the setback post

Category: Cyclocross

TSP goes Euro – CX in Luxembourg

On grounds that I should witness at least one ’cross race in person before actually competing, Boxing day saw me and some surprisingly acquiescent family members at Luxembourg’s Fond-de-Gras at Differdange.

The race got off to a blistering start under leaden Continental skies, quickly heading offroad onto a course with an alarming amount of climbing.

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The crowd went wild. Dogs wore coats.

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As a huge #SVENNESS fan, I got excited when I realised Telenet-Fidea, a team I actually recognised, had a rider in the race. One Ben Boets, if I’m not mistaken.

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His pit crew were hard at work making his bikes look cleaner than anyone else’s.

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Soon enough, the race split up, with local favourite Christian Helmig looking strong at the front. He faded slightly as the race went on, ultimately finishing 5th. Dave de Cleyn (in black) was the eventual winner, finishing a scant 13s ahead of Joeri Hofman (in green).

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The view at the finish line.

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Because I like pink bicycles…

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As the race took its toll, trailing riders retired or were gently reminded to get out of the goddamn way.

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Under 23 champion Massimo Morabito came 11th.

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Much Di2 was in evidence, with lashings of Dugast and carbon.

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As the highest placing Luxembourger and recipient of the most shouts of encouragement, it was Helmig the press most wanted a piece of in the immediate aftermath.

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Second place was well earned.

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In keep with continental racing’s traditional scepticism about discs, I counted just three riders eschewing cantilevers. It came as a surprise that Christian Helmig was one of them, but this may be explained by the fact that he’s been racing in the US for the last few years where discs have all but taken over in the pro ranks.

What’s more significant is that this is the first time I’ve seen the new Shimano R785 hydraulics in the flesh. Helmig’s Specialized Crux sported the distinctive levers along with what appears to be custom Luxembourgish bar tape. Perhaps because of existing equipment constraints however, he was running 10 speed rather than 11.

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I’m not sure how much I learnt from all this, except that it is blatantly obvious I’m going to be destroyed when it comes to actual racing. How jolly.


#SVENNESS 2.12 from In The Crosshairs on Vimeo.

They’re all good, but this one is worth watching for the completely humbling pace. And the opening tune.

’Cross examination: braking news

Rides like this have been an interesting exercise for me in exploring the limitations of a ’cross bike. I love that even with mud tyres, the bike really isn’t half bad on the road, and of course it opens up a realm of possibilities off-road. It is not, however, a MTB as the gearing and rigid fork do their best to remind me whenever the going gets gnarly and my lack of technical skills makes itself evident.

Moor CX

Gentle grassy rise? Bricking it. Photo: Jack Luke of

Being an obsessive, I’ve naturally already started refining my ideas about the ideal bicycle for this sort of thing. Leaving aside that my humble TCX lacks even a carbon fork, there are some non-negotiable features already being added to the spec for my dream ’cross/all-road/gravel-douching machine. Most obviously…

Disc brakes. Really, having used cantis off-road, I’m astonished it’s taking this long for road lever compatible discs to come of age. Cantis, even set up by a rockstar mechanic like me, suck. I’m already lusting after the new Shimano hydraulics, although some of the latest mechanical setups like the dual piston TRP Spyre look worthy of consideration:

TRP Spyre mechanical disc brake


…or perhaps the ingenious hydraulic/mechanical hybrid Hy/Rd:

TRP HyRd disc brake - rear


The arguments for and against discs for the road-only use have been hashed out, refined and regurgitated more times than I’ve had saddle sores (which is a lot of times, my taint is a warzone), so I won’t explore them again. What I will say is that for ’cross or any of the endlessly proliferating sub-genres of all-road bikes, I really don’t know why this is still up for discussion.

Sure, blame the UCI or years of tradition or blame the tiny weight penalty or just blame good old fear of change, but really, just get on with it. Discs work.

Winter riding: at ’cross purposes

Incurable half-wheeler, excellent photographer and all round extremely average friend Jack Luke led me astray on a ’cross ride recently. Jack’s the sort of masochist that shoots sports on medium format, but because I am worth but mere snapshots, he only brought his DSLR this time. All photos in this post are his.

There was mud:

CdF mud

There were leaves:

There were moody rides into the distance:

There may have been a dog:


There was bleak Scottishness:


There was singletrack:

And there was an ironic, but still very cold, river crossing:

The moral of the story is: I may know Jack, but neither does he.


Trek’s new CX bike

This picture of what appears to be a Trek cyclocross prototype has been doing the rounds for the last day, which pleases me because I like having things about which to curmudge:


Photo: Megan Pura Porteous on Instagram, via BikeRumor, now deleted

On paper this has the potential to be a very, very nice bicycle. It appears to be a sort of carbon Crockett/Domane mashup (Dockett? Crackett?) sporting Shimano’s not-yet-available R785 Di2/hydraulic disc setup and more significantly, it has a Domane-style IsoSpeed doodad to decouple the seat tube from whatever it is Trek deems it necessary it be decoupled from. It’s technology proven by Spartacus himself:

…along with middle aged blokes everywhere who definitely, definitely intend to ride de cobblesh [sic] at some point.

So all that is excellent and fabulous and what, I hear you (my one reader, hi Mum!) ask is the problem? The problem is that naturally, being a high end Trek, this is going to have a BB90 bottom bracket and it’s hard to think of a system less suited to the rigours of cyclocross.

Never mind jet-washing, if you so much as perspire too enthusiastically near a BB90 setup you’ll need a new set of bearings. This is not a great problem in and of itself; after all, none of the current crop of press fit BBs are exactly famed for their longevity, but BB90 has the singularly Trekky disadvantages of being totally proprietary (third party bearing choices are pretty limited) and also rather vulnerable to the ingress of water and dirt. It’s a system that leans heavily on the not-so-fine tolerances of a moulded carbon bearing seat:


Photo: Bikerumor

…with predictably mixed results.

Of course, the real reason you shouldn’t buy this bike is because, like, it’s a Trek. But that’s just silly, isn’t it?

Hubris: (foreshadowing)

Title because I’ve been watching too many #SVENNESS videos instead of actually riding aforementioned kross biek.

#SVENNESS 2.8 from In The Crosshairs on Vimeo.

In hub news, this is more interesting than you think it is:


Photo: Shimano via

Meet the catchily named FH-CX75. No, it’s not a MTB hub, although it is 135mm spaced. In fact aesthetically, it owes rather more to the current Ultegra 6800 hub than any of Shimano’s bouncy bike offerings:


Photo: Shimano via

The reason this matters is that currently, the FH-CX75 is Shimano’s only 11 speed compatible disc hub. Granted the vast majority of ‘crossers are probably still on 10 speed or lower for reasons of not-being-that-guy-with-the-overly-nice-bike (or like, economy or something) but if future proofing is a concern then it doesn’t make a lot of sense to be buying hubs that aren’t 11 speed compatible at the moment.

As far as I can ascertain the new hub is going be available in 28h only, both front and rear. Yes, a front is coming too:


Surprise! It’s grey too! Photo: Shimano via

There are doubtless already lighter, shinier, more spiritually enriching alternatives out there, but I for one feel safer knowing that Shimano is looking out for us. And by us, I mean people who find this sort of thing interesting and smell faintly of GT85 and loneliness.