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August 2017

Nzo World Singlespeed Championship 2017



Ever wanted to ride in a World Championship bike race, but didn’t have the time to prepare, the money to bribe selectors, or the basic athletic ability?

Well, Nzo is backing your big opportunity: on November 18 this year The Rotorua Singlespeed Society is hosting the World Championships in the Whakarewarewa Forest, Rotorua. The race is open to anybody with a bike, the only proviso being the bike can have only one gear.

We started cobbling singlespeeds together a long time ago, to give the flash bikes a rest when the trails were too wet and muddy to be kind to drivetrains. They became a thing, and you could eventually buy a brand new one as some brands got on board with the one speed idea..

The upsides of a singlespeed are simplicity, ease of maintenance, and total silence on the trail.

On the right piece of trail the singlespeeder experiences a zen-like state of effortless flow, where rider and machine blend with the terrain itself and all the troubles of the world disappear beneath the humming tyres.

I have no idea where that right piece of trail is, certainly not anywhere I have been.

The major downside of a singlespeed is obvious, it only has one gear. In 83% of conditions, it is the wrong gear. Onespeeds are generally hardtails, which in the modern age feel downright weird if you have become accustomed to plush suspension. And despite the aforementioned simplicity, they can be cantankerous.

Hills you would normally not even notice become things to attack with all your might. Might being the operative word, as in you might be able to ride to the top. Tight little corners teach you to carry speed: there is no more compelling reason to stay off the brakes than the effort required to haul your carcass back up to ‘speed’ after slowing down more than was absolutely necessary. A gear ratio that was almost comically low as you valve-bounced along the fire road feels hard enough to make your kneecaps fly off as soon as you get amongst the singletrack.

Am I selling it? Thought so! There it is: your chance to be in a World Championship title fight. No qualification or previous experience required. Get a singlespeed, and enter.

Among the perks is this glamourous t shirt, only available to people who enter by September 30.

For anybody who wants one, there is this spectacular mtb top. You need to place your order by September 30 to get one at the marked price, after that it will be a bit more, and subsequently unavailable, and therefore priceless.




How to get a Singlespeed



Getting yourself a singlespeed is an exercise in self-flagellation.

You can go and find one pre-existing. Good luck, they are out there.

You can also conjure one up yourself. Any mountainbike can be converted to singlespeed.

By far the simplest conversion is on a hardtail. Doesn’t matter what it is, nor how old, in fact an old crusty dunger is ideal in some respects. Trust me, brakes and suspension that are not state of the art will be the least of your worries when you are deep in the woods with no gear lever.

You can pull the derailleur off the bike, along with the cable and gear lever, and remove the cassette from the rear wheel. A singlespeed sprocket can be bought for bugger-all, and it comes with some spacers designed to slide on to your cassette freewheel where a gang of sprockets used to be. Procure and mount a straight cut chainring (ideally a 32 tooth). Shorten the chain, or replace with a cheap new one.

Now your only problem besides having to ride the thing is functional chain tension. That greasy old derailleur you binned didn’t just change gears for you, it also kept the chain at an optimal tension, and those spring-loaded jockey wheels took up a heap of slack.

The complicated but awesome solution to this aspect of your build involves tracking down a steel frame. Not common these days, but if you can find one you can take it to a reputable frame builder (an even more endangered species than a steel framed mountain bike) and have the dropouts switched out for something allowing some adjustment of the position of the rear wheel in the frame, to take up any slack in the chain. Or even crazier, have them install an eccentric bottom bracket. You can then rotate the thing to the right position and ride around looking smug, at least until you have to ride up a hill.

You can also buy, for not much coin, a device that mounts where your derailleur was, and is a spring loaded jockey wheel that makes your chain run correctly.

That old bike you never ride but is not worth selling can become your singlespeed, and you will have a thing you can use to beat yourself into shape, improve your strength and generally torture yourself every winter.


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