First a HUGE thanks to The King of the Apples Adam St Germain. He asked me how he could help the series this year. We brainstormed a bit and came up with the above amazingness. Huge thanks to Specialized for making the nicest water bottles out there. This water bottle is inspired by those who inspired us to make this SSCX series what it is today. Has a whole lotta Philly and a splash of Norcal and a ton of #NECX all in a great vehicle for hydration. We will have these bad boys at the races for as long as they last. $10 each or $15 for two. Stevil and Dave get theirs for free. Cause well you know….See you this weekend at White Park and Sucker Brook!
The season kicked off today at Hartford. It is my new favorite course. Its like the everything bagel of CX courses.
We have two new holders of THE VEST!
The quest is very simple. The points leader gets the vest at each race. It is awarded on the podium. The vest holder can alter, adjust, bedazzle and/or add as much flair as they see fit. The idea is over the course of the season for the vest to reflect the season and the riders. So be creative. Have fun. No holds barred. Just like SSCX!
Ok one side note. Apparently Levi thinks a small woman is really, really small. And thinks a medium man is ginormous. So yeah. Next year maybe we go leather….
Here is the points schedule for the series:
1 = 60
2 = 50
3 = 45
4 = 40
5 = 35
6 = 30
7 = 28
8 = 26
9 = 24
10 = 22
11 = 20
12 = 18
13 = 16
14 = 14
15 = 12
16 = 10
17 = 9
18 = 8
20 = 6
21 = 5
22 = 4
23 = 3
24 = 2
25 = 1
Do you have what it takes to join the ranks of riders ditching their gears to race singlespeed cyclocross? Learn the ins and outs of how to get started.
When former two-time world cyclocross champion Sven Nys lined up for the 2016 Singlespeed CX World Championship (SSCXWC) in Portland, OR, the cyclocross community at large let out a collective gasp. For as long as racers have been lining up for them, singlespeed races have been seen as somewhat of a sideshow in many racing circles. While there are undoubtedly many fast, competitive riders that participate, there’s also no shortage of costumes and beer hand-ups.
But now one of the fastest people ever to grace the sport of cyclocross was lining up at the biggest singlespeed event in the world. Did that mean that singlespeed cyclocross was on the path to legitimacy? Or was Sven just finding a way to pass the time in his retirement? We’ll have to see what happens as this year’s season gets started, but for now, let’s take a look at this oddball offshoot of cyclocross racing.
What is SSCX?
The simplest explanation of singlespeed cyclocross is that it’s racing cyclocross on either a singlespeed-specific or a converted singlespeed bike.
A more nuanced explanation is that, for those ditching their gears, it’s an entirely different mindset — at least during the cyclocross season. It’s a way to simplify cyclocross racing, to challenge themselves in new ways on the course, and to inject a little more fun into their suffering. Many SSCX events involve at least one person racing in some sort of costume and beer hand-ups are ever-present. Cheers from spectators take on a slightly different form — that of friendly heckling with no hard feelings.
Why the Heck Would Someone Give Up Their Gears?!
Anyone that’s raced even one cyclocross race knows how difficult it can be… and that’s with gears! Why in the world would someone choose to make something that’s already extremely hard even more challenging?
That’s simple! Simplicity.
A singlespeed is a snap to maintain. Additionally, since there are fewer moving parts, there are fewer things that actually can snap. The fear of a derailleur hitting the deck in muddy conditions is a thing of the past with most singlespeed set ups.
When it comes to singlespeed racing, it’s not just the bike that’s simplified though. The entire atmosphere surrounding SSCX is less focused on competition and more focused on having a good time. Most riders aren’t thinking about their power outputs or whether they’re going to get upgrade points that day. There’s a general air of celebration surrounding singlespeed events (due in large part to the aforementioned costumes, beer swilling, and heckling). In essence, riders are left with less to think and be stressed about.
That’s not to say that singlespeeders aren’t competitive, though. There are absolutely those that take it just as seriously as racing at the elite level. However, the general attitude in singlespeed events is undeniably more relaxed than many of the other fields you’ll find racing throughout the day.
For some, racing singlespeed can actually double their cyclocross season. In many local cyclocross scenes, there’s typically a dedicated singlespeed race at some point during the day’s events. That means a rider could race their category race and the singlespeed race. Plus, it’s pretty common for additional races to only add five or ten dollars onto the day’s registration fee.
Now that we’ve piqued your interest in SSCX, there are a couple different ways you can give it a shot:
If you just want to dip your toe in the mud with regards to SSCX, the best way to do so is with a conversion of your current cyclocross whip. This way you’re not committing yourself to the singlespeed lifestyle (yet). There are a few ways you can accomplish this, with varying results.
The first — and easiest — way is to simply zip-tie your shifters so you don’t have the ability to shift them. This method is a little limiting as it really only works with SRAM DoubleTap shifters.
The advantage of this method is that it requires the least amount of commitment, and is the easiest to go back and forth between if you only have one cyclocross bike and plan on doing multiple races. However, depending on your local scene’s rules, this method may not be legal — particularly in a higher-level event like a state championship race. When in doubt, check with your local USAC or governing body officials. Additionally, if your local scene runs the singlespeed race with say, a Master’s category, the fact that your bike still has a full 10- or 11-speed drivetrain will most certainly confuse the other singlespeeders and could in turn give you an unfair advantage. And that’s just not cool.
The second conversion method is to tighten the limit screws on your rear derailleur and use it as a chain tensioner. Then, just throw a single cog with a spacer kit on your rear wheel and race. This method is typically more acceptable with race officials, though some may make you disconnect your derailleur cable just to make sure. Again, this method has the advantage of being fairly easy to switch between a geared and single set up. Of course, this method only works if you’re starting with a 1x setup. If your bike is already set-up 2x, you’ll also need to either disconnect or ditch the front derailleur.
It should also be noted that thin steel cogs can cause damage to an aluminum freehub body. To avoid this, we recommend Surly singlespeed cogs, which have a 4.5mm thick base that won’t dig in to your freehub.
If after racing with one of these methods for a bit, you’re feeling like committing more, it might be time for the third method: the dedicated chain tensioner. By using a product like the Surly Singleator, the Paul Components Melvin, or the Problem Solvers Two-Pulley Chain Tensioner, you can ditch the rear derailleur and shifter setup all together. This option keeps you more committed to singlespeed racing so if you plan on racing multiple races in a day, you’ll want a second geared bike for your category race. Of course, you can always race a category race on your singlespeed as well.
If chain tensioners aren’t your thing, maybe an eccentric bottom bracket is. Both Problem Solvers and Wheels Manufacturing offer great eccentric bottom brackets that allow you to run a super clean singlespeed set up. They work by rotating the bottom bracket and crank forward ever so slightly to keep tension on the chain. This eliminates the need for any sort of tensioner hanging off the derailleur hanger and is the surest conversion method to keep things from snapping off in muddy conditions. While it’s rare, if mud is thick enough, it can snap your derailleur hanger with a chain tensioner set up. This isn’t the case with an eccentric bottom bracket.
The Dedicated Singlespeed
If you’ve decided to fully commit yourself to the one-gear way of life, it might be time to invest in a dedicated singlespeed cyclocross bike. Within the QBP portfolio of brands, both All-City and Surly offer models with singlespeed capabilities. The All-City Nature Boy (both cantilever and disc brake options) and Nature Boy 853 are excellent models for those looking for traditional performance cyclocross geometry. Features like a Whisky Part Co. carbon fork on the 853 edition keep the weight down and give the rider a competitive advantage.
Both the Surly Straggler and the Cross-Check can easily be set up singlespeed thanks to their horizontal and semi-horizontal dropouts. The Cross-Check is best paired with Surly Hurdy Gurdy chain tensioner to keep the rear wheel from slipping forward in the dropout under the pedaling power that cyclocross requires.
The advantages of having a dedicated singlespeed bike are plenty if you find yourself really enjoying racing SSCX. For starters, when it comes to the Nature Boy, it was designed specifically for singlespeed cyclocross. There’s no derailleur hanger and the only cable routing you’ll find on it is for brakes. This eliminates places for mud to build up and makes for slightly more comfortable shouldering. And since you’re not running a rear derailleur or chain tensioner of any sort, there’s no risk of having to throw in the towel because of a snapped derailleur hanger. Additionally, your dedicated SSCX bike will be legal to race in every singlespeed race.
Regardless of what method of singlespeed set up you go with, you’re going to need to figure out your gearing — which just so happens to be one of the most hotly debated topics in SSCX circles. Similar to the different methods of how to set up a SSCX bike, there are a couple different schools of thought when it comes to gearing:
Many singlespeeders travel to races with a plethora of cogs to choose from based on the day’s course. The truly dedicated will arrive a few hours early to pre-ride the course with a few different cogs to see which gear ratio is going to be most effective on that particular course. The amount of climbing, sand, and mud are all major factors that play a role in deciding the best gear.
This method offers the ability to really dial in the perfect gearing for a given course, which could provide a leg up to the racer. For instance, someone who runs the same gear all season might be at a disadvantage on a hilly course compared to someone who geared specifically for that particular course. The drawback of this method is the hassle of carrying around and switching out cogs between practice laps and races.
Set It & Forget It
Plenty of singlespeeders decide on a gear ratio at the beginning of the season and stick with it until the end. While this is certainly the more convenient of the two methods, it does pose the potential issue of being over- or undergeared for a given course.
Regardless of what school of the thought you subscribe to, the general principles of gearing are the same. Most amateur racers choose a 38–42t chainring up front and somewhere between a 17–20t cog in the rear. This offers an abundance of possible gear ratios to choose from and while there are factors that play a role in determining the proper gearing, it ultimately comes down to personal preference.
Generally speaking, a gear ratio above 2 to 1 is a good place to start, but the gearing you settle on will depend on what kind of rider you are (power vs. spinner) the course, and the conditions. As singlespeeders say, no matter what gearing you choose, you can be sure it will be wrong at least part of the time.
Now, Go Forth & Spread the Word of SSCX
Hopefully all of this singlespeed nerdery has given you some inspiration to try it out this season. Most local cyclocross scenes (including yours probably!) have a singlespeed race built into their schedules. Give it a shot and see what you think. Many a cyclocross racer has never looked back to geared races after trying singlespeed a couple times. When you feel like your legs (and liver) are ready, you can head to SSCXWC and see if you have what it takes to get the winner’s tattoo. Who knows? You might even find yourself lining up next to a former world champion.
Come join us on Saturday, September 2 at 3Cross Brewing Co, in Worcester, MA for a Zank SSCX Series Launch Party and Ride!
We will meet at 3Cross at 1pm for a Feats of Strength style ride from the brewery. It is a bit of a mystery route curated by the rad folks at 3Cross! Be prepared for anything. We are envisioning a 2-3 hour ride. SSCX would be rad, but any bike is welcome.
After the ride we will all hang out and kick off the season in style!
Here are some details:
We are asking for a $10 donation for the ride and party. Proceeds will go to the Greater Worcester Land Trust. Your $10 donation will include the ride, a raffle ticket, one beer and the party.
The raffle will include great prizes from the Zank SSCX Series, Cross Propz, Vittoria, Mad Alchemy, Jake’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream and Cakes, and many more.
Sole Mio Mobile Pizza will be on hand at the party and selling their delicious pizzas.
Jake’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream and Cakes will also be there and have ice cream and sorbet for sale!
If you have any questions or need more info email email@example.com
The Season is almost here! I hope you are dusting off the SSCX bike. Getting your skills dialed. And working on that PRO-level hand up game.
Here is the 2017 Zank SSCX Series Schedule:
2017 Zank SSCX Schedule
In case you haven’t noticed all those races popping up on BikeReg and all the #cxiscoming tweets peppering your Twitter feed, it’s almost time to get Zank’ing!
Chip is always trying to innovate and push the limits of what the Zank Series can be (god bless him) and we at Chainline Cycles will drink any Kool-Aid he’s serving. Sooooooo in an effort to bring something new and fresh for 2017 we (Kevin & Eric from Chainline) have decided to coordinate and run a little Co-Ed Team competition for 2017. We’re still working on the prize purse but I can tell you right now that the winners will at the very least receive a his and hers set of custom crocheted NECX scarves. Only two exist in the entire world, they are practically priceless.
So how is this shindig going to work?!
The competition will consist of Co-Ed team pairs. 1 dude and 1 lady. You don’t need to be a couple in real life, in fact we’re hoping folks develop some strategic partnerships to increase the fun factor.
- First step is to register with Kevin as a team pair before Hartford Riverfront Cyclocross on Sept 9th. (He can be contacted @kevinorlowski on Twitter and Instagram or email kevinorlowski[at]gmail[dot]com). Just need racer names and a team name if you want (but not required).
- Next step is to race the Zank Series races and have a blast.
- Your team scores points for the overall only when both your dude and lady finish in the points for a given race. Your team score for that race will be the sum of your scores. i.e. if your dude races and gets 100pts but your lady doesn’t race you don’t get 100pts towards the overall Co-Ed competition. Full pair consistency is key!
- Kevin will tabulate overall standings after Colin posts Men’s and Women’s series standings at crossresults.com and post them here as the season progresses.
That’s it! Quest for the Vest is still the main storyline for the season. Goal here is a fun little sub-plot to follow along with. We’re hoping this might get our men’s and women’s fields a bit more equal in size, dial up the camaraderie and increase the party. Scarves (and possible other prizes) will be issued to the winners at Ice Weasels in December.
So partner up folks! Get registered with Kevin as a team and we’ll see you in Hartford!
This is what it is all about
When I announced my impending retirement from pro racing along with mine & Niels’ intention to create the Northwest Women’s Cyclocross Project, I also stated my intention to race some single speed cyclocross and target SSCXWC as my “A” race for the season. Although I was half joking, I actually did want a goal to work towards to keep me on the bike through the gloomy Seattle fall. I retired from pro racing and went back to work full time; I did not retire from riding my bike or the joy of slipping and sliding around in the mud.
Retirement means different things to different people. For me, continuing to race single speed was the perfect balance of having something to train for while participating in a subset of a sport that embraces everyone from pro racers to total beginners. Also from a pragmatic standpoint, it rarely…
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SSCX racing in New England was pretty much born at Ice Weasels. True story. Before Colin and Thom got a wicked smart idea to have a dedicated SSCX race at the end of season party…err I mean race no one and I mean no one raced SSCX. Ok, that is a lie. Thom did. He raced a sick pink IF against geared riders. And had about as much fun as you would expect at that time. A SS Mtb racer can do some damage against geared racers in New England. But racing a SSCX bike against a bunch Killer Bs hopped up on red bulls and dreaming of elite glory is no joke. Thom (and Colin although he always denies it) deserve so much credit for spawning the Zank SSCX Series. We got the idea around year 3. If you hadn’t noticed sometimes we are a bit slow on the uptake. But on those beer soaked fields at White Barn Farm this series was born. And I can’t thank Thom and Colin enough for giving us the gift that keeps on giving.
Ice Weasels is the end of season CXmas Party for the NECX. It is like an Office Holiday Party but on bikes. And like all Office Parties shit gets pretty weird at times. And the photos and videos the next day are laugh out loud hilarious. Ice Weasels never disappoints. It moved to Riverpoint CX Park in Warwick two years ago and has found a new home. The RI crew have done such an amazing job with the venue. A dedicated CX park where they let us pretty much get rad all day long. I want to say a heartfelt thanks to the NECT crew not only for making Ice Weasels so great but for making the whole Zank SSCX Series so rad. They went all in. Bob Stine and Melissa Downs were at every race. They embraced the leaders vest 100% and made it what it is today. When we came up with the idea with the vest we had no idea how people would respond. Bob and Melissa took it to a whole other level than what we thought it would. HUGE high fives to those two and their entire team.
This year’s Ice Weasels was looking to live up to its name. Climate change or just weird New England weather serves up lots of oddball weather at Ice Weasels. We have had some really cold years. And we have had years like last year when it was in the 40/50s. This year a few forecasts were saying 9 degrees. I was freaking a bit out about that I won’t lie. But it never was that bad. It was cold in the early parts of the day but luckily SSCX racers go off last as the premier race of the day so we started at the warmest time of the day. This is very helpful when people are in costumes. Or not in costume or clothes as one hearty SSCX racer did.
There was a lot on the line this year. It came down to a close race between Pete Smith of Mad Alchemy and Bob Stine from NECT for the overall in the men’s race. Pete edged Bob out to take the overall title of the 2016 Zank SSCX Series presented by Mad Alchemy. Congrats to both Pete and Bob. You are both true champions in my mind. Both raced with class and spirit the whole season. And they both encouraged and cheered on every racer on the course. And we all drank beers together after every race. That is what makes our series great in my opinion.
The women’s overall was just as exciting. Melissa Downs pretty much took that vest at White Park in NH back in September and never let it go. She is one of my favorite racers in the whole NECX. She showed up at IW in an Evil Knevil costume. Her bike had a faux exhaust pipe with a noise maker attached. The women bring so much to this series. We have had some really great battles all season long. I have to again give a MAJOR shout out to the Zip Tie Fairy Lesli Cohen. This series can not happen without her. She does so much for the series. The series is really a DIY affair done as a labor of love. It has grown to what it is in large part because of Lesli.
This year’s Ice Weasels sold out so fast it wasn’t even funny. I think there were over 100 SSCXers and 30 fat bikes. It made for some pretty hilarious media. The first trip into the Danger Zone got pretty exciting I will say that. One of our main goals in the series it to make sure everyone feels welcome. And to convert the geared to singlespeed.
Thank you to everyone who came out and raced this season. HUGE thanks to our sponsors: Zanconato Custom Cycles, Mad Alchemy, 3Cross Brewing, Feedback Sports, Castelli, Crossresults.com and Jake’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream and Bakery. Thank you to the promoters for letting our little Island of Misfit Toys invade your race. If you have ideas for next season or want to be a part of the series in any way just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. For now may your beer be cold, your bourbon warm and your cupcakes fresh. Cheers
One of the coolest things about the Zank SSCX series is the end of season raffle. We save all our prizes until the end and then hold a massive raffle/party at Ice Weasels. For every race in the series a racer does they get a raffle ticket. The more races you do the more chances you get to win really cool stuff. And the Mac Daddy of all the raffle prizes is a custom built Zanconato CX frame! Last year’s winner was Eric Lovering. He is the owner of Chainline Cycles in Laconia, NH. He is relatively new to CX. But in a very short time he and his team have made a huge impact on our series. The Chainline Pain Train as we affectionally call them always brings it. And by bring it I mean bring home-brew and custom koozies to every race. And they are always at the front. They are one of the teams that really has made this series so rad.
When we pulled Eric’s raffle ticket out of the hat last year I think we were more excited than he was. Well that is a lie. I have never seen anyone more excited to win a raffle. Eric’s enthusiasm is probably one of the things I love the most about him. He is always psyched about life. The big unveil came at Putney this season. Eric’s bike named Glitter Bomb is a beauty. It is built with Dedacciai Force OS tube set, Ahrens thru axle rear dropouts, PF30 BB shell with Niner Biocentric30 insert and sick ass race ready geometry.
Mike Zanconato sums up SSCX succinctly, “The feel of riding and racing a single speed is different than a geared bike. I think it goes beyond the lighter weight too. Maybe it’s psychological, because you have to change your riding style and how you approach obstacles and course features. You are thinking ahead more. But the bikes just feel like they accelerate better. I can’t really explain it, but you know it when you feel it.”
The raffle bike came with a sick Enve carbon disc CX fork. Eric chose a very cool mix of parts including NEXT tubeless carbon rims. NEXT is the wheel company of one of our founders Jerry Chabot. Jerry was there from the very beginning and really his vision of having a competitive SSCX series is what has always kept us going. He also has been steadfast in making sure we always allow zip tied mods to keep the series inclusive. We love dedicated bikes. And Eric’s is an example of how beautiful they can be in their simplicity but we welcome all manner of pedal bike at the Zanconato SSCX Series as long as it is only one gear. How you get to that one gear is up to you.
The paint on Eric’s bike really has to be seen in the sun in person to be appreciated. It is a sparkle pink powder coat. It really looks like wet paint. It is amazing how far powder has come. I love the little details Eric added to the build. Blue Endless cog, blue spacer on the stem, gold chain. So many cool little things making this bike special.
We hope to see all of you at Ice Weasels! The SSCX race is sold out. I hope you registered. If you missed out this year at least come down and hang out and drink some beer and eat some cupcakes with us. Thanks to everyone who has made this season so special. May the odds ever be in your favor at the raffle.