My race machine
Something I don’t talk about too often is my bikes. I’m not sure why, as they’re incredible, and get me through the toughest races and courses I’ve ever experienced.
I don’t have the luxury of three or more bikes that are all identical, but I do have a spare, and that has come in handy here in Belgium. I have two bikes with me – my ‘race bike’, and my ‘spare bike’. In my four years of racing cyclocross, I have had four bikes, and this, by far, is my favourite.
For the bike-nuts, here’s the details of my race machine:
Frame: I am super grateful to Focus Bikes Australia for supplying me with a 2017 Focus Mares CX frame. The frame is so responsive, and I know it can handle whatever I, or the course, throws at it.
Size: The smallest you can get – XXS / 48cm
Wheel set #1: This is my go-to wheel set when racing in Australia, but typically my second choice in Belgium. They’re Zipp 303s with Dugast Typhoon 33 tubulars. These are fast wheels, with an intermediate-spec tyre for drier, all-round races.
Wheel set #2: These are my ‘mud wheels’, and they sure have got a workout here in Belgium. They’re Zipp 30 Course wheels with Dugast Rhino 33 tubulars – a mud-spec tyre, giving me lots of grip in the mud, but slower than the Typhoon on dry sections.
The Dugast tubulars are the best in the business. From what I’ve been told, they don’t sponsor anyone – the riders all pay for them, simply because they’re the best. I’m confident to run super low pressures with these and know that they’re grippy, and won’t roll off the rim. Their suppleness and tread-pattern make them a great tubular. I’ve also never punctured one (touch wood!).
Components: The running gear is Shimano Ultegra Di2 1×11. I love the single chain ring as it keeps things simple, and is one less thing that can go wrong with your bike. When set up correctly, I have never dropped my chain or had an issue with my front chainring. I use a 38 front chainring and an 11-32 cassette. This ratio works well for me, as the 38-32 is perfect for me to get up steep hills, and the 38-11 is more than big enough to power on bitumen straights, or downhill sections. It’s actually rare that I will use the 11. I’m not a big, powerful rider, and try to spin where I can, rather than push a big gear, so the gears on my bike are suited to me. For context, I believe most other riders use a 40 or 42 front chainring.
I always said I wasn’t good enough for electronic gears, but now I’ve got them, I take that back. They’re so smooth, and I know when I change gears, it will change straight away without issue. Knowing that your bike is going to work for you makes racing so much easier.
Saddle: The saddle I have on all my bikes is an S-Works Power Saddle. I love the Specialized saddles and since the Power Saddle was brought out, I have not used any other. Being a small rider, I need my saddle almost as far as it can go forwards, so the power saddle being short in length, allows me to do this without being too far over the bottom bracket.
Handlesbars and stem: Once again – as small as you can get. I use Zipp 36cm handlebars, and a 60mm stem. The short stem means I can sit slightly more upright, and use more power through my legs, than strain on my lower back. Sitting more upright in cyclocross is good for me, as it opens up my lungs, and helps me to breathe better. The handlebars are pretty much in proportion with my shoulders, and are comfortable for me, and allow me to handle the bike well.
The bike is perfect – I just need my legs, lungs, and technical skills to work for me, and I’m set!