It seems to me that single speed racing is getting more and more popular these days, especially in cyclo cross events. I have been racing in this class for two years now and I think I know what's behind the lure of the bike that never has the right gear.
First you have to choose your gear and you know it's going to be wrong 99% of the time.
What gear to run was something I cared about in the beginning. I thought changing my one gear to match the course every race could make a difference. Wrong!!! The reality is, nobody gets this right. Yes, of course there are catastrophic gear ratios like way too big, or way too small that will eliminate you from being a contender. But once you find that acceptable range where your rpm's aren't dizzying on the flats and your knee caps aren't blowing out their sockets when riding up a small incline, you are ready to never touch your bike again.
here is video explaining cross with a little single speed race action after 3:04min :
Single speed attacks can be so cute :)
If you are an experienced racer and used to eye popping attacks that tear the peloton into pieces within minutes, be ready for a new experience. Nobody can drop the hammer and sprint away. The difference in speeds between racers is limited and break aways look more like somebody trying to secretly sneak away. The key for being a successful single speed racer is to think and look further ahead. Momentum is your friend and exit speeds out of turns matters a whole lot more when the only gear you have is most likely a little too big out of every turn. All of this keeps the racers closer together for longer and makes the racing just more fun. Nobody enjoys being dropped after the first straightaway.
Looks matter. (and I mean the bike)
Face it, all those gears, derailleurs and sloppy dangling chains aren't sexy. A single speed bike offers a clean simplistic look, that also comes with a certain quietness caused by the lack of chain slapping against the frame. There is also the weight advantage when you don't have gears. This is big plus when you have to carry your bike up steep hills or lift it over barriers.
More fun for the money?
Single speed bikes can be build up rather cheaply. You don't need to buy any derailleurs, shifters, cables and cassettes, which translates into pretty hefty savings. There are complete bikes starting under $ 1000.- that rock. (check out some bikes here) Entry-fees are also cheaper (at this point and hopefully it will stay this way) than the geared categories. Even so this might change with the growing popularity of this class, it's nice to have some extra dough for the after party.
We are all the same. The "no classes" rule.
This in my opinion is the biggest and main reason why the single speed class has grown in popularity for the last couple of years. It's one big class. No cat. 1,2,3 or 4 or age groups. All that matters is that you don't have gears. It's the same for everybody and the likelihood of somebody in a costume lining up along the side of you keeps the seriousness to an acceptable level. Oh, and there is nothing to win but bragging rights, which is always a good deterrent of professional recreational racers.
All in all I love it, and I will continue to spin out of control going down and mashing up those hills.