Cyclocross fans, meet the River City Bicycles/Gates Carbon Drive team, Portland’s newest hammerhead singlespeed posse. The team is composed of veteran Pacific Northwest cyclocrossers Alex Criss, Seth Patla, Ryan Weaver and John Walrod. Creating the singlespeed belt-drive squad was the idea of River City Bicycles owner Dave Guettler, a notable figure in the Portland cycling scene who sponsors multiple teams and promotes bike commuting with a catchy ad campaign.
River City’s bikes are similar to those ridden by Colorado’s Team Gates Carbon Drive: carbon fiber Raleigh Hodala frame with the new CenterTrack belt-drive from Gates. Cyclocross Magazine reviewed this bike recently, calling it an “ultralight, dream-worthy singlespeed.” Walrod says the Carbon Drive on his Raleigh “makes my old chain single speed feel like a donkey.”
The team kicked off their season last weekend at Portland’s Alpenrose Dairy. It was the first race in the Pacific Northwest’s massively popular Cross Crusade cyclocross series, which brings together thousands of racers and cow-bell-ringing spectators every weekend. Riding their new superlight belt-drive Raleighs, the River City guys raced twice in the same day at Alpenrose. After competing in the Elite race against geared guys they toed the line once again to compete in the Singlespeed race. It rained, making the conditions “slick as snot,” Criss says. “Bodies down everywhere.”
Founded about 15 years ago, River City Bicycles is one of Portland’s best-known bike shops, with a reputation for great customer service and skilled workers thanks to Guettler’s employee profit sharing program and friendly work environment. The store even has an indoor test track that allows customers to take a spin indoors on rainy days. David Guettler decided to form the team “to show the cycling world that single speed and belt drive are viable options for riding and racing,” according to the squad’s mission statement.
Adds Criss: “Dave really wanted to see how the new Gates Carbon Drive CenterTrack system handled the mud and the muck. We already all raced singlespeed anyway, so this was a chance to showcase some different technology. Plus it’s eye-catching. It separates us from the pack.”
River City’s belt drive team can be seen in action this season at the Blind Date at the Dairy five-race series, the Cross Crusade series, Seattle Star Crossed, the Rapha-Focus Gran Prix and Singlespeed Cyclocross World Championships in San Francisco. They are easy to spot in their flash skinsuits–or trench coats.