The Weird Guy Who Rides Bikes

Words Dave Tolnai
Date Aug 3, 2015

Dear Uncle Dave,

The bloke who got me into mountain biking (I have a lot to thank him for) is an avid single speeder and explained to me that single speeding is about the feeling of achievement associated with the relative difficulty of riding a bike with 1 gear. I think I get his reasoning, because I I’d feel pretty awesome if I could sustain a hard gear ratio single speed in the hills for a few hours followed by a lot of beer.

The single speeders I don’t understand are the seriously competitive and condescending athlete variety on ridiculously expensive 7-8 kilo carbon bikes. They look at my full suspension bike and rear cassette, smirk and then proceed to smash me up the hill whist periodically looking back to check to see if I’m feeling inadequate. The same variety that usually wait for me at the top of the hill so they can complain about the lack of organised elite level single speed race events.

It seems like hypocrisy on many levels to make It easier to ride a bike by drastically reducing its weight but keep the one gear and look down on geared riders as lesser beings. I’m hoping you’d be able to explain the rational of this particular sample of the mountain biker population.

Confused but interested

Dear Combi:

Praise the Lord that I don’t live where you live and have to deal with that. I remember once seeing Shirk on a singlespeed, pounding to the top of Fromme. That was a few years ago. It was a rare enough event that I still remember it. I’m sure others do it every once in a while, but it seems pretty terrible.

So, as I’m not super well versed with your particular brand of orangutan, I think a better question would be “Why does everybody think what they are doing is right, and everybody not doing it that way is an idiot?”

Not that long ago, there were “Mountain Bikers.” There weren’t really any Road Bikers because Lance hadn’t bullied his way to “victory” and nobody cared. There weren’t commuters because the potholes would kill you and only hippies worried about the destruction of the planet. There weren’t single speeders or downhillers or fat bikers or enduro riders or cross country racers or bike parkers or slopestylers or dirt jumpers all mountaineers or what have you. You were actually kind of stoked when you saw somebody else on the trail because it seemed pretty cool that they were in to what you were in to.

And now, even if somebody is in to the exact same thing as you are, you still judge them. Because they probably suck. And you were into it first. And their crappy bike is from last season. And don’t they know that you get a 10% discount from the local shop because you’re just that rad?

The most amazing though, are the people who grasp on to some tremendously limited subset of the sport, cling to the exclusivity of it, and then bemoan the fact that people don’t “get it” and complain that there aren’t TV contracts and Olympic medals up for grabs.

I don’t know what happened. I don’t know where the superiority came from. It kind of sucks. My advice? Ride alone. Get some good headphones. Worry not. Except for the cougars that you can no longer hear sneaking up on you.

Uncle Dave

Uncle Dave

I love riding… shredding, roosting, braapping! But I don’t work in the industry (yet). I’m nonetheless fortunate to work next door to a small bike manufacture. I overhear on a regular basis, from the owner them self, of his attempt to eradicate “bike culture” and “bike people” from his business. Is this sentiment shared by many manufactures? And what are the implications for the business in this industry?

-The Girl Next Door

Dear Gonad:

Ahhh…the lure of the bike industry. Who wouldn’t want that? All those guys do is ride the latest bikes on the best trails, and just have to bang out a new chainring design every month or so. The life.

And then, a few weeks in, you realize that there’s a certain type that is drawn to this lifestyle. And often, the type of person motivated by riding their bike all day, compromises in other areas of their life.

“Sorry bro!  I forgot about the meeting!  Went on a sick ride instead!”

E-mails go un-responded to. Parts stack up in the corner. Kids are neglected, but somehow pets aren’t. You wonder how it is that you aren’t even in your twenties yet, but you’re still the most responsible person in the building. You realize that the people who made that lightweight piece of metal you careen down hills upon can hardly wash or feed themselves. You re-think things.

Another job offer comes in for a bunch more money. The HR person responds to your e-mail on the same day!  You take the job. You get paid on time. Your car runs well and you don’t share a house with 5 other dudes. Your toilet is something that doesn’t cause you to wretch. Life is good.

And then you’re 30…40…you’re the weird guy that plays with bikes on the weekend (If you’re lucky). Your boss wonders why you don’t want to wear a tie. Your kids want to play hockey instead. Your house needs a new roof so your 8 year old bike won’t get replaced this year, either. And the weed destroyed jokers who couldn’t get out of bed before noon just sold to Salomon and pocketed 10 million each.

I think that’s what your neighbour is getting at.

Uncle Dave


Gonad you win! Not a job in the bike industry, but some Aeffect pedals and Love Handle Grips from RaceFace.

Are you qualified to work in the bike industry?


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Philbiiee  - Aug. 4, 2015, 8:14 p.m.

Fantastic response!


earle.b  - Aug. 4, 2015, 2:08 p.m.

For the record I "shirk" don't consider myself a single speeder. Yes I've had a couple frames set up as single speed for a very short time. I can see the appeal in some locations but I when I set it up to climb in a gear I liked I felt it sucked on the way down. Mind you this was 2009 and all on Fromme, maybe now with some more XC ish loops opened up it might be better.

DrewM burns the candle bright for local singles peeders.


Amanda  - Aug. 4, 2015, 11:52 a.m.

Most days, hauling my ass out of bed requires the mental equivalent of a crane and a bomb, along wit a verbal horsewhipping framed around how useless I am. And then I get to work and realize that most of the people I work with are similar, but different -- some of us think we're better, some of us are actually worse. Some of us are just honest and we openly identify as the incomplete, imperfect assholes we are.

The point? Your answers are awesome, Uncle Dave, and dead spot on -- 1: no one is better than anyone else. 2: there are no 'better' jobs. There are jobs. Some of them suck but pay really well, others don't suck but don't pay shit and a few of them pay semi-okay and have killer benefits. There's always a trade off… in both the company you keep and the company you work for. 😉


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