2024 Single Speed Arizona: If You Find It, Look For It

Single Speed Arizona (SSAZ) is an annual gathering that takes place every year during the first weekend of February. Part family reunion and part celebration of bikes running on one gear, it moves around to a different hosting location annually and takes advantage of southern Arizona’s favorable weather and exemplary singletrack riding. Josh Weinberg and Chris “Dirty” Reichel were in attendance at this year’s event, which saw a solid turnout of riders and volunteers descend on West Tuscon for a weekend of stout trail riding and (for some) even stouter partying…

I’ve made a habit of photographing SSAZ each year since I moved to the state back in 2017. In fact, the Bumble Bee/Black Canyon Trail Edition was the first gallery I submitted as a freelancer to this very website. Last year out in Superior, however, I ended up riding the long course and realized pretty quickly that photography would take a back seat to just completing the route and making it back to camp. Apparently, the long course was “just a joke” and the organizers didn’t think anyone would actually ride it. Well, the joke is on you, Garret, because we rode it! Most folks took the “party route” and made it back to camp hours before I did. Oh well, it wouldn’t be a single speed event if I didn’t hobble away feeling under-biked and dehydrated.

But this year I made a somewhat wiser decision to opt into the mid-length 35-miler that included only about 3000 ft of elevation. Held in and around Tuscon Mountain Park on the west side of town, hosts Gerad and Maga rolled out the dirty red carpet for hundreds of degenerates from wintery locales all over the world. After a rainy check-in at the always-wonderful Transit Cycles, we took over the Double V Scout Ranch perfectly situated beneath Little Cat Mountain on the western flank of Star Pass.

Mt. Lemmon and 50 Year Trail System seem to get a lot of love when it comes to Tucson singletrack, but Gerad and Maga wanted to spotlight their favorite west side trails for this SSAZ. While plenty of past SSAZs have put riders on some of Mt. Lemmon’s steep and ledgy technical terrain, it isn’t exactly the best for single speeds (most of which are rigid or hardtails). Conversely, the Tucson Mountain Park/Robles zone is full of punchy climbs and descents that are no doubt spicy enough to beat you up, but fun nonetheless. And the saguaro-packed landscape is otherworldly back there.

Catering to a large crowd of heathens over an entire weekend is no easy feat. There were some pretty impressive displays of volunteering, including Jenna from Transit riding her Esker Hayduke LVS up the super steep star pass with a charcoal grill strapped to the back to roast hot dogs and serve shots of tequila at the top of the hill. Krazy Karl did his part and rode with a backpack full of charcuterie that he’d spread out at various rest stops. And then there’s the PAUL aid station that’s become a regular fixture each year serving up bacon (if you arrive in time) and plenty of libations.

So, what is it about single speed events that keep folks coming back every year? Well, I have no idea. But I do know that there’s no other place where the day starts with Kaolin Cummins singing the National Anthem and then leads to getting baby-birded boxed wine from Box Wine Dan, enough fungus to make a smurf jealous, witnessing Paul’s social battery drop from green to red, campfire table tops, exposed nipples and butts, pocket glizzys, and riding next to JACQUIE PHELAN.

Tattoos? Do you want a tattoo even if you didn’t win the race? Yeah, that happened, too. Tattoos were being zapped under a ramada about 20 miles into the 35-mile day and again at the Lazy V Saloon afterparty. It’s pretty convenient when the hosting bike shop (Transit Cycles) is literally connected to a tattoo studio (Brain Wave). Speaking of the Lazy V, Gerad and Maga hired thrash masters SaintBreaker to tear the house down, followed by legacy favorites The Pork Torta to finish the job. Oh, what a day.

And I was pleasantly surprised to see some new faces immersed in these shenanigans. And, some young ones too! For a while there it seemed like the collective interest in single speed mountain bikes was predominantly relegated to middle-aged dudes with graying beards. But now the future is looking bright, my friends.

Will we see you in Oracle next year?!

Single Speed Arizona 2024