Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Iron Cross Prep

Officially signed up for the Iron Cross race in Pennsylvania this morning. Weather should be quite mild with slight chance for rain. I last did this race in 2003, I think the first year it ran. It was a lot of fun. It is gaining in popularity each year. I expect about 100 riders to be present in the Masters 40+ field.

The Iron Cross course follows gravel roads, ATV trails, a little bit of pavement, and a huge "run" up. The term "run" is used loosely here, as you don't run up 500ft of vertical that is so steep in spots you end up grabbing trees to catch yourself. Think of this event as a mountain bike race for roadies. There's not a whole lot of technical content. The course is designed to favor a cross rider on a cross bike over a pure mountain biker.

I alluded to a new 'cross bike a while back. I actually bought a used Ridley Crosswind from a teammate. Due to Iron Cross being more like a road race on dirt, I made some modifications this week. First off, the large volume, uber knobby tires I put on for the Velo-Cross race came off. I bought some Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires, 35mm wide with lower, more closely spaced knobbies. These should roll faster on the paved and hardpacked dirt sections, which constitute much of the course. Because there are several descents where speeds well in excess of 40mph can be reached, I replaced the 46t big ring with a 50t ring. The bigger ring necessitated a new, longer chain. A 28t cassette mates to a 34t small ring for the steep stuff. Oh yeah, there's over 6000ft of climbing in this race. Perhaps a little like the VT50, except there they don't make you carry your bike up a mountain through the woods. I also removed the top mounts my teammate used. I find the main levers work a little better without them. I was looking for ways to lighten the bike some too.

This frame is oddly proportioned. I believe it is a 58cm frame, but the top tube measures pretty close to my preferred 56cm length. What is odd is how tall the bike is. The bottom bracket is at least an inch higher than most 'cross or road frames. This puts the saddle an inch higher, not necessarily a good thing for traditional 'cross racing. For Iron Cross, this should make no difference. We do start and finish the race with one lap around the classic cross course there, so I'll have to hop barriers a couple times. This is insignificant compared to the 4+hrs it will take to finish this race. To finish out the cockpit tuning, I replaced the 120mm stem with a 110mm. The fit feels about right now. I plan to hit some dirt roads and a fling through Mine Falls in Nashua to see how everything performs. This will probably be the only test ride I'll get to make before the race.

Dave Penney's curriosity was piqued when he saw there was a singlespeed category for this race. I wonder if he'll be insane enough to bring a fixie? Going to be a busy week. Saturday/Sunday in Pennsylvania, Monday-Wednesday in Minnesota for work (again), Thursday in Vermont for a BUMPS Challenge planning meeting.


Mookie said...

If Dave fixies Iron Cross he is officially classified as inhuman. Nice cross bike, Doug. Can't wait to hear the race report. This will be a definite for next year.

JB said...

good luck! maybe see you there.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a lot of fun. And your basement is a lot neater then mine. :)

How hard is that tandem to ride?

Hill Junkie said...

My wife and I were naturals on a tandem. The first time we ever rode one was when we borrowed a friends and did the GSW Seacoast Century. We promptly bought one. Don't ride it as much any more. Strangely, one time when I jumped on the tandem by myself I almost crashed. It is wicked unstable without the stoker on board. Probably due to such a long wheel base. With both riders, tandems are very stable and easy to ride. You just have to talk when stopping, starting, turning etc.