SSUK2006 happened at the weekend. Lots of great riding, with some cool people.
I rode up to Hamsterley from home on the Saturday morning, with all my camping gear on the rack on the back of the Kona singlespeed. I've no idea what it weighed, but I couldn't lift the back wheel off the floor. The handling with that much weight over the back wheel was 'interesting' with some nice speed wobbles when going downhill. The 32:16 gear and off-road tyres made it a little hard going in places but even having to push it up a hill or two I made it to the Hamsterley Forest in 2 hours. Once in the forest, I followed the hand-drawn map to the campsite, which was aimed at cars, and so got to ride a nice gravel climb and descent, rather than the flat riverside track tot he campsite; just what I was looking for after 20 road miles.
I got to the site and managed to blag possibly the last spot in the 'VIP field' away from the beer tent and near to the HTB crew. Once I'd got my tent set up, I took off the rack and rode the start and end of the race course with Kiwi and GhostRider, then had a ride along the Grove Link and a go down the Skills Loop, before heading back to the site to register. At registration, you had to select a card and have whatever was printed on it written on your arm in marker pen, this was the pass into the free beer and pizza later that evening. I had to "Make it more sensual..."
The free beer and pizza went down well, then I sat talking crap and drinking with the Trailblazers till a relativlely early 12:30 when I went to my very cold bed. Other stayed up much later.
After a rice pudding and flapjack breakfast, the race itself was three laps of the 6 mile circuit, with a climb of almost 3 miles to get everyone warmed up. The leaders lapped me on my second lap, so I finished after two laps. The descents were pushing the limits of my ability and bottle, with some really steep, tight, narrow, rocky, rooty stuff in there. Some people rode these on a fixed gear, which I'd not believe if I hadn't seen it myself. Nutters :)
After finishing, I hung around at the finish line for a while to cheer on some other finishers. The little kid with the "Skids are for kids" T-shirt probably got the biggest cheer. Then I went and ate more flapjacks and drank lots of water and High Five.
The prizegiving was a little surprising, with me winning the top prize! I was a little bit stunned, to say the least. The top prize is a custom-built bike frame worth £695, donated by Solitude Cycles for the "Spirit of Singlespeeding" award. Aparently, riding to and from the race with all my gear on a singlespeed is mad enough to be rewarded. TomL snapped the moment that I stood slighly shocked and recieved my prize. Expect a new blog category and lots of posts as I wonder about what to get and what components to put onto it. Alex at Solitude is a very nice man for donating it. Phil is a very nice man for awarding me the prize. I am a slightly shocked man at winning it.
After that all that was left was to pack up the tent, load up the bike and ride home. This was actually easier than I thought it would be and I made it back in 1 hour 45 minutes, with loads of cars with ss bikes on the back waving and beeping as they passed me, though I probably had a good 1000 yard stare going by the time I got back to Darlington.
Nick also has a write-up and links to a course profile and more photos.
Distance: 55 miles (Over two days: 40 miles on the road, loaded up with a couple of stone of camping gear, 12 miles in the race itself and another couple of miles with Matt and Chris)
Surface: On and off road
Time: About 7 hours total
Weather: Hot and sunny on Saturday, warm and overcast on Sunday
Bike: Rigid singlespeed Kona Hahanna, with Panaracer Cinder on the front and semi slick on the back (32:16)