SSingle SSpeed, what's this all about?

Words: Grant Usher | Photos: Nathalie Romeo

You. It's all about you. Sure, it's the drive train configuration of only one ring up front and one cog out back that defines and labels you a single speeder, but the experience is only about you.

Photo credit: Nathalie Romeo

When riding a single speed you are just so much more connected to the trail than on a 'normal' bike. It's basically an extension of you and your abilities whilst riding in Mother Nature. There are no options to use technology, in particular the marvel of the modern drive train to assist in adjusting your efforts. You simply pedal faster, slower or kick it into second when you get off and walk, which happens to us all at some point. There is definitely no shame in this, trust me.

The absence of all the traditional white noise of when best to shift, where to shift (front or rear) and which setting or lever position is best for your suspension is quite liberating. The absence of all this, as well as the traditional chain-slap noises, really does allow you to be saturated in the moment and connected on a sensory level like never before.

Single speed events, like the upcoming Single Speed SA Championships on 16 August 2014, are a catalyst purely to give you the experience of a lifetime. The 2014 Single Speed SA Champs is an occasion where the laughter and fun starts way before the first pedal strokes. Most important is your costume. Occasionally there is a theme to help you get started, but let your imagination or fantasies run wild with this one. Registration processes, number boards and other essential riding gear like beer mugs are also random undertakings to up the fun factor. Fun and enjoyment is, after all, the reason why we started riding in the first place, isn't it?

The start format is always designed to level the playing field. No matter who you are, there is a good chance you can get the holeshot. The start format is also the one thing that gets everyone anxious and chatting. It's always top secret, unexpected and original. After the start and at some point on the trail comes another staple of any SS event, the beer-or-loop shortcuts. It's basically a split in the trail where you either have a serving of beer, which allows you to take a shortcut, or ride an extra section of trail. All those of non-drinking age have to take the longer route; we are not completely irresponsible.

The results are always a shortened list, first five if you are lucky but most times just the winners in the only two categories; male and female. Reason being that we don't like to get bogged down with red tape, like licensing, timing chips and seeding, instead we prefer to get the after-party started. So to keep things simple we have a winner and everyone else can officially claim second place and celebrate accordingly. The after-party generally carries on into the wee hours and is taken very seriously, some even take this more seriously than the riding. To be crowned the after-party winner often carries more prestige than the race winner.

Photo credit: Nathalie Romeo

Despite all the fun to be had, the Single Speed SA Championships is still a serious affair, with the official status of National and World Championship titles up for grabs. The first South African Championships were held in 2011, in Johannesburg. The next one also took place in Johannesburg, and last year's edition was held in Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal. This year, it is taking place in Waterval Boven, Mpumalanga.

The race gets to move around nationally and internationally in the form of a bidding process, where teams represent a province or country and complete tasks or challenges. Again, these are top secret and off-the-wall, keeping the crowds and participants thoroughly entertained. South Africa has even had the privilege of hosting the World Championships in 2012.

As you can establish, the riding is almost secondary to the peripheral events, but the riding is still always great. Proper single tracks and challenges on a 30-40 km loop, as well as the shortcuts and fun elements make it a true celebration of riding and riding for the right reasons. So come join us. Do it, DO IT NOW!

More informaton
More details can be found at:
To enter online:
Follow @SinglespeedZA on Twitter or SSWC 2012 - South Africa on Facebook for more information and craziness.