55-year-old Ned Overend was planning on racing in the elite category at this year's US Mountain Bike National Championships. Instead, Deacon James, Specialized’s director of recreational cross-country R&D, asked if he’d be interested in racing the new 29in-wheeled Rockhopper SL singlespeed.
Overend happily accepted James’s request. Had he raced with the pros, he likely would have beaten half of them. Instead, he became the new national singlespeed champion. “It was a good excuse not to race with the pros,” said Overend. “ That was going to be an ugly race.”
The former world champion duked it out with Cameron Chambers (Specialized Stumpjumper Trail Crew) for most of the race. The former 24-hour national champion was also on a Specialized, though a Stumpjumper with 140mm of travel.
Ned’s national championship ride
Overend won his latest national title on a bike from Specialized’s recreational cross-country line – which is just a step or two up from the company’s base models. The bike is basic in price only, however, as its feature set will keep enthusiasts fulfilled and its one-speed nature will ward off beginners.
Specialized will sell the Rockhopper SL 29er singlespeed as a frameset with headset, seatpost and saddle for just US$440 (there are currently no plans to sell it in the UK). The butted M4 alloy frame features manipulated tubes, including an angled seat tube and a Specialized designed eccentric bottom bracket.
Overend complemented the frame with a RockShox Recon 29er fork, which was painted to match the frame. While the frame and fork can be considered basic, Overend’s parts pick was anything but.
Highlights included a prototype Roval Controle SL carbon 29er wheelset with the brand’s 460g Renegade 29er tire, set up tubeless. These wheels were first spotted during April’s Sea Otter Classic where factory team rider Todd Wells used them.
Zipp's Vuka Quad bottom bracket fits a 30mm crank spindle to a standard bottom bracket shell.
The most interesting component was the S-Works FACT OSBB carbon crankset with a Rotor chainring that fitted the threaded ecentric bottom bracket through the use of Zipp’s Vuka Quad Bottom Bracket. The Zipp external bearing BB retrofits the crank’s 30mm axle to a standard bottom bracket shell.
Magura’s Marta SL Magnesium brakes paired to Avid XX brake rotors took care of slowing Overend down, and he used a flat alloy bar equipped with Specialized S-Works carbon ‘Overendz’ bar ends. “I’m surprised you don’t see more singlespeeders using bar ends,” he said. “They give you way more leverage for the climbs.”
With Shimano PD-M540 pedals, Overend’s medium Rockhopper SL 29er SS weighed 21.4lb. The more important number, to singlespeeders, is likely his gear choice: Overend used a 34-tooth Rotor 110BCD shaped road chainring and 21T Niner singlespeed cog to tackle the straight-up, straight-down, high-altitude course in Sol Vista, Colorado.