Once you get to a certain level equipment becomes increasingly important, and gearing and tyre choice/pressure are absolutely key. My bike – a Specialized Crux Pro Carbon – stays exactly the same for the whole season but the only two things I change are the tyres (and the pressure in them) and the gearing. You’ve got to get them spot on and I think that tyre choice and tyre pressure is one of the biggest things holding people back.
I normally run a 46-39t chainset and change the cassette depending on the course, while having tyres suitable for the conditions is essential. I would never have a specific setup in my head before I get somewhere and can see and ride the course for myself. I always start with 1.5 bar (approximately 22 PSI) in the tubs (which can be run at lower pressures than clinchers) and then I’d go out and ride the course. If I’m struggling for grip or it’s really bumpy then I let the tyres down a little until I have the amount of grip I want.
I also have three sets of tyres suitable for different conditions. I always use Challenge tyres and I use the Grifo XS for sand, the Grifo for fast, dry conditions, maybe with a little mud, then the Limus for full-on mud.
Take a look at our cyclo-cross buyer’s guide for information on what to consider when buying a cyclo-cross bike.