The Angry Singlespeeder: The Trans-Sylvania Epic – Death by rock

At the Trans-Sylvania Epic, the rock beatings will continue until morale improves

Opinion Race Coverage


Photo by Devon Balet Media

Summer camp. I remember it vividly. It was a time when time didn’t exist. No school, no agenda and no place to be except in the middle of the woods for weeks. Making new friends in a bunk house, eating breakfast in the mess hall, going out all day to play in the woods, swim in numerous lakes and streams, get muddy and even injured, then at the end of the day come back to the mess hall for dinner. Once the sun set, rivalries with other bunkhouses, bonfires, random shenanigans and sneaking beers behind the backs of camp counselors were nightly occurrences. It was a period of our lives that most of us wish we could relive.

Well if you’ve got a mountain bike and like riding for seven straight days in an atmosphere resembling the above, then the Trans-Sylvania Epic (TSE) is most definitely your gig. TSE takes mountain bike stage racing and turns it into a “Singletrack Summer Camp”, with most everyone staying at Seven Mountains Scout Camp just outside State College, PA.


This was my first year doing the TSE, and I pretty much knew what to expect; rocks out the blowhole. And as predicted, the TSE didn’t disappoint. In fact, it was by far the most brutish week of riding rocks in my entire life. As I type this, my fingers, wrists and arms are more sore than my back and legs.

Perhaps part of it is because I chose to ride a 26-inch Ibis Tranny hardtail singlespeed. It should come as no surprise I was the only one in the race on such a bike. Out west you can still get away with riding a 26-inch bike, but in central Pennsylvania? Bring a big bottle of ibuprofen. You’re gonna need it. It’s like getting clocked senselessly over the head for seven days with a ball peen hammer.

Each stage featured numerous enduro segments and “East Coast Rocks” segments geared towards technical riders and those who love to send it on the downhills. A simple and reliable chip system lets riders log in and log out at the beginning and end of each section, enabling riders to go at any pace they wish. Some riders going for General Classification (GC) status in their respective classes would skip the segments, while others would hang back, wait for a clear section of trail and target the segments. In short, there is something for everyone to compete in at the TS Epic.

Stage 1

Photo by A.E.Landes Photography

Stage 1: Time Trial – 15 miles

To break-in everybody kindly for the week of to come, Stage 1 was a quick time trial on miles of deeply wooded, winding, tight and rocky singletrack surrounding race headquarters—Seven Mountains Boy Scout Camp. Among the stage s highlights—riding over gigantic excavator tires and a pump track section on a motorcycle enduro course, as well as a nasty semi-rideable section of muddy, rocky and rooty singletrack along a creekbed known as Fisherman’s Trail.

Along the last section of singletrack I passed a real talkative singlespeeder who didn’t have a number plate on. He tagged along and chatted casually as I was flogging myself into hyperventilation. He was asking question after question, and I was trying to be polite, but eventually I had to choose between answering his questions and continuing to breathe. Who was this guy, and why the hell wasn’t he racing? I came to find out his name is Buck and he was the event’s masseuse for the week just out for a quick cruise. Buck is a local legend, having won the 2005 MTB Singlespeed World Championship and sporting the tattoo to prove it. Good company.

Continue to Page 2 for Stage 2 and Stage 3 »
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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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  • GW says:

    Impressive write up. My ass hurts now.

  • Tom says:

    Another good one. Any article about that much suffering and fury that makes me desperately want to be at next year’s version gets an “A” from me.

    Maybe you should think about a Milk Money for next year’s event. Keep the SS religion going, while allowing for the creeping onset of age (and widdom?).

    From your description, I’ll be the guy there next year on a 140mm 29er!

  • tyrebyter says:

    Truely, you’re an angry guy. I like that. And a fair piece of writing too.

  • rynoman03 says:

    Looks like you had a good time. I feel your pain riding technical trails on a 26″ Hardtail. You are absolutely correct when you say it will shake the teeth out of your skull.

  • Learux says:

    That was an enjoyable read.

  • Gary says:

    Maybe next year you should ride the 2014 Salsa Spearfish you reviewed,
    but as a SingleSpeed

  • GOOAAALLL! says:

    Good write up, matches my experience riding in PA. A 29er SS will still knock out your fillings, but not as bad and you’ll have a lot more line options opened up.

    A lot of the trails in that area always look underused or not riden, but mostly that’s just the nature of the forest. In some places, if a trail goes unused for over a week, the forest will reclaim it and swallow it up with thick brush and thorny stuff.

  • Scotch Hennesy says:

    Great article! I couldn’t imagine putting my body through that mental/physical torture. I’ve found myself getting pissed and screaming out loud during a race myself. Although, no where near the punsihment you were experiencing. Props to you my friend!

  • Guy Smiley says:

    Great read. Well done, especially on a SS HT 26er. We ride Rothrock a couple times a year, definitely soul crushing after a 60+ mile weekend, can’t even imagine 7 days. No wonder you got sick on the flight home that level of punishment on the body would send anyone’s immune system into the toilet.

  • jezik says:

    great article, I could not help but laugh out loud. i tend to get that pissed off when racing courses that just beat you up like that. definately inspires me to work harder,…and go on a ride!

  • some guy says:

    Excellent write up, ASS. I can’t even imagine riding in that event. Congrats on the hard-earned win!

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