It was 4:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 24 when Brian Dunsmoor finally climbed off his bike and slumped into the passenger seat of his desert tan Subaru. The city streets in Santa Monica, California were quiet and devoid of the usual melee of traffic. There were no fans, no cheers, and no finishers’ medals awaiting him. Only a friend, Cody Chouinard, and a sliver of the moon hanging in the sky bore witness to Dunsmoor’s Everesting success, which he had completed on a fixed-gear bicycle no less.
The final tally for Dunsmoor’s Everesting success spoke to the painful nature of the feat: 193 miles ridden, 29,097 feet climbed, 19 hours elapsed time, 16:14 moving time. Dunsmoor averaged 200 watts as he pushed a 47/19 gear ratio up Temescal Canyon Road in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood. After every summit, Dunsmoor was unable to give his legs respite by coasting back down due to the nature of the fixed-gear bicycle. Instead, he was forced to pedal, utilizing the resistance in his legs as a means of braking. His top cadence was 130 rpm.
“I got to a point where my legs were dead, I couldn’t resist anymore,” Dunsmoor said. “I’d just summit then I’d point it [the bike] downhill and let it go.”
There’s another important statistic that goes along with Dunsmoor’s ride: the $7,400 (and counting) in donations that he has raised for his employees via a gofundme.com page.
Dunsmoor is head chef and co-owner of Los Angeles’ famed Hatchet Hall restaurant. He bears all the visual hallmarks of a celebrity, rock-star chef; tattoos running up his arms, wiry goatee, and a camouflage-green knit beanie to boot. A native of Atlanta, Dunsmoor is also a passionate cyclist, and he’s equally at home darting through LA’s nightmarish traffic on his fixie bike in a pair of jean shorts as he is serving haute cuisine to fine diners, or researching the origins of America’s southern food culture.
“It didn’t come as much of a surprise to my family and friends when I decided to attend culinary school. I was always doing cookouts, seafood boils, and cooking five course meals for me and my drunk buddies after a night of partying,” Dunsmoor said.
Hatchet Hall, like thousands of restaurants across the country, faced economic uncertainty this spring as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the country. As more states ordered delivered stay-at-home orders, restaurants and other businesses were shuttered with no timeline for reopening. Dunsmoor knew that the closure would hit his employees extremely hard.
“Restaurants already operate with thin margins. Under COVID-19 it’s nearly impossible to keep staff on and stay afloat,” Dunsmoor said. “That’s when I got to thinking, how can I help my employees, how can I raise money for them? They’re suffering, they have no income, and most don’t even qualify for assistance.”
It’s true, the backbone of America’s restaurant industry is built on the shoulders of a very hard-working staff, many of whom rely on a steady income. Many of Hatchet Hall’s employee base is African American or Latino. He wanted to help them out.
Across the cycling world, more and more cyclists tackled riding challenges as a way to raise funds for frontline workers and other charities. Dunsmoor saw his situation and saw Everesting as a way to raise cash for his employees.
“I’d mulled over the idea of Everesting on my fixie for years, and using it as an opportunity to raise funds for my employees is what put me over the edge,” he said.
For those unfamiliar with Everesting, the gist of it is this: pick one (and only one) climb to ascend repeatedly until you’ve reached the equivalent altitude of Mt. Everest (29,028feet). It requires a massive day on the bicycle.
Dunsmoor ratcheted up the challenge considerably by choosing a fixed-gear bicycle. Fixed-gear bicycles are single speed, meaning Dunsmoor would have only one gear ratio for the climb. And with no freewheel, fixed-gear bicycles require a rider to constantly pedal, even on a descent.
Perhaps spurred on by the initial adrenaline, and his go-big or go-home attitude, Dunsmoor started his Everesting attempt with a bit too much oomph.
“Up until the first 10k feet of climbing, I was like ‘I f–ked up’, I almost bailed,” he said. “It wasn’t until a teammate of mine (Dunsmoor rides for the LA-based ENDO CNCPT cycling team) showed up and pulled me out of the coffin.”
As the hours wore on Dunsmoor eventually found a pedaling rhythm, and he said he, “felt physically high all day.” But as day turned into night, the energetic buzz of the day’s hustle faded. Silence set in and Brian was alone.
“I begged my friend Cody to stay until I finished,” he said.
Finally, at 4:00 a.m. and after 19 hours of riding, Dunsmoor hauled his sweat-covered, grime glazed body into his car, and Chouinard drove the two of them home. The next day Dunsmoor’s legs were so sore that he couldn’t get out of bed.
When asked why he chose such a super-human challenge, Dunsmoor said: “I’m addicted to cycling, I’m all or nothing. Everything in between is lost to me. I either want ‘Taxi Driver’ or ‘Star Wars,’ not ‘Legally Blonde.’”