The Angry Singlespeeder: Be Happy with What You Have

Opinion
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 singlespeeder@consumerreview.com. And make sure to check out Kurt’s previous columns. This article originally appeared on Mtbr.com.

 
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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  • Elvyn says:

    Don’t disagree with the basic premise — I ride a near 20 year old first-generation carbon fiber Specialized Allez Epic with 9-speed Shimano Ultra and a 30-year-old steel Serotta I bought for $1 15 years ago at a police auction and outfitted with Campy 8 speed.
    But a ignoring basic thinks like fit, tires and brakes is being lazy and frugal.

  • Mark Wynn says:

    Excellent insights … and probably causing MTB advertisers to be screwing into the ceiling. Agree with the basic premise, except …

    If a helmet is compromised, buy a modern helmet. The brain is a terrible thing to waste.
    Loving vintage equipment is good … not maintaining said equipment is inexcusable.

    I have a vintage, unsprung mtn bike and a vintage, Paramount Ti. Both have been well maintained, fit me perfectly though minor component mods over the years, and are fun to ride. About every 6 month I lust after new bling, and go to the Moots site to stare at a YYB 29er. Then I get over it and go ride my vintage steeds.

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