When I started thinking about buying a singlespeed this spring one name kept coming up over and over in the conversations I was having with my mountain biking friends – Peyton Randolph. Peyton was the 2015 OMBC Expert Singlespeed champion. But even though he excels at XC, his true passion is endurance racing.
I thought it would be great to highlight this talented rider, find out what motivates him to ride a singlespeed, and learn what he does to achieve his goals. I found his answers to be both insightful and entertaining. Read on and maybe you can learn how to be a mountain bike trail beast too!
Quickdirt: How did you get into mountain biking? What drew you to the sport?
I’ve been riding/racing motorcycles offroad since I was 5. My dad bought me a Yamaha PW 50 that I practically road the wheels off and we’ve been riding anything with 2 wheels ever since. My dad has ridden/raced dirt bikes his entire life, so two wheels have been in our family for a while.
When I graduated high school, I bought a mtb to stay in shape for the dirt bike season. Soon after, Chestnut ridge opened up in Carroll, Ohio. I instantly became hooked! Training for dirt bike racing is very expensive and puts a lot of wear and tear on your race bike if you don’t have a practice bike, so having a cheaper option that benefited most of the same muscles was perfect! We have a great local shop called Lancaster Bicycle created by the late Dan Peters. Between parts and a wealth of cycling knowledge, he steered me in the right direction. He even sold me my first single speed! A bianchi rigid 26er that I still own and ride. Dan was a great friend that I miss very much. During college, I raced the Chestnut 331 race and the OMBC S&S trails race. Both were fun races with nice people, but I was far from cycling shape and struggled a lot.
Soon after college, I watched the movie “Ride the Divide” on Netflix. This was amazing! Riding almost a month self supported in the most beautiful remote areas in America. I watched it almost every night after work. This sparked my interest in long distance mountain biking. I’ve always been more interested in long distance rather than sprint races, having raced numerous marathon road and ultra trail foot races. I enjoy the adventure of not knowing whether you’ve prepared and trained enough to actually finish! That year (2014) I signed up for the Mohican 100 mtb race!
I had no idea how to train for a 100 miler, but I gave it my best and finished just over 10 hours. I couldn’t believe it when I found out the elite guys finished under 7 hours! How is that possible? A few weeks after the Mohican 100, I signed up for the Wilderness 101. Wow! This race was tough. Again, I still had no idea how to train for this distance, but I finished and was hooked on figuring out this distance.
When did you make the switch to single speed and why?
In 2015, I thought I’d race the OMBC series to stay in shape for the 2015 Mohican 100 and Lumberjack 100. I decided to race the single speed expert class in order to keep my geared bike fresh for the 100 milers, having no high expectations whatsoever. I began the season on my full rigid 26 inch bianchi which I soon found out was not quite the right bike for the job. I looked into the Trek Superfly SS which was the right cost and had great reviews. There is a nearby shop (Trek Store Columbus) down the street from my office that has been great to work with for parts, service and initial bike purchase. I had only one warranty issue with the bike and they were very fast in ordering the part in and fixing it. I’ve been extremely happy with this bike and my race results improved soon after! I’ve become hooked to the mostly rigid (Lauf fork – Click here for review and prices.) single speed and have no desire to convert to any full squishy or geared bikes anytime soon.
Do you have other bikes with gears?
I have a Bianchi SS mtb, Trek Superfly SS mtb, and two Trek road bikes. I do ride a lot of road during the week due to convenience and it allows me to recover while still getting outside and seeing the countryside. The Trek Superfly mtb grouped with the Lauf fork works great for me. I don’t need a ton of travel on the front or back, so it takes just enough chatter out to smooth my ride without hurting my wrists or requiring me to “lock out” on climbs. They’re over a pound lighter than any suspension fork available, so I’m sold for a long time. I used it at the Georgia 50 miler and had no complaints through the rock gardens! I’ll be purchasing their newest version with the 110mm “boost” width and new carbon layering method for added stiffness very soon.
Is there a different mentality to single speeding?
Just mash the pedals! When I ride geared, I constantly worry if I’m in the right gear, if I’m spinning or chugging too much. I’ve noticed late in a race, I benefit most from the single speed. When my legs are telling me to shift down and go slower, I don’t have that option! Just stand up and laugh about it! If you’re familiar with Gordon Wadsworth, he seems like he’s always laughing, smiling and joking around when racing his single speed. I think that’s how you have to go about it. When you’re climbing a gnarly long techy climb, just smile, laugh and start talking to yourself. Maybe even sing a song. That sure helps me and actually cools the legs down for some strange reason!
Do you switch your gear ratios a lot? What is your approach to picking the right cog?
I try to stick with the same ratio all year for the OMBC length races. Before this year, I did not have a GPS computer, so my only way to gauge a track for elevation or difficulty was to run the same gear ratio at every track. I gain a better understanding and appreciation for a trail if I can relate one course to another rather than looking at a computer screen after the race.
This winter I tried the 50 mile Georgia Snake Creek races in December and January. Wow! Talk about climbing. Almost 7000’ in 50 miles was hard on the single speed. I learned after these races that an easier gear for longer distance with climbing is actually faster (and more enjoyable) for me. After switching from my xc ratio at the December race up two teeth in the rear on the second race, my total time dropped from 5:14 to 5:01! So for longer distance with a lot of climbing, I’ll definitely go to an easier gear. For less than 50 miles, I stick to a harder ratio.
What have been a few of the highlights of your biking career?
My fiancé and I met through cycling, so that is my greatest highlight! I had no idea it would be this much fun traveling to and racing with my better half! I think we enjoy the trip as much as the racing. I’m so blessed that she races and enjoys the same hobbies I do. We talk a lot on these trips, unless we leave super early. Then I’m the only one talking and she “listens” with her eyes closed. I finished on the top step of the podium with this lady!
Definitely the NUE 100 milers are high on the list. The Mohican 100 is my favorite since it was my first 100 mile race. I told myself I would race it every year after that. I want to line my house with the Mohican 100 growlers. That goal lasted (2) years and this year I have another obligation later that day, but I can still squeeze the Mohican 100k in for 2016! The real race will be loading up and heading to a family member’s wedding 2 hours away at 3:00!
The OMBC races were a great experience. These racers will humble you quickly, but also extremely friendly and willing to chat before, during and after the races. One thing I’ve noticed is that during a dirt bike race, you can’t hardly talk to anyone. It’s fast, loud, and hectic. Passing is usually done quickly and typically with brute force. When you pass or get passed during a mtb race, you may have time to chat, say hello, or even something motivational. It’s a completely different world and I like that a lot. That being said, I won’t be giving up the dirtbike anytime soon. There’s just no replacement for the feeling of blasting a powdered berm or a group of bikes taking off from a start line. Braaaap!
What events are you looking forward to the most this year and what are your biking goals for 2016?
My fiancé and I are getting married in July, so it’s hard to not think about that every second! Racing wise, I’m looking forward to all of the OMBC and a few WVMBA and Tri-State 6 hour races. They’re close, inexpensive to attend, and each race is very well organized. I enjoy traveling to these new local tracks that I might otherwise not find a reason to drive to. I’ve also signed up for the Shenandoah 100 in the single speed class. This will be a new experience for me having never raced 100 miles on a ss. Hopefully I can train enough to at least enjoy myself at that race. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this race, so I’m looking forward to a fun/long day on some amazing trail! Next year’s goals includes saving up for and racing at least (1) of the big three stage races in the US. I’ve heard great things about Pisgah, Breck, and Transylvania so that will be an amazing experience whichever we choose.
Training: how do you prepare to meet those objectives?
I work long hours during the week as a construction project manager in Columbus, so I’m up early moving around a lot all day/week. An active job and eating healthy meals keeps me rolling along! My fiancé introduced me to eating a huge breakfast before each race and that has helped a lot. I used to eat very light before races and feel exhausted mid way through. I always stay hydrated, drinking over (1) gallon of water every day during the work week. It’s easy to regulate when you purchase an actual gallon and keep filling up a cup/water bottle throughout the day. When it comes to conditioning, I enjoy Mohican especially for long distance training. Chestnut is close to home and fun for weekday rides. I’ve tried strength training in the gym and it’s just not for me. It has always produced more negative than positive results, so I stick solely to cycling. The only form of data on my bike is the mileage and time from my Garmin. I try to keep my cycling as simple as possible. I set goals and I don’t deviate from my plan. At the end of the day, this is just a hobby that I enjoy very much. With every hobby I participate in, I take training seriously. I enjoy the learning aspect of it and the result of hard work and effective planning. Due to my limited free time, when I ride I make the very best of every minute of sunlight.
During the winter months, I listen to “The Last Aid Station” on MTB Radio a lot. Whether I’m working on my bike or just washing dishes. They cover a ton of mtb news from NUE races to lesser known ultra adventure races. When spinning on rollers during the winter MTB radio is perfect. They typically last about (1) hour, so they’re the right length to time my roller training. I also watch a lot of Dirtwire TV. I’ll watch these over and over again and they never get old!
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The weather is getting warmer and hydration will start becoming a bigger issue. Make sure you have a good solution for wetting your whistle. Here is the 70 oz. Camelbak that I will be using for most of my races this summer. Click here to check out reviews and prices. I’ve had great luck with it. It’s very light, but has enough storage for a couple of small tools to help you if you find yourself stranded on the trail.