It’s been a few month since I have written an article. I suppose it’s due to some changes in my personal life also the fact that time just hasn’t allowed me to ride as much as I would like. With all that said I will bring you up to speed on the past few month of riding I have been doing and I also wanted to revisit an article I wrote around this time last year that has to do with setting up a dirt jumper for BMX racing and just making it a great all-purpose bike.
I have been spending a bunch of time riding at Ray’s MTB in Cleveland since it’s only about 25 minutes from my house. It’s extremely convenient to stop in after work and knock out a 90 minute session with a few friends and then grab some dinner and laughs on the way home.
Last month I helped in hosting the Oldfools/Wick’s Chili Cook-off weekend and it was an overwhelming success. We were down slightly on chili entrants but the quality of this year’s chilies were some of the best I remember. We had an epic chainless pump race with David Hogue crushed everyone in. That dude is so fast and smooth…. It makes me jealous.
I ended up hiding in the hotel room for a good chunk of the weekend while I passed a kidney stone but I wanted to thank everyone that came out once again this year and I am already looking forward to next year!
If you haven’t made the trip out to Rays yet this season I highly recommend you do so. It has something for everyone and all it will do is make you a better rider. I’ve seen it year after year with riders that struggle in the skill area in the early fall only to be hitting jumps and gain bike control they never would have without having Ray’s at their disposal. Pick a weekend and make the trip before they close for the summer…. Trust me!
I also got to take a trip out to Dayton Indoor for some laps. It had been since September since I had been on a gate and I was really happy to feel like I could still do this BMX racing thing… Lol. While that trip was about getting some laps in it was really about spending some time with by buddy and fellow 26BMX rider, Chris Cline. We have traveled all over the place racing and riding and we haven’t had the opportunity to do that much lately so Those 4 or 5 hours in a car together meant more to me than any of the riding. Don’t forget that friends and the adventure are just as important if not more important than the actual riding. Enjoy the journey my friends
I got to take the family out to the Wheel Mill for some fun and I was shocked at how well my daughters are riding. They called me into the Woods Room to watch them and I was blown away to see them jumping the big stuff and getting it smooth. Their riding has really come a long way this winter.
Last but not least I want to wish my oldest daughter a Happy Sweet 16th birthday! She got to spend it with friends and family and even had some of her out of town friends drive over for the day to have a session at Ray’s with her. She is in the process of getting her license and is already learning how to drive my truck so she can load up the bikes and go ride with her friends. I have to admit that makes me proud.
Like I said above I wanted touch on a few of the more common pitfalls riders make from coming from the BMX world to the DJ world. First things first, Pretty much nothing from your BMX bike is going to be able to be reused. Maybe the seat, post, grips, and brake lever if you’re running a mechanical brake. I have seen it 100 times where guys buy a new dirt jumper frame and go to install the cranks just to find out the spindle isn’t long enough or the chain ring hits the frame. Let me save you some grief, a BMX bike has a 68mm bottom bracket and most dirt jumpers have a 73mm bottom bracket. I personally like Shimano Saints for their strength, ease of installation and the ability to run the chain ring on either side of the spider for clearance. The other thing I suggest is buying a rear hub or rear wheel that has a nine speed driver and then installing a single speed kit on it. The reason for this is because once you get your cranks and chain ring installed you can really dial in the chain line by moving the rear cog on the driver.
Since we are on the subject of chain rings and cogs let’s talk about what gears to run for racing. One thing to remember on the big bikes is that the roll out can really be tweaked by the size of the rear tire you’re running. This is something some people never think about but really should. From manufacturer to manufacturer the diameter can change enough to really affect your roll out. I have experimented with 34/16 and a smaller diameter rear tire and a 33/16 with a slightly taller tire. I spent the better part of a winter playing with different combinations to figure out what works for me. Like anything there is some personal preference that goes along with this but a 33/16 with a 2.15 Maxxis DTH really seems to be the sweet spot for me. I guess my point is make sure you really pay attention to your tires because some of the tires for 26” bikes are really tall and can make your bike feel really lazy which isn’t much fun for racing.
The next thing you’re going to encounter is brakes. There have been recent discussions on social media about disc brakes in BMX and are they necessary. The answer is probably no, but a good dialed in disk brake is sooooooo much better than any V-brake on a BMX bike. It’s one of those things that you don’t know that you want it until you have it. On a dirt jumper you are pretty much going to be forced to run a disk so here are a few tips. While a hydraulic brake is awesome the reality is that you will never do enough heavy braking in a BMX race to need that kind of stopping power and the tire will lock up anyways if you’re braking that hard. The other issue with hydraulic brakes at a BMX race is that if you crash and brake the lever or cable you’re not going to be able to run over to the local track vendor and get fixed up. You are basically forced to run brakeless the rest of the weekend. A good Avid BB7 mechanical brake is really all that is needed and being able to adjust the pads with ease in staging is nice too if you notice you have a little drag on the rotor. The good thing is that these brakes are cheap enough you can buy a spare one and throw it in your tool box just in case you really mess one up in a race. With hydraulic brakes you can spend a pretty penny but being able to feather that brake lever ever so lightly is a bonus. The choice is yours.
Here comes the voodoo….. This is where I have seen more guys go wrong with racing a dirt jumper than any other part. Forks. There is something to be said for just putting on a rigid fork and being done with it but in my opinion a well-tuned suspension fork can make all the difference in the world. Here are a few things to remember with suspension. You can adjust the travel of a fork which effects two things on the bike that will have very big impact on the performance of the bike. The taller the fork the slower the steering because of the effect it has on the head tube angle and a taller fork also raises the bottom bracket which can affect your gate starts. Many guys order a fork that comes set at 100mm or even 120mm which in my opinion is just too high and makes the bike feel sluggish, slow, and lazy. I have raced at 100mm, 80mm and played around with different travel lengths to finally landed on 80mm as my preferred set up for the type of all-around riding I am currently doing but I raced with it at 60mm for years.. This lowers the bottom bracket a little and quickens up the steering. I still get the benefit of plenty of travel on the track but I do run mine at a pretty high air pressure. I like mine at 175psi for race day. It keeps them stiff enough to put power down for the first four or five cranks but still soft enough to give compression on the faces of jumps or while carving a corner. Do yourself a favor and buy a fork that you can set the air pressure where you like it and not trying to change springs out to firm it up. You will likely never be happy even with the firmest spring. So to recap, buy an air adjustable fork and don’t be afraid to play with the travel. There is a bit of trial and error in setting these bikes up the first time until you find what works for you.
I think that covers all the common areas that I get questions about at pretty much every race. Oh, one more thing. No, I don’t lock my fork out! If I had a quarter for every time I have been asked that I could probably pay off my house. Hahaha
I think that basically brings everyone up to speed. It looks like my season is about to kick off with a trip to Rock Hill for my first national of the years and also I am going to try to qualify for the World’s team this year. Fingers crossed.
See everyone soon!! – Brian Wick