Behind the scenes #pro team stuff

Shhh nobody tell Cannondale I took pictures of their secret pro tool.

Okay really though it was Gary who noticed and pointed it out. If I wasn’t allowed to photograph and post about this, blame him.

At Charm City Cross we landed a sweet tent spot in the #prozone next to the Cannondale Cyclocrossworld team. This is a cool spot because you basically get to watch a parade of mechanics wash what seems like one million bicycles, roughly every five minutes for an entire day.

They say necessity is the mother of invention, right? Gary noticed they had a stand able to hold a complete bike for washing, with a plastic arm to grab the chain- and seat-stays so that the bike doesn’t move.


The regular Feedback sprint stand isn’t long enough for a complete bike, regardless of rear end attachment mechanism, so it’s clear they’ve started with a custom extra-long tray. The rear-end vertical piece looks to be a truing stand bolted into the tray, with some kind of fashioned plastic bit to hold the bike. I didn’t creepily photograph the mechanics washing the bikes, but I did find an action shot on the internets. 

Look, the bike stays upright, without moving, in this jig while the mechanic powerwashes it! My further creeping estimates that the Cannondale operation is responsible for ~20-40 race bikes on a given weekend. Assuming they’re washed after practice laps, before, and after races, we’re probably talking about 4-5 washes/day per A bike, plus a few more for B (or C,D,E bikes as the case may be) bikes.

The unmodified sprint stand has a fork mount, so the bike goes on with only a rear wheel. Let’s suppose it takes 20 seconds to unscrew a thru axle and remove the front wheel, and another 10 to secure the wheel-off bike in the stand. The custom mod saves ~30 seconds/bike/wash, plus the immeasurable potential annoyance of straightening rotors because the front wheel tipped over while it was off the bike (this can’t only happen to me). Rough math, 25 bikes washed 4x/day at 30 seconds per… that’s 50 minutes of savings just from keeping the front wheel on.

Naturally Gary saw this and wanted one. My poking around tells me there’s no way to get the extra long tray stand. SORRY Gary. But really, something like this would have an even higher per-bike time savings for a team like ours. Gary’s responsible for eight bikes every weekend. Seven of them are thru-axle, one of them is quick release. He has two of these stands from his #pro days with Astellas, so he cannibalized one stand to put an additional fork mount on the second. This way he doesn’t have to change end-caps to wash the QR bike. Even with that added efficiency, he’s still down 30 seconds/bike wash. Assuming he washes our bikes at the same rate – 4 bikes washed 4x/day costs 8 minutes, plus the pit bikes which we’ll estimate at 4 bikes washed 2x/day – another 4 minutes.

Despite our best attempts at cloning or CRISPR-ing (hi Leslie, I made a science reference!), Gary is still only one mechanic responsible for four riders. Time savings and efficiency become exponentially more valuable as the rider:mechanic ratio goes up. Gary has to think about washing each bike, running through the gears, getting pit bikes and wheels to the pit, and us to the start line before every race. A tool like this has tangible value. Here’s hoping it comes available to the rest of the world someday.

New England Worlds, as they say

I don’t know who started calling Gloucester “New England Worlds”, but I’m not complaining about it either. It’s a special race. Gloucester is the one race where everyone wants to have their best performance. It has a magic that draws out a little extra in each of us.

Maybe it’s racing with the sparkling sea as a backdrop. Maybe it’s the sheer number of people who look forward to Gloucester as their one “event of the year”. Maybe it’s the rowdy beer garden, even. But whatever it is, Gloucester creates a contagious energy that few other events can replicate.

It was extra special for us too, as the whole team was back together for the first time since Rochester. The strength of our team has always been the support system; the camaraderie in suffering, in disappointment, victory, and everything in between. So, in the same way, being together draws extra out of each of us. Imagine fighting, knowing you have three other people in your corner?

Except it’s not three, it’s four. Our mechanic Gary is notably absent from the social medias (unless you follow our #garydoesntknow tags), but he’s as much a part of the team as any of us, and he’s really the one that keeps the operation going. Gary takes special pride in our weekly race footprint and he’s always picking up new things to make the setup even better. This week he debuted new fancy tent walls, including the ones that are half translucent so we have windows outside. (Not gonna lie, I’ve always wanted a fancy tent setup with these ones).

Our good friend Jon Nable stopped by the tent to say hi and snap some pics of the new coffee kits. Remember this for later…

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Cool kit club #gpgcx

A post shared by Jon (@jonnable) on

We ran through our normal pre-race routines and set out for racing. Saturday there was a big pile-up in the start grid, which is always a terrifying way to start a race. Also, on a personal level, difficult not knowing if it’s one of your good friends sandwiched between pavement and carbon. I had my best Gloucester ever. To be sure, I am one of those New Englanders who most wants to have a breakout race at Gloucester. As a Cat 3 it was the race I really wanted to win. And yet, I was struck by calamity when I had the chance. This year I hoped to finally chase down that elusive UCI point in the elite field. I’d looked at the start list and knew it was possible if I put together a good race. The start crash shook me and I found myself chasing from the back, but never let up. Toward the end of lap 1 I found myself in 10th place and trying not to think too much about it lest I jinx myself into crashing. Shortly thereafter I was joined by Lyne Bessette.

Personally, I’m always astonished when I talk to newer people in the sport who don’t know the legends that came before us. Though this day it would’ve been an advantage, for I found myself racing like I was amazed to be there. Amazed to be racing for a UCI point against Lyne Freaking Bessette! No amount of people asking her if she enjoyed her time in the Faccone Zone could calm my nerves about that one. Let’s take a brief stroll down memory lane for those of you who may not know why this is the coolest thing I’ve ever done in a race. Lyne has WON Gloucester at least three times that I see in crossresults. Look at 2007, she won both days after racing the 2/3 men’s field first. And finishing 7th and 9th. She’s a multiple time Olympian. She had already retired when I started racing, but I heard many stories about the years where she’d pull over before the finish line to avoid getting UCI points, so as not to compromise her paralympic eligibility. She’s a legend.

This is one of the places where my nerdery about the sport interferes with my ability to participate in the sport. Believe me, I suffered hard trying to keep Lyne’s wheel through the start finish every lap. But I never raced like I was expecting to beat her. And the thing is, you can’t beat someone if you don’t really believe you can do it. Because if you don’t believe it, you can’t go all in on executing it. And I didn’t. I raced like a passenger, and I got the results of a passenger. Which is all to say, I didn’t get that final UCI point Saturday.

I mentioned that our team is special because of the support structure. Talking with Julie after the race, she said something small that fully  reframed my thoughts about the race. She asked a simple question about my execution, but in a way that helped me see where I should’ve done things differently. Where I have to do things differently if I want to succeed. But in a way that says “I want you to find that success you’re looking for, let me help!” and not “you messed that up let me tell you”. And that’s true for all of us. Each of us wants the others to succeed as much as ourselves.

I came into Sunday ready to claim points. I knew what I had to do, and I felt ready to execute differently. Ultimately, I just didn’t have the legs on Sunday. It’s disappointing, but that’s bike racing. Every day is a new opportunity. Sometimes you feel great, other times not so much.

Perhaps the most important thing to come out of the weekend is the new slate of team photos. Remember the green tent walls from above? Praise be to artist friend Alex Carlson who pointed out that the tent wall background makes a perfect “green screen” for editing photo backgrounds and turned Jon’s photo into this gem:


Naturally, once we knew this we took a long series of intentionally green screened photos to do fun things with all season. If you get tired of these, blame Alex.

And, to save the best for last, our good friend Carlo put together sick footie from the weekend for us. We love Carlo and we double love this edit.

Thanks for everything Gloucester. Can’t wait to see what the 20th edition has in store for us next year. And thank you to Paul and everyone behind the operation there. It’s a massive effort to put this race on every year, and I appreciate it so much.

Small Bikes for Small People

Hi! In case you don’t know me in real life, I am a small person. I measure a whopping 62.5 inches tall (no idea what this is in metric), with a 26-27 inch inseam. If you also suffer from below-average height, you may relate to what I’m going to say next.

It can be really hard to find a small bike that fits and handles well. The historical norm was for bike manufacturers to design to an average-sized frame (like a 54!), then shrink and expand the mold to offer a full size run. This would often lead to what I’d call “externalities” in the extreme frame sizes. Bikes would have weird cable routing due to short headtubes and incompatibly placed frame grommets. Toe overlap would be extreme (though I’ll address up-front that it’s almost impossible to eliminate toe overlap entirely).

Certainly for part of the population, “women’s specific” designs have alleviated some issues. For me personally, being a woman with short legs and a long torso (relatively speaking, of course), I don’t fit the prescribed proportions for the adjustments in women’s specific frames. But more importantly, women’s specific designs are more commonly a road-frame thing, not so much a cyclocross frame thing.

To give credit where credit is due, most bicycle manufacturers are making extra small sized frames at this point. Gone are the days of having only two or three reasonable cx bike options. This is my seventh year racing cyclocross and over that time I’ve ridden:

  1. 2011 Specialized Crux Aluminum – 46cm frame
  2. 2013 Bianchi Zurigo – 49cm frame
  3. 2013 Focus Mares AX 1.0 – 48cm frame
  4. 2015 Focus Mares CX 2.0 – 48cm frame
  5. 2016 Specialized Crux Elite – 46cm frame
  6. 2018 Felt F4x – 47cm frame

There are some patterns here, of course. I liked my first crux so much I went back to cruxes two years ago. Specialized has always done a good job designing bikes for the entire population, and the crux is a good aggressive cross bike. Focus made a big jump in geometry between the 2013 and 2015 model years I rode. I enjoyed the geometry of the 2015 Mares and it was a light bike, but it wasn’t made to handle the beating I put my bikes through and I broke it. This year’s bike selection started with talking to my friends at JRA Cycles about which cyclocross bikes they carried and then which frames came small enough for me. Teammate and general rad human Mike Wissell recommended Felt, and I pulled up the handy frame comparison machine.

Note that I’ve used my road bike as a comparison, rather than one of my prior cross bikes. This is because I made significant changes to my fit this spring – I finally found a saddle that allows better forward pelvic tilt, and I moved from 170mm to 165mm cranks. If you’re interested in the relative differences between cyclocross frames, the geometries of the Felt, Crux, and Mares are here.

bike-comparator 2

bike-comparatorThe Felt (Green) is a bit longer than my road bike, but otherwise offered a spot on fit transfer. Note the handlebars – the Felt frame is a bit longer (as they are known for being), but with a 1cm shorter stem than stock I could get my hoods in the exact same position as my road bike.

I highly encourage this exercise for anyone who has trouble translating frame geometry charts into perceptive differences between bikes. This was enough for me, personally, to commit to the bike. I selected the frame that, for me, offers the best spec to price point ratio – the F4x. Now that I’ve had the bike for a few weeks, with a few races under my belt, here are some notes.

  1. The geometry is on the longer/lower side. There are two headset caps included in the box – the stock one is a taller stack, but there’s also a low stack option. This lets me actually have some amount of saddle-to-bar drop on a cx bike for the first time. By shortening the stem, I was able to replicate my fit without slamming the saddle forward. I can weight the bars for traction in turns, but overall have a balanced position. This is useful for not going over the handlebars, as I am prone to do.
  2. I changed out the bars for Zipp SC SL ones. The stock bars are stated 40cm, but felt a bit wide for me, so I opted for light and narrow ones – this is purely a personal preference thing.
  3. Once I swapped the stock 90mm stem for a 80mm stem, my fit almost perfectly replicated my road fit. This allowed for a really smooth transition from road to cross bike from a physical standpoint.
  4. I changed the stock 40t single chainring to a 38t single ring. I personally find the 40 harder to get on top of, and rarely run out of gears with the 38. I kept the stock 11/32 in the rear.

Once I got my fit dialed, Gary shortened all the cables to fit my low bars/small frame combo and everything is tight. There are no odd cable routing issues to speak of. I actually have quite a bit of saddle height adjustability. I run a saddle height of 620-625mm. This is… a very small number. I’m typically stuck with very little seatpost showing and very little standover. I was pleased to discover that this particular frame has a short seat tube (it is a 47cm frame, after all), which allows for both seatpost adjustability and also standover.


Which is all to say, it’s hard to find great bikes for small people. I’m really pleased with this one. Bonus – the bike can take a beating. I’ve already crashed it hard a few times and each time it’s gone right back to duty with no issues beyond a replaced derailleur hanger (knock on wood).