Hobart is due to host the national single speed bicycle championship in April this year, the second time the event has hit Tasmania’s shores.
The single speed community is pretty niche in the bike world, but still attracts devotees from all over the country.
Single speed bicycles, as the name suggests, just work in one gear. For some riders this means putting more effort in on hills and difficult terrain, or just riding fast.
Local organiser Tim Smith says other single speed riders are more easy going.
“They will say they have three gears: sitting, standing and walking, and that they adjust their own ‘gearing’ to the terrain and company.
“It's still fair to say that single speeders are a hardy bunch, enjoying the simplicity and physical challenge of getting ourselves up hills and over technical terrain, then celebrating afterwards with craft beers.”
The Nats are being put on by a collaboration of local riding groups Bottles and Chains, Southern Single Speeders, the Hobart Dirt Devils club and the Hobart Brewing Company.
Tim says everyone comes to single speed cycling from a different place.
“As a fresh-faced bicycle messenger and cross-country mountain biker from Sydney, I went to my first Nats in 2005 at Castlemaine, Victoria. On ‘Race’ day there were people in fancy dress, there was a beer short-cut, there were people riding slow and fast on new and old bikes, and there was a lot of laughter!
“We shut down part of the main street for skid comps, criterion races on 16" bikes and the Huffy toss. I was hooked from my first taste, the bikes are simple, quiet and fun. It's more like being a kid on your BMX again. I'm also a bit of a recidivist, having been one of the organisers for the Nats in 2006, 2010, the worlds in 2016 and I'm back for another turn in 2024 for nipaluna/Hobart!
“Evidently, it's not a standard mountain biking event, with the main focus on participation, social rides and having fun rather than any serious racing. The other side to the event is awarding the hosting rites for the next year. Think awarding the Olympic Games but with bribery, corruption and a series of challenges and side events. Wait, that is how they award the Olympics…
“The take home is that you'll have a good time, you'll meet some new friends and nobody will care what bike you bring, what you wear, what you look like or where you come from, even if you do have to bring your geared bike. We can help you choose and lock out a gear to join in the fun.”
The Nats have been held regularly since around 2003 and this year will involve one day of “racing”. There will be obligatory fancy dress on Saturday 27 April at Waterworks Reserve, and social rides from 25 April to 28 April.
Some of the extra-race activities include a social ride and skid competition on the Queens Domain, social ride to Fern Tree Tavern for lunch and return to town via the North–South Track, and a Meehan Range social ride and BBQ. There will also be a series of hosting rites challenges at the Hobart Brewing Company on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
“There may be a quiz, there may be some interpretive dancing, there will be some under-sized bikes and over-confident people,” Tim says.
Adding to the Hobart event is local artist Tom O’Hern’s distinctive style adorning the full-finger Sendy gloves all participants will receive. O’Hern’s work is known to many Hobart riders thanks to his giant smiling mouth mural alongside the Intercity Cycleway, as well as the planets he’s painted on the path.
The entry price of $199 includes three lunches, the Tom O’Hern gloves, musette bag with stickers and an old-school low-fi bike 'zine (hand-made magazine). There are also entry categories for 14–18 year-olds – $160, and under-14s – $100.
Entrants must hold an AusCycling racing membership which costs $44 for one day or there’s the option of a free trial if it’s been more than three years since you last took out a licence.