Today I broke one of my own rules: "never change your equipment right before a race." I've been bothered by some tendonitis in my elbows for a while, so I changed the length and angle of my stem in a last-ditch attempt to reduce the strain on my joints.
Under normal conditions, however, I would never make changes to any of my gear so close to the season. As I suspected, when I rode today, the handling and fit of my bike just doesn't feel good. I know it will take several weeks of riding until my new position feels "right", and that's exactly what you don't want to start the season.
Depending on your location, as of today you are probably 2-6 weeks away from your first race - and at this point in the pre-season you should have your equipment choices firmly decided on. The last thing you want is to have to change a component out without plenty of time to test and adjust it! Here are some parts and accessories you can check NOW to avoid having to make last-minute changes on later:
- If you're happy with the tread pattern and plan to re-use your cyclocross tires from last season, do a careful inspection to make sure they are usable. For tubulars, deflate and try to pull up on the base tape at multiple locations to ensure your sew-ups are still firmly attached to the rim. Re-glue or tape as needed.
- If you race or train on tubeless tires, go ahead and break the bead to ensure that the tire sealant isn't completely dried out. If it is, completely remove the tire, wipe all the old sealant out with a rag, and add entirely new sealant before you re-inflate.
- Chains can skip if you attempt to put a new chain on an old cassette, and vice-versa. It's a good idea to start the season on a nice new chain, but don't wait until the night before the first race to install. Do it now to confirm the new chain doesn't skip or jump under load.
- Flip your shoes over and check the condition of the cleats and mounting bolts. They can become impossible to remove as the bolts wear from running on rocks and dirt. If they require replacement, do it now, instead of waiting until mid-season. This allows time to re-adjust the angle and position of the cleat before race day if it isn't quite right.
- Planning to use embrocation and/or chamois cream on race day? The morning of the season opener isn't the time to test it out. Try it now to confirm how it feels on your skin.
'Cross is coming! Make those final adjustments to your gear and I'll see you at the races.