Single Speed USA, Port Jervis
by Doug Southwick • August 16, 2018
The craziness of Single Speed USA invades the little town of Port Jervis for the weekend! Pretty sure the theme was bikes, booze, fun and craziness - not necessarily in that order. I ended up being a little lame and we (my local riding buddy and me - I will call him Mr. SS) just went down Saturday for the race and after party.
My SS bike has been sitting in the basement for 2, maybe 3 years, so two weeks before the big day I decided that I better get it in working condition and do a ride or two ahead of time. It's rigid so I picked the smoothest of all of my local trails and figured I'd be good to go.
It seems the race/race course is supposed to be pretty secret ahead of time and after check in, all we knew was to meet at the fountain at 10am for a neutral start and don't lose your duckie. Yes, I said duckie - no number plate but a little yellow duckie with a number on it. I did see Dejay Birtch (promoter and two time Single Speed USA champion) when we were getting ready and got some more details: expect 4+ hours to do the 3 unique loops.
We take off right at 10am for the neutral start with the plan to regroup at the start somewhere out of town, at the trails. I see teammates Alex and Colin up ahead and think they must be planing to really "race" today. Me, I am more in the mind set of finishing as a goal. As we leave town the police escort pulls over and we start climbing a jeep/fire road, and then climb, and climb some more. Just about at the top some dude says turn right! turn right! and now we are seeing course markings. Huh? What about the regroup/start? No one near me seemed to know or care and I really didn't know what to do so, I just kept going.
The course was hilly and rocky - lots and lots of small rocks. My two rides on smooth local trails didn't prepare me for riding rigid on this! My pace is at just above endurance level and I keep Mr SS in sight. After a few miles of rocky singletrack I see a sign "Duckie Daycare drop off". We have to take our duck and throw it in a stream - pretty odd but ok. Back on the bike and maybe a mile later as I am being jarred by the rocks I noticed something off the trail. We turn around and go back to find "Duckie pickup". So now we have to find a duck in the stream. Unfortunately the ducks were caught up stream so we are walking backwards up hill, it was chaos with bikes and people everywhere. Eventually we find a duck. By the time we get back to Duckie Pickup DeeJay found us and was sort of yelling something. He had to yell being some dude had Metallica blasting on some type of bike music system. So yes, we did mess up and this whole time we have been on loop/lap #2 (note: Have to put some blame on him too for not having some volunteers at the start to stop folks)
We were told the plan - drop down the mountain to get to the start. We decide to go with the initial group to do so (A bunch of folks hung out at Duckie pickup to enjoy the large cooler of beers there). Now at 70 minutes of riding we hit the start (loop/lap# 1). Yes, 70 minutes of riding to get to the start of a 4+ hour race. Hmm, we may have a problem here. At any other race I am pretty sure I would have freaked out, but today was about fun and riding SS bikes in the woods. At least this trail has less rocks. It really didn't seem that long and we started to catch people that did start at the official start. I am still with Mr. SS and we already decided to stay together for the duration. This trail goes and goes and goes. I wonder if we will ever finish loop/lap#1. Outside of having sore arms and hands I feel pretty good. And we still are catching and passing a lot of folks.
Eventually we get to the top of hill, which is the lap/loop intersection, camp ground and "finish" area. Note: We now have a different numbered duck and there is no timing system of any sorts. No one seems to care that most people did the course wrong. I see that Colin and Alex are here too. We drink some beer, fill the bottles, and take off. Now we are on lap/loop#3 - not sure why but that's what we are doing. This loop/lap has some fun terrain, some scenic views of Port Jervis and the Delaware river, and is my favorite trail that I have been on all day. I notice in the muddy spots there are very few tire marks and realize we are one of the first people on this lap/loop. This one is much shorter than the other two and we are back at the finish in less then 30 minutes. Everyone is casual and happy and joking around. I am pretty sure we missed some of loop/lap #2 and I talk my friend into doing #3 a second time. l guess just because its Single Speed USA and you should do dumb things!
The after party/food/beer was really great. People ate, drank, and did more crazy things. I would highly suggest if you ever get the chance to race Single Speed USA you should - just don't take anything too seriously. Oh, and make an effort to get to Port Jervis to do some riding - there is a ton of single track but just make sure you have some suspension.