Ask Nick: Quarq ‘cross crank, directors riding shotgun, rice cakes and frame pumps

Nick Legan's third-to-last installment of Ask Nick looks at rice cakes and frame pumps, directors in team cars and Quarq 'cross crank

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Editor’s Note: VeloNews tech editor Nick Legan is a former ProTour mechanic who most recently wrenched for Team RadioShack at the 2010 Tour de France and elsewhere. His column appears here every Thursday. You can submit questions to Nick at, and be sure to check out Nick’s previous columns.

Attention ladies and germs: First up, an announcement. I wanted to let you, my readers, know that I’m leaving and Velo magazine, effective September 7, for new opportunities. It’s been a great pleasure taking your questions and leading the Velo tech crew. Cycling is my first love and will always remain so. By default, you, the cyclists out on the road, are dear to me. So keep looking after each other. We’re all in this together, so please seek unity and not division.

I’m proud to have been a part of the VeloNews family and played a small role in its long history. I grew up reading VeloNews and will remain a loyal reader. The passion that VeloNews’ writers, reporters and editors have for the sport of cycling is unparalleled. I leave with love and respect for my colleagues at VeloNews. My interests have seen me getting dirtier on bike rides and I’ll follow my interests in my next venture as I look to learn more about the cycling world. If you’re interested in replacing me or know someone with writing skills, logistical savvy and technical know-how, look for a job listing soon.

The good news is that there are still two more installments of Ask Nick before I go. So if you’ve hesitated to ask a question, now is the time to get it in. Send your inquiries, written with care, correct capitalization and punctuation, to

Do you think a Quarq power meter is up to a season of cyclocross hell as long as I don’t point a power washer directly at it? Sand, mud and downpours are standard issue.

Also do you think the drivetrain will hiccup much if the Quarq is SRAM and the rest of the drivetrain is full mechanical Dura-Ace? I could switch the chain to a KMC or Wippermann if that would smooth things over.
— Anna Barensfeld

I think your Quarq will be just fine for cyclocross. They are pretty robust units. Power washers are not a great idea for much of your bike, but useful in removing mud quickly at races. The best mechanics try to avoid all bearings when they blast a bike. Focus instead on brakes, wheels, tires and handlebar tape, only spraying the drivetrain when necessary. Otherwise a normal hose will get the job done with a brush.

Your Quarq will work just fine with your Shimano components. Bear in mind that you will have to change the chainrings for cyclocross anyway and you could buy yourself Shimano rings if you’re particularly worried. I’ve had good luck with both Shimano and KMC chains on predominantly Shimano bikes. Wippermann chains are also excellent, but I prefer them on Campagnolo bikes. They seem a little slower to shift when I’ve used them on my Shimano/SRAM bikes.

In some of your previous columns you mention that you eat rice cakes, like the pros, while riding.  What are you doing with rice cakes that makes them taste so delicious and not like hay cakes?
— Morris

We call them rice cakes, but they aren’t the dried cardboard discs you can buy at the grocery. Instead they are moist globs of rice, eggs, bacon, salt and cheese that we make ourselves. My apologies for not making the difference more apparent! made videos with the authors of The Feed Zone Cookbook. You can learn to make Allen Lim’s rice cakes, here. Lim has started to experiment with different varieties, both sweet and savory. A fellow rice-cake devotee friend called me the other with the idea to make apple-crisp rice cakes. The beauty of them is the ability to customize them for your tastes and needs. I like mine a bit saltier than some do. I also tend to increase the egg content. Doing both makes them tastier to my palate and easier on my stomach. But that’s just me.

Why does the directeur sportif generally drive the follow car?  Surely he can sit shotgun and have the freedom to read the map, speak to the riders, listen to the radio and tell the mechanic where he wants the car to go? I have a feeling you are going to say tradition.
— Jimmy

Tradition in this case has little to do with the seating arrangements of the team car. Practicality wins out in this situation.

It makes sense for the mechanic to sit in the back for several reasons. It gives him/her more room for tools, spares, etc. That way the mechanic can also access the coolers of drinks, rain bags and extra spare wheels in the trunk area. It also means that the mechanic can try to sneak in catnaps during the race.

But I do think it also makes sense for the director to focus on directing instead of driving. It’s like talking on a phone and driving a car: It doesn’t make sense and I personally wish it was illegal in the United States, as it is in most of the world. But I digress.

Some directors do sit shotgun, though and leave the driving to another director. They can collaborate on tactics, and by dividing the different tasks, they may do them better, both the driving and the directing. Bjarne Riis likes to sit up front and leave the driving to another director. This setup, of course, requires another qualified driver behind the wheel; one that is trusted by the director, mechanic and most importantly, by the riders.

What frame pump or minipump do you carry on road rides?  After more than 25 years of riding, it seems that I’ve tried them all but can’t say which I prefer.
— Bradley

I have a couple favorites. For frame pumps, I go with Blackburn, always have. They work great and have lifetime warranties (though I’ve only taken advantage of that once in all my time riding). Blackburn’s Frame Pump CF is a favorite and with its carbon fiber tube looks great on modern bikes. Of course, as I go to the Blackburn site, it is no longer listed. But you can still find stock online or at shops.

For minipumps, I love Lezyne’s line. I’ve used the Road Drive for high-pressure applications and the Alloy Drive for mountain bike and ’cross tires. When I travel I bring along Lezyne’s Micro Floor Drive HP HPG (wow, what a lengthy name!). It’s a compact floor pump with an inline pressure gauge. It works great.

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