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What to bring to a cyclocross race

What to bring to a cyclocross race to ensure success and fun.

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What to bring to a cyclocross race
All set up and ready for the start.

Cyclocross racing is not for those with minimalist tendencies. There is gear for warming up, gear for racing, gear for cooling down, gear for the bikes and gear for creating a fun and enjoyable atmosphere. In addition, it is often not enough to have a single piece of equipment or clothing; several may be needed for the day. Only rookies show up with a single pair of gloves. A simple 45-minute race may require more gear than a week-long summer tour, but without the right gear your day can quickly go downhill.

As we all know, much of the allure of ‘cross racing is the atmosphere. The noise, electricity and madness of it all come together to create what is the heart of cyclocross. A good set-up area gives your friends and family a place to hang out and enjoy the atmosphere and it gives you and your teammates a place to get changed, select gear, and relax post-race.

(Related: A look inside Jeremy  Powers’ cyclocross travel bag)

In order to give yourself the best chance at racing well and to help you enjoy the atmosphere of the event here is a list of items you should consider:

The set-up

1. If you are going to be at the race all day you’re going to need to eat. Make your set-up area the place to be, by cooking your own brats and making warm drinks using a simple camping stove. The Coleman PerfectFlow has a side for grilling and a side for boiling water. It is easy to light and uses basic propane canisters that you can find at any major retail store.

What to bring to a cyclocross race
53x11 sounds like a road gear, but it's also a good cyclocross coffee choice. But maybe it's time for a 44x13 blend?

2. Coffee is the perfect way to stay warm while giving you that extra boost you need to clear the sandpit or cheer on your friends. Use a French press to make fresh coffee and keep your crew energized all day. The Glacier French Press from G.S.I. comes in either 33- or 50-ounce capacity, is simple to use, rugged, and stays warm on cold days.

3. If you are going to make coffee, make it good coffee. 53×11 Coffee is owned by cyclists and is certified Fair Trade and organic. Blends named Big Ring, Early Break and Chain Breaker will make you want to put the hammer down. Go with the Chain Breaker blend for a darker roast that also does well as espresso.

4. Chairs are a necessity for race day. Sitting down to pull on the warmers and shoes is much easier than doing the one-leg hop. After the race it’s a good place to collapse and rest. They also give your crew a place to sit and rest while you’re out warming up. The Crazy Legs Leisure Chair from Crazy Creek has a flip up side table and side pockets so you can keep your gear handy and off the ground.

5. With all this gear, how are you going to stay organized? Rather than have several bags, throw it all into the Deluxe Bike Cube from MountainSmith. With three sections big enough for two pairs of shoes, your helmet, sunglasses and extra clothes, along with pockets for your iPod, nutrition or other small items it hauls it all. It even comes with a fold out mat and a roll-up tool pouch.

6. Have you ever been to a ‘cross race without the sound of cowbells? Neither have I. The loud clanging of the bell as it’s rung by some crazed fan in a crazy costume gets to the heart of cyclocross. You can skip the costume, but the bell is a must.

7. Like the cowbell, the Lion of Flanders flag is also a mainstay in the Euro-cross scene. Show your love of ‘cross and make your set up stand out by flying this symbol of tough cyclists everywhere.

The bike gear

1. A good base layer is critical when choosing your clothing for the day. This layer has to keep you warm but it also has to breathe well to keep you dry and it has to do this without being bulky. Too much air coming in and you get cold, not enough going out and you sweat too much. Craft’s Zero and ZEROextreme layers come in short and long sleeve and defy logic by being incredibly warm yet highly breathable and ultra thin. For extra protection go with the GoreTex WindStopper front.

2. Gloves, arm and knee warmers are another key component to your clothing choices. The Equinox glove from Specialized is thin but keeps your hands warm and dexterous. Knee and arm warmers keep you warm and dry pre-race or add another layer of protection during the race. Pearl Izumi’s Thermal line of warmers are fleece lined and use anatomical construction to fit well and not bunch up.

What to bring to a cyclocross race
The Kurt Kinetic Road Machine is a compact trainer good for warm-up. The new LeMond Revolution trainer, which replaces the rear wheel, might be good option, too, if you don't like to wear out your Dugasts on a roller.

3. A good warm up is an absolute necessity for a good race. Start by using The Stick to get the muscles prepped for the effort ahead. The Stick is a great self-massage tool that works great on your quads, calves and hamstrings. It is also great for post-race recovery.

4. Knowing the course and choosing the proper set up is critical for any serious racer, so riding a few warm up laps are a must. While you’re out there you’ll need to stay warm and dry. Schlamm clothing comes from the U.K. where if they only rode in good weather, they would rarely ride. The Portland Rain Suit is aptly named and will keep you dry as you warm up on the course. Your pit crew can also wear it while you’re out racing.

5. After you’ve ridden a few laps and have your gear selected, continue your warm up on a trainer to do specific efforts. The Road Machine from Kurt Kinetic has a smooth feel and a small footprint so it’s great for traveling. The optional computer has speed, heart rate and computes wattage using its own algorithm.

6. Go near any professional or die-hard ‘cross racer and you will catch the distinct smell of menthol and eucalyptus as racers rub in warming lotions to help them stay warm during the race. Also known as embrocations or Belgian knee warmers, these oils help promote circulation and keep you warm. From Germany comes Sixtus who has two great options. The Start Oil is non-greasy, has a medium heat and wipes off easily, making it great for the cold. Sport Creme is best for wet conditions and uses lanolin to repel water and provide protection to bare legs.

7. Tired of pinning numbers on your jersey? 3M General Purpose 45 Spray Adhesive is a quick way to get your number on. Just spray the back of the number and slap it on your back. It looks cool, works great and keeps you from having to poke holes in your new jersey.

What to bring to a cyclocross race
The more chairs you bring, the more friends you'll have.

8. If your bike is clean after a race you did something wrong. Clean your rig quickly and avoid standing in line at the wash station with the Nomad Portable Pressure Washer. This unit is easy to carry, runs on a rechargeable battery, has a pocket big enough for brushes and rags, uses an adjustable nozzle and holds 3.5 gallons of water so you can clean multiple bikes. At only 90 P.S.I. it won’t strip paint and is gentle on bearings and pulleys.

9. To really get the bike clean you’re going to need to do some scrubbing. Park Tools’  four-brush set covers you from drive train to frame. Each brush has a specific application in mind and will get your bike running smooth in no time.

10. After cleaning the bike it’s time to clean yourself off. Dried mud from racing is not the same as a spa treatment and can start to burn or sting as it dries. Power Shower Body Wipes from Nathan Sports are essentially baby wipes designed for athletes. These handy little towelettes are great for getting the dirt, mud and grit off and will leave you smelling better for the ride home.

Got some more must-have items? Leave a comment below.