Island Capers; The 2016 NZ Singlespeed Champs

Photo - Alick Saunders

They are eccentric and colourful and they’re coming to Waiheke Island on Anzac weekend, April 23rd – 25th. The New Zealand Singlespeed Championships are one of the more flamboyant events on the national mountain bike calendar with tattoos for the winning man and woman, beer short cuts, extravagant costumes and raucous crowds.

2016 will see Auckland hosting the event for the first time since the Singlespeed Champs were born in Rotorua in 2008. This year three Auckland Clubs band together to put the event on- Auckland Mountain Bike Club, the Department of Cycling and Waiheke Mountain Bike Club.

“It is more than just a race. It is an event - placings, times, how many laps you complete don’t matter,” says Ra Bhana longtime supporter and course setter in Rotorua. He’s back to MC the event in 2016.  “It’s about smiles, laughs, meeting old and new friends, knowing that you are more than simply a number or an entry. And how cool a venue is Waiheke.”

Photo - Mike Breen

The course will remain remain a mystery till race day. “We can’t give too much away, but we can tell you each lap is somewhere between 7.12 and 11.35km long and requires a ‘refreshment’ stop,” adds Bernadette Mark, one of the event organisers. “It could possibly involve river crossings, scenic selfie opportunities, monster gorse slalom, mud run, hill climb, hard racing, hecklers corner and water slides…or will it?”

New Zealand’s most decorated singlespeed mountain biker, Garth Weinberg, will be there on the start line. “When we say ‘most decorated’ we mean it literally,” says Bernadette. “Garth has winner’s tattoos from multiple New Zealand and Australian titles and the most important one of all, the Singlespeed World Championships in 2010.  He really does put his body on the line.”

For him singlespeed is the purest and most original form of cycling. “There is nothing else like it,” he says. “I keep coming back because I am trying to relive former glories…trying to reclaim my youth.”

Weinberg will again be a favourite to win the men’s title and tattoo on Waiheke. He narrowly lost to New Zealand representative, Carl Jones, 15 years his junior, in 2015.

For more information and online entry, www.aucklandmtbclub.co.nz