If there’s one thing I know, it is cyclocross, and the gear that you need for it. I’ve raced on super grassroots teams and solo, traveled the country for races in every type of climate, literally written the book on the sport, managed one of the biggest teams in the world, coached countless camps and clinics, seen cyclocross races with 30,000 fans or 30 racers and fans total, and lived with some of the top racers. This is my wheelhouse. If you’re just getting into ‘cross or you’re looking to improve your cyclocross setup for a smoother season, this is my list of the cheap gear that will make massive differences in your comfort and performance this year. Check it out, and let me know what you think—and if there’s any other cyclocross-specific gear (like clothing) that you’re wondering about.
When Peter and I recorded our cyclocross podcast, we had to stop and restart our recording. Why? Mainly because I got SO darn excited about talking about gear that would be helpful for a first time race that eventually, Peter pointed out that I was probably scaring off newbie racers who may not have a portable weed sprayer. But I couldn’t help it. In my book, cyclocross is an amazingly fun sport… but it gets quickly less and less fun if you can’t stay clean and warm during the day. So, this list was born.
For $10, you can get warm and clean post-race with a camp shower. This little 5 gallon bag can be filled in the morning with warm water, then perched on the hood of your car where the black will serve to help it warm up even more throughout the day so you can rinse off with almost-hot water. If you race early in the day and want to stick around to enjoy the race, do yourself the favor of being able to clean off reasonably well with this. Face, legs, arms—you will feel SO much better if you take a few minutes and rinse. (And in the cold weather, yes, this seems terrible, but trust me, it stays pretty warm if left in the sun, and being clean and dry will feel much better than if you jam on a billion layers while you’re still gross and sweaty.
A Black Towel
Admittedly, I’m pretty partial to the Ride Bikes Get Rad Shred Girls beach towel, but it’s actually perfect for cyclocross (in addition to supporting keeping the Shred-Girls.com site up and running!). Why is it perfect? Because it is BLACK. A white beach towel is a disaster for CX, between the mud and bike grease. Use it as a changing skirt so you stay appropriate while swapping your skinsuit for sweatpants post-race, and use it to wipe down your face before post-race interviews (or, you know, family photos).
I won’t get into too much detail since I’ve talked about it before here: Rinse Your Bike Anywhere With This Genius (Cheap) Hack. For $15, your bike can be clean as a whistler post-race so you can avoid wrecking your car’s interior. And bonus, cleaning a bike while it’s still caked with wet mud versus letting it dry is SO MUCH EASIER. (Great for people living in tiny spaces with no hose access, too.)
We have since gotten this awesome tiny pressure washer and it’s fantastic and pretty darn inexpensive, but it is still more of a commitment than the simple weed sprayer.
Digital pressure gauge
If you’ve ever raced cyclocross or talked to someone who’s raced cyclocross, you know that tire pressure matters. Be on top of your game and know what pressure you’re running by getting a digital pressure gauge to make sure you’re dialed in. Most pumps aren’t terribly accurate when it comes to 2-3 PSI differences, so this little guy is super helpful for CX or MTB.
And trust me, get this Topeak one. A) it’s inexpensive ($27); B) it lasts FOREVER; C) the cheaper ones break immediately; and D) most of the cheaper ones don’t mention it but they’re only for use with Schraeder valves, while the Topeak works for Presta.
When temps drop, your biggest issue will be keeping your hands and feet warm ahead of your race. Enter hand warmers. Stick one between layers of gloves, put them in your shoes, et cetera, while you’re waiting at the start line, and toss them right before your race starts. Also great for post-race when sticking around to watch the next set of races—a lot of CX races won’t have heated buildings or tents nearby, so getting truly warm after your race can be really tough. I’ve found that these can make a massive difference to your comfort.
For embrocation application so your hands don’t get covered with eye-burning cream, or for use on wet days under your gloves, or for doing mechanical work when you don’t want greasy hands, these are priceless to have around.
Travel Shoe Dryer
If you’re traveling to race, there is nothing worse than a soggy first day of racing followed by a chilly second day with wet shoes. Newspaper will help, but will only do so much plus will leave your shoes a little on the ink-y side, so I love this tiny plug-in travel shoe dryer to ensure cozy feet on Day 2.
These hilarious sandals
Because you will need to be hosing things down, changing, etc.; sometimes it’s nice to have shower shoes that can get wet and you can clump around in them before putting on your nice cozy boots.