I always seem to start these blogs with either ‘ wow its been a long time’ or ‘well…..’ so for once i won’t. The last post was pre the Permaculture party i went to in near by Trumpington. I have to say even though the rain stayed only for my ride from the brewery to the venue. It was a great afternoon and evening spent listening to the brilliant Formidable Vegetable Soundsystem, eating great vegetarian dishes and learning a lot ahead of hopefully getting my first allotment. Yes it will be done with permacultutere thinking and i’m hoping that zero waste idea can be brought to the brewery as well. Though that is going to take a little more thinking and some new ideas. Now on another note, lets go talk bicycles.
My Single Speed Mountian Bicycle
Many of you that have visited the brewery will know i have a passion for cycling. One i would call a vice rather than a hobby. Shiney, expensive parts and places to ride all over the planet. On the first weekend in September i headed up to Duncombe Park in the fair county of Yorskshire to part take in a race i have heard of for over a decade but never made it to. The Single Speed UK champs aka SSUK. This is where like minded mountain bike riders give up the expensive (well most of us do) bikes and ride up and down hills on a single speed bicycle for fun! I have been riding single speed since uni and have never really given it up. There is some thing about a single speed that makes no sense to most or me at times. yet go out for a ride on a single speed bicycle and the world seems to make sense.
t'Gaffa aka Wayne
Let me proceed this by saying that this was a race i wasn’t going to go to until i bumped in to Ellis and Wayne at Mountian Mayhem 24hr race as part of team MTFU. Ellis works with in the industry as does Wayne, though Wayne is also the SSUK15 organiser, after to many laps of a good course, riding and drinking just enough and talking gibberish at what ever time it was, these two convinced me to sign up to SSUK15 while sitting around during this 24hr marathon race. Don’t you just love mobile web access! At silly o’clock at night in the middle of a field somewhere near Bristol……..
Well i had signed up and it was time to go ride my first single speed event. I worked the morning in the brewery, or should i say tried too. I was very excited to get on the road and up to Yorkshire. I finally gave in about noon heading first to the M11 then on to the A14 and A1. Of course it was straight onto the motorway and in to standstill traffic. My plan of an easy friday lunchtime drive of 3.5 hrs ended up being closer to 5hrs. With poor traffic, no reason for it and my love of caravans growing by the mile.
It was with great happiness i pulled into the grounds of Duncombe Park. Though after driving for that long the driveway up to the site seemed to go on for ever. Though once i arrived at the site to be greeted with a happy northern hello and the words ‘Bars open’ the drive faded from my memory. After parking the dray is a sensible place i headed off to find the sign up tent. On route i passed the ever good banter filled camp of Charlie ‘bike monger’ Hobbs and his cohorts. I knew the weekends quality was going up. Walking to registration i could see the support tents of Fibrax, Travers, EDS bikes, a food van, wood fired pizza and what looked like the equipment to run a hog roast. Finding the registration tent along side the bar and band tent i knew all was well. On signing up i grabbed my bag of goodies and headed back to set up the tent. But before i did thought best grab a beer. The nights drinking had started. I was soon joined by the members of camp bike monger and joined their camping area before it grew dark.
As darkness fell it was time for the racing to begin. It was MINI BIKE RACING time. I had seen many mini races before on videos posted form mates races and gathering across the MTB world. So after having read the rules on the SSUK15 FB page i had picked up a lovely little blue 16″ wheeled mini bike ready for the racing. We all signed up, i believe 30 of more of us ranging from 9 to 50 plus years old. I was listed later on the board so as the ‘organisers’, i use that term loosely, called names the carnage raged on. As people lined up in front of the main tent, raced around the short, less than 100m track around the event village and finish with some style over the mini kickers set up in the middle of the event village. My name was called and i lined up on my little blue bike. I shot off the line over the pallet drops and around the back of the main tent, buzzed passed the Fibrax tipi and on to the final corner, i was hauling, hitting both jumps on the last straight i finished is a brilliant 22ish seconds, which was well ahead of the field. I was happy so went back to my drinking and chatting. Once all the racers had finished the ‘organisers’ called my name again. It wasn’t good, my 16″ wheeled, braked and lovely mini bike was deemed illegal. I was disqualified due said bike. There was an up side i could re run my lap on the bike from the pile. The ‘organisers’ had picked one. A lovely pink, 12″ wheeled, brakeless, childerns fixed wheel. I have ridden fixed twice in my life. Both times sober and both times it was scary and those bikes fitted. Well to say crouched over that tiny bike looking into the darkness behind the first tent was scary was an understatement. Was i going to make the first pallet drop? Well i did, dutch courage i believe, i made it all the way around the track until i aimed and set up for the first jump. I must have stopped pedalling, there was a bang and the bike wobbled over the first kicker into the second and into the beer tent. I’d finished i was alive and it was now time for more beer. The ‘organiser’ now said they would plan the next round. I believe they drank beer looked at times and came up with a plan. names where called agin and the fast riders where called forward. The main thing i noticed where the old where getting beaten by the kids. As so it was with me in my quarter finals heat. I lined up against two kids and another gent. Off the line i was beat by a 9year old who went on to take second over all. What can i say i was beaten and the bar was calling. Mini bike racing what a brilliantly stupid idea for a friday nights social before the main race day!
Hobos in ponchos
Friday nights social and drinking went into the small hours and the was talk that Markus, who is mad enough to be cycling around the world on a single speed, was near by on the first leg of his route. Alas i didn’t wait up for the nutter to arrive, the drive had been long as had the chat, beer and week. So at the end of the witching hour is was back to my tent to crash out.
The next morning after the best nights sleep i’d had in a tent in years. Mainly due to my first time using a inflatable camping mattres. I got up and wondered over to the centre of our camp to find the ‘bike monger’ team sorting breakfast, coffee and bacon. The coffee was well received as was a croissant. Thanks!
Ellis leaving the big house and a Yellow Jacket helping another rider.....
After breakfast which was a little later than planned, the news that racing was soon and the fact the bikes had to be down at the bike house by 10:00am reached us. It was written in the race participation notes. But i hadn’t read them at the time. So it was time to kit up and drop the bikes down the hill to the big house. Ok it was the front of the main house here at Duncombe Park. Think nice stately home with manicured grass and a rabble of single speeders floating about not quite sure whats going on. Herded by SSUK15 team in yellow jackets. So the bikes where left in the capable hands of the yellow jackets. who where handicapping anyone with gears. With the liberal use of gaffe tape. As i left one yellow jacket said don’t worry we like Surlys. I smiled but felt wary of a person drinking beer from a can and carrying a roll of gaffe tape at 10 in the morning. The trace was started with a nice run from the top on the hill, through the event village, down the hill to the big house and their racers would find there bikes. Most likely not where they put them in true SS racing tradition. I arrived early in the filed as i was enjoying the run down the hill. Looking for a black 29 steel single speed was usually easy, but not at SSUK. I looked wondered over to a few similar bikes and evetulaty found my steed by the main gate i’d come through. The beer and gaffe tape carrying hello jacket and this point looked at me and said again ‘ we like surlys’ this time with and amused grin, my sense of humour kidded in and i jumped on my bike laughing at the madness of this start.
Silly face riding over fun stuff
As i had arrived later than i planned i didn’t ride the track the night before or in the morning. Why, i was going to be riding it for the next 8hrs if i completed both the races i had signed up for. So off i went on my first lap of the track as the main 2hr Single Speed Championship race. This was to be followed by a further 6hour enduro of the same track, for those that fancied it. More on that later.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN RUN OUT OF BEER!
The track left the house, crossed the main drive and climbed the grassy hill up to the event village where we had started. Going through the main tent, over the pallet drops and around the back we headed back towards the main drive. This time turning left into the woods behind the event village. To say this track was brilliant is wrong. this is the best track i have ridden in years. Sharp tight descents, on loam and off camber, long dragging convex climbs, jumps, drops, edges, pallet features and more. This track was enough to keep the good riders amused, scary the lesser and keep idiots like me laughing all the way around. Ok so i didn’t climb every climb every lap. But i did stop at the beer stop every lap. At this point i have to put in a complaint to the management. When a man with a magnicfent ginger bread and flap cap, stands in the grounds of a stately home in Yorkshire and says there is a beer stop and we have plenty of beer, we won’t run out. I believe him. On my final lap of the SSUK15 champs event i was looking forward to the mid track beer stop at the end of the big climb before the best decent of the track. Alas when i arrived at said beer stop. They had RUN OUT of beer!As you can see i wasn’t amused. I hauled on down the best decent of the track and wiggle along a flawy loose hill line dropping into a steep loose descent and then cutting back on itself so you would watch with great amusement the faces of your fellow riders.
The Single Speed UK 2015 champs was only 2hrs long. Get in as many laps as you could in that time plus one more. The winner is the person with the most laps. I got four laps in during the allotted time. I have to say it was good fun but a little hard work. As i hadn’t been riding as much as i should of in the summer. But thats my excuse and i’m sticking with it. The winners in both the ladies and gents where first. So fast i didn’t see them all day. Or maybe they where the blurs that shot past when i wasn’t looking.
So after a good night of beer, sleeping in a tent and then racing a bike with one gear around a tuff track for 2 hrs, what do you do for the rest of the day. Well in true SSUK style most people started to have a lazy afternoon and drink some more, socialise and have a good laugh. Though there was the small matter of a 6 hour enduro on the same track which a large (70) of use had signed up for. Well at about 1:30-2pm on this fine saturday afternoon. I hauled my now rather beaten body to the start line and laid down! There where 17 of us on the start line for the 6 hours enduro. There where no beer stops and the racing was going to get serious. (well some of the entrance where lined up in lycra and looking as if they had just warmed up!) So the next six hours went on as the previous two had. Lapping a brilliant course in great weather, good riders and plenty of laughs. I’ll be honest i was a little broken at this point. Running a rigid bike over some silly terrain with 45-50psi in the tyres had killed my wrist. So i only completed 4 laps in the next 6 hours. Take time out to chat, eat, sit around being a hobo and generally enjoying the day. I have to say when single speeding, single speed. I mean, chill enjoy and enjoy the free and finer things in life!
The laps had gone very well and i was enjoying them still even after my 7th lap. Upon finishing my 7th lap i came across the line with Sophie of Godivas MTB. A lady wo i had meet around the mtb circuit and who knew my Wench. So as i head in, she was heading out for a last lap i asked if i could join her, Sophie said yes and we where off for a final loop. Sophie was the only female doing the 6 hour enduro and it was a great pleasure to do a lap with Sophie. I was in no two minds i knew this lap was going to be hard. Sophie didn’t stop only walk a very steep section on the big climb. That i must say was a massive relief. And over all was an amazing rider all around the track. A treat to ride with some one i had spoken to many times, yet had yet to ride with. Thank you Sophie.
A happy Sophie on the trails
After a long day of riding a silly bike around a silly track it was time for dinner. Thank you toe the hog roast team very much appreciated! So with hog roast on hand and a couple of bottles of dove step in the other it was prize giving time!
There where prizes for fancy dress, fasted male and female in SSUK15 first to third, along with top three in the enduro as well. There was also a bread category. I knew this being SSUK was a tough challenge. But being bearded it was nice to enter. It was event better to win!
Ok so i really came third. With Wayne SSUK15 organiser being a beardy and the fasts man of the day also being bearded i was third. Which is such good company i was very happy with.
the atmosphere of support and fun was brilliant, raffle money went to the local air ambulance, which all outdoor types would give generously to if you’ve ever needed them or known any one that does. The commariday was brilliant the money raised great. We ride bikes and are people. Therefore we support epoeple and continue to ride bikes. I hope the winner of the Travers frame was happy with their win, always nice to get a shiny frame.
After a great bit of chat while listening to the Atomic ray gun it was an early night for all. The next morning i was up with the light and one of the first to the village for breakfast. Where yet again i got to sit down and chat with Markus about his journey around the world on a single speed. You can find out more about Markus and his journey here. After a good bacon sandwich and a coffee it was time to pack up and head back south. After a brilliant weekend and a drive home. I must say i will be at the next SSUK event and hopefully some of the European versions and maybe even a WorldSSC in the future.
Big thank you to all at SSUK15 a great event and a reminder that bikes are amazing and you don’t need the latest thing to smile with a bike.
Markus joining in before continuing his LONG ride home
Can i say thank you to Fibrax, Halo and Surly for helping me get my bike back and running for this event. I couldn’t have done it with out your help. All of the photos are from Walkies with Woodall so big thanks there as well. Also thanks to Wench for letting me out and reminding me why riding bikes is so much fun!
Flying Brewmonkey. Now go ride your bike, a least to the pub!