Thursday, August 2, 2012

SingleSpeed USA 2012

Quite a different experience for me than most:

Saturday morning I got up and gathered all of my things, loaded the truck and was ready to roll. I then realized that I was a bit early to make the journey to Stowe. I ate breakfast and hung out at home for a little while. I rolled out feeling like I was forgetting something even though I had been over it a dozen times insuring myself that I was all set. The trip over gave me plenty of time to think of things and I realized that I had a tube in case I lost a tubeless setup. I also had a patch kit in case I lost said tube. As far as inflation, I only had a big air cartridge which would probably only cover one, maybe two flats. I got nervous and when I got to Stowe I promptly looked for a bike shop. I found one that opened at 8am and found a pump that I bought to have on hand just in case. Of course, as it goes, I didn't need it and I didn't have any mechanicals.

After the pitstop to the bikeshop, I headed over to the Stowe Polo Fields. I was still early and there wasn't any sign of a bike event to be seen. I headed back over to town and pulled in to the parking lot by the theater. I saw signs of other single speeders so I pulled in to chat a bit. I found a couple guys that were over from NY and they were chatting about trying to find a place to park. I told them if they wanted to follow me, I would show them were the closest bike path parking lot was. We got there and suited up and rode the bike path down and over to the polo fields. At this point there was a collection of bikes starting to accumulate.  

ready for the start
 After some mingling and such (I knew quite a bit of people there) we got some quick instruction from George of Bike29 and then we were off. It seemed to have come out of nowhere so most everyone wasn't sure that is was go time. We rolled out of the Polo Fields and up a long paved climb that came right at the beginning and all to soon. At the top of the climb we turned into the woods for some nice, fast single track. I will share something. I am no single speeder. It is super fun and I like working with the one gear but you have to have the skills to make it work. Hind sight would say that I should've ran 32/22 not 32/20.

I did this race because it came to Vermont. That was pretty much the single reason. I guess it was also a good excuse to ride trails in Stowe, which I had never done.

man, this shit's hard
 I was at the back of the pack (roughly 200 riders) straight out of the gate. I stayed there. I only got back into the mix throughout the race because people would hang out at the aid stations. There was water BUT there was mostly junk food, beer, and liquor. Single speeders are off road hipsters and they like to do things their way and quite different that the norm.

 Below is a picture of a stop that I made after the half way aid station where people were chugging 40oz beers and shots of whiskey and tequila. I stayed away from the festivities for two reasons. The first and one at hand was to maintain a level of survival in the race. The second is because I stopped drinking alcohol during my year long training session for Tour Divide. I digress. While I took a moment to clean some shit out of my shoe, someone that I later learned named Seth rolled back towards me and was thinking he was going the wrong. Mind you this guy was just at the mid station doing a 40. I got him steered in the right direction and I watched him trip all over the place falling and crashing. I was worried for him but they were always slow speed crashes and quite funny.

It wasn't long that Seth left me behind. Even drunk, he seemed to make light work of the trails ahead. I never saw him again. Matter of fact the only people I kept seeing were some riders from and the sweep that was on a full suspension geared bike. He helped two people that were riding in the vicinity of me get off the trail and back to town early. They didn't want to continue. Not much later he said to me that the section coming up is pretty technical and if I want to get out, now is a good time. I firmly told him that I wasn't stopping, he accepted and we made good of what we had.

this was a pretty nice section of the course

Before too long after one of the hardest climbs I've ever done, he turned to me and said that is it for the climbing. It was a rough gravel and stone section that climbed up somewhere onto the Trapps property and went on and on for what seemed like forever. The last section of the course was about 2 miles of downhill singletrack. I quickly dubbed that as "REWARD". It was so fast and flowy that I actually had to stop twice to shake the hands out from the pressure they were taken on from gravity. Me behind them and my rigid fork in front of them put alot of emphasis on my wrist. Nothing bad but noticeable. I believe the name of this trail is Kimmers which let out across a nice wooden bridge at a trailhead. That was the finish. I had done it and it was over! There were still about 30 people hanging around drinking and such when I pulled in seven hours after I had started. I was greeted like royalty. Last place! DFL! I stuck to it and got it done.

a note from my daughter
Things that I took away from this event:

  • I am not (currently) a single speeder - it is super fun but you have to be quite fit to pull it off
  • I was last in a very large field but I beat everyone that pulled out and technically all those who didn't even do it. (for whatever that is worth)
  • a single speed bike is fun, quiet, and simple
  • know your terrain and choose a gear that is suitable for it and your abilities
  • don't worry about anyone else out there. 
  • very easy to drain the tank when putting in a hard effort
  • little to know rest or recovery while riding
  • have comfortable shoes that allow hiking/walking (it happens)
  • SS hipsters, although weird and different, are cool people and mostly judgment free
Would I do it again? Most likely not, but I would have a good time riding trails on a ss otherwise and plan on having a dedicated ss bike in the future. I think that more than anything, this race reinforced the mentality of if you are going to start something make sure you finish it. That, for me, is the greatest achievement of all.

here are a couple of other perspectives of the event.


Mark said...

I was waiting for this post! Loved the read. You get my kudos for persevering.

Anonymous said...

Wil, thou art pretty awesome for showing up and taking the punishment!
I see one of Julia's teammates won the women's race.

Good work but - NO tequila or beer shot?

greg said...

Nice Wil! I am happy to see that you pulled it off. That ride SS is impressive. Glad to hear that you warmed up to the hipsters. I am totally getting you a "pair of whitewall tires" now. :)

sminch said...

Thanks Mark. I have a new appreciation for what you can pull off.

@Jim- Thanks man. It was a good time. Not only did she win but she did it on a Fat Chance that was too small for her.

@Greg- Get those tires coming. I will pimp those without a doubt.

Seth said...

Thanks for posting the pic of the picnic table. Now I can show people that I really was lost, and I really did get pointed in the right direction. I sure did crash a lot after that. Thanks for the help.