Single-speed bikes present unique test

It’s hard to believe that riders with only one gear can be competitive against the rest of the field.

But that is the case, and at last year’s Grand Junction Off-Road 40-mile amateur race, six single-speed competitors placed in the top 15. That included the third- and fourth-place riders.

Vince Anderson of Grand Junction powered his way to third place, finishing the 40 miles in 3 hours, 32 minutes, 8 seconds. That was just 73 seconds behind the winner, Evan Ross of Crested Butte.

Anderson said a number of sections on the course pose more challenges for a single-speed rider than the multi-gear guys. But strangely enough, he said it’s the pavement where he has no chance.

“On that section (leaving and returning to downtown), which consists of six of the 40 miles, the gearing on a single-speed mountain bike is just too easy,” he said. “On the way out of town, in order to keep up and stay in the pack, you have to pedal ridiculously fast.”

Of course, the climbs on the dirt aren’t easy when a rider only has one gear, he admitted.

It was on the climbs where he lost some time, and he struggled mostly with the climb up to the Andy’s Loop section late in the race.

“Even if you’re in good shape, it’s a hard one to do clean on a single speed,”  he said. “Most of the single speeders will be forced to walk.”

This is the section where the top two riders pulled away from Anderson.

“(They) were able to get away since I was walking and they were able to ride,” he said. “I was able to ride most every other section of the course.”

It’s tough enough to compete on a 40-mile course with just one gear, but Anderson had problems early in the race.

“Last year, I fell off my bike early on the Tabeguache Trail and broke a spoke,” he said.

After doing a quick repair job, he had to battle his way back to the front of the pack.

Anderson, 44, was thrilled with his race last year.

“I felt fortunate last year to do as well as I did compared to the geared riders,” he said. “It will be tough to do that well again.”

He said the challenges facing a single-speed rider are really too much to have a realistic shot at winning the overall title. With the final three miles on pavement, a single-speed rider would have to have a huge lead to hold off the geared-bike riders.

Anderson knows he’s at a disadvantage, but he loves the challenge of riding a single-speed bike.

“Really there is no advantage,” he said. “Like most others on a single speed, I just like the aesthetics.”

Single-speed riders are a unique bunch.


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