Single Speed World Championships

When: Race starts at 10 a.m. Saturday. Various group rides are scheduled for today and Friday, and the hosting competition is set for Friday night at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe in Bend.

Where: Race starts near Summit High School and takes riders on gravel roads and singletrack through Skyline Forest northwest of Bend.

Contact: www.sswc18.evenbrite.com for more details and to register. Cost is $100.

The Single Speed World Championship is not a typical mountain bike race — and not just because racers ride bikes with only one gear.

The SSWC is the anti-race, created in 1995 by like-minded mountain bikers in Big Bear Lake, California, who were tired of the competitive racing scene as bike technology boomed. They just wanted to have fun on a simple bike.

The event will be staged in Bend this weekend not because Central Oregon has become a mountain biking mecca, but because four riders went to the 2017 SSWC and earned Bend the right to host it.

David Marchi and three other mountain bikers from Bend claimed the hosting rights by winning silly competitions dreamed up by the organizers of the New Zealand event, not based on their performances in the race.

“It’s actually a competition that the hosting organizer creates in order to figure out who will host it the next year,” Marchi says.

Marchi and his crew beat out Canada in competitions that include a muddy slip ’n slide, a mini-bike race, and a finale of eating traditional Maori food, including grubs.

“It felt like a glorified Fear Factor,” says Marchi, owner of Crow’s Feet Commons in Bend. “It was lame in my opinion, but we ended up winning.”

As race director this year, Marchi has the chance to create his own hosting competitions as crews from Slovenia, Canada, Durango, Colorado, and Gunnison, Colorado, have expressed interest in hosting the 2019 event.

That competition will take place Friday night at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe in Bend. The race is set for Saturday on trails in the Skyline Forest, just northwest of Bend. The event starts near Summit High School and takes riders on gravel roads and then on to singletrack through the Skyline Forest.

Bend’s Carl Decker, the 2008 single speed world champion, and Adam Craig, the 2007 world champion, designed the course for the races, which include a 38-mile long course and an 18-mile short course.

Decker says they are expecting 600 to 700 racers from all over the world, including Japan, Australia, Europe and Canada.

“It’s kind of a counterculture bike race thing,” says Decker, a longtime pro mountain biker. “I don’t think it’s ever missed a year. It’s a traditional event for people who don’t subscribe to the typical U.S. cycling events. It’s kind of kooky but it’s pretty neat.”

Craig won the event in Scotland in 2007 and Decker won in Napa, California, in 2008. Decker and Marchi traveled to Japan for the 2015 SSWC.

The event is open to bikes with a single-gear ratio, making it harder to climb hills and harder to maintain speed on the downhills. Most mountain bikes have 20 or more gears.

“You kind of try to not make it super steep,” Decker says of designing the course. “Having stuff that’s kind of steep on a normal mountain bike is pretty awful. You end up riding really fast in places to make it over the next bump or hill. It’s higher highs and lower lows.”

Decker says single speed remains a niche within the mountain bike industry and its benefits have grown as bikes have become more and more complicated.

“With a rigid (no suspension) single-speed bike, there’s not much between you and the trail,” Decker says. “It’s a purist thing. The more convoluted bikes get, the more attractive it is.”

Marchi says the SSWC has its roots in the early 1990s, when bike technology was based on racing, not on simply trail riding.

“All these things were coming out based on racing,” Marchi says. “There were a lot of people who just wanted to go ride their bike and have fun.”

The Single Speed World Championship has no official times or results, just a male winner, a female winner, and a last-place finisher.

“The last finisher is as important as the first for this race,” Decker says. “There’ll be people out there on bikes they found in dumpsters.”

Still, Decker expects a handful of top pros to race on Saturday, including himself and Craig.

“I think I can give those guys a run for their money,” Decker says.

The men’s and women’s winners each get a tattoo for their effort, and Decker and Craig each have one for their past victories. The winners get to decide the size and location of the tattoo, according to Marchi.

“Technically we can’t hold them against their will, but the rule is, if you don’t want the tattoo, don’t win,” Marchi says with a laugh.

Marchi says that so far registration has been mostly from out-of-towners. He is hoping that more locals will enter the race in the next couple of days.

“I think there’s a lot of people in Bend who just don’t know the history of it,” Marchi says. “It’s kind of a throwback race that’s been going on forever underground. Now to bring it to a town where mountain biking is a growing sport and there’s a lot of technology but there’s not a ton of history, it’s kind of cool.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0318,

mmorical@bendbulletin.com

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