All the Money on the Front Line


by Byron on May 31, 2010 at 12:17 PM

As Joe said, “look at that, all the money is on the front line.”


And this is a Cat 4 race. 2 aluminum wheels in the front of the starting line, 3 in the second row, and mostly aluminum in the 3rd.

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I can’t help but think this is a bit excessive, especially in a Cat 4 race where paceline manners aren’t as good yet and all it’d take is a little sidewind to overcome someone’s novice bike handling…

Either that or you have a lot of sandbagging going on.

Upper category racers will often NOT race their good wheels in a crit to not break them. Not a lot of sand bagging in that race; there was a crash each lap and about 7 groups after lap one.

I am not a racer and know no racers myself, and am thus ignorant of the customs.  But I can’t help but assume that using expensive components at a middling level of competition is more about being a Proud Peacock than actual performance.

I would imagine a very skilled rider could take my current “fast bike,” a 26 year old steel frame hung largely with 25+ year old Suntour equipment and assembled in total for about $300, and win or do at least very well.  In the modern age equipment is assumed to provide or replace skill, but of course bike racing is fundamentally about the body and not the machine.

I also think this is part of the reason why roadies are consistently denigrated by non-roadies.  Riding bikes like these at a Cat4 race is pretty ridiculous to non-club members.

Same thing with recreational cyclists. Ever been at a charity ride? Those are absolutely races and some of the most competitive riding we’ve seen. These guys are living the sports fantasy of racing and riding what the pros ride because they can and what’s wrong with that? I’m sure that’s consistent across sports where the amateurs at the local level have better equipment than the pros. Golfing? Triathletes too.

What Non-roadies do you mean? Commuters have as much gear, but spent on jackets and booties, and so do Mtn. bikers.  Non-club rides race each other everyday out on the roads. They just don’t pin a number on or wear matching outfits.

25yr old Suntour?

The more technical the crit, the more the lack of integrated controls will be a decisive handicap.  The last time I saw downtube shifters place in a cat4 crit was 1998, Coconut Grove Miami.

This is why, when I took up racing on a dare last year, I went straight to short-track xc mountain biking and cyclocross, and I did it all on an old singlespeed mountain bike I’d cobbled together from parts. I finished last or near-last in every race—woefully out of shape and racing women half my age—but I got SO much love from the crowd (and the male racers!) for racing singlespeed that I’ve decided it’s the only racing I’ll ever do. Yeah, there’s bling there too if you want it, but it never gets quite as ridiculous—or as pretentious—as in the above picture.

Cross is a good scene and we cover that too and they spend just as much on gear… Carbon tubulars I’m sure are seen there on the start line. Difference in Cross is the camaraderie and courses that permit a racer to finish without a lone lap of shame. You’re likely projecting your own concerns on this race. There wasn’t much pretension or anymore than an elite level cross race and that’s a lot to read from a photo of wheels. What cross is really good at is accepting new people with varying degrees of fitness.