The first was wheel and tire prep. I was originally thinking about larger volume tires on a box style rim. But after having a conversation with Graham at the bike shop about it I decided against it. I guess I was in the mind set that higher volume would help me with flats. But in reality volume only helps with pinch flats. That's the type of flat that "pinches" the tube between the tire and the edge of the rim. Usually these happen with high impacts against hard edges. Think about the cobbles in Paris-Roubaix. That's a perfect place to use a high volume tire to soak up some of that impact.
Gavel on the other hand is a totally different critter. While it's certainly possible to get a pinch flat on gravel. But in my opinion it's a far more likely place to just get a straight up puncture. So I injected (With what looked like an enema kit. But Graham assured me it was a homemade invention.) the tubes with some Stan's Sealant.
Just take the guts out of the presta valve, squirt some in and replace the guts. Easy peasy Japanesey...
And I'm happy to report that I didn't have one issue the whole race. I raced my new (To me.) Easton carbon tubulars with the Vredestein Tri-Comp's that come on them. I hadn't had a ton of experience on the tubular version of those wheels before. But they were very grippy and seamed to spin up well.
Graham on the other hand was seduced by sexy borrowed carbon wheels and flimsy racing tires that double flatted with in about a mile of the first time through the gravel. He didn't inject the tubes with any sealant either. Which I'm sure didn't help.
Kenny had a similar fate as Graham. With the rear tire blowing out with in the first entry of the gravel and the front blowing out not to much later.
So I'm going to give the wheel setup a solid two thumbs up, an A+, and the much coveted Big E's "Super Swell" Award (A high honor indeed.).
The other adjustment to the bike I wanted to talk about was something I saw the shop doing to another racers bike. And when I asked them about it I thought it was such a good idea I went home and did the same thing to my bike. It was such a simple thing. While I have often confessed to having a near OCD about keeping my bikes clean this little trick more than likely saved my frame from some ugly paint damage.
Packing tape on the underside of the down tube and on the back side of the seat tube.
Now before you go accusing me of going off the deep end of the anal-retentive pool hear me out.
Have you ever been riding in a group and had a rock thrown up from someone else's tire and hit you in the shin? Hurts like a mother doesn't it. Well imagine what that would do to your paint job. If it was done over and over and over again. Add that to the fact that the paint on my Gary Fisher Cronus is tender at best. All of a sudden packing tape on the most exposed areas seems great to me.
I'm also happy to report the this also worked really well.
The only part that didn't work very well was trying to get the tape off after. It took a lot of picking. So sharpen your fingernails before you start... It might also be because I waited several days before I removed it. Giving the adhesive plenty of time to attach. Meh. Live and learn. I'll try taking it off right after and see if that makes any difference at all.
So those are my tips. Such as they are. I know they aren't earth shaking. But I would definitely do them again if I were going to go any kind of distance on gravel. In fact I may get another whack at it later in the month with the Eugene Roubaix.
Tomorrow is Famous Friday. And per special request from my Super Smokin' Hot Wife (SSHW) there will be a male pro cyclist section.
Thanks for reading!
Rubber side down,