I had mixed emotions when I first heard that Single Speed Worlds was going to be in Alaska for 2014. I was a little bummed that it wasn’t a foreign country. I don’t like the idea of getting eaten by a bear. Nor do I want to get swarmed by clouds of blood thirsty mosquitos while suffering up a hill with one gear. But at the same time, I have never been to Alaska and I heard there is a ton of singletrack up there. Plus the short travel time meant more of my friends would probably be there. It would seem that the pros really outweighed the cons and I put it on the calendar. This trip was an awesome whirlwind of riding bikes, partying and hanging out with friends. It will go down as one of the most fun, extended weekends in recent history.
It all started at the airport with Desert Yeti, Scandinavian Jesus, and myself rushing from work to catch our flight. There are quite a few benefits to traveling with two of your best friends. Like when we start buying each other rounds at the airport bar and we are already half in the bag before we even step on the plane. Five hours of crying babies and no sleep later, we touch down in Anchorage at 1:30am. We gather up some more of our crew in baggage claim and with 90 minutes until last call, we hop in a cab to downtown. As soon as we pull up, we see all of our friends being thrown out of the bar, and they wouldn’t even let us newcomers in. So there we were, a bunch of luggage, bikes, and drunks in a pile on the sidewalk. There couldn’t have been a more fitting start to this trip.
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We moved this party to the “registration room”. Which was really just an abandoned strip mall suite where all the beer was stored and you just happen to register for the race there. Upon arrival, I was handed what would be the first of many Oskar Blues beers that I would consume this trip. Come to find out, Oskar Blues supplied over 200 cases of beer (plus some kegs) to the event. It was an amazing donation and it definitely took the sting out of more than a few bar tabs. I’m pretty sure a majority of my blood stream became Mamas Little Yella Pils for at least a day. Thanks guys! Next round is on us.
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More and more people started showing up as late night made the transition into early morning. Oddly enough, it is really easy to drink until the sun comes up when there is only 2 hours of darkness. Then, at 5am, we decided to call in to the recording of Fat-Bike.com’s weekly podcast. Uncle Gomez seemed less than amused. But you can hear us giggle and ramble over HERE
Bikes were built and new friends were made. Some of us tried to catch a few minutes of sleep while others tried their hand at catching seagulls, and some fell down.
A bunch of the crew kept the party going on a pretty impressive little bender. But Yeti, dan and myself were chomping at the bit to ride. Dan didn’t want to fly with a bike, so he went to the local co-op, Off the Chain, and built himself up a fine little rig for the grand total of $75. Complete with no front brake and a derailer for chain tension. Now it was time to go test it in the woods. Run what ya brung, and if you didn’t bring anything, support your local bike co-op!
The trails at Kincaid Park in Anchorage are top notch. The nature of the dirt leaves them pretty smooth but what they didn’t have in natural obstacles was made up for with an awesome layout. Big banked turns, some jump lines and punchy little climbs always kept you on your toes. These trails are so well made, I don’t think I saw a single rain rut. Hats off to the trail builders, well done.
A nice easy afternoon on the trails was then followed by a whirlwind of activity. We weren’t given a whole lot of directions for the weekend but what we did receive was pretty simple. Basically, have fun and be ready for anything.
We rode a whole lot. I met a lot of really great people. I drank pear brandy from Slovenia and I high 5’ed a guy from Japan. We rode on a random beach and there just happened to be an ice cream truck there. I met some rad locals and I bought them tequila, because that’s how we do in AZ. There was a metal band and a bike pile of epic proportions. There was a whole bunch of moose. Big angry momma moose. At last call, there was a vote whether we should start the race at 7 or 10am the next morning. Democracy doesn’t work too well at last call, so a coin was flipped and 7am it was. See ya in a couple hours.
We showed up at the meeting place an hour late but we heard it was a neutral roll out to the trails. So we hauled ass a few miles across town to where everyone was gathered. Fortunately, the start of the race was delayed because it rained so much overnight that it washed away a lot of the course markings. We all chilled on a grassy hill for a bit while the volunteers busted their asses re-marking the course. When the time finally came, it was unveiled that this was in fact more of an alleycat than a traditional XC race. Complete 3 loops, in any order you like, and collect some kind of trinket somewhere on each loop. I wasn’t racing and decided to man an aid station with S. Jesus and my buddy Chewy. We definitely picked the sweetest aid station to be at. Right on the beach with backpacks full of beer to hand out. The blue course sent you down a great trail filled with jumps and berms only to spit you out onto a paved path with a little blue arrow pointing you towards the ocean. Drop down a freshly cut piece of trail and splash into a tidal marsh where we were waiting at the other end with aid.
The course was brilliant and there were a lot of people having a whole lot of fun. We all waited for everyone to finish their laps, some even went out for multiple laps because they were so fun. The final decider for next year’s hosting country was a volleyball match between Slovenia and Japan. It was like watching eight monkeys try to hump a greased football, but the sun was out and the clouds cleared enough to give us a view of Denali. Laying in the grass and basking in the sun, this was by far the most people I have ever seen hang out after a singespeed race. The vibe was chill and there was salmon on the grill.
The winner was selected by a “derby” or as I have always called it, “foot down”. Grab a bike that isn’t yours, ride in a circle, last one to put their foot down is the champion of the world.
The winning moment for the women looked like this. Video of the men’s derby here
There was some internet trolling/bitching about how the race went down and I would like to address it here. Any race you go to, there are going to be unhappy competitors. It is the nature of competition. Unfortunately for us, the unhappy competitors in AK have a huge audience. Over the past decade, this singlespeed community has become an extended family to me. I have met some of the most important people in my life through this group of rejects. When somebody tries to give it a bad name, I get a little defensive. I decided to wait a week to cool down and organize my thoughts a little better. So here it goes:
Could this “race” have been organized better? Yes. Could I have done a few other things in AK if this event lasted only 3 days instead of 4? Sure. But I have some questions for the haters. Where the fuck did you think you were going? Did you take a wrong turn at Racer Town and end up in Alaska? SSWC is more than just a race, it is our annual gathering of the tribe. Where people from all walks of life come to party like they are on vacation and ride a whole bunch of new trails without shifting. There are plenty of places to compete, USA Cycling can provide you with all of the single speed classes you need. Broken down into neat little age groups with formal protest periods and computerized timing. You would love it.
I would say that at least 50% of the people at the event knew someone for a past SSWC and the other 50% was welcomed like family. I just don’t understand how anyone could have a bad time. But I can only speak from my experience and those close to me. I didn’t race, instead I stood in a swamp for hours and cheered on my singlespeeded brethren. I have now ridden trails in Alaska and I can’t wait to get back for more. I flew in a terrifyingly small airplane over enormous glaciers and I now know what a charging momma moose looks like. I ate salmon and reindeer sausage off or a grill while staring at the biggest mountain in the country. I saw the emotional response when the guys from Surly presented the local trail steward a free Pugsley for all of the hard work he did get the trails ready for us. Did I mention the awesome trails? So to all the haters I simply say:
Fuck you. I won. Gimmie my goddamn tattoo.
Other words, pics and video from around the web:
Dan America will destroy you. #16aintdead
Slow it down…
anything else you got, just put it in the comments and I will add it to the listby