The Angry Singlespeeder: Be Happy with What You Have

In a world of non-stop, in-your-face marketing, don’t lust after what you can’t afford. Be happy with what you have.

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.

Brian Caldwell of Highland Way.

My buddy Brian is a bona fide Scotsman. He has thick Scottish accent, a big bright smile, long blonde hair in a ponytail and is a singer/guitarist/songwriter in a popular Scottish folk band in San Diego called the Highland Way. He sings in broad colloquial Scots of the Highlands, and yes, he always wears a kilt to his performances. I cannot confirm or disconfirm whether or not he wears anything underneath.

Beyond his enormous musical talent, Brian is a fascinating guy. He’s a big wave surfer who has traveled the world in search of the ultimate ride, he used to be a windsurfing instructor, he has a recording studio in an old RV in his backyard and he’s married to a falconer. That’s right. His wife walks around with a giant falcon on her arm and raises exotic birds. She is also the only person who is trained and brave enough to work with Honey Badgers at the San Diego Safari Park. To show his pride, Brian wears a Honey Badger t-shirt to our Thursday night mountain bike rides, boasting his wife’s talent and bravery.

Because Brian is Scottish, he is also unabashedly cheap. He’s even proud of his frugality, cracking jokes at his shows including “Scotsmen are so cheap that they’re the only people who can drop a coin and have it hit them on the back of the head as they are picking it up.”

This frugality comes through with his riding gear. He rocks a 10-year-old Bell helmet that’s well past its service life, a pitted-out white cotton undershirt that’s tucked into some threadbare riding shorts and a red Specialized Rock Hopper that’s at least a decade old. Although it’s still in once piece, Brian’s bike is more haggard than Merle, with finely polished chainstays thanks to pedal rub and a head tube completely devoid of red paint on one side thanks to the most severe case of cable rub I’ve ever seen. His tires are almost completely worn down and his saddle has more holes in it than a bag of donuts.

The worse case of cable rub I’ve ever seen

But Brian couldn’t care less. The dude straight up hammers even though his handlebars are far too narrow, his saddle is too low and his cable-operated disc brakes haven’t been serviced in years. My three friends and I – who all ride high-zoot carbon fiber bikes – keep telling Brian he needs to get a new whip. We tell him how much faster he will be with a newer, lighter bike with a better fit, more suspension and superior braking power; not to mention a fresh set of tread. But Brian’s tightwad Scottish upbringing prevents him from making the jump to a new bike. “This old gal is fine for me”, he says.

One day a friend let Brian test ride his full-suspension Niner RDO with full SRAM XX. We were all a bit worried, because we knew that as soon as Brian got going on the bike, his riding would immediately improve. And it did, especially downhill. However, when I asked Brian how he liked the new ride, he simply shrugged his shoulders, flashed a bright smile and said “I dunno, it’s a bike.”

It’s a bike. I couldn’t help but laugh and have a new level of respect for the guy. In a country where in-your-face marketing and non-stop consumption are as routine as eating double bacon cheeseburgers and taking prescription medication, Brian is completely immune to it all. He’s just as happy riding his clapped-out Rock Hopper as he is a Niner worth more than his 20-year-old Toyota 4Runner.

I recently heard a standup routine on satellite radio by Katt Williams. He was talking about being happy with what you have. He said, “If you got a raggedy car, stop talking sh*t about your raggedy car. That’s your raggedy car. You need to go home and wash the sh*t out that muthafu*ka; put Armor All and everything on it.”

Katt Williams professes being happy with what you have.

All too often we get caught up in the trap of not being happy with what we have. Non-stop marketing and meaningless acronyms to describe new useless technologies are designed to make you feel that the bike or gear you have is inferior. With the exception of a few new innovations in the past ten years, there’s very little new under the sun. Don’t lust for something you can’t afford, be happy with what you have; because it’s most likely a lot more that what most everyone else in the world has.

Don’t hate on your bike regardless of how new or old it is, because every time you ride out into the middle of nowhere, you depend on that raggedy bike to get you back home. Treat it right. Wash it, clean it and keep it in good working condition. And when it’s time to buy the bike of your dreams, sell or give your raggedy bike to someone else, because as unlikely as it may sound, a ride like Brian’s old clapped-out Rock Hopper just might be someone’s dream bike.

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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  • Don says:

    So I shouldn’t buy summa them Wickwerks chainrangs I see on the MTBR homepage? OK!

  • Francis Cebedo says:

    >>So I shouldn’t buy summa them Wickwerks chainrangs I see on the MTBR homepage? OK!

    Buy Wickwerks only if you’r looking to replace or improve your chainring. If you’re perfectly happy with your current stuff, ignore all the new goods.

  • xcbiker says:

    this is so true. I always feel the need to upgrade my stuff

  • Maxman6000 says:

    I wonder how many perfectly good 26ers have suffered this fate because of the arrival of 650b

  • NB68 says:

    Hey, if you are loaded then upgrading is no big deal and probably a good idea at least from a safety aspect if nothing else. If you live in overpriced CA and make a living in a band and your wife raises birds then you better be happy with what you have.
    The rest of us probably fall somewhere in between. We want all the cool stuff, can’t afford it so we buy a little bit and still whine about it. How does the song go?, “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got…”

  • Rich says:

    Good article and good advice…enjoy the heck outta whatever you’re riding…

  • Mike says:

    Well said, I know I’m guilty of wanting what I don’t have. In the end it never really makes me a better rider. Its about the experience…not the gear!

  • That Guy says:

    Brian is awesome for a plethora of reasons…but I call BS that he’s benevolent. He’s BROKE!

  • Sean says:

    If money doesn’t buy you happiness, you can always lease the S out of it.

    Anyway, there’s always value out there in a used bike. A good one would do him wonders.

  • SLP999 says:

    This story mirrors a riding friend of mine here in Ventura County. This guy goes out road riding on Mulholland wearing his deck shoes, toe straps, spare tube taped to his top tube, bar tape hanging and no shirt. All along, I’m all geared up with my fancy bike..etc. When he passes these roadie elitists on the climbs, it’s absolutely priceless the look on their faces! What’s even better, is when they try and keep up with him and I. Basically, you can buy all the best shit…just have to ride it enough to be good! Great Article as always!

  • rain says:

    I had my ass handed to me in Oregon by a 13 year old kid who knew how to fly a low end Mongoose. Ten years later he’s ready to show sponsored pros the same thing on only a slightly better bike. I’ve learned it’s not about the bike without having to read a book.

  • dcluley98 says:

    I have that same Rockhopper, not a bad bike in 1998! It’s about how you ride it, not what you ride, and I bet he’s having as much or more fun than folks who get the latest expensive gear. I always have a certain respect for guys riding old stuff with a lot of wear. Moreso than the latest eyecandy. Shows you they really love to ride, have so for many years, and are connected to the sport and their bike.

  • Mark Andrews says:

    Thanks for that I can Look lovingly at my Cannondale M400 for at least another week!!!

  • Utah Rally'r says:

    here here!

  • Jerry H says:

    The best bike for you is the one that makes you want to ride. What good is a bike that doesn’t excite you, so it sits in the garage gathering dust?

  • Second Angriest SS says:


  • CrossStuntry says:

    I agree with both sides, and a few others… I LOVE Riding!!! I have 26 Mountain Bike Frames, only 7 or 8 which are ready to ride within 33 minutes or (much) less… (some need air before each ride, losing ~12psi/hr… Few (if any) were purchased ‘New’… ’03 Yeti as-X was acquired in ’07 (the year Yeti stopped making them) for only $500 (without wheelset, Cranks, forks, seat), add $100 used Marzocchi JuniorT (like new), $318 Azonic Outlaws (new!), days labor helping a friend build a retaining wall for his driveway yielded his used XTR 960 Cranks and worn out rings (that lasted another Year before being replaced by used Atlas Cranks with ‘normal’ rings) seat borrowed from another bike, under $1111 for a bike selling for over $1500 (then) on eBay (complete)… Put more miles on that Yeti as-X by 2012 than all of my other Mountain Bikes combined (during AND Before)… as-X has needed the headset replaced for over a year, now… ’99 Cannondale SuperV -> ÜberV 6″ 33# that was assembled between ’07-09 finally had top billing, for a while… ’06 GT iT1 (54# DownHill Racer with internal Transmission (iT), acquired in 2012 for only $1200 ($7k new!), has been used for XC far too much due to convenience, durability, ready-to-ride, great exercise (it IS Heavy!), and Fun!!! GT iT1 is awesome at lift-access places, as well… my ‘newest’ bike is a 3yo 2#? SoulCycles Dillinger SingleSpeed 29er full Rigid (only $500 RTR without grips/seat/pedals)…
    – Reason I mention them? I test rode a $6k+ 27# 6″ Cannondale Jekyll Carbon1 last year (or whenever they first came out), and it helped me ride Up a certain Hiking path I had never ‘Cleaned’ before (or since) like a Happy Mountain Goat!!!
    I WANT(ed) One!!! The Yeti SB-95 last week felt similarly AWESOME!!! I WANT One!!! (or two, so one of you can ride with me!)
    Yet, I cannot sell a good portion of my fleet for enough to cover the $7k cost such that it becomes my #1 Ride… Until then, I still will have Fun!!! and get Great Exercise! and improve my Riding Skills to the point I can make it up that same trail with MY (Vintage) Bicycles… Happy!!!
    Anyone want to go for a Ride?!?

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