It was right at the point where my legs were about to seize, my lungs were expired, and my heart rate was near boiling that a slightly overweight middle-aged man casually rolled past me with a thoughtful wave and a polite, “Excuse me, sir.” Considering I was out of my mind at that moment from exhaustion, profusely sweating into my eyeballs, I figured it was just a hallucination. But when I finally recovered from singlespeeding up the local death march climb known as Donkey Punch, I realized I wasn’t hallucinating.
The same pudgy, pasty-white middle aged man who resembled Milton from Office Space stood at the top of Donkey Punch looking out over the vast valley floor. Fiddling with a Disneyland-themed fanny pack, he pulled out a camera, adjusted his thick bifocals and took a picture with his bike in the foreground. As I approached, I noticed that this Fred had barely even broken a sweat on the entire three-mile climb, despite the fact that I was sweating like an atheist in the heart of the Bible Belt. I dropped my singlespeed in despair and ambled over to get a closer look at the bike he was riding.
It was a mountain bike of the electric sort, only this one had fat tires on it. Electric mountain bikes are bad enough, but an electric fat bike? Abomination doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings. At first I was appalled that this guy had the nerve to zip by me with such ease, and the fact that he was riding a motorized piece of machinery on a non-motorized trail. But I had to admit, my interest in his contraption was high.
I asked Milton if I could take his “bike” for a spin. He stumbled for a minute on a dozen or so words like “oh”, “hmm” and “let me see”, then finally agreed to let me ride it for exactly three minutes. “No more,” he said. He put his Casio computer wristwatch up close to his face and pushed a bunch of buttons; must have been nearsighted. “Okay, your time starts… now.”
I swung my leg over the hulking beast of bicycle and started pedaling. Like the hand of God gently pushing me along, my belabored pedal strokes became light and airy, helping the massive tires as wide as the spare on my Toyota float through the power-sucking sand that normally drains every last calorie of energy from my body. I didn’t think it was possible, but I actually had a smile on my face, a smile big.
I aimed the contraption towards the steepest uphill pitch I could find and went for it. Despite the bike weighing half as much as me, my pedal strokes zipped me straight up the short punch in the gut I’ve never been able to clean on a traditional mountain bike. What’s more, right in the middle of the effort, I got a text. Taking my hands off the bars while continuing to pedal, I replied to the text, and before I knew it, I was at the top. Hmm. Quite convenient. I could even do social media while riding this contraption. Twitter post sent. Facebook updated. Instagram grammed. Tinder, ready…
I looked at the timer on the bike. Only 30 seconds to get back to Milton. I could see him far below at the overlook, frantically waving up at me to come back. I let the brakes go and careened towards Milton. Despite the bike not having any front or rear suspension, the obnoxiously fat tires soaked up every little bump, chuckhole, and rock with remarkable plushness and damping perfection, as if I was riding on a big white puffy cloud of comfort. Another text came in, and without even thinking about stopping, I responded.
With only seconds to spare, I arrived back at the overlook. Milton grabbed the bike out from under me like a toddler who was forced to share his teddy bear with the classroom. I glanced over at my singlespeed laying lifelessly on the ground, a velocipede that now seemed like a completely Luddite creation in comparison. I turned around and looked longingly at Milton’s whip as he wiped down every surface with a handkerchief. It was the worst case of bike envy I’ve ever had. An electric fat bike. Who knew?
Like a boy who got his first kiss from a girl, then immediately dumped for the class football jock, I dejectedly got back on my 22-pound carbon fiber singlespeed wünderbike – or at least until three minutes ago it was – and headed home. I saw the future of mountain biking. I even got to ride it. I experienced what the industry calls a “game changer”. Singlespeeds – and all traditional mountain bikes for that matter – are now dead to me. I’m buying an electric fat bike. The Happy e-Fat Biker. HeFB. Huh. Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like ASS, but I guess I’ll learn to live with it.
Editor’s Note: And then The ASS woke up and looked at the calendar…
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.