Cyclo cross is to me as how some guys find their girlfriends - loads of fun, great to be involved with it, gives great highs - but boy is it high maintenance. You've gotta do the right thing at the specific moments otherwise before long you'll get nagging protesting noises and suddenly things go awry big time !
That's what happened to me last Sunday. I hadn't cleaned my bike properly after my previous muddy capers at Stanmer Park. So I paid for it at Herne Hill. A marshall helped me tighten the gear cable, but that did nothing to help my knackered jockey wheels or wonky derailleur. So my race proceeded with difficulty. Pedalling was hard work even before I hit the sticky muddy sections. The slipping gears didn't help matters any, and I continued to slip further and further down the field on my peers. In the end I couldn't go much further at any decent speed and so my race came to an abrupt end.
Thankfully those nice people at Condor Cycles were able to fix the problem quite quickly.
But why can't I maintain my bike ? I hear you say. The answer is I loathe cleaning and maintenance.
When racing cross you can easily spend more time cleaning the thing than actually riding. Where's the fun in that ?
A fellow cyclo cross rider commented on how, even though he had 2 bikes with him at the Stanmer Park race he preferred to soldier on with the one extremely muddy bike than swap it over to a more freely moving clean spare bike. The reason : he couldn't bear to spend hours on Monday cleaning two muddy bikes. Just to clean the one bike had taken him all morning - at least he has the luxury of being able to spend Monday morning cleaning bikes while the rest of us slave away at our desks !
OK - so I know it was a little bit naughty of me to not make any attempt to clean the bike, so I rightfully suffered the consequences. (I will clean my bike regularly in future.) However I must admit that beyond bike cleaning, inner tube changing and the odd lubing here and there I become a hopeless case - changing brake pads, adjusting headsets, indexing - you've lost me there - this is where I become such a girl !
I'll probably develop a bit of confidence to do these things myself once I'm in a sink or swim situation, but as long as I've got the likes of Condor Cycles, Sigma Sport, De Ver Cycles, Geoffrey Butlers and Pearsons etc to help out I'd prefer to support their businesses while at the same time being sure that I have parts that are in tip top condition when I race. The Herne Hill cyclo cross round was a bit unfortunate, but it's unlikely to happen again soon - afterall this is only my first dnf in 3 seasons of cross racing.
And who never knows - maintenance, like Guinness and Marmite may become an acquired taste over time.