For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only gear, that whoever races him shall not DNF, but have eternal CrossResults points.

get that hotdog plummer

I am remotely fit now.  I sensed it in the parking lot, and I also sensed that I was riding THE WRONG GEAR for this race.

This is the one aspect of SSCX that is very mysterious, and why it’s actually a really good idea to show up at the right time in order to get yourself some pre-ride on course and work that out.  You’ll sort out, reasonably quickly, whether or not you’re going to line up with a gear that at least gives you some semblance of racey accomplishment.  Or if you’re just going to spin like a propeller in a $35 exercise contest against yourself.

Arriving at the right time.  The right time, let it be known now and forever, is about an hour and a half before your race starts.  It’s on the side of being a little too long, but one thing it does ensure is that you will be in a position to hop on the course as the race prior to yours finishes up.  And you will pre-ride, and discover things about the course and yourself, and it will be this whole existential experience that transcends the actual participatory component of the race and maybe you just go home thoroughly satisfied at that point.

Closer to one hour before your race is the wrong time, because it will drop you in an irritating window of existence before your race in which you’re unable to get on course before you stage, and because you need to stage, you really can’t take your pre-ride just as the prior field finishes.  In big races sometimes that actually works, but with the small fields at Paradise, it absolutely does not work.

the power of cross compels you

Left to “warm up on the pavement”, I could sense this 40×19 could be way too easy.  And because I am a prepared individual, I brought along nine other cogs that I could have swapped in, including the requisite tools to do so.

One good solid rule of SSCX and single speed racing in general, is to err on the side of “this gear feels too hard”.  If you are comfortable with it in pre-ride, and feeling really good about it, you’re wrong.  When the race begins, and your adrenaline starts firing, and your pain receptors go into momentary hibernation, and your inner Robert Tepper montage starts blaring, thoughtlessly firing your stupid legs at the pedals, you’re going to push a lot more than you think you can.  Because you have to.

So having opted to demonstrate zero good judgement, I thought maybe this gear would be too easy at the start, and then as I got tired throughout the course of the race, it would be palatable and productive, and so I left it on.  Honestly, that’s not the worst rationale, as long as your goal is to watch everyone disappear at the starting line and never, ever catch them.

Listen it’s not like halfway into the race the entire field is going to fade on account of their collective “pushing too hard a gear” and here you come riding your 38×18 out of the back like a skeleton horse through the gates of hell to the podium.

If you just love to spin, an easier gear might work and you might be able to hold it.  But your margin for error is small.  If you screw up, you’re not pulling back time on anyone, unless it’s some just absolute sloppy total shit mess of a race where everyone picked the wrong gear and then why are you out there anyway.  See where this goes now.  If you run that bigger gear, you can fuck up all you want, and kind of sort of have some way back out of your own stupidity; whether or not that’s a physiological reality for you is going to vary.

I used to push 42×18 all the time, it’s a highly appropriate starting point for almost any course so I don’t know why I didn’t go there.  Start with that.  And keep a little notebook.  The same gear does not work for every course.  You will forget, and you’ll want to remember.

take this, all of you, and do not race with it

So another thing Chris decided to do, after two decades of using SPD pedal technology, was to just go out and race on a pair of used TIME pedals.  This made sense, because he was very discouraged about losing places on account of cleats getting clogged up with material and preventing him from clipping in; a problem that has plagued his experience for years now.  And a cursory (two possibly three minute) shakedown in the backyard several days prior to the race showed real promise.  The pedals were reasonably easy to engage and disengage, and there was definitely going to be a small amount of adaptation needed, but nothing that wouldn’t work itself out by the end of a good hard race.

What Chris did not know, that the podium finishers of the SSCX race at Paradise would later tell him, is that TIME ATAC pedals have a fascinating failure mode in which a pin removes itself from the pedal, and then half of the retention mechanism for the entire pedal just ejects itself onto the course and go fuck yourself thanks for buying TIME pedals.

This happened at some point during the race, likely when I started to notice that every single time I railed a turn, my foot would come off the pedal.  And after every remount, it would never, ever seem to go back in.

“These sure do have a lot of float” I thought.

“Wow, these used cleats must be really worn out” repeated in my head.

Picture the following recipe for non-success: blowing the clip-in at the start of the race because new-to-you pedal technology, in too easy a gear, ultimately left to race with only one foot secured to the bike.

I drove home in silence, my posture tightened in a straight jacket of self reflection.  The bitterness turns to hunger, and that’s why we do it again.

See you after again,


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