Photo: The author, Kurt is following his teammate Julian up the angry climb of Downieville
Editor's Note: The Angry Singlespeeder is a collection of mercurial musings from contributing editor Kurt Gensheimer. In no way do his maniacal diatribes about all things bike oriented represent the opinions of Mtbr, RoadBikeReview, or any of their employees, contractors, janitorial staff, family members, household pets, or any other creature, living or dead. You can submit questions or comments to Kurt at [email protected]. And make sure to check out Kurt's previous columns.
At least that's what my buddy Todd told me one time. I was a little offended at first, but I thought about it for a second and understood where he was coming from. Singlespeeders go against the grain. They typically have some kind of chip on their shoulder. It's physically demanding and requires that extra amount of energy - aka anger - to turn a big gear over. More often than not singlespeeders have tattoos, carry whiskey flasks on rides and are proficient with the use of foul language. A lot of these behavioral traits could lead one to conclude singlespeeders are angry people, but I wasn't sure the word 'angry' was the perfect adjective. I turned to my buddy and said, "We're not angry, man. We're passionate."
Of all the people who ride bikes, singlespeeders are definitely the most passionate. I mean, besides being a lazy cheapskate who doesn't want upkeep on a drivetrain or shell out any cash to fix it, why else would you voluntarily ride a mountain bike with no shifting whatsoever? While I can see my friend's point as to why he thinks singlespeeds are for angry people, the singlespeed is an interesting instrument. Although it has a zen-like quality to it which makes you feel more focused, connected and unified with the bike, depending on your mood, the singlespeed can also bring out the raging beast in all of us.
Photo: Yuri is the angry boss of Downieville
It was only until recently when I built up my first geared bike in three years that I realized how physically demanding riding a singlespeed mountain bike can be, especially in mountainous, rocky San Diego. Having a geared bike once again helped me remember how pleasant and relaxing it is to simply do an easy, slow ride. As I was taking granny for a walk, something occurred to me; angry people don't necessarily ride singlespeeds, but riding a singlespeed can definitely make you angry.
Riding a singlespeed takes an enormous amount of fitness, concentration and effort, and having a few screws loose in your head doesn't hurt either. But when you're humping yourself up a hellaciously steep incline using every available muscle fiber in your legs, every last aveolous in your lungs and every millimeter of available traction in your rear tire to keep the bike moving in a forward direction, when any or all of the three give out, failure can be catastrophic, resulting in a furious tempest of F-bombs that wake an entire neighborhood.
Photo: Here is our author as an angry Lt. Dangle
You're deeply committed to the task of conquering an obstacle most geared riders can't even clear, that when failure does eventually happen, you're so on the rivet mentally and physically that you cease to be a normal functioning human being any longer; you've become a singlespeeder. As soon as the foot clips out to save the body from crash landing on a jagged rock or tumbling off a cliff, that's when the stereotypes begin. Naturally, you get pissed. You scream like a bull that's been whacked in the nuts. You curse like an inebriated sailor. You might even throw your bike in a fit of rage.
Other riders who see this outburst - especially those with derailleurs - might conclude you're just an angry person. And they're partially right. But take that same person and put them on a geared bike for a couple rides. Suddenly the rage-induced outbursts are quelled, thanks to the ability to shift into an easy gear and casually spin a section you would otherwise be donkey punching ten ways to Sunday.
Photo: Of course there is a time and place for reflection, off the bike.
Whether you consider a singlespeeder angry or passionate, it takes a special kind of idiot to voluntarily endure the type of pain and suffering that comes with riding only one gear. So perhaps the most fitting title for this is "Singlespeeds are for Idiots". Based on my consistent lack of good judgment when making a decision, I'd say that's about right.
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Video: On one unfortunate day, Kurt and Brock channeled their anger, passion and idiocy and made a rap video