By Shannon Mominee
The 2010 Single Speed World Championships took place on October 23rd in beautiful Rotorua, New Zealand. I was fortunate enough to receive a ticket from Air New Zealand via Tourism New Zealand and made the trip to pedal the 40K racecourse through the Whakarewarewa Forest, along with more than 900 other riders from 30 countries around the world, most in well thought-out, original costumes.
The Labour Weekend holiday, warmth from the springtime sun, a large crowd of spectators, superheros, discoman, muppet characters, drag queens, hot nurses, sumo wrestlers, a group of birds and cans of pilsner on bikes accompanied the flowing beer and music to make the atmosphere around the entire race one of the most festive experiences I’ve ever been part of. Smiles and laughter were abundant as people stood nonchalant in costume while photos were snapped and the hour of 10:30 a.m. approached.
In NASCAR fashion all 900+ riders mounted their single speeds or straddled the toptube and circled for two minutes, as directed by race director Dean Watson. He stood in a cherry picker perched above the circling racers with a hat over his head and eyes. After two minutes of this slow motion activity, counted down by a scantily clothed hotty, his hat was dropped and the tape randomly opened. Racers and partiers alike funneled through the spiral and headed for the woods.
Those getting to the trail first were fortunate enough to be able to ride. Everyone else happily rode, walked and stood until the crowd thinned enough to race. The pumice-based soil was dust free and tacky with banked turns flowing into rollers, steep climbs, fast descents and markers alerting riders to a split in the course; take it either fast and hard or slow and steady. I didn’t fly 20 hours to take it easy, so aimed for the rough. Spectators cheered, laughed, ooed-and-aahed as riders streamed by, crashed or took headers into the stream.
Chugging a beer at a beer-stop granted access to shortcuts on the course, and rolling back into the start/finish line at 20K a very attractive woman in panties and boots handed riders cans of Speights Traverse Ale to be downed before heading out for lap two. Some riders called it a day right there and collapsed in the grass exhausted. I drank my beer, headed out for the second dehydrated and cramping, but with the smile of this once-in-a-lifetime chance broadly on my face.
At one of the logging road crossings, I saddled up next to a sheriff with a banana in his holster and a few other characters at a spring tap to chug water and refill my bottle. Lap two went by quicker with fewer riders on the trail, and spectators still partied on at the stream crossing and other places with a high crash probability.
Completing the two laps the fastest was Rotorua local Garth Weinberg, who immediately collapsed at the KiwiBikes finish line into the joy of his wife and daughters. Very soon after, he received his 1st place SSWC 2010 tattoo over his heart. Defending champion Ross Schnell finished a very tight second place.
Australian Heather Logie, dressed in a naughty policewoman outfit, was the first lady to come across the finish line. Local favorite Nic Leary finished about 30 seconds back for second.
The festivities didn’t stop there, as teams of four represented their country in a battle of horizontal bungee. At stake was the opportunity to host the 2011 SSWC, and two emerging teams, Ireland and South Africa, went head-to-head. The rules were simple. Step into the deflated inner tube, which was attached to a bungee chord and position it around the waist. While holding a can of beer, run, scramble and crawl in the dirt as far as you could and place the beer on the ground before being pulled back by the bungee. Great fun, many laughs and some clowning around too, but Ireland prevailed and will host the 2011 SSWC.
Look for a complete article in Dirt Rag Issue 154’s “Places to Ride” on New Zealand, and adventurist activities to do off the bike, places to eat and have a beer, local bike shops and where to sleep. There will also be a review on the Niner Air 9 Carbon that I rode at the SSWC and am currently testing.