As cyclists, we all try to push our fitness to a higher level, riding harder, longer and faster, for it’s an inherent part of riding a bike. But the harder we ride and the faster we go, the more we miss.
The Bianchi loaded up with Revelate bags, ready for a 500-mile journey.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. And make sure to check out Kurt’s previous columns.
Let’s start today by calling out the obvious. Yes, I’m fully aware the above bicycle has gears on it. I’m a full-blown hypocrite and completely embrace the notion, but as Dirty Harry said in Magnum Force, “a man’s gotta know his limitations.” There is a time and a place for singlespeeding, and humping a 40-plus pound bike up the Pacific Coast Highway for 500 miles qualifies for neither.
This Thursday, I depart from San Diego and point tires northbound to the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey. It will be my virgin bike-packing trip. Well, only semi-bike-packing, as I’m staying with friends along the way. But I am camping two nights, so I guess it partially counts. The weather forecast for my five-day adventure is looking stellar. It’s a good thing too, because since this is a total half-assed commitment, I would have bailed on the trip at the slightest chance of rain.
Riding the California coast – and especially writing about riding the California coast – is about as cliché as using a Dirty Harry quote, but they’re cliché for a reason: Everyone loves big guns, Big Sur or both.
The preparation for this adventure takes me back to childhood when my parents would pack the car for our annual two-week summer vacation to Cape Hatteras. The loading of the car would start several days in advance, and I counted down the hours to our departure with more anticipation than the hours before Christmas. Life was good as a kid; all of the adventure without any of the responsibility or expense.
The drive from New Jersey to the Outer Banks was almost as much fun as being on the beach itself (except for the never-ending DelMarVa Peninsula). Sitting in the backseat, I watched the world happening all around me. No DVD players, no video games and no devices that start with a lower case “i”; just a back seat, a window and the outside world.
The higher you climb, the better the view.
This time around the seat is much smaller and the effort much greater, but the sensation of freedom and wonder will be exponentially higher. Mapping the routes, preparing my 30-year-old Bianchi, getting advice on gear, and contacting old friends along the route have only made the anticipation greater.
I haven’t even clipped into the pedals yet and the generosity from friends has been amazing. My buddy Ernesto is letting me borrow his complete set of Revelate bike-packing bags, which will make the trip so much more enjoyable.
My friend Kevin is schooling me on the finer points of packing light. Other friends who’ve ridden the coast are providing route intel on bike paths and back roads. And my teammate Brock is meeting me in Big Sur to ride the last stretch of the trip.
My gear is quite minimal. A hammock (of course), small tarp, lightweight sleeping bag, a down jacket, wool base layer top and bottom, breathable rain jacket, zip off pants/shorts, short sleeve shirt, a couple pairs of socks and underwear. That’s it.
The disco ball helmet will be transported by my buddy Phil, so Mtbr’s Sea Otter booth will be dazzling like Studio 54 all week long.
I took the Bianchi out for a little shakedown ride yesterday with bags fully loaded. Although somewhat heavy, the bike rode smooth as glass with rock solid stability. As I crawled at a snail’s pace uphill in the small chainring thinking about the days ahead, an epiphany hit me, which is far more agreeable than a car.
Enjoy life more. Ride slower.
As cyclists, we all try to push our fitness to a higher level, riding harder, longer and faster. But the harder we ride and the faster we go, the more we miss. As I crept uphill at barely jogging pace, I realized how amazing it can be to ride slow. Painfully slow. You see so much more of the world around you. A red-tailed hawk on a telephone pole sizing up its next meal, a little girl playing with a German Shepherd puppy, a drunk guy taking a leak on the roadside while playing with a yo-yo.
The same is in life. The harder we work and the faster we live, the more we miss. Life is painfully short and fleeting, so each and every one of us should slow our lives down a little and see the world around us, both for its beauty and for its utterly comical stupidity.
We’re here today, gone tomorrow. Life presents us opportunities each and every day, but it’s our responsibility to recognize them and Carpe Diem and whatnot. Whatever crazy adventure you have festering in the back of your mind, stop making excuses as to why you can’t do it. Your life is short, and you’ve only got one lap. Don’t finish that lap and look back in regret. Go adventure. Now.