The Angry Singlespeeder: Listen All Y’all It’s a Sabotage

Opinion

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.

Meet Dr. Jackson Tyler Dempsey. He’s a middle-aged, college-educated psychiatrist who likes to take long walks in the woods with his dog behind his Ashland, Oregon home. For Dempsey, walking in the woods alone was his own kind of therapy. But when a barrage of mountain bikers started ripping downhill on his favorite hiking route, in his clinical opinion, Dempsey felt the best way to handle the situation was to set a series of crude and potentially deadly booby traps that would teach those blasted mountain bikers a painful lesson.

Dempsey strung nylon cord across the trail in high-speed areas while putting down nails and small trees in spots that were nearly impossible to avoid. Three mountain bikers were injured due to Dempsey’s traps, and after being spotted last July near the traps, Dempsey was arrested. On May 1, Dempsey pleaded guilty for setting the traps. He will spend 30 days in jail and has been banned from entering the National Forest surrounding Ashland for two years.

How would you like to get clocked in the head with this medieval contraption?

How would you like to be riding through some pristine Utah singletrack when your bike hits a tripwire and sends a 20-pound spiked boulder into your skull? Not painful enough? What about falling into a bed of sharpened wooden stakes that looks like something out of an Indiana Jones movie? Benjamin Steven Rutkowski and Kai Matthew Christensen were convicted in 2009 of setting both these traps on Big Springs Trail in Provo Canyon, Utah.

 
These two clowns were found guilty of rigging a Provo, Utah trail with deadly traps.

The 19 and 21-year-old claimed the traps were for wildlife, but it was clear the traps were set to catch unsuspecting trail users. Thankfully a U.S. Forest Service ranger with military training discovered the traps while on patrol, and disabled them before they could harm anyone.

Four years ago in Marin County, where hikers and mountain bikers mix like oil and water, a group was riding an illegal section of trail called Split Rock in the Cascade Canyon area when they came across a series of rusty, jagged surprises. First was a network of barbed wire fences, then giant boulders rolled into the middle of the trail. But what was most troubling was the makeshift spike strip of tall steel fence posts that the saboteurs planted in the ground. Not only were the posts camouflaged with dark green paint, they were pointed up-trail at a 45-degree angle, ready to impale anyone who came across it.

 
Steel fence posts were set by the MCOSD at a 45-degree angle facing up-trail at mountain bikers. Photo by John Blanchard.

To make the story even more twisted, the saboteurs were not pissed-off hikers; they were pissed-off employees of the Marin County Open Space District. The MCOSD later apologized for the incident, stating the spikes were not intended to harm, only to deter mountain bikers from riding the illegal trail.

It would be way too easy to just go off on another ASS rant about how these people are mentally sick, deranged lunatics who should be locked up in a basement and flogged endlessly. But instead, I’m more curious about why someone would not only intentionally harm other people for recreating in nature, but also why they’d deface the very same trails that they’re so adamant to protect?

Further, what is it that we are doing – or aren’t doing – as a mountain bike community that would drive these people to act in such a deranged and desperate manner? Sure, we can blame them for their actions because they set the traps, but what incident did they experience that produced enough rage and malice for them to set traps in the first place?

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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  • Bruce says:

    Being both a mountain biker and trail runner I see both sides of the issue. And while there is absolutely no excuse to set up any kind of trap that could injure of kill a cyclist or any other user of the trail, SOME parties on both sides (cyclists/runners/hikers & especially people with dogs) could stand to show a little more common sense when approaching/ passing others out on the trails.

  • Ron says:

    terrorism – the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear.

  • Mat Clune says:

    Really glad crap like this doesn’t go down here in Bend, Oregon

  • faf1967 says:

    It is all about control and that person’s belief that they are right. They want to control things the way they want them and everyone else is wrong.

  • Random says:

    This is a direct result of too many people, too few trails. Where I grew up, there were millions of people and thousands of acres of recreational land. Where I am now, there are only thousands of people and millions of acres of recreational lands. The childish “I-was-here-first” squabbling and things described in the above article are unheard of here.

    The mountain bikers in Marin need to get off their asses and get politically active. They need to run for the boards of directors and citizens’ advisory committees on MMWD, MCOSD, GGNRA, etc. Nothing has changed in the 30 years I have been following this. The only way for it to change is for it these offices to be taken over.

    “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” – Max Planck

    Make sure you’re ready and waiting when the opponent of mountain biking die out. That and lots of money contributed to the problem–campaign contributions–maybe that’s something to think about instead of your next $5,000 bike.

  • Eric Barber says:

    In a sick kind of way, as an avid XC biker i can appreciate these actions from the hikers. It is simple if every biker was respectful. Always stop, un-clip and be cool, you don’t even have to say say hi, just don’t stare the shit shit out of the hikers. Here in park city I have seen downhillers not yielding and the next one likely will get the shit kicked out of him by me, a biker.

  • geotrouvetout67 says:

    If parks were fully funded and maintained by public money for all users like it is the case in other places such as France where I grew up, there would not be issues like that. All trails should be opened to horses, bikes and hikers in this ranking priority. Pedestrians give right of way to bikes and horses and bikes give right of way to horses. Logical. Where I ride in Massachusetts its the same right of way, trails are maintained by public money and there are no issues.

  • hillwalker says:

    If he was a cyclist booby trapping roadways, they’d call him a terrorist, and make sure he was pursed and prosecuted as a terrorist. None of this idiotic 30 days stuff.

  • TK says:

    The point of the article, fellow commentors, is that we, as mountain bikers, must be the ones to show a higher level of courtesy and kindness on the trails. Mountain bikers move faster going downhill than other trail users and should always be looking out for others. If not for continued use of the trail then just so we don’t get impaled by angry, bitter hikers. So BE NICE. Please and Thank You go a long way.

  • Chris says:

    In the Daniel Boone Nat’l Forest in KY the Forest Service has completely destroyed some old logging roads in an attempt to keep out OHVs. They didn’t target MTBers, but it had the same effect. So they put in berm & trench barriers (tank traps) across a few miles of public road. One section is along the 280 mile Sheltowee Trace National Recreational Trail. They’ve made it difficult even for hikers to use this section of trail. The USFS did this!

    As far as trail sabotage, it’s kind of an unpleasant side effect. Recently, another MTBer and I have been riding these areas to ascertain the total damage. He is a much better cyclist than me and usually rides the tank traps anyway, but there have been a few he’s almost bombed into that would have messed him up bad. One in particular was a ten foot vertical drop into a boulder filled trench.

  • Joe Schmoe says:

    I wonder if rigging traps like those could be considered terrorist activities? After all, some of those devices could easily result in a persons death. What these morons don’t understand is that, the more mountain bikers there are using these sites, the more proponents there will be who advocate preserving these locations from developers eager to sway the government in their favor for private development. The hikers are only hurting themselves by attempting to exclude the mountain bikers.

  • Trail Monkey says:

    IF you live in an area where they are lots of hikers, etc, on the trails you need to SLOW DOWN. We as mtn bikers need to show respect for other trail users and the outcome of that respect will be future access to future trails. The world is NOT becoming a less crowded place so showing respect is only going to become more critical to continued trail access for mtn biking.

  • Herr Spuzzmacher says:

    The answer to your final question is, the way our sport has been marketing itself since about 1995, when Silent Sport, Leave No Trace, and John Tomac were replaced by Freeride/DH centric riding styles, Shredding films, and Shaul Palmer. Hats off, you’ve got balls even asking the question, since these days anything that’s an affront to people’s selfishness is harshly dismissed. Whether its shredders bombing the local multi-use trail like a DH course & tearing up turns, ignorant kids freeriding off trail, knobby-tired roadies so amped up on energy goop and strava they’re running people off trail and cursing everyone out along the way, most of what I see on the trail is bad behavior by selfish people. I compensate for this when I encounter other trail users, but man am I sick of having to do it and hear people thank me for not being a typical douchebag mountainbiker. A lot of people hate us being on the trails, even if we built and maintain those trails. They didn’t just pick this out of a bag, they all seem to have reasons, and a lot of the same ones, once you talk to them. MTB has a lot of progress to make, to get out of this stigma of being Road Racings little slow, fat, redneck brother.

  • Tgvince says:

    There are some pretty insane people….You just never know how your actions will affect the outcome for another. Pure and simple what “they” are doing is evil and illegal on so many levels as other have stated. As we all know we are listed on the yeild chart as the “yeild to everyone”. However impractical as it is. I find that slowing up a bit and saying thank you goes a long way with 90% of hikers….the others…who cares. Be safe out there gang!

    • Allamuchy Joe says:

      Agreed. I have come across many hikers over the 19 years of biking I have been as courteous as I can. In that entire time and encountering hundreds of hikers, I have only come across 1 irate hiker. Not too bad — a little courtesy goes a LONG way.

  • Iowinos says:

    Really we have two distinct and generally unrelated issues here: inconsiderate riders and criminal trail user behavior. It’s maybe not surprising they are interrelated, but bottom line, neither should be tolerated. As riders we only have control over how we treat other trail users, and stakeholders (policymakers, trail access folks, etc) will certainly take note of how we behave. When other parties behave inappropriately, especially criminally, we have a right to be upset. But any negative behavior by riders will certainly undermine our efforts at trail access and general riding opportunities. I encourage all fellow riders to take a “multi use” trail perspective. Designate where different users should be (bike, hike, equestrian, etc) if necessary, but recognize that we all have equal rights to trail access.

    • tony lucchesi says:

      Agreed. I always greet hikers and “over” slow down, particularly when there are unleashed dogs involved and feel I need to indulge in a little PR for us on every ride. That said, nothing will prevent some hikers from their holier than thou attitude, pressed towards it’s illogical conclusion that the correct response is to maim someone. I support criminal prosecution for these nut jobs and would probably sue them and take everything down to their chi chi hiking shoes if I got hurt by a booby trap. If it was one of my kids that got hurt, then all bets are off.

      Finally, I have experienced the flip side of the coin. Multi-use trails are not your DH race course and YES, Strava does contribute to this mentality as I personally witnessed just this weekend.

  • Preston says:

    It might seem like overkill, but I get off and walk past every single party, every time (unless they are other bikers), even if they have already stepped off the trail. And I’m not some zen nature explorer rider either, in the right time and place I go as fast as anyone else. But its a sign of respect and calm, and not really a big deal. I encourage you to incorporate it into your riding.

  • AWilson says:

    I was, “that guy” one time, and it was enough. I was riding down a very fast downhill section and came across a mom and her probably 10 year old son standing in the middle of the trail with their backs turned on a corner, blocked from view by a huge PNW tree. I let out a loud, “Shit!” as a skidded into the bushes to avoid running over the son. I didn’t say another word as I crashed by on my heavy, loud, downhill bike.

    While in the parking lot, I saw the visibly upset mother and scared son. Walked over, apologized, explained the dangers of resting where they were, and changed my ways. The mother was understandibly less then polite, but I think she learned something as well.

    I now am more than polite when pass hikers/equestrians. They’re typically nice folks sharing your love for the outdoors/adventure.

  • Shawn Crowley says:

    I’ve been a biker (on and off road), hiker and climber for many years. There is no excuse for placing traps or devices with the potential of doing anyone injury. That being said, a subset of bikers bring this on themselves. Public lands are not extreme sport venues. Bikers have no special privileges when it comes to trail damage or forcing other users to scramble out of the way. It’s not your gym. I used to see this misconduct by ATVs and four-wheelers (ripping up salmon creeks is great fun!), thought they were assholes and wished them harm. Sorry to see some cyclists with similar behaviors.

    By the way, some of us are deaf or hard of hearing and don’t hear you coming. You need to slow or even stop if necessary.

  • DJ says:

    Surely the psychiatrist was deregistered???

  • Everything MC says:

    Let me get this straight…a psychiatrist ??? 30 days??? For attempted MURDER? Or at least, Attempted Battery?

  • bryan says:

    I agree with the last paragraph of the article 110%, there are definitely bikers out there that need to be reminded they are not the only trail users out there. Some of those larger traps and spikes are nothing short of attempted murder or at a minimum manslaughter, if caught the offenders should be punished accordingly.

  • Sartre was right says:

    The basic problem is that everyone believes that everyone apart from themselves/their group shouldn’t be there. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about hikers, MTBers, whatever. Basically, everybody resents encountering everyone else, end of story. I don’t think there is any realistic way to resolve this, but certainly people who attempt to cause damage or injury to others should be firmly discouraged.

  • JB says:

    STRAVA!!!!

  • Big Dave says:

    Well said! Now what do we do about the mountain bikers that don’t want other mountain bikers? Yep. I said it and I’ve dealt with it. Right when our trails started booming and we started putting in trail signage, I met a guy who was pretty pissed off that we were out there. This was 2008. He was riding a circa ’93 Breezer….rigid. Our trails suck without full suspension. Maybe that was why he was so angry. In one of the fattest cities in the country, it was disappointing to hear this guy rant about all the trail users…..which was nothing then compared to now. For several years our trails were being vandalized and we were losing trail signs and course markers for our racers almost as fast as we could put them in place. Reports came back from other users that it was that guy on the Breezer and another guy on an older Yeti. Talk about super retro grouches. Now those clowns are far outnumbered and we don’t experience those problems anymore. Maybe outnumbering the hikers will result in the hikers going somewhere else on the weekends….like wilderness maybe?

  • endo_alley says:

    Here in western Colorado it seems that the biggest problem is with motorized users. Most mtb trail riders here respect other users and don’t mix badly with them. Many motorized people on the other hand ride through the forests with little regard for the health of the forest or other users. People should realize that the closer one is to the trail head (within a couple of miles) the more likely one will see foot travel. And so one should act responsibly within this radius. Further out from this radius foot travel may decrease dramatically and one can adjust to that situation. If there is a lot of horse travel then maybe find another place to ride. And if you are riding with abandon on a closed section of trail then maybe you get what you get. Don’t complain.

  • Rosie Tighe says:

    A kid in my class was killed when we were 12 due to sabotage like this. Some asshat had strung up fishing line at neck level across a trail. He killed a 12 year old riding a dirtbike (on a trail where dirtbikes were allowed, but he didn’t like them). There is no excuse for this behavior, and people should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I can’t believe that nothing has changed in 25 years.

  • wunnspeed says:

    As someone who comes from Kansas City where there’s a huge network of trails and a very active cycling community and has moved to the Alps in Germany, I know what I had and what I’ve lost…. singletrack and more often than not… courteous cyclists. It didn’t happen by accident, it takes work. Where I live now, riding singletrack is almost forbidden. There are little bits but the overiding rule is that cyclists aren’t supposed to ride anything smaller than 2 meters (over 6′) wide. That comes from a few things; history (some of these trails are hundreds if not thousands of years old), the fact that I’ve almost never seen someone saw hi or thank you to a hiker or fellow rider, the lack of the local or int’l. clubs to have a presence or to work with Deutche Alpen Verein to rebuild trail or train cyclists and the fact that the majority of singletrack is basically fall-line trail. It’s Freeride/DH/Enduro stuff and therefore attracts people who wear armor and full-face helmets which doesn’t lend itself to even seeing a smile. In spite of the fact that there are thousands of cyclists out on any given weekend, we’re losing more legal singletrack by the day. As others have said, get involved! That’s the best option you have. It’s easier to change the system from the inside than from outside.
    I deplore the actions of these terrorists and we had similar issues back in K.C. but due to our involvement and having a few police as mountain bikers the culprit was found. It takes work gang, it’s sad but true and if you don’t steal a few hours of your riding time to get involved, you run the risk of losing your favorite sport.

  • preston says:

    > People should realize that the closer one is to the trail head (within a couple of miles) the more likely one will see foot travel.

    Yeah but it doesn’t matter how close you are or are not to a trailhead. I’ve struggled mightily with this one myself – you don’t see anyone for hours, but a blind corner is a blind corner, and there can always be someone there. As much as I will hate it, I think I will have to break down and strap on a bell. Even when you come to a completely controlled stop 10 ft away, you are still startling people.

  • Sisco says:

    with reference to the article By Kurt Gensheimer May 06, 2013 entitled:

    ‘The Angry Singlespeeder: Listen All Y’all It’s a Sabotage’

    Yea, stoping cyclist in the manner described in the atricle is wrong. the guys who did it should be locked in a box… clearly they’re not well.
    People have an equal right to able to hike WITHOUT cyclist scaring the crap out of them. Equally, cyclist too haave the right to enjoy what they love.
    Its not about puting dogs on leashes, in a wood this is rediculous… dog need to run free!! banning cyclists is definately also not an option. Its about being (as has been said) curtious to each other. if you know you’re in the woods them you’re going to find hikes…. so be aware and slow down.
    But more obviously, have the othorities not considered a seperate cycling track to allow those who cycle to enjoy!! If a wood is big enough this is an obvious option.

    Regards, Sisco London UK

  • Dave Erickson says:

    Maybe think of it this way. For every crazy person that sets traps there are thousands of others who are pissed at mountain bikers, reasonable and otherwise. Here in Mass, mountain bikers have the run of pretty much every park, and lots of private land. Within 25 mi of my house on the north shore I have 10 epic choices. Within 50mi, another 10. Middlesex Fells is an exception, but through years of strong advocacy, it has gotten way better. We have mostly courteous bikers, lots of trail-building done by Nemba working with authorities, and very strong advocacy by Nemba. You need all of these to make it work. My thanks go out to all who’s hard work makes it happen.

  • Corbin Thompson says:

    All that’s required is some simple Trail Etiquette! As a cyclist, it is your responsibility to yield to the pedestrians. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t stupid of them to be sitting in the middle of trail after a switchback (it’s happened to me before, and somehow I was the bad guy), but don’t go flying past people on a simple section of the singletrack.

  • Rob says:

    Any idiot doing this to a trail may be giggling about inconveniencing a bicyclist, but this will definitely maim every poor dog when he runs into these “booby traps”. Just yesterday, I left the dog hospital and saw a dog whose chest was punctured by a simple stick that bounced up in its way–let alone something designed to do so–it was still hanging there dripping blood when the dog was carried in. I guess dogs aren’t part of nature anymore–and what about little children that don’t pay attention to anything? Either way it’s time to alert the local SPCA about this “practice” and get some tough legislation in place.

    Now, on the other side, regarding the self-gratification generation: to any and all children that think yelling “Strava” excuses you from courtesy or right of way, you infant yahoos are way out of hand.

  • Having Fun says:

    If somebody is going to set a trap for bikes you can’t do anything about except be hyper aware, which you are already doing, right?? For over 15 years I have never had a problem with walkers, hikers, or horses. The vast majority of MTB riders are good folks. But the 10% of the low life riders mess it up for everyone else.

    For example, I was recently bombed by 3x 40 year olds on full sussers while hiking in a National Park, and the illegal riders wanted me get to GTFO?! I used to think bike speed limits were insane, and angry drivers were overreacting…until I rode in the Bay Area. Now I completely get why people hate bikers so much. The roadie attitude are spilling into MTBing and it doesn’t work. WE are the retarded pickup blasting by.

    So in my opinion its up to the community to be self-policing. Be cool on multi-use trails, stay out of closed areas, and remind other riders that we don’t want to get the rides shut down, or somebody maimed or killed over this.

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