I have never raced but there is a cyclocross race at a park near me next weekend.

All it said is some sand and some drop offs.

I would like some advice on selecting a bike and setting it up.

I have Bianchi Cylcocross Concept and Salsa La Cruz Ti. They are both Ultegra and greared the same 48/39 12-28. Both cantilever and weigh about the same. The concept is my workout bike and the Salsa by daily banger / commuter.

The Concept feels faster but the Salsa feels more stable. I also feel like the Salsa can take a crash better. So my thought is the Salsa.

I take it they race with cleats? For a first race should I cleat. I am comfortable with cleats.

I have touring tires on them now but I have some Conti 32 Twister. Would they be OK? Would I run them at max pressure? I weigh 165.

I also have a Niner Air 9 Carbon single speed mountain bike with carbon fork, disc brakes, and tubeless. I am not comfortable on big drop off on my cyclcross.

I rode the park on four set ups.

With 32 mm it was just too fast for me. There are some downhills with rocks that I would need to run at max pressure and even not in a group picking my line I was not comfortable.

The Air 9 was super stable but not very fast. I rode the park 15 minutes each direction and if the long hill is uphill then the single speed is not geared correctly but I am pretty sure they will have us ride down that hill.

The Salsa with 38 mm small block at mid pressure felt stable but still has a speed.

As far as cleats. I would not want to ride the downhills without em. Getting bounced hard enough that need bike attached.

  • Wow! 165kG! That must be some bike!
    – andy256
    Oct 26, 2014 at 22:56
  • Seriously, I didn't understand the bits about 32mm and 38mm.
    – andy256
    Oct 26, 2014 at 22:58
  • @andy256 Wow you call your bicycle I? Do you just refer to yourself by name?
    – paparazzo
    Oct 27, 2014 at 20:35
  • 1
    @Blam You have edited this post six times. The two answers bumped it twice. And you bumped it six more times. Furthermore, you have established a pattern of creating an incomplete post and then polishing it through edits. This is not the proper use of edits.
    – jimchristie
    Oct 28, 2014 at 19:48
  • 1
    @jimirings OK I hear you. I am not a good writer. I will work on it.
    – paparazzo
    Oct 28, 2014 at 21:39

3 Answers 3


Most cyclocross tires are 33-35mm and with tubulars (glued to the rim) many will run very low pressures (20-22 psi). I run 35mm clinchers and get to each race early to pre-ride a lap or two to dial in my pressure, typically will run 28-34 psi depending on how rocky the course is, I don't want to pinch flat, but really like the lower pressure as each lap it typically gets more and more muddy and you want the grip, especially on the off camber sections.

Cleats or no cleats is going to be more about your comfort getting in and out as you will get on/off the bike to carry up stairs/run-ups, through sand pits and barriers. This is about speed getting unclicked and clicked back in and right up to speed. Search on You Tube for cyclocross mounting.

You did not mention disc brakes, but with rim brakes, the sand will mix with the mud and wear your brake surface. If short and fast I'll ride the sand pits, if running I carry my bike, so go with the lighter bike.

Many courses have run-ups and barriers to carry your bike, so go with the lighter bike.

Many races have a 'pit' area for you to leave extra wheels, or even a different bike, so bring both bikes, get there early take a lap on each and race the one you like better. Put the other bike in the pits and switch if you get a mechanical or pinch flat. If this happens far away from the pits, you must run the course with your broken bike - you cannot leave course and take a shortcut, fix or switch and then get back on course.

  • 35 mm would probably be best but I don't have any. The downhill has some rocks. The Niner is the lightest but is the slowest as it is a mountain bike. The sand is so deep I cannot ride it. You got me thinking Niner as for a first race I just want to finish.
    – paparazzo
    Oct 27, 2014 at 12:04
  • I see many mountain bikes in the beginner races, as you move up (and with experience) you'll get that CX bike ready, checkout some of the other riders bikes and chat up a new conversation, new riding buddies, see if there are local CX practices - we have a weekly practice here in town and you just show up, do some drills and mini course with 5/6 lap 'race' at the end. Oct 27, 2014 at 12:44
  • There are some practices but they are outside of town and I don't like to drive. The park is a mile from my house. I will make up a course and practice on my own and get some times on both bikes.
    – paparazzo
    Oct 27, 2014 at 13:06
  • Tonight a cat 3 rider and one of the organizers was at the park and took me though the course and helped me a lot. He said the set up with the Salsa La Cruz and 38 mm looked fine.
    – paparazzo
    Oct 30, 2014 at 0:05
  • Awesome - stick around (or go early looking at the schedule you might go last) and watch the more experienced racers. Oct 30, 2014 at 1:29

Just a note about tire width, UCI use to allow 35mm width tires, they recently (in the last few years) decreased that to 33mm. Odds are this won't have any influence on the races you are doing, but 34mm use to be a very popular cross size for racing. Now there are leftover 34mm cross tires on sale lots of places because they can't be used in UCI races.

  • Since they allow mountain bikes I am thinking they allow any tire size. There was an email on the site and the organizer works at a local bike shop and said I could come by and ask questions. I am just going to ride my CX with the 38 mm there and ask him if it is allowed.
    – paparazzo
    Oct 27, 2014 at 15:13
  • Yes, I'm sure it is allowed. My point was you could get really good 34mm cyclocross tires cheap now.
    – user7257
    Oct 27, 2014 at 15:53
  • OK thanks, for the right price I will pick up a pair.
    – paparazzo
    Oct 27, 2014 at 16:19
  • I talked to one of the coordinators and he said technically 33 mm is the maximum but in my class no one will care.
    – paparazzo
    Oct 27, 2014 at 20:29

Rode my first race today and with the experience of the race will answer my question.

The route was not as technical as I thought it was going to be. I wish I had gone with a faster set up. 35 mm would have been fine.

Go with the lowest tire pressure you think you can get away with.

And I wish I had gone with the Bianchi. It feels a little longer on me and the hard parts of the course were some downhill switchbacks.

But I finished both races 40 yards behind the rider in front of me so a different set up would not have made a difference.

There were a lot of very nice bikes. Tubular tires are common. But I am not going to spend money on wheels. Once I can finish in the top 1/3 is when I will spend money to go faster.

  • One of the moderators frown at edits so a comment. Since the race I have been riding my single speed, fixed fork, tubeless (@ 20 PSI) mountain bike on the course for training. I did it so I could ride flat pedals and not wear out my cleats. I am turning in better times than my races on the CX. Mounts, dismounts, running, downhills, and obstacles are all faster. Stairs and sand are much faster. I am considering Stans conversion kit for my CX as PIRANHA has some 34 mm tubeless and get the CX down to 20 PSI.
    – paparazzo
    Nov 4, 2014 at 15:19

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