Bubblecross is a fantastic course in a park, literally passing through a swing set, two sand pits and then sneaking up through some awesome single track. It’s got the usual tricky turny grass stuff you’d expect, but the rooty steep climbs and rock dodging presents a challenge for road converts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s1_DH0VBOIQ

Andrew Nicholas recorded his pre-ride of Bubblecross. My GoPro decided it was too cold to play.

My first Cat 4 was off to a bad start before we even got there. Car trouble on my end lead to a last minute rental grab for a teammate, and a twenty minute delay arriving. That twenty minutes should have been an observation lap, and at least one practice lap at speed, revisiting sections that were tricky.

The reality for me was one slow observation lap, and some panicking around trying to get the right layers for surprise instant-winter. By the time I’d picked up my number, my teammates were elsewhere and I had to ask a random junior to pin me. I rode like the wind to staging just in time to hear the last number being called. A few snickers could be heard as I sneakily tucked into the back row.

I was hyped up from all the rushing and went a tad hard off the start. “If nobody shouts at you on the starting line you’re doing it wrong” is something I’ve heard plenty of guys say, and clearly I was doing it right. The strong start was immediately negated on the grass, as my WTB Cross Boss tyres had me feeling like my brakes were half on. They were probably a tad aggressive for mostly grass, sand and hard packed mud. An area for improvement for me clearly is learning more about tyre choices.

NJ Cross stuff is apparently known for being a little more mountain-bike than most other northeast cross. That’s absolutely fine for me, but not for everyone. Bubblecross has a chunk of single track, and on the first two laps when we hit the rocks I was whipping through the tougher lines, and going ham where others were braking. I fucking love to mountain bike, and this was a great chance to sneak back a few wheels from the quick sand grass.

After a few laps we were all spread out and that advantage just meant I caught up with the Kissena chap ahead of me each time, only to have him pull away when it got a bit less technical. Road folks had a good straight after the sand and through the pits, so he’d be gone again.

I ended up placing 20th / 33, and I’m happy with that for my first Cat 4.

Things to Improve

Tight Turns: So far I’ve been really bad at tight turning in cross, this race and all others before. “Look where you want to go” is an obvious thing I’ve brought over from kayaking, but on the first two laps I wasn’t going there.

Turning the upper body and shoulders also helps, but what really helped me was on lap two when I realised looking through the corner and keeping my eyes locked on two meters ahead of where I wanted to be. This was especially easy with a very clear burned in line. After that I was flying trough the corners, instead of being all squealing braking and wobbles.

Keep working on that, and get more consistent with it.

Better Than Last Time

Seatpost: At both Kutztown and Marty Cross my seat clamp bobbled on a bump, and left me sliding off the back. Not only can that lead to a bit of a nasty shock when you try to sit down, but it had my back hurting towards the last few laps.

I replaced the Ritchey WCS Carbon Trail seatpost with a Thompson Masterpiece. It might not be carbon, but it’s incredibly light and strong like bull.

The Richey Trail has two curved ridges sticking out like a Cobra, and the two bolts are just poking into that. Maybe I could have got some carbon grip paste on there, but to be honest I’d rather just get the whole thing outta there. This new post held up despite the increased punishment.

Sand: Watching Into the Crosshairs has been invaluable, and the Svenness & Likeavoss videos are fantastic. Svenness 3.5 had some on point advice about sand.

Watch this for the sand tips, and top class face plant at 4:10.

I shove these on whilst riding on the trainer, and this one happened to pop up just before the race. Their tips about getting out of the saddle and using the whole body to keep upright in the sand is really important. People were going down in the sand right in front of me every lap, and it was those riding in the saddle. This video helped me avoid them, and avoid repeating their mistakes.

Key Takeaways

  • Getting at least an hour before the field start time is a requirement

  • Take multiple types of glove and slap on whatever combination keeps the cold out but also gives you good grip

  • Keep working on tight turns. Randals Island Cross Practice will help with that for those in NYC

  • Watch more Into the Crosshairs and keep cranking on the indoor trainer