LaRuta de Los Conquistadores is Hell on bikes. Primeval Jungle mud, ancient dirt roads with golf ball sized rocks caked in decades of coal dust and diesel fumes, and hot liquefied sand that’s been baking in the Caribbean sun all day just waiting to attack your bikes moving parts. And that’s just one day! My week in Costa Rica brought out the best in me and my equipment and showed me that the spirit of competition and the excitement for bicycle racing is worldwide. The Ticos (so Costa Ricans call themselves) make a BIG deal out of La Ruta, and so they should. Over 500 Athletes came from over 25 countries to “race” from the jungle forests of the Pacific over the volcanic mountains of the central valley, and on to Caribbean coast on the third and final day and I was privileged and thrilled to be one of them.
I chose my familiar Pivot LES singlespeed for the job. The Les and I have been good friends all season winning USAC XC SS Nationals, the NUE series Singlespeed title, and numerous other events along the way. After a whole season of snapping necks and cashing checks we were headed to La Ruta, where the only thing you don’t know to prepare for is everything. Bike prep and security is handled daily by the notoriously aggressive Specialized CR mechanics. These guys know what they are doing and make things shine, unfortunately they also have the distinct advantage of sending you and your bike home in whatever condition after three days under their eye. These guys clean and race prep 350 bikes each and every night of LaRuta and deliver them the following day at the start line cleaned, lubed, and ready to kick it into gear. As best I could gather from prior racers the process involves Kerosene and water for cleaning, diesel oil for chains, and im pretty sure my rear brake was bled with actual lizard blood…which comes in pretty close to mineral oil in viscosity apparently! So not only are the volcanoes, pythons, and rail bridges over croc infested rivers out to get you, but Specialized CR will blast all of those things clean into your bottom bracket!
So going into LaRuta I knew the preparation for me and my bike was key, what could I do to full proof myself and my gear against the Jungle and the Spesh Brute Squad? Easy, roll over to my cleaning bucket and select four ProGold products which I knew well and had tested all year.
1) EPX Cycle Grease- The kind folks at Blue Ridge Cyclery in Charlottesville VA and I pre packed my headset bearings and new BB with EPX knowing they would withstand a lot of force from pressure washing and also extended and repeated submersion followed by repeated cycles of low cadence high torque. EPX did its job and allowed my bearings to roll smooth for the duration. No horror stories about bearings here…pythons…that’s another matter
2) Pro Gold Pro towels. I use the big bucket of these little gold treasures at home but the TSA frowns on anything that smells like anything and comes in sizes greater than 3oz so it was singles for me and my LES. Thee little guys are good for everything! Chains-obviously. Cassettes (or ss cogs in my shoes), chainrings, and frame surfaces-check. Saddles and grips-sure! I gotta keep my custom ‘Merica ESi Grips clean and shiny after all! The pro towels do their job and you get a ton of mileage out of one or two. I keep several in my toolbox for going to races and they did overtime on shoes and apparel during LaRuta.
3) Pro Gold Helmet Cleaner and Deodorizer . This stuff is a LIFESAVER! I know, helmet schmelmet…who caaaares about how clean your helmet is?!! While let me tell you, its not so much how clean my helmet is but how clean those pads are! I use it about once a month on my shoes and on the whole surface of my helmet. I do this because I do actually like clean and shiny things but more importantly because I like to keep my skin shiny and skin cancer free, which means sunscreen. Sunscreen in skin lotion daily and especially strong ‘screen for 6 hrs of Costa Rican Sol! This sunscreen has a nasty habit of getting in the helmet pads and riding along with the sweat streaming off my ginger skin and straight into my eyes. Nothing burns like sunscreen in the eyes. Nothing! One spray of ProGold Helmet cleaner once a month or so and not only will I keep my junk skunk free but Im guaranteed free of sunscreen and other nasty stuff that likes to camp out where my pale forehead meets the helmet.
4) ProGold EXTREME!!! Because whats more extreme than LaRuta?! Not anything actually. I knew full well that Mike Sinyard’s boys would be slinging the fabled good cheer and diesel oil and while as a singlespeed rider Im not plagued by the normal ailments of poorly lubed chains but that doesn’t mean I don’t want a smooth, clean, and functional drivetrain. I usually keep a small bottle dropper of lube in a zip-up bag I refer to lovingly as my “oh-shit kit” and LaRuta was no exception. So Diesel oil or not I brought that Extreme dropper and used it more than a couple of times on stages 1 and 3 when things got extra steep and extra deep.
So that’s the chronicle of how ProGold made things faster, easier, and mo’ better down at La Ruta de Los Conquistadores. I finished my race safely, goal number one, and brought home the first place singlespeed prize for the first year they offered the category. I was also the only singlespeed rider to finish this years event…ill let that one lie right there. Overall I was third American and somewhere in the top 30 overall. Heres to LaRuta 2015, now with more Jungle!!
-Gordon W. Quadsworth-