Words: Phil Hole | Image: holepicture.com
Lot of people have been asking me this week about bike set up for the Clifcross. Well, I have to admit I have given it a lot of thought this year so here are a few of the critical decisions:
Bike: I’ve plumped for my 11 year old Kona Jake the Snake. I love its reliability, and the classic handling of the “purple phase” Kona ‘cross bikes made them something of a legend back in the early noughties. The aggregation of paint lost in the 200 cross races and 5 three peaks I done on it also makes it just that little bit lighter than standard and weight is always a thing I give a lot of thought to. The other reason I chose “Jake” is that my other ‘cross bike isn’t. A ‘cross bike, that is – it’s got road tyres, mudguards and lights on it at the moment.
Tyres: This is the killer decision for me. But in the end I did decide to use tyres. I’ve gone for a Challenge Griffo front (which a bloke sold me out of the back of his van at a ‘cross race last winter) and a Schwalbe Racing Ralph, on the back, the survivor of a pair I bought in 2008. Again, this tyre is thoroughly run in and I expect total reliability from it. The absence of centre treads should help on the road sections.
Gears: Up front we’ve got an old Campag triple minus outer ring, which I removed from a failed road bike project a friend handed over to me about 8 years ago. I removed the outer ring for reasons that now escape me in the mists of time. Its absence means that the bike is effectively goverened to 20mph, a bit like a local authority panel van. Round the back I’ve got a 12-34 mtb cassette. Allied to the 30ish (I’ve never counted the teeth) inside ring up front, I’ve got a low-range gear set that a Landrover would be proud of. The free-hub is sticking a bit too, so I’ve also got an intermittent diff-lock too!
Brakes: Here I’ve really gone out on a limb – V-brakes with travel agents, which for the uninitiated, allow me to use proper road/cross STI levers. The “travel agents” adjust the cable pull. To be honest, like most travel agents, they are pretty useless and all I’ve done is come up with an alternative set of “shit ‘cross brakes”.
Preparation: I did consider a recce ride, but ditched it for an afternoon playing on the half a km of trails at Hurstwood on my MTB.
Anyway, good luck to all taking part. Remember, it’s not a race, but if you’re last there probably won’t be any pies left!