By Andrew Juskaitis, VeloNews technical editor
I’m honored. No, really, I am. I’ve finally made it to the big time. I’m talking about getting my name plastered all over the most prestigious cycling website there is (aside from velonews.com, of course): www.drunkcyclist.com. A warning before you go dashing gleefully over there: This site is definitely not for the eyes of minors or those ultra-conservative types who are not big fans of pornography.
My column last week apparently struck an off-key chord with the single-speed audience. To boil down my side of the argument, I mentioned that I’m not a believer in racing classes specifically designated for single-speed mountain bikers. I was careful to point out I have nothing against those who choose to race a single-speed mountain bike; I simply oppose the idea of a racing class based on one particular technical feature of a mountain bike. I was also careful to highlight my opinion that if you choose to race a single-speed mountain bike, you should be more than welcome to – in your regular age/ability group.
Well, believe you me, this statement caused quite a stir with the vehement believers in a single-speed racing class.
Take, for example, drunkcyclist’s argument that in other disciplines of cycling, such as BMX, racing categories are decided not only by the person riding the bike, but by that person’s particular type of bike. Yep, that makes sense to me – but I was talking about mountain biking, not BMX, not track cycling, not NHRA drag racing. Technical organization is fine for those pastimes, but not for mountain biking, which is a sport rooted in self-sufficiency and innovation rather than stuffy technical rules (at least until the UCI decides to get more involved with the sport, the 29’er argument aside).
In mountain-bike racing, athletes are free to race whatever bike best suits the course laid out in front of them. Take last week’s pro short track in Sonoma, California, where Giant-Pearl Izumi factory rider Carl Decker won the asphalt-intensive race aboard a borrowed Giant road bike. It’s the first time in NORBA NCS history that a road bike has won an event. I think that’s particularly lame, and so did a few of his fellow pros, who voiced their dissatisfaction with his choice to disregard the spirit of mountain-bike racing. Still, Decker made what proved to be a wise choice based on the course conditions.
My point is that when race organizers start to break down racing categories into sub-sub-categories based on technology, it starts to muck up the competitive aspect of racing. Nothing in the rulebooks forbids race organizers from running as many categories as they see fit. But if I have to listen to another single-speeder brag about how he or she “kicked ass” in a race, I’ll probably gag.
Instead, I invite single-speeders who routinely finish in the top five to go head-to-head with their geared comrades in the age/ability categories where they belong. If they can repeat their top-five finishes, then my hat will be doffed with the deepest respect, for that truly would make a single-speeder hardcore. Anything else is simply a sorry excuse for a quick ego boost for the racer looking to cut corners for glory.
VeloNews technical editor Andrew Juskaitis is reporting from NORBA No. 3 at Big Bear Lake, California, where he says single-speeders rendered insane by his column should feel free to smack him around. If you have delicate hands, you can send us an e-mail instead at email@example.com.