The Angry Singlespeeder: Just Don’t Do It

"I was all packed and ready to ride Tour of California Stage 2, but for once in my life I listened to reason."


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.

Yesterday’s Tour of California Stage 2 from Murrieta to Palm Springs was the most remarkable finish of a bike race I’ve ever seen in my life. The absolute carnage and destruction of the peloton was unprecedented thanks to soul crushing 23 percent gradients up Tram Way and temperatures that reached 122 degrees when factoring in the radiant heat off the blacktop. I’ve never seen harder men reduced to such human rubble.

Nearly every rider that crossed the line had to be escorted to their team vehicles because they had absolutely nothing left in their bodies to pedal another foot. Salt deposits turned jerseys into hardened pieces of fabric. Riders were splayed out on the ground, stuffing handfuls of ice into their jerseys and on their crotches. Some didn’t even make it to the finish, passing out from heat exhaustion hundreds of meters from the line. Race organizers should thank the heat stroke Gods that nobody died yesterday, or it would have been the end of the Tour of California.

I’ve done a lot of dumb things in my life, and two nights ago while packing my bike and gear into the truck, I realized that pre-riding the 124-mile Stage 2 with a few buddies in 120+ degree heat was going to be another entry in the dumbass files. Everything in my good sense was telling me not to do it, but peer pressure is something fierce, and since a handful of my friends were doing it, well, why shouldn’t I?

Making poor decisions has been a considerable skill for me. Skiing in New Hampshire with a wind chill factor of minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit resulting in permanent nerve damage to my feet, going four-wheeling with my father-in-law, bringing no supplies or tools and getting so stuck in the mud we had to sleep overnight in my brother’s Land Cruiser and widespread destruction of public property as a college student that should have landed me in jail are just a few examples.

So at what point does a man finally listen to that voice inside him saying “just don’t do it”? If you’re a really stubborn ASS like myself, you have to do the same dumb thing several times before you realize it isn’t worth doing anymore. It seems that every time I push my body well beyond its limits, I suffer so horrifically that the only thought going through my mind is “why am I doing this to myself?” It’s usually after the second time you realize the answer; “because I’m a stubborn dumbass.”

I love to ride my bike and I love a challenge, but I love having an affordable healthcare plan even more. I also love not having to get an intravenous drip of electrolytes to keep me from shriveling up into a human-sized raisin. So with a bit of reluctance, I shot my friends a message announcing withdrawal from the pre-ride. As a competitive person who doesn’t often turn down a challenge, it was a difficult message for me to send. But as Dirty Harry says, “a man has got to know his limitations”.

It’s an interesting paradox – humans by nature are programmed to avoid undue pain and suffering, yet many athletes proactively seek it out. This is the true definition of a masochist, and whether professional or just a spectator, everyone who rode Stage 2 of this year’s Tour is a full-blown masochist.

Instead of enduring the brutal heat of the Inland Empire, I opted to stay at the beach in Carlsbad, doing some work while watching endless eye candy stroll by, going for a swim in the ocean and taking a nice sunset spin down Coast Highway. My buddy Victor kept sending me photos of his Garmin. 105 degrees, 113 degrees, and the clincher, a blistering 122 degree reading on Tram Way. Clearly, I had made the right decision.

Who in a sane state of mind would voluntarily be out on their bike in that kind of weather? I don’t even go outside to get the mail when its 122 degrees, let alone ride my bike up a 3.7 mile wall gaining nearly 2,000 vertical feet. Some might call me soft for not having done the ride, and that’s perfectly okay. I’m proud of the decision, because for once I abstained from doing something utterly stupid and extremely dangerous.

They say wisdom comes with age. I’m still a long way from wisdom, but hopefully today got me just a tiny bit closer. My buddy Johnny rode the entire stage and was three Torpedo IPAs deep at the finish line watching the human destruction when he called me.

“You’re a smart man for not having ridden,” he said. “It’s stupid out here, but I conquered this damn mountain, and it feels amazing.”

Although I had made peace with the decision not to ride, there was still a little part of me wishing I had gone ahead with the idiotic mission. But knowing my friends, I’m sure there will be many more opportunities.

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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  • Bokchoi Cowboy says:

    Kurt, I would think the Mirror Ball would have worked most excellently in deflecting the desert heat from your noggin, an advantage even the pro-riders in the tour do not have. I commend your decision to play it safe and sane staying near the coast, but it might have been something to test out…plus the image of a guy riding up the wall of Tram road wearing that thing would have been classic.

  • ASS says:

    Don’t worry Bokchoi, I got a good plan for next year’s tour. Gonna go head to head with the dude in the antlers.


  • Rob says:

    wow, that mountain bike has the skinniest tires I’ve ever seen

  • peteakamtngoat says:

    I did ride in Phoenix when it hit 122 in 2010. I did about 10 miles at South Mountain in the afternoon. When I got home and watched the news, I thought to myself, and my wife let me know also, that I was a dumbass.

  • Vince says:

    Their is a difference between riding and racing in extreme heat. 😉 I’m glad you’re alive to ride another day. I’ve been very close to that situation and it sucks. Living in Sacramento, I never start a ride after 0800 hrs between May – Mid-October…..

  • sal says:

    I used to be a regular poster at MTBR. Back a few years ago, an avid mountain biker took his family to a biking trio to Utah. It was his trip of a lifetime. I forget the trail he was on when he realized that it was too much for his daughter. She started succumbing to heat stroke. When he realized it, he tried to cool her off and gave her his water then went for help. She stayed behind with the mother. By the time he came back with help, she had died. Imagine his guilt. Look it up in the archives.

    Every time I head out in the heat I think of him and his daughter.

    It is stupid to think we are invincible. Riding in the heat is no joke.


  • Harley says:

    It’s highly likely the temperature readings on your cycle computer (a small black plastic box) are way off. From surrounding regions on the same date it is likely the maximum temperature was around 110f.

  • bryan says:

    120 or 110 degrees, whatever. When the temps are in the triple digits riding over miles of scalding hot pavement I can’t tell much of a difference, but then in my neck of the woods it might reach 100* 3 days a year. A couple times I’ve ridden the roadie in temps like that and it was like trying to breathe with your face inside a blast furnace. I specifically picked routes that ran by creeks and lakes every couple miles to cool off. If I lived down south or the southwest maybe I could stand it. Pure hell.

    • Harley says:

      Being from down under, we also have ridiculously hot summers, whole weeks above 40 celcius (104 f). To me, there is a large difference between 43.3 c (110 f) and 48.9 c (120 f). Going for a ride at 110 f is a bit crazy (likely to get heatstroke), but 120 f is insane (likely to quickly get heatstroke leading to death).

      Note: I wasn’t trying to diminish your achievement, it was a ballsy ride. I was trying to be accurate so that people think a little harder about what the temperature needs to be before they end up with an IV line in their arm like you.

      I did a similar thing a long time back. I went for a run at 45 c (113 f). I ended up crawling under a bush to escape the sun and using their garden tap to slowly cool and rehydrate myself, I didn’t take any fluids with me, duh, all in someone else’s front yard. Hyperthermia, not fun. Then there’s the time I got mild hypothermia on a ride…

  • Harley says:

    Correction – “your achievement” and “IV line in their arm” refer to Kurt – the article author, not bryan, whose post I was responding to.

  • Kirk says:

    I’m an avid rider, in most conditions, but a nice ride by the coast watching ALL the beautiful scenery was the best choice by far. Cheers to a great decision!

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