Kings of the worlds
Local crew scores ’09 Single Speed World Championships for Durango

Local singlespeeder Chad Cheeney, with a little help from No. 7, makes his way up a climb during last week’s Single Speed World Championships, in Napa, Calif. The roving part-carnival, part-bike race will be coming to Durango next year./Photo by Devon Balet

by Missy Votel

Move over World Cup. Out of the way NORBA. There’s a new mountain bike race coming to Durango.

Just be forewarned: if hot dogs and Bud tall boys aren’t part of your regular training regimen, you’d do well to start including them now. Same goes for French maid costumes and gold lamé bodysuits. And whatever you do, do not win the race if you don’t plan on coming home with a new tattoo – which may or may not be on the body part of your choice.

That’s right. After an intense competition, decided by a deadly trifecta of hairball mountain biking, fast-paced bowling and a fist-cramping Ms. Pac Man session, Durango has won the honors to host the roving two-wheeled circus known as the Single Speed World Championships in 2009.

“We went prepared to dominate on all fronts,” said Chad “Chainsaw” Cheeney, who recently returned with a contingent of Durango riders from the ’08 SSWC, held in Napa, Calif. It was Cheeney, who, despite a less than stellar cross country race (“I was dressed all wrong”) sewed up the Durango ’09 bid, knocking down a respectable 193 on the Brunswicks and joysticking to a plus-25,000 score on the video screen.

“Chad was a superstar. He totally rocked,” said fellow Durango singlespeeder and two-time tattoo recipient, Travis Brown. “Everyone from Durango decided it was manifest destiny, and they even went so far as to print posters and spoke cards for next year’s event in Durango. I guess it worked.”

In a nail-biting finale to this year’s event, the Durango contingent, which included Brown as well as Cheeney, Steve “Doom” Fassbinder, John Bailey and Ben Cooper, took on Arizona, New Zealand and France for the honors. After being heckled out of the competition, the Phoenix contingency stepped down, leaving the three continents to battle it out in a steel-caged match of wits, hand-eye coordination and 1980s know-how.

“As high-level performers, all we had to do was show up and represent to the fullest extent and show everyone we’re going to have a good time, every time,” said Cheeney.

Still basking in the afterglow of victory and cathode rays, he was modest about his accomplishment, denying a childhood spent at the video arcade. “I really never played until I met Annie,” he said of the courtship period between himself and the-now Mrs. Cheeney. “We used to play at the laundromat on the south side and at the Ranch. She’s the real master, she kicks my ass.”

Cheeney also credits his good luck to lucky No. 7, his cherished Denver Broncos jersey, which accompanied him, along with requisite padding, during the events. “I was rockin’ Elway the whole weekend,” he said, admitting to being a “little toasty” on the 30-mile race in mid-day heat. “But I killed it on the downhills with the shoulder pads.”

Two-time SSWC tattoo recipient, Travis Brown, right, discusses styling tips with former Durangoan Yuri Hauswald./ Courtesy photo

OK, so world championships typically usually involve a trophy, medal, jersey or some sort of something official. But the SSWC, while bestowing an official title on the race’s winner (quite literally), does things a little differently. It goes something like this: hundreds of bikers converge on the race. Many, who did not bother signing up on time, are allowed to race only after performing some sort of impromptu test of mental and physical strength, like a sprinting contest in 95-degree heat. Racing then ensues, which may or may not include mandatory beer chugging; shirtless, overweight men serving hot dogs at the top of a grueling climb; and other racers commandeering your bike, mid-race. Bonus points are awarded for various extracurriculars, such as cookie tossing, riding one’s rims to the finish line or amassing the most stitches. However, the true coup d’etat happens off the race course, where, loosely based on an aggregate scoring system and crowd approval, representatives from various locales duke it out at everything from go-cart racing to clogging in order to be awarded ownership of the following years’ festivities.

“Last year, we made a pretty big campaign,” said Brown of the ’07 SSWC, held in Scotland. “It all came down to a dance contest. We lost, but it was debatable. I mean, how do you judge a Scottish jig?”

Brown, a veteran of the event, which will celebrate an unofficial 10 years in ’09, admitted that prizes of pickled pig parts and tightie whities may seem silly or even be frowned upon by the greater bicycle racing community. But allowing racers to let their hair down, even if it is just a Goldilocks wig, is what the SSWC is all about. “It reminds me of mountain bike racing when I first started in 1989,” he said. “It was sort of for people who didn’t like the seriousness of the road racing scene. There was a lot more silliness.”

And while bizarre dress and customs may abound, Brown, who is required to wear sponsors but let his daughter pick out her favorite pink jersey for him, said not to be fooled by the leotards and boy scout uniforms. “Costumes are all part of it, to keep it fun, but you still have people riding so hard, they’re puking their guts out.

As for what will unfold in ’09 is anybody’s guess. “You never know until the race starts what they’re going to make you do,” said Brown, who placed a respectable 6th in this year’s race. “The promoters try to keep it unpredictable to keep people on their toes and keep them from taking it too seriously.”

What is known of the ’09 SSWC is that it will be put on next August by Cheeney, Fassbinder and Bailey’s “Passion Productions” and will likely revolve around “some kind of theme.” Organizers are looking at the Horse Gulch area as the setting, for its wide range of riding and close proximity to town. “It’s going to be one of those energetic, fun events,” said Cheeney, adding that the race will bring in around 400 riders from throughout the world, as well as their supporters and families. “It’s going to be one race, with a mass start, with a party in the back and all business up front. Sort of like the mullet of racing.”

Other than that, details are loosely under wraps. “The good thing about this race is, it’s not that official. We can do anything we want.”

And while the riders will likely be ready for anything, the question is: Is Durango?

Brown thinks so. “That’s why it needs to be here, there’s a super hardcore single speed contingent in Durango,” he said. “It’s important for us to show off how sweet the riding is around here . . . You’ve got to give those guys credit for bringing the singlespeeds worlds here – or blame it on them.” •

Photographer Devon Balet was kind enough to donate the photos you see here. To see more of the wreckage that was SSWC08, please visit or contact Devon Balet at

Cheeney shows off the form that sealed Durango’s fate./ Photo by Devon Balet



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