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Single Speed World Championships

September 11, 2008

Over a year ago I heard that Single Speed Worlds were going to be in nearby Napa, California. I immediately knew that I had to race that race. Many things transpired in the meantime and I registered while still on crutches and unable to walk. If there was one race I was going to do in the coming year this was it. Who could pass up a race where wearing a kooky costume and winning a tattoo is the norm? I didn't own nor had ever ridden a single speed mountain bike, but I own and ride a fixie – it's almost the same thing isn't it?

Even with nearly nine months lead time my single speed bike didn't come together until the week before the race. Plans for an awesome outfit also took longer than expected. Working for a clothing company has it's advantages. Sheila had custom skinsuits made for both of us in the latest crazy flower print. We picked them up just a few days before the race.

I worked extra walking into my training prior to the race knowing that I'd be spending plenty of time pushing the bike uphill. The bike was an engineering feat in and of itself. My uber-mechanic, Ralf, cobbled and twiddled my full suspension Hei Hei Supreme into a single speed rig. One broken rear derailleur, single speed cog, several cassette spacers, seven-speed chain and a new chain ring later, the rig was ready to go. The bike got it's one and only shake down ride two days before worlds. Festivities leading up to the race included rides all over the area showcasing the best dirt riding in Norcal [Nothern California - ed.].

Since riding a bike is way more fun than working, Sheila and I ditched the office on Friday before worlds and joined in some group riding fun. We enjoyed a spectacular warm sunshine day of riding at Camp Tam Rancho in Fairfax, followed by food and beverages. The bike performed very well, a few times it sounded like it wanted to shift but after it got dusty and dirty that seemed to go away. I had an itchy trigger finger during the ride, my right thumb kept reaching down and trying to shift!

The morning of SSWC08 was cool and foggy, this was good as it can be hotter than stink in Napa, and I don't like the heat. The scene at the race was once of merriment, pending suffering and far out costumes. I got my number plate – literally – kitted up and headed out to see how the race started and have some pictures taken before I got all dirty.

The start itself was a bit late as Curtis Inglis, the promoter and frame builder, let a group of guys who hadn't made the online registration cut join the race after they ran a lap around the horse corral. We had to put our bike really far away in a field and run a lap around the corral to reach them and start the race. Since I've just started running and cripple foot isn't too keen on the idea of actually running I mostly trotted around the corral, through the field and across the briars to my steed. This was the easy part of the race.

The opening climb was long, dusty and grueling. Just as I was thinking the climb would go on forever it finally leveled out enough to get back on the bike. The descent was an eye opener, I've only ridden at Skyline park one other time and was quite surprised by the rocks, drop offs and dust. I was also very, very happy to have rear suspension. On the second lap I rode with Stella Carey, two-time Single Speed World Champion. She put the hurt on me more than once. Starting lap three, I downed two energy gels and an entire bottle of water. That must have been the magic elixir as the last lap was by far my fastest. I started passing people that had dropped me earlier in the race and cleared many of the tricky sections. Coming in to the finish, I passed a woman who had been riding in front of me and willed my tired and beaten legs to spin like crazy and finish in fifth place for women and about one hundredth overall. Three hours of riding hard and pushing my bike up hills took it's toll on me. I broke down and did something I never do – I drank a soda. It tasted so good, like cold nectar and a swim in a mountain river all combined into one can of sugary goodness.

The rest of the day was as follows, a rinse off with the hose, a free burrito from the taco truck, free wine from the wading pool, a piece of Rick Hunter's Birthday cake, a good look at Rachel Lloyds brand new tattoo, shouting and cheering for the winners of various prizes and ultimately falling sound asleep in my bed. Would I do this race again? You betcha!

Here's the promised waffle recipe.

Cornmeal Molasses Waffles

1 Cup cornmeal
1 Cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
a dash or so of salt
3Tablespoons of molasses
2 eggs
2 Cups of milk or soymilk
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Yummy toppings: yogurt, sliced berries, sliced pears, syrup, sliced apples or apricots.

Mix all of the dry ingredients together then whisk in the wet ingredients. Preheat your waffle maker and if it needs to be sprayed with oil do so. Put an appropriate amount of batter into your waffle maker. Close the lid, wait, open the lid, top the waffle with fresh fruit, yogurt or other toppings. Enjoy! The cornmeal give the waffle a great crunchy texture while the molasses add depth to the flavour and a nice dark colour.

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Just as Barbarella bumps through the universe, comically oblivious to the dangers and threats being thrust at her, Barbara Howe has had a few misadventures of her own. After a year of sickness and a grievous injury she is finally recovered and aiming for the podium.

Barb has recently signed with Vanderkitten Clothing and looks forward to a season representing "clothing for women who kick ass!" She currently resides in Berkeley, CA with her boyfriend, a room full of bikes and her cat. Follow her adventures here on