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 atsinglespeeder. And make sure to check out Kurt’s previous columns.
I love the Holidays. Really, I do. I love standing in long lines with sick people coughing all over me, driving endless laps in a parking lot on the verge of road rage, falling headfirst on black ice with a gripload of shopping bags, feeling obliged to go to some lame-ass white elephant holiday party and hear the same five stupid Christmas song on infinite repeat. Oh, and don’t even get me started about airplane travel during the Holidays; a dreadful ordeal I have to endure all day tomorrow.
I don’t want to be a Scrooge. Really, I don’t. But to me, the “Holidays” have simply become just another excuse to waste hard-earned money on a bunch of useless crap that nobody really cares about, but if they don’t receive this useless crap, they somehow feel shorted or unloved.
In it’s pure, boiled-down, non-consumer driven essence, I truly do love this time of year. It’s a time to spend with friends and family who you might not get to see very often. It’s a time for reflection on the past 12 months. It’s a time to look ahead to the coming year and plan some awesome mountain bike adventures. It’s also a time to reset a year that perhaps wasn’t great or was just downright lousy. Whatever it is, this time of year is like life, it is the death of one year and the birth of a new one.
My favorite memory of Christmas when I was a kid wasn’t the toys I received – it was the tradition of waiting until my parents would go out for the evening and surprise them upon their return with the entire outside of the house decorated in lights. I’d have only a few hours, so I would run out in the bone-chilling cold darkness and string thousands of lights on all the snow-covered shrubs and trees. Then I’d run back into the house, make a fire and peek out the window, waiting to see the smiles on their faces when they pulled into the driveway. Giving the simple gift of joy to someone else feels amazing.
But when I see people standing in line outside a department store desperately pushing and yelling at each other like famished souls in a Russian bread line, I can’t help but lose interest in anything Holiday oriented. It seems that for many people, the Holidays are just another opportunity to sink deeper into debt and accumulate more stuff that does nothing to improve quality of life but does everything to clutter up your house with useless junk. So this year, make more memories and buy less stuff.
However, if you do decide to spend money on someone else this Holiday season, spend it on bikes and bike gear. Why? Because the bicycle is one of mankind’s all-time greatest inventions, and its money that’s always well spent. In 120 years since its birth, the bicycle has essentially not changed at all. It’s still a pneumatic tire, cog and chain driven machine with a dual triangle structure. It just happens to be lighter, faster and more durable.
The bicycle has so many functions including recreation, transportation, relieving stress, promoting healthy lifestyles, reducing urban traffic congestion, cutting down on fuel consumption and pollution and better preserving natural resources. And mountain bikes specifically help take humans further into the backcountry than any other non-motorized means in an extremely low-impact manner. The mountain bike helps us discover new horizons, both literally and figuratively. What other human invention that essentially hasn’t changed in more than a century can solve this many problems?
Some people I know – myself included – refer to riding their mountain bike as “going to church.” As soon as that leg swings over the top tube and the pedals begin to turn, so does the soul. My body and mind enter a meditative state. Whatever bad is going on in my life instantly melts away. At least for the duration of that ride, I am at peace – unless of course I get three flat tires and break a chain. Then all that Zen is out the window and I become a stark raving lunatic. I am as unreligious as they come, but on the topic of bikes, I’m more pious than a Tibetan monk.
Giving the gift of cycling to another person is almost as great as receiving the gift. I’ll never forget the look on my 18-month-old nephew’s face when he laid eyes on the Early Rider pushbike I got for him one Christmas. With pure instinct, he swung his leg over that wooden contraption and scooted off down the hallway in a flash. The smile on his face was priceless. It’s the same smile I have on my face every time I ride my mountain bike. Five years after he got that Early Rider, my nephew rides his bike everywhere. It’s his favorite thing to do.
So whether you choose to visit your local bike shop or decide to avoid the mass of humanity and shop online from the comfort of your home, give the gift of cycling to someone this Holiday season. Because what you’re giving is far more than just a consumable good. By giving the gift of cycling, you’re fostering a lifestyle and open people up to a way of living that benefits the body, mind and soul and expands their connection with the outside world. I can’t think of a greater gift than that.