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Tech Report, with Matt Pacocha – Living the ‘cross dream

Jon Baker is living the dream. That is, if you consider spending fourmonths chasing some of the world’s fastest cyclocross racers around mud-and manure-filled European fields in sub-zero temperatures. The dream? Luckily he looks at it that way. Up until about a month ago the 33-year-old Baker was leading an averageAmerican life, happily married to Cyndi with two kids, Leah, 9, and Axel,1. He was a software engineer for BEA Systems, and he balanced his passionfor cycling with his family life and a full-time career, as most of usdo. He was a weekend warrior, albeit a darn good one. Baker

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By Matt Pacocha

Jon Baker, Axel and enough gear to mount a European campaign.

Jon Baker, Axel and enough gear to mount a European campaign.

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Jon Baker is living the dream. That is, if you consider spending fourmonths chasing some of the world’s fastest cyclocross racers around mud-and manure-filled European fields in sub-zero temperatures. The dream?

Luckily he looks at it that way.

Up until about a month ago the 33-year-old Baker was leading an averageAmerican life, happily married to Cyndi with two kids, Leah, 9, and Axel,1. He was a software engineer for BEA Systems, and he balanced his passionfor cycling with his family life and a full-time career, as most of usdo. He was a weekend warrior, albeit a darn good one.

Baker still refers to himself as an amateur racer, which technicallyhe is, but he regularly puts seasoned pros in their place on the road andin cyclocross races all along Colorado’s Front Range. While he can ridea road bike like nobody’s business, his passion is cyclocross. A coupleof years ago after pulling a couple top-10 placings in the USGP serieshe was invited to Geoff Proctors’s Christmas ’cross camp and the rest,as they say, is history.

Each bike has a name tag just in case some Euro dude has a 60cm bike painted hunter’s orange.

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“It was just like a whole different level; it was so amazing over there[in Europe] with the crowds and just how professional everyone is,” hesaid. “I hadn’t really ever had a chance to experience that; I’m just anamateur rider. It was hard to adjust and I just basically sucked. Sincethen, I’ve wanted to do it right and just see what happens.”

One evening during the start of last year’s cyclocross season Bakerand his wife were relaxing in their hot tub, that’s when he threw out theidea. “Hey, why don’t we go to Europe next year?” he said, and to his surpriseshe embraced the idea.

“We’ve been basically planning it for the last year and it has finallycome together,” he said. “I’m leaving in a day and Cyndi’s leaving in abouta week, so it’s on. My wife has done 95-percent of the actual travel planning.The place she ended up finding in Brugge, [Belgium] is a vacation rentaland we’re actually going to be there in the off season so we were ableto rent the place for four months at a big discount.”

At this point, you must be able to imagine the task the Baker’s hadset in front of them. Packing up and leaving the country for four monthsis no small feat for one person, let alone a four-person family. They soldtheir house in July, and the reality of the trip started to set in. Thelast big hurdle Jon had, was to convince BEA that he was worth waitingfor. He was able to, and procured a leave of absence from the firm; itends two weeks after the cyclocross world championships in Treviso, Italy.

“I wouldn’t do this if I couldn’t bring the family,” he said. “You hearabout guys going to Europe and getting all burnt out and homesick. Forme, the whole family gets to come and I won’t have any of those issues.It’s going to be a great adventure for everyone, my wife’s never been toEurope; and the kids get to go there and experience it.”

Since Baker isn’t on a professional team, one of the most difficulttasks – after the logistics were worked out – was pulling enough gear togetherto be competitive in the European cyclocross races.

That nifty custom brake adjuster.

That nifty custom brake adjuster.

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“There’s just so much stuff,” he said. “I’ve been working on gettingthe equipment together, building bikes, and gluing wheels basically full-timefor the last two months. It’s a ridiculous amount of stuff.”

Baker does have a bit of help from sponsors in Colorado. He has riddenfor the local Primus Mootry cyclocross team for three years and the custombuilder continues to help him out. Though his three Primus Mootry framesaren’t brand new, Joe DePaemelaere, the brand’s owner, makes sure they’realways in tip-top condition. Vecchios, a local bike shop helps Baker outby gluing tires and giving him access to industry pricing on components.And the Denver, Colorado, based wheel manufacturer ROL is providing himwith a full stable of carbon wheels this year.

“ROL came on this year for wheels, which is just amazing,” said Baker.“You can’t really do it without a bunch of wheels because you’re goingto get flats and you basically need the same wheelset on both your A andB bikes.”

Baker is bringing a selection of three wheelsets for his European campaign,but since he will have two race bikes, he needs to double each selection.In total he will have six sets of race wheels. The three selections are:For mud, which is comprised of two ROL CX38 wheelsets sporting 32c DugastRhino tires; for fast, smooth courses with custom 50mm ROL carbon rimsand 32c Dugast Typhoon tires; and finally a set for bumpy courses withROL CX38 wheels and 34c Dugast Typhoon tires. He also has a training wheelset,tubular of course, and an extra set for his third bike. Baker keeps trackof all of this equipment himself and he acts as his own mechanic.

“I’ve built all of the bikes myself, which is good because there areso many little details in ’cross,” he said.

And his bikes do have some unique cyclocross-specific details, the mostinteresting of which is his custom-made brake adjuster.

“I saw a photo of Bart Wellens’ bike a couple of years ago,” Baker saidof where he got the idea for the brake adjuster. “It’s handmade, but Ididn’t make it. Joe DePaemelaere made this one, then I took it into Vecchioslast week and they made me another couple sets for the other two bikes.It’s basically a barrel adjuster for a derailleur and you just bore outand tap the straddle stop. It’s such a pain to adjust cantilevers so thisis really the trick.”

There is one loose end he needs to tie up once in Belgium — a pit savvymechanic.

“I’ve had a hard time finding one without being there,” he said. “It’shard to get everything organized from here; there’s still a few thingsthat need to be dialed in. A mechanic is the one big one I still have left.”

With all of this planning and all of this sacrifice something like thistakes you may ask the question, why?

For Baker it’s about living life to the fullest — it’s about livingthe dream.

“The big goal is to make the world’s team, but really I just want tosee what level I can reach being over there full-time learning from thebest,” he said. “But really it’s just about having fun. It’s like a bigvacation — I don’t have to work.”

That’s inspiration to us all.


Baker’s Equipment list:
Bikes:
Three Primus Mootry framesets, made from Easton Ultralite scandium with custom geometry (about 60cm).Bike weight: 16.3 lbsSpec list: 6 pair carbon tubular ROL wheelsets (1 pair 58mm), others 38mm 2 pair dugast rhyno 32mm 2 pair dugast typhoon 32mm 2 pair dugast typhoon 34mm Easton: (aluminum cockpit less prone to breaking in inevitable crashes) EA70 44m ergo bar EA70 110mm stem EC90 Zero seatpost, chopped EC90 SLX fork Fizik Arione Carbon / carbon rail saddle Campy Chorus Ergo 10sp Ergo levers Campy Record carbon crankset Campy Record rear derailleur Campy Record BB 42mm front chainring 12-25 or 11-23 rear campy cassette, depending on conditions Spooky carbon brakes with yellow “rat” swisstop carbon-specific pads 3rd eye chain watcher Nokon cables Crank Bros. 2-ti (short spindle) eggbeaters
Spare parts: 1 set campy ergo levers spare bar spare saddle spare seatpost spare brakeset 1 spare rear derailleur 3 spare rear derailleur hangers 3 pair spare brake pads 2 pair spare tubulars 1 spare bottom bracket 1 pair spare pedals 2 pair spare cleats 1 pair spare CX shoes 1 pair road shoes 1 pair road pedals 1 pair road wheels for training 1 floor pump
Custom parts: custom drilled brake straddle carriers for adjustability internals removed from Left shifter body: no front derailleur Levers filed on outside: eliminates protruding edge of lever, done to accommodate a higher-than-normal lever position Custom machined (by Primus Mootry) 3mm thick carbon plate chain guard on outer ring Aqua-Seal sidewall sealant on certain Dugast tires custom machined rear-brake hanger (attaches to seatpost clamp)
Extra stuff: Tool bag with common tools cleaning brushes 3 types lube tubular glue (continental) 1 2-bike “tri-all” sports hard case 1 single bike soft case 1 cardboard bike box (filled with 6 wheels) 1 3-wheel hard wheel case 1 carry-on (filled with bike kit) 1 backpack (personal items) 1 large duffel (my clothes for 4 months, plus embrocations and energy products)

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