It's no secret, #crossiscoming! If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, your season can start as early as mid-September and will be in full swing by October.
What's that mean? You may be only 30 days away from the first cyclocross race of the season - yikes! Here are 10 things you can do to come into the season with confidence in yourself and your equipment:
Check your tires
If your racing or training tires have been sitting for a while, give them a careful inspection. For tubulars, check that the base tape is firmly glued/taped to the rim with no loose spots. If you are running tubeless, now is a good time to top-off on sealant to prevent burping or punctures. On bikes with rim brakes, incorrect brake setup can cause the pads to touch the tire, leading to a blowout. Check to make sure your brake pads land squarely on the rim and don't touch the tire. If you use traditional clincher tires, consider latex inner tubes as an inexpensive upgrade.
Get your brakes bled
Did you upgrade to a shiny new disc brake bike last season? You might be due for your first bleed. Hydraulic brake fluid can absorb moisture from the atmosphere, leading to poor braking power.
Do some running
Get a bit of running in your legs now so you have some time for muscle adaptation. You don't have to turn into a marathon runner, but try to build up to a mile run - and don't forget to do some running with the bike on your shoulder too!
Stake out a course
Everyone should have a local course to use for testing your fitness, skills, and equipment. Find a loop in a local park or school that incorporates different surfaces and terrain. If it's familiar to you, you can use it to monitor your performance changes, test gear ratio ranges, and so on.
Check disc brake rotor thickness
Disc brake rotors wear out with use, and each manufacturer specifies a minimum safe thickness (typically something like 1.5mm) but check with your specific brand to be sure. Mud, wet, and dirt increase the speed of wear, so change them before it's a problem.
Get a handheld pressure gauge
If you're trying to set tire pressure using the gauge built into a floor pump, get a handheld gauge instead. They are much more precise and consistent, and fit in your back pocket so you can use them to tweak PSI during your warm-up laps without going back to the car. Practice using it with quick mid-ride adjustments on your training routes.
Put on a new chain
Cyclocross is hard on equipment and the chain can take a beating. Use a chain wear gauge to measure and replace yours if needed.
Practice your starts
"you can't win the race at the start, but you can definitely lose it" - quickly starting on the whistle or gun is a skill you can practice and improve. Work on your pedal placement with repeated start drills, starting from a dead start and quickly working through your gears to get up to full speed. Stop, recover, and repeat. You should know which gear you will start in on pavement, grass, dirt, etc.
Replace your cleats
Nobody ever looks at the bottom of their shoes, but cleats can wear fast, especially if you use the same shoes for mountain biking and/or walk often. If they are worn, replace them now before the bolt heads become impossible to remove mid-season.
Upgrade now, not later
The night before the race is not the time to be gluing tires, installing new pedals, or adjusting your saddle height. If you have some upgrades in mind, try and finalize them now, so you can get several long, hard rides in to put new gear to the test.