I've just returned to the green isle from a whistle stop tour of Europe, including: Denmark, Germany and Belgium. Several thousand road miles then, and many petrol station snacks (best in Germany), an array of strong beers (I recommend 'Maredsous Abbaye') and a plethora of hipsters (Copenhagen is rather trendy). I was on a search for the soul of mountain biking that I suspected lay somewhere in a sunny field within Europe, and also to race in the highly prestigious, incredibly un-serious Single Speed European Championship..
Single Speed mountain bikes are exactly as the title suggests – mountain bikes (MTB's) with one gear only. Why, you may ask, would a MTB be devolved into something far less functional than the multi-geared workhorse that the last two decades has crafted it into? The answer, I'm afraid, is not a simple one.
People’s reasons for riding and racing Single Speeds vary from a desire for simplicity, through to a lust for something entirely impractical – sense of humour needed. Pitch up at a Single Speed European Champs (SSEC's) and you will absolutely not find racing snakes warming up on exercise bikes.. OH no, at an SSEC outing you are far more likely to find a man wearing nothing more than a nappy, a 6ft lady sporting stripes and affro, or even a team of Morphs, than you are to come across an obsessive racer.
Possibly, no, definitely, the most fun I've had racing my bike for quite some time, I'll remember this one and its fabulous location for many years to come. As for the after party, well, I'm doing my best to erase those memories! Only kidding - what a great bunch of people having some good old fashioned fun.
The soul of my sport does survive and prosper then.
The Single Speed European Champions 2011 are: Gemma Frier from Scotland and Julien Conan from France – well done to ‘em.
In 2012 the event will be hosted by the aforementioned Morphs in the south of France – and you can certainly count me in!
Oh, and there's still time to enter the World Champs in Ireland this August – http://www.sswc2011.ie/
Thank you to Bruno for organising such a great weekend’s racing, to Kingdom Bike (Chris and Nick) for forcing me out of my downhill habit, and to Riders Refuge, Bike Dirty and howies, of course.. Cheers!