit, I think it would be hard to call it a downgrade from the standard derailleur cage and jockey wheels.

There are plenty more components that we didn’t add because we believe they are far more of a subjective downgrade, or we just haven’t tested them out long enough in cyclocross.
I actually really enjoy dropper posts in cyclocross, but detest suspension seatposts and stems, which I feel hamper my handling and create bad habits. Again, I know that these are more of person by person cases.

The real purpose we wanted to share though is to break from the habit of thinking that a higher price automatically equates to a higher performing component. Electronic shifting has already taken road cycling by storm, but, with the exception of Shimano’s XTR Di2, I would never swap out my Force1 for a SRAM, Campagnolo, or Shimano electronic shifting group set; I just love how little my rear clutch derailleur has a mechanical mid-race. (Having said that as a side note, I’m guessing this claim will be outdated by cyclocross season. SRAM must have a clutch eTap system in the works for Fall 2017, just in time for no one to train on it before the season begins. You heard it here first.)

We’ve already received a half dozen emails about the new Fox AX fork for cyclocross, and while we have some pretty poignant opinions about it, we just haven’t given it a solid test to see if it would give serious value to a cyclocross season, or its added weight might just put it on this list next.

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Training for Cyclocross in Late May?


Training for Cyclocross in Late May?

May must be my favorite month of the year for chill riding. Spring flirts with summer, usually providing the best days for long base-mile riding in the New York City area as long as you can avoid the pollen. By this point every year, Kate and I already have got the spring race jitters out after throwing ourselves in a few crits, mountain bike races, and track days, and our competitive nature gives way to a desire just to go wandering across New Jersey on our bikes.

After all, Cyclocross Nationals have been over for four months, and our first official cyclocross race (which is usually the Qiansen Trophy Races in China) is almost four months down the road. So in off-season training focus, this is kind of the eye of the hurricane, where everything seems calm although we know there’s work to be done ahead.

For racers who enjoy dabbling into every discipline equally, May and June offer so many races every weekend that thinking about cyclocross would be considered just a distraction. However, for those of us who center our competitive year around autumn’s mud, late May can be a time where we feel like our purpose is adrift. This can be a great thing. Most of us need some decompression time from constant goal pushing. Also, training deep with cyclocross-specific high-intensity intervals at this time of year will mean that you might have a great September, but you may burn out by mid-October.

Conversely, when we spend too long away from being able to measure ourselves, we can start to feel like the cyclocross season is approaching way too quickly, catching us off-guard.

So if we shouldn’t be pushing ourselves with a bunch of VO2 Max intervals, but we also shouldn’t be out exclusively on coffee shop rides, what should we be doing in late-May? Here’s a few suggestions that we usually consider:

1) “Measure your ’cross excitement and plan accordingly.”

Now is the perfect time to gauge your motivation level for the season ahead. Sites like are using this time to analyze the cyclocross calendar both in the United States and abroad. Are you peering at future races with excitement, or are you feeling grumpy that people are even talking about cyclocross this early?

If you’re not busy racing in another discipline, May is the perfect month for introspection. If the stoke level is high, now is the time to start thinking about creating a training schedule, or maybe even thinking about organizing a Summer practice session with your friends.

If you are normally excited, but now feel a little down about cyclocross, now is the perfect time to think about why. Did last season get you down? Try and pry as to why this might be. If constantly taking cyclocross too seriously all season beat you up, maybe you should highlight next year with a costume Halloween race, or (gasp) try a few singlespeed races with an inexpensive converted bike.

Or perhaps, are you bummed because your previous high expectations fell flat? Consider why. Every coach worth their salt will tell you to “train to your weaknesses and race to your strengths,” but the key here is being honest with yourself about what your weaknesses are. Is your sloppy cornering bogging you down? Do you lose 10-20 places in the first lap? Do you struggle pushing a strong gear through thick grass? Does your lower back or shoulders limit you during the last half of the race?

A lot of the time, especially during the season, these are questions we try to avoid (or at least relegate to our subconscious). Nothing hurts the motivation like admitting how much you suck at a particular skill. But in late May, being this honest with yourself can be quite a liberating feeling, particularly if you can spend the next three months figuring out a way to mediate this weakness. In fact, this is usually the motivational spark that helps us look forward to our next season.

2. “Experiment with parts and positions.”

Several years ago, I got a professional fit and a new saddle in late August, only a week before my first race. The position was amazing, the advice was spot on, and the saddle the fitter recommended to me was ideal (at least when my hands were on the hoods). The only problem came with the first month of racing, where my handling felt like it slid backwards by several years.

A good bike fit is less like a magic wand and more like a nutritious diet. A great fit won’t instantly make you a great cyclocross rider, but it will help your performance and reduce your injuries in the long run. It’s something you have to adapt to. I have a nasty tendency to always race on the rivet of a saddle, and while the new saddle and fit encouraged me to a better position, I had spent the last four years racing and riding in the former position. Both in terms of muscle memory and handling, I felt like I had to relearn way too much too fast.

May or early June (or even up to July) would have been infinitely better times to test out better positions and contact points because your body has time to adjust during the heavy duty training leading up to the season.

But experimentation isn’t just limited to fit. Now is also a great time to play around with other components. Right now, Kate and I are playing around with different pedals after using the same brand for four years. We were lucky enough to borrow a few demo sets of a model we’re interested in, and we want to see what we would have to deal with in terms of clearance, spring tension, and adjustability. (On a side note, May and June in the Mid-Atlantic and New England are perfect months for testing parts in the mud).

If you’re surrounded by a friendly ’cross community, now might be a time to see if a buddy will lend you their tubeless wheels for a weekend, or there is a shop nearby that has a great demo saddle program, for a few examples.

August and early-September are great for perfecting your personal limits around corners, but May and June are better for feeling how new technology feels beneath you. Are disc brakes worth the investment in a new bike? Does a 1x drivetrain live up to the hype? Does the new AX suspension fork change the game of cyclocross? While there are plenty of great review sites to give you some direction, these questions are more personal than some bike manufacturers would have you believe, both from the view of your skill level and your wallet.

One word of warning relating to the last topic: While a new upgrade might be a fun treat, don’t treat it like it will be the savior of your next season. A set of team edition tires won’t suddenly make you ride like Wout Van Aert. Even if you flatted your clincher tubes in every race last year and are upgrading to tubular or tubeless wheels, you should still heavily invest in training your weaknesses, which in this case might be line selection, body posture, or general bike handling that is causing all of these mechanicals.

In my experience, those who treat part upgrades as the sole motivational tools for their upcoming season often get disappointed and super demotivated early in the season once they discover that they are stuck in a similar rut as the previous year.*

This time of experimenting doesn’t even have to do with taking out your wallet for professional fits or components. Maybe now is the time to simply go out one weekend with a pump (and, if you have clincher tires, a few spare tubes) and test out drastically different tire pressures. Now is a much better time to see what different pressures mean for your riding to give you a little bit of free speed for the season ahead.

* (I really hate how inappropriate it would be to make a cyclocross joke about “committing to the rut you’re stuck in” here.)

3) “Creating a routine.”

Now is usually the time where Kate and I start transforming our loose structured base miles to a more carved out routine, even if the overall intensity level remains light.

Around mid-June, we start getting really heavy into strength training for the cyclocross season, which means hitting the free weights and getting on the trainers for some single leg drills. Breaking into these interval sessions from nothing can not only be a shock to the body, but also the schedule.

Setting aside a few times per week now, even if it is only to ride in the lower zones, is a good way to test your schedule for potential flaws before the harder workouts start, as well as figure out which days are best for the family/friend/workplace schedule.

Some of the best exercises during these times don’t necessarily have to be on the bike. After all, cyclists tend to ignore a few well-balanced exercises during the season, especially stretching and core workouts. Now might be the best time to force these into your schedule, which won’t just help you build a routine, but will also help you create a more powerful pedal stroke and prevent possible injuries. (Be sure to check out our article on glute exercises for cyclists, as well as proper deadlift and ab rollout exercises for some off-the bike ideas.)

Then again, if this is your first season, or you’re simply just dying to get back on the cyclocross bike, you won’t find much of an argument from us! Sometimes, just getting a leg over your CX rig and going through the motions of dismounting, remounting, and cornering, is the best medicine for the late spring blues. You may even consider coming to one of our cyclocross practices, which will begin this Sunday, May 28th at 7:00 am at Liberty State Park, in full view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Looking to keep up to date with the latest blogs and news from Jalapeno Cycling? Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get our cycling tips delivered right to your mailbox. Also, if you are looking to start a cycling routine, and are close to the Bloomfield, New Jersey area, consider signing up for one of our cycling classes with more info to be found here.