How to race a R15k mountain bike and love it

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Craig and his daughter, Chloe, at the Sani2C. (Photo: Craig Thomson)
Craig and his daughter, Chloe, at the Sani2C. (Photo: Craig Thomson)
Craig Thomson is proof that you don’t require an expensive mountain bike, to have a great time stage racing.

The Johannesburg rider is a committed Sani2C competitor, having done the event nine times. What makes Craig’s Sani2C adventures unusual, is that he does them without gears. Or more precisely, a single gear.

As mountain biking becomes more sophisticated, with wireless shifting and terrifically expensive drivetrains, Craig prefers to ride his single-speed mountain bike.

His initial Sani2C experience was in 2012, on a geared mountain bike. The next Craig entered on a single-speed has never regretted it.

Other Sani2C riders might look upon his simple steel hardtail with some pity, but Craig’s fitness quickly establishes his mountain biking credentials.

"Riding a single speed, you use muscles that you would otherwise not; you sit back in your saddle, change gears and take the easier way out, whereas the single-speed forces you to become a stronger rider. So now it’s a bit of a joke that everyone I ride with battles to keep up with me."

Despite the burden of fitness that is required, a single-speed mountain bike has very real benefits. It is lighter and there is so little mechanical complexity, that component failures are nearly unimaginable.

The Sani2C event can occasionally experience heavy rain, creating muddy trails that can ruin a geared mountain bike’s drivetrain, or make its shifting horribly unpredictable. In muddy conditions, a single-speed just cruises along without bother.

Craig enjoys the Sani2C so much, he has never bothered entering any other local stage race.

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