via Twin Six
In the spirit of SSUSA I bought a tallboy PBR before writing this race report. Keep that in mind because PBR tallboys and Miller Highlife seem to be the backbone of this race. Grand Forks, ND’s famous "Dave the Bike Guy" tricked me into signing up for SSUSA late one night, convincing me somehow that they were running out of registration spots. Without heed and following my own late New Years resolution of actively trying to mountain bike more I registered. The general description of this race is a Single Speed National Championship located in Winona MN this year. The thing is, no one really cares who wins or what place you came in or if you finished at all. And you don’t have to qualify to compete. Sure, 1st place male and female win a pretty cool handmade trophy (and so does the person who is “DFL” Dead F@!#$%^ Last), but other than a white board where someone who was still sober was able to write the names and times of the first 20 people to finish it’s more of a party than a race.
SSUSA changes locations every year and the next location is determined at the end of the race during the post race party via derby (bumper bikes), keg stands, and whatever events happen at the bar that evening.
Onto the race/party. I had a great time. Registration was an all night event at the bar, with many racers partying till last call. Bikes were everywhere. Expensive bikes were everywhere. Some were piled above my head in a stack. Dave and I stayed up late eating free popcorn and joining in on the rowdy unchained world that is SSUSA. I’m really surprised no one was arrested all weekend. Genuinely surprised.
Photo by Dave Sears
SSUSA started with tons of people in costumes, spandex, and nothing at all. It was a Le Mans start (meaning we ran to our bikes) before hitting the trails. I was on a fully rigid Redline Monocog 29er with v-brakes. The trail was 30-40 miles and gaining a total of 4,000 ft elevation. The trails in Winona were great. Some had to be connected by moderate sections of road, but I enjoyed them as a means to give my arms a rest. There were such steep uphills, that everyone ran or walked them. There were such steep and long downhills that my arms felt like Jello and for the 1-2 minutes that I was flying 20+mph down double track I had to yell at myself to hold on. This happened repeatedly. I literally thought I would destroy myself in an accident had I not held on to the brakes as tight as humanly possible. My arm muscles were so weak with fatigue trying to hold on and I kept feeling my biceps slapping on the bone they were attached to. It was a lesson of pain management and it made me jealous of everyone with a suspension fork and hydraulic brakes.
The trail had a few sag stops with more beer than water. If you thought you were going to fly through without putting one back, be prepared to be heckled, have things thrown at you and (in one case) someone with a slingshot was taking aim on racers who were “losing the race.” The beer stops were great and hydrating. My legs held up all day without cramping and after however many hours it took me to finish I was exhausted, happy, and looking for food and water.
For any of the gear heads, I was riding a 32-20 and it did me great. I could ride almost everything except for the parts where I couldn’t. I wouldn’t have picked an easier or harder gear. SSUSA revived my mountain biking appetite (as I was hoping) and I am stoked to get on any trail I can find.
I took a nap and thankfully Dave forced me to go the after party. It was at another bar downtown and featured music by a band called “DNF”. It was loud and fast, which matched pleasantly with the fireworks people were setting off inside. Students back in town for the semester would come up to our party floor, look shocked, disgusted, or incredulous that people twice their age or greater were getting wild. Again, I don’t know how I never saw any cops. I had a great weekend. I’d do it again, and I’d encourage anyone to join. Tons of great trails and tons of great people. Thanks Dave!
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