‘Cross primer: Get ready to race!

Cross Crusade Hillsboro 2007-1.jpg

Do what Tori says and
you’ll be smiling too.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Earlier this week, Tori shared some background on cyclocross. Now she’s got some key pointers for your first foray into racing. This weekend offers two great opportunities to get out there. So get out there (but read Tori’s primer first)! — JM

Pre-Race Prep

Practice makes perfect
Whether this is your first season racing or you’d like to freshen up your cyclocross skills, it’s a good idea to do some practice. Most of the clinics in the Portland area have wrapped up (the season gets underway this weekend); but you can grab some friends and head to a local park to do a clinic of your own.

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Priming the cowbell: Cyclocross de-mystified

Welcome to ‘cross.
(Photo © Daniel Sharp)

Recently, you may have noticed your neighborhood parks being taken over by lycra clad people running and jumping with their bikes; or maybe you’ve overheard excited murmurs about brand new cowbells or talk of this years “Crusades.” 

No, this isn’t a religiously sanctioned military campaign for cyclists to take over Portland. This is cyclocross.

If you’re new to ‘cross this year, or if you’re just ‘cross-curious, learn more about this fast-growing sport in the primer below…

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‘Cross Conversion: Get your (non-cyclocross) bike ready for the season

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
Cross Crusade 2010 #2 - Rainier-24

You can race ‘cross on
nearly any bike; but these
tips will help your conversion
work better.
(Photos © J. Maus)

As fall approaches it’s time to start dreaming of the thrill of mud, cowbells, Belgium fries and waffles and hundreds of people cheering for you as you ride your way through cyclocross season.

Whether you’re toying with testing the race field for the first time, or you’re heading back as a dedicated mud junkie, this is a simple guide to get — and keep — you rolling.

First, a little ‘cross background for the uninitiated. Cyclocross is a style of bike racing on a 1-2 mile dirt/gravel/mud/sand/snow/ice/pavement course for about 45 minutes. Part of the race is dismounting your bike and hopping over foot-high barriers, lifting your bike over them and re-mounting your bike as smoothly as possible. (Think of when you were a kid racing your friends around the block, make it partially off-road and add a small obstacle course and you’re in the ballpark. Oh. And there are usually lots of spectators the whole way around the course clapping, yelling and ringing cowbells to cheer you on.)

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Optimize Your Ride: Patch up your relationship with inner tubes

Our optimization specialist
Tori Bortman is here to help you
gain confidence in patching tubes.
(Photos: Daniel Sharp)

Most folks don’t like to patch tubes for many reasons: “It takes too long,” “it never holds,” or “I just carry a new tube.” Carrying an extra tube will only get you through one flat per ride, and occasionally the new tube will fail. I’m always a fan of carrying a patch kit — and knowing how to use it can make the repair quick, easy and practically pain free.

A standard patch kit comes with three things: a patch, some “glue,” and a small piece of emery cloth. All of these are of equal importance in the success of the patch holding. More on this—and pre-glued patches—later.

A properly patched flat is as reliable as a new tube! Even if you don’t patch on the road, bring your bum tube home and repair it for the next ride. Ready? Here we go…

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Optimize your Ride: Fighting brake dust (and that horrible screech)

Make a clean sweep of grime.
(Photos: Daniel Sharp)

When you break it down, your bicycle only needs to do two things: Go and stop.

In our last column we discussed the go (chains), today we’ll delve into the stop (brakes).

The Pacific Northwest is known for many things, but one of the most insidious is the slow, grinding away of bike rims and brake pads. I’m no scientist; but my deduction? Our volcanic soils create tiny pumice particulate, which on rainy days get splattered all over your rims and brake pads turning them into tiny grinding stones.

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Optimize your Ride: Working on the chain, gang

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Publisher’s note: This article was written by Tori Bortman. In the coming weeks, Tori will help you Optimize Your Ride by sharing her bike repair tips, tricks and perspectives.

Lube it up, wipe it down.
(Photos by Daniel Sharp)

Today’s topic: the chain.

The chain is one of the easiest parts to maintain on your bike; but for some reason, it’s also the most neglected. Maybe some of you are intimidated by chain-tenance? Don’t be. Here’s all you need to know…

Choose a good lube. Look for one that’s not too thick or thin, preferably with a solvent mixed in. My favorite is A.T.B. Lube (which stands for Absolutely The Best). I’m a fan because I want maintenance on my bike to take as little time as possible. Go ahead. Call me lazy (I prefer “efficient”).

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Guest Article: Get your bike ready for spring

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

This guest article was written by Tori Bortman, owner and operator of Gracie’s Wrench, which offers private and group bike maintenance clinics (and more). Tori wrote a similar article for us last spring, but this one’s new and improved!

Spring scenes on the waterfront-7

Spring is coming!
(Photos © J. Maus)

Thanks to El Nino, spring has officially sprung a bit early this year. Not that I’m complaining. More long weekend rides, less getting caught in torrential downpours — I’m all for it.

You may be ready for spring… but is your bike?

If you haven’t taken the time this winter to give your bicycle a thorough re-vamp, now is the time. That doesn’t mean you have to go running to the shop. Start slow and bring your steed back to life with some simple steps that will make your next ride practically dreamy.

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Guest article: Spring cleaning tips from a pro wrench

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Tori Bortman
(Photos © J. Maus)

Editor’s Note: This article was written by guest author Tori Bortman. Tori is very active in the local bike scene. She’s a co-host of the KBOO Bike Show, a promoter of bike polo and women-only alleycats, and she’s the proprietor of her own bike mechanic training business, Gracie’s Wrench (which we reported about two years ago and was featured in The Oregonian this past Sunday).

Today she shares a few tips about how to coax your battered bike (and psyche) out of the winter doldrums and into the sunshine ahead!

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