The Angry Singlespeeder: Singlespeeds are for Angry People

Opinion

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 singlespeeder@consumerreview.com. 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.

About the author: Kurt Gensheimer

Kurt Gensheimer thinks the bicycle is man’s most perfect invention. He firmly believes ‘singlespeed’ is a compound word. He sometimes wears a disco ball helmet. He is also known as Genshammer. He is a Gemini and sleeps outside in a hammock.


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  • stremf says:

    Nice article. Though I have to say I’ve cursed many many times more on a geared than SS. Derailleur through the spokes, or that constant water-torture-like “click click click” of the chain trying to shift to the next cog will induce all kinds of expletives.

  • Tim Spencer says:

    Single speeders are a self-important bunch aren’t they? Who cares….

    • Tim Spencer says:

      never had an issue with d-railers or gears. Low maintenance? What a myth. Everytime you go to a different trail you have to take the wheel off, slap another gear on there, depending on the size you may have to break the chain or adjust the sliders. But hey, if that is what you love! Go for it.

    • Stagger Lee says:

      I like that comment, and I ride them.

    • Will says:

      until you’ve been cleaned by a single speeder, that is…!

  • Jimbo says:

    I heard this one the other day:

    “You know how to tell someone rides a singlespeed?”

    “Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.”

  • MissedThePoint says:

    Are they also masochistic?

  • Mark says:

    Anybody can post a reply to an article… I did it on a single-speed.

  • David Furmage says:

    Fuck it , lets ride bikes

  • Kurt Gensheimer says:

    haha! I love that one Jimbo! Nice.

  • Gabriel says:

    I ride a Salsa El Mariachi SS and I do not have a flask, but I do have a bottle opener, I also have Tattoos, but my Anger Management Coach say I am no longer angry so leave me the hell alone! I am going riding!

  • ttramp14 says:

    I ride SS because I was angry, at d-railers.

  • Carl says:

    Happy trails all!

  • fatmarc says:

    recovered single speeder- 7 years.
    They are fun, and beautiful but Jimbo’s point is spot on.
    In the long run, gears are faster. They don’t make you lazy, less passionate or less cool, just faster.

  • JBell says:

    I have been on a SS for a bit now and feel this was spot on! It described me to a tee… And all the comments are just as true.

  • Sean says:

    SS’ers have three gears, not one- riding, walking and standing.

    Luv mine though and it’s helped me attack the trail differently. In turn, helping me get the most out of my geared bike.

    Riding a SS with geared riders might be annoying for everyone b/c you’re trying to either ride the front or back of the pack. While riding in between geared riders, you’re guaranteed to be pissed or cursing for someone screwing your momentum.

  • Ewan says:

    Is the dude in the second pic wearing his camelback UNDER his jersey? I understand trying to shave seconds off, but that just sounds plain sweaty-scratchy. SS have, of course, their place in the quiver, no doubt…

  • bob says:

    Talent is talent. If your fast on a ss you’ll be fast an a geared bike and vice versa.
    The whole single speed thing should come as no surprise though, how many billions of dollars are made annually selling shit to people who are trying to cultivate some sort of image/identity? Appealing to emotion is much more profitable than appealing to logic, thats for sure.

  • rob says:

    I ride a ss rigid, it’s what I’ve rode my whole life (remember bmx?) I love all mtb’s. It’s the asshole with the high end shit that doesn’t even know what he’s sitting on and likes to talk shit because he knows the price tags and clips in because he was TOLD it will make him faster. You know who the fuck you are! Get the fuck out of my way “on your left or right slow poke fingerless glove dick! RIDE HARD OR STAY HOME! NOW I’M ANGRY!

  • janet says:

    Yaaaaa baby!! One gear ride for beer!!

  • Lee says:

    Tim, you are clueless get an SSer and learn. I never change my gear, because I have the strength to push the gear, and if you would like a pile of broken derailers you can have all of mine! Your close with self important… SSers are an “Elite” bunch!

  • Steve says:

    Rob and Lee, You guys fit the stereotype perfectly. One is a foul mouthed jerk and the other an arrogant snob. How about ride what you like, where you like and how you like?

  • Lee McCormack says:

    Brilliant!

  • rob says:

    Steve, I dont care what kind of bike anyone rides, I mind my own business when I ride
    and help other riders if they need it. I ride a SS because I love it and I’m not afraid to work a little harder, so don’t tell me about stereotype. I get tired of hearing shit about SSers because thats what they choose!

  • Joe Cote says:

    ive been riding mountain bikes since 1992… since about 2001 ive been dropping gears from my bike, it started in the front… i noticed while riding trailrides that i rode 80% of my rides in the middle chainring ..only bailing to granny on the steepest of hills and almost never using the big ring…i also dropped from a 9 speed cassette to a 7… (i didnt use all those gears i simply flew through them..) so i run a single profile imperial 36 tooth on a profile bmx 3 piece crankset up front with a shimano deore/sunrace 7 speed combination in the back…
    I climb faster, and overall am faster without the exess of 27 gear combinations to fumble through… i have the basic 7… all i need…

  • The SS Engineer says:

    What a bunch of babies, complaining like they’ve never heard the F-bomb before. I bet you guys require earplugs to avoid hearing the vulgarities expressed in the traffic on the way to the trail. Yall are mountain bikers, supposedly some of the tougher types of bikers out there. Road bikers are tougher than this though–they get F-bombs and heavy blunt objects thrown at them on a daily basis and they don’t come on here and write whiny articles about how angry the SS people seem. Grow up and deal with it. This is mountain biking. Not Sunday evening bingo. We’re all riding bikes, and that’s what counts, whether you have one gear or 5000.

    Surprisingly, I’d say the angriest, snobbiest people I’ve encountered on my trails are the guys wearing Lycra with more labels and logos than the Bristol motor speedway. These guys are the ones that chew me out up one side and down the other when I stop to ask them if they need help (even though it never stops me from asking), and they always stop to tell me how much my gear sucks when I take a break.

  • Patty Mooney says:

    One of our friends – a guy named Cliff – used to ride a single speed. He would disappear on the uphill grinds, and then when we’d catch up to him, he’d dash off again. We concluded that single-speeders (or at least this one) were anti-social. Now, after reading your premise that single-speeders are angry – several months after Cliff committed suicide with a shotgun, I wonder, what could possibly have made him so angry?

  • SSGuy says:

    I will ride with anyone who wishes to ride with me. With the advent of bermed corners and IMBA inspired destination trails the riding has gotten non technical and rather bland and boring even as the bikes have gotten so much more capable resulting in an experience dumbed down to the lowest commen denominator. I ride a Singlespeed to restore some challenge to my riding. I am not angry. I love you.

    • Will says:

      I salute you, for the wisdom of your post! If you ever happen to cross Kansas, I would encourage you to try Switchgrass trail, at Lake Wilson. It is definitely not dumbed down, has a full complement of trail features from fast sweeping to tight and hairy, with a heap of elevation change, and has just been named an IMBA epic. you sound like you would like the rock garden! ride on!

      • SSGuy says:

        I would love to but mostly when I cross Kansas or any middle state its at or about 37,000 feet. Perhaps someday I will see more of the middle of this country in my travels…

  • They are just Idiots says:

    Are they Angry or just Idiots..Judging from a local bike shop owner…they are just IDIOTS!

    • SSGuy says:

      Perhaps your LBS owner is an idiot — perhaps for not capitalizing on a market segment .. There are plenty of internet sites that will sell to singlespeeders even if he will not.

  • Aaron K. says:

    I do what ever http://www.teamdicky.com tells me to do!

  • Crazof says:

    If I do the entire ride without shifting, can I be angry also?

  • 915SSRIG says:

    A GREAT READ, WELL PUT!
    FOR ME MY SS IS A GREAT RIDE EVEN ON THE WORST DAY!
    LET’S RIDE!
    PEACE

  • sarina says:

    The angry people are the ones getting chain suck with their derailleurs & granny gears whilst we singlespeeders coast up the hills without raising a sweat. Then THEY’RE the ones swearing…”an f’n singlespeeder and it’s a girl -can life get any worse?” My friends an I all ride 29ner Singlepseeds here in Sydney, one of the hilliest cities. We don’t fit your stereotypes: don’t drink, don’t swear and aren’t angry. We’re usually smiling because riding a singlespeed bike does that to you. Pure joy. We have little tinkly pink fairy bells on our bars to let people know they’re about to be overtaken…which makes everyone smile until they see the one gear. :) And we wear crazy helmets & outfits to match your disco ball.

  • JimmyDee says:

    There was an episode of Bullshit with Penn and Teller that investigated the effect of swearing on mitigating pain. It seems that it has a significant and measured effect.

    So maybe there’s some relation to an increased use of expletive by the single speed sundry.

  • Jeff says:

    I respect SS riders, one thing that baffles me is they always find a way to let you know they ride a SS. It’ll be in their signature, profile, or screen name. They’ll also fit it in a post like “went for a great ride on the SS”. They’ll also use it for a solution to any problem someone posts with their bike’s drive train or suspension (rigid SS). I just find it funny need to tell everyone else that they ride a SS. Just think how it would sound saying “went for a great ride on the 2×9 full suspension”. Rock on SS riders, but I don”t give a s**t that you ride one.

    • tyler says:

      Honestly, it’s my mates riding with me that tell everyone else I am SS. Otherwise, I can’t help tell people I ride SS when they ask what category I race. There are reasons I ride what I do, but they are my own.

  • SS the Singlespeeder says:

    What? I, as a SingleSpeed owner and rider, disagree with your comment. We (who own singlespeeds) do NOT try to let everyone know that we (singlespeed riders) ride singlespeeds. That is darned ridiculous, and would be obvious if you were a singlespeed rider (like me). That is, we own singlespeeds = we have no deraileurs. Singlespeeds. (like me). I own a singlespeed and you can see how I rode my singlespeed on that trail, right? Do I look like I was bragging about having a singlespeed (that I was riding at the time)?

    Do not accuse me, as a single speed rider, of bragging that I ride a singlespeed.

    Thanks,

    A Single Speed Rider

    (Did I mention I ride a singlespeed? If you want pictures of my lack of deraileur you can email me at SStheSinglespeeder at iOWNaSINGLESPEED dot SS dot com….)

    Oh yeah, SINGLESPEED!

  • john says:

    Why not put it in 32/20 and shut the hell up!

  • Anti-John says:

    32-20? Is that the best you can do? definitely a gear wussy. i think u mean put it in 33-17 and shut up.

  • refreshinglygood says:

    I am not angry. F^&K OFF

  • UdoDirkschneider says:

    Seriously, people are arguing over SS vs geared? Fuggin’ spoiled and divided American wankers. Mights as well be an argument between liberals vs conservatives, same thing – if I wanted that I’d read CNN not a bike blog. Argue for the sake of arguing. IMO you’re all idiots. Oh, and I ride a SS but don’t really give a shit what anyone else rides as long as they are smiling and not acting like a douche on the trail. “Oh look, that 4-year old is riding a bike with no drivetrain, it’s a push bike … he must be angry…” Wankers.

  • pizzle says:

    That “1 on it” video link up top is hilarious. Which is a sharp contrast to all the uptight people in here. Loosen up, doochebags. Go ride a bike.

  • gimpPAC says:

    I don’t ride single speed on THAT terrain, but as a road single speeder, I find it “slows” my commute. I have to come to an acceptance that, this is all the faster I’ll be able to go, so I actually calm down a bit in traffic.

  • zs says:

    I just love riding trails. I think I have more fun on my SS, but my shifty bike gets plenty of use. I’ll echo what a few have said above…I don’t care what anyone else is riding. As long as we’re having fun on our bikes, who cares.

  • zs says:

    Also, a 32×20 can be spot on depending on where you ride. I know there is some tongue in cheek floating around, but anyone who can haul over trails with one cog ain’t no ‘wussy.’

  • DAS says:

    “Your anger is a gift.” Rage Against the Machine

  • Gav says:

    GNAARRR
    The fun and challenges of road SS/FG taken to another plane!

  • chrispittman says:

    I will throw my bike, I’ll throw yours too. Don’t care if you are having fun or not, I swear enough that you will leave me alone . Not angry, just VERY intense when I am riding

  • that guy says:

    i ride fixed only.(on and off road)
    after breaking my ss freewheel. does that mean im psychotic? haha!

  • Kenny Jones says:

    If you ride a ss for three or four years, your body will take over what your bike is lacking. You’ll probably climb faster than you did with gears and you will learn how to reap all the momentum possible out if the trail making you an efficient mountain bike rider. I know a lot of single speeders, they usually do have tattoos, myself included, but they are by no means angry. It is my experience that they exude joy. They’re happy that they pedal a lite weight bike free if all those hangy bits from the chain stay and spread across handle bar. I believe that most if the stereo types are true but anger and getting agro at the top of a failed move or hill is not one if them.

  • scharny says:

    Riding a singlespeed bike on mtn bike trails is a lot of fun. So is road biking. So is riding a geared mtn bike. Not sure about fat bikes – they scare me. I wanna get a cyclocross bike but my wife will kill me if I get another bike. If you need to tell everyone you’re tougher/stronger/faster than someone else, prove it – race bikes, don’t argue on the internet.

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