Thursday, January 19, 2023

Being on the Dark Side

"Come on over to the dark side!" this strange, unknown, tattooed man said to me, wearing a sleeveless shirt and jorts. There was probably an adult beverage in his hands.

It was the after-party at Keystone Gravel in 2019, a grassroots event in central Pennsylvania. I had planned to spend the day riding with my road cycling teammates, but I somehow got caught up in the riff-raff of the singlespeeders and spent a couple hours riding with them. 

I, of course, was on gears, and the thought of owning a singlespeed had never crossed by mind. I remember battling up a long gravel climb that day with Simon, who I didn't know at the time. About halfway up the climb, I heard some grunting, and Dahn Pahrs, who I also didn't know yet, passed both me and Simon. At the top, Dahn was waiting and taking a shot of fireball.

Ironic that a post about Pittsburgh has a photo from Colorado. But, this is the most inclusive photo I could find, and even this only has a fraction of the people I call friends.

Fast forward a few years, and I'd like to think that maybe I'm part of that singlespeed riff-raff. And let me tell you, it's a pretty unique community.

On one hand, you have some of the most talented bike racers in the Pittsburgh area. I mean, amongst us, you have national championship wins, a plethora (yeth El Guapo) of ultra races, and some of the most hardcore things you've ever heard of on a bike.

Then on the other hand, some of the same people have done outrageously stupid things. And I mean stupid in the best way. Are they things you want your children to do? Absolutely not. But you can't tell me that drinking 100 ounces of margaritas the night before a 100 mile MTB race and then winning the race the next day isn't impressive.

I think it's important to clarify that saying "singlespeed crew" doesn't necessarily mean everyone has to ride a singlespeed. It's not exclusive by any stretch of the word. It's just that by-and-large, most of us ride a singlespeed at least some of the time, and anyone who doesn't ride a singlespeed is guilty by association. It's mainly just a term I use to describe the group of people.

Perhaps the most unique part of our Pittsburgh crew, however, is the motivation behind all the riding and all the suffering. 

My friend Rob showed us a questionnaire he got at work, which asked about social life and how it made you feel. The one answer choice was something like, "My social life causes me significant pain". 


You might say the motivation is a strange desire to suffer and make other people suffer (physically, and on a bike, that is). It's not necessarily because we want to train for races, it's just... well... because. Of course, it's not mutually exclusive. A lot of us do train for races, but I can safely say that the number one reason for riding a bike isn't just to dress up like a dork and beat someone at a race.

We all take turns being the hammer and being the nail. There's a lot of fun in that, and even if I can't fully explain it, I love it. For as bad as I feel getting crushed on a climb, it's more than made up for when I'm sitting at the top of another climb waiting on my friend who cracked. Oh how the turns can table.

I was going to try and make this longer, but why waste time say lot word when few word do trick?

The Pittsburgh cycling community is pretty rad. There's always someone to do an all-day ride with even in the middle of winter. What Pittsburgh lacks in high alpine mountains, it makes up for in people always willing to do something dumb. We also travel pretty well, from taking on Marji Gesick in Michigan to Breck Epic in Colorado almost every year. Which reminds me, see yinz in Breckenridge this August.

Oh, and that strange tattooed man from the first quote was Dahn Pahrs, in case you didn't guess. Miss you out there in Utah, Pahrs.

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