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Stop Bib Flap!

Racing Tips

Wed, Feb  23, 2005 - By Mike Muha

Let's talk about the complicated world of racing bibs. I know you think there can't be much to talk about, but that's only because you haven't been introduced to the concepts of bib flap, bib aerodynamics, or the strategic use of bibs. Do you know what marks the difference between the racing newbie and "The Serious Racer"? It's not training, or racing ability, or stylish racing suits, it's how you wear your bib.

The Bib Crunch

A new, stiff bib tends to flap in the wind. Ever hear a flapping noise in a race as you descend a fast hill? If so, you're wear a stiff bib that catches and releases the wind. All "true" racers crunch their bib before they put it on (Photos 1-5):.

  1. Take the flat, stiff racing bib from registration,
  2. Crunch the bib into a little ball,
  3. Uncrunch and smooth out the bib,
  4. Put the bib on.

Hard core racers will repeat steps 2 and 3 once or twice.

By crunching the bib before you put it on, you soften it so it fits against your body; the bib flexes rather than flaps in the wind. No flapping, no flapping noise. And there are aerodynamic advantages as well. Why, you can shave at least fractions of a second off your 50km race time!

Securing Your Bib

It striking how many problems skiers have putting on their bib. We'll cover the two main types of disposable bibs: the race number and the full bib.

Race Numbers. The race number is a single sheet of Tyvek that is secured to your clothes with safety pins. Very few cross country races use a race number - you usually see these in running races. Still, it's useful to know for the occasional cross country ski race that still utilizes them.

To put on a race number,

  1. Follow the bib crunch process outline in the previous section.
  2. Unless otherwise directed by the race director, the race number goes on your front.
  3. Must people center the bib on their chest. Some racers prefer it a bit lower. If you're male, it's really cold outside, and you forgot your wind briefs, you might think about mounting it even lower.
  4. Use all four safety pins, one in each corner.  Using only two pins will cause the bib to flap. Bibs should be seen, not heard.
  5. Typically there are pre-punched holes in each corner designed for safety pins. If you're cool (i.e., a "Serious Racer"), don't use these holes; push the safety pin through the bib material to get a better hold.
  6. Use the safety pins to secure the bib to your racing suit, not your skin. Pushing the pins through your skin may make the bib more securely attached, but the pain may interfere with your race concentration. Don't do it.
  7. Don't use straight pins. If you get caught by a snow snake out on the course, one of those straight pins is likely to pierce your skin. See the point above for the consequences. (Piercing belongs in the nose and ears lobes, not on the chest).

Full Bibs. A full bib covers both your front and back. It goes over your head and and stretch cord or "elastic anchor" is used to secure the bib to your side. Putting on a full bib is both easier and more complicated than the race number:

  1. Follow the bib crunch process outline in the first section.
  2. Chose one of the following three methods:
  • Put the bib over your head, then ask your significant other, another racer, or a complete stranger to attach the stretch cords to your bib.
  • Put the stretch cords through the back of the bib and put the bib over your head. Reach back to the right cord, pull it forward and secure to the front of you bib. Repeat for the left side.
  • Put the stretch cords through the back of the bib. On one side, attach the cord to the front of the bib as well. Put your arm through that side, then pull the bib over your head. Reach back, grab the remaining free cord and attach it to the front of the bib.

I like to get most of the cords attached to the bib, then pull it over my head.

Use the Pre-Punched Holes?

There are little holes in the bottom corner of the bib that you push the metal ends through to secure the bib (Photo 6). Although infrequent, it has been known for the metal end to work it's way out during the race, causing the bib to flap or worse. Can you see your bib suddenly flying up into your face as you careen through a tight downhill corner? Not pretty.

The key is to make sure your bib fits snugly around you. Using the holes to secure your bib is OK if the cords are short enough so you get a snug fit. If the bib is the least bit loose, the better strategy is to push the sharp side of the metal end through the bib fabric rather than using the bib holes (Photo 7). Once through the fabric, there's no way the end will work it's way loose.

But the Cord's Too Long!

Sometimes the cord is way too long, creating a very loose fit. With a loose fit - even if the the metal ends are pushed through the bib fabric - the bottom of the bib will catch the wind and start pushing up your body. By the end of the race, the bib will be around your neck, the race officials won't be able to read your number as you cross the finish line, and you will be disqualified. And you won't get a refund!

There is a solution (Photos 8 & 9).

  1. Put one end of the cord through the front of the bib.
  2. Loop the other end through the rear of the bib
  3. Pull the read end forward and put through the front hole with the other end.

This effectively shortens the cord in half. Assuming the bib is snug, using the holes instead of pushing the ends through the fabric should be good enough.

A Winning  Bib Strategy

People secretly watch you as you put on your racing bib, particularly if you're an unknown. "She crumpled her bib. Hmmmm, I'll have to watch out for her in the race."  Or "No crumple. Not a threat." Or, "What IS he doing with those straps? Clueless..."

You can use this to your advantage at a race - if you attend a race where you're not well know. By feigning newbie-ness, you can the other racers to believe you don't have a chance in hell to win and they'll ignore you in the race. You can do anything you want and get away with it.

Here's how...

Fumble with the straps as you put on an uncrumpled bib. The other racers will look at you in the front row of the start line and think, "What's he doing up here? He should be back a few rows."

When the start happens and you're with the lead group, everyone will think, "Typical newbie, starting out too fast. He'll burnout in a kilometer."

When you're still with the group half way into the race, they'll think, "Must be having an outstanding day. But he won't last to the end."

And when you win the race, everyone will think, "Beginner's luck."

You can only use this strategy once or twice with the same group of racers before they catch on that they've been had.

There's an alternative strategy. Walk around as if you own the world. Look down on people. Make people believe that you're trying out for the Olympic team. Don't crumple your bib but do push the ends of the cords through the bib fabric. The other racers will think you have so much confidence in winning that the bib doesn't make a difference. This strategy will intimated everyone so much that they'll hold back and wait for your every move. They already know they've lost. Just put in a solid performance and you'll win the race!