Single-speed Japan have uploaded pics from this year's championships to their Facebook page. See here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/SSJ/181678385240164?fref=photo&sk=photos
One of the many nice people Don and I chatted with over the weekend was Tom Ament of Vassago Cycles, makers of cro-moly and titanium frames, with headquarters in Arizona, USA.
Luckily race day was just a nice as the Sat and by early morning all the racers had arrived , most were either test riding the course or making last minute gear changes while several famous bicycle shops set up booths selling their products at heavily discounted prices. Even a huge truck arrived to set up a free Red Bull sports drink stand. It certainly became a busy race venue rather quickly and at 10.30am there was a race briefing and welcome ceremony which my name was mentioned along with famous racers because I was the only one crazy enough to have cycled 215km to attend.
As I mentioned single speed riders love having fun and dressing up in costume, some more daring than others . Some of the people in costume were strippers ( men in T backs ) , Ronald MacDonald , Super Mario , Mummies , Zombies , school girls & construction workers just to name a few and they raced hard some of them in the pro class 20km course !. I entered the pro class and enjoyed the technical single tack and downhills as I had not ridden anything like that since back in NZ. The start of the race was rather unique with everybody riding around a big loop on the side of the hill and when the music stopped the race started, I keep near the back and slowly worked my way forward to a better position on the flater sections which allowed me to pass several riders with my higher gearing. Also this race had a beer short cut which allowed riders to escape riding up a long dead grass climb before zig zaging back down again, you could only do this once and I chose to do it on my last lap. With riders hot on my tail I out sprinted several riders on the flat gravel road leading to the finish line drank the 0% beer which tasted terrible and crossed the finish line with a time of about 2 hours. I had a free Red bull then attended the prize giving ceremony before getting a hamburger and a glass of Shiga Kogen IPA from a Kiwi mate called Troy who runs a backpackers and bar in Hakuba village . Many of the racers had come from as far away such as Kobe so they had a 6 hour drive back home , most racers took off as soon as the prize giving was finished and late afternoon I was informed that I too had to leave our free accommodation at the Ski Field and find somewhere else to stay . luckily my mate Troy offered to let me stay for free at their backpackers and I enjoyed a nice nabe for dinner and a nice warm room and a few beers after dinner. Next year around the same time Japan will host the Single speed world cup, so if you are single speed fans why not visit Japan in 2015 and join the SSWC in Hakuba !.
Every year in Oct I take about a week off for a bikepacking trip, this year the single speed MTB Japan open was being held in neighboring Nagano ken in the mountain resort town of Hakuba, so I thought why not combine a race in the middle of a 6 day bikepacking tour, I saw on their website they also needed volunteers to help out on the Sat so I offered my services and showed up in Hakuba later Friday afternoon after having ridden 215km over 2 days to get there. I meet up with all the staff on the Friday night and we had a take out dinner and a few drinks . I also did not have to use my tent as we were all housed in a ski field rest house that was our base for the weekend right next to the start / finish line. After a nice sleep indoors we all got up early, I cooked up some fantastic hot pasta while everybody else ate cold leftovers from the night before. Then we headed out in teams over the 10km course , blocking off side trails with tape and putting in marker posts.
That job was completed around 11am then we test rode the entire course , that's when I realized that I was rather over geared for such a race with my touring gear of 33 - 16T while everyone else was running 32 - 24 T etc. The gearing on my bike is set up for long distance bikepacking which allows me to ride fully loaded at 18km per hour rather than racing up and down ski fields. so after test the course I decided I needed more grip on my Shimano saint pedals to took out the washers to extend the pins, readjusted my chain tension and cleaned the chain ready for the race the following day. That afternoon my mate Brian arrived from Niigata on the train to also take part in the race, we meet riders and bicycle shop owners from all over Japan and a couple of really nice French single speed racers David & Benoit who were fans of this blog !. Also riders that had arrived early were able to test ride the course which helped a lot for the following days race. After a great onsen which was located nearby everybody enjoyed a big BBQ party from 6pm till 11pm - I found out single speed racers really love drinking and are not very serious , more into having a lot of fun which suited me fine. I went off to bed around 11.30pm ready for the following days race.
Don's photos and report on last weekend's event coming soon.
The Honna-Tsugawa Forest Road: over 1000 meters of elevation gain in 22 km ( from the Tsugawa, Niigata end) ; 2-plus hours of non-stop climbing; 18.5 km of downhill, much of it unpaved and rough, into Honna, Fukushima; stunning views; solitude.
This is a real mother, not recommended for single speeds (I rode one and regretted it), rigid-fork machines, or slicks. Or the weak-kneed.
Start in Niigata- the Fukushima section is too mental to contemplate riding uphill.
Do this ride if you're a glutton for punishment
Take plenty of water and energy resupply.
Note on the photos: owing to a camera malfunction, over half the pics I shot weren't saved.
One for the birds: very little activity from the featherd species, only 2 in evidence, the Eurasian jay and the Great tit, though there must have been others about.