Selling the Lifestyle (or Not)

08.19.2005 | 7:04 pm

About fifteen years ago, Stuart convinced me to buy a mountain bike. He described the rush of speed, the incredible trails close by, and the challenge of climbing. I was getting tired of rollerblading (yes, really) to stay fit, and so bought a Bridgestone MB5. It cost $350 — which seemed excessive at the time — and called Stuart to take me on a ride.

I should have known better.

Stuart took me to the top of Squaw Peak, an incredibly steep, rutted, dusty, loose, downhill, primarily used by ATVs. Then he took off down it.

I stood there for a moment, looking into the abyss. Then I sobbed a bit, took a deep breath, and headed downhill.

I made it down the first ledge. Made it past the first switchback. Made it over the first jump.

It was the second jump that got me.

I am told that I hit the jump, flew over the handlebars and landed square on my noggin. I am told that horseback riders found me lying in the trail. I am told that eventually Stuart came back up the trail and took me to the hospital, while I jabbered on about how I couldn’t remember my own name, didn’t know how I got where I was, and had a very bad headache. I have to believe what I am told, for I have no recollection of the next six hours.

I didn’t get back on that bike ever again. Eventually it was stolen, and I’ve never been so glad to have something stolen in my life.


Try, Try, Again

Five years later, another friend, Dug, convinced me to buy another mountain bike – this time a Specialized Stumpjumper, for $800 — which seemed excessive at the time. When he took me out on my first ride, we went to a dirt road. It was steep in spots, forcing me to get off and walk, but I was able to ride about 75% of it on the first try. There was no downhill on that first ride — nothing that posed a crash-and-burn risk.

I was instantly hooked. I remember talking with my wife all the rest of the day about how I had found what I wanted to do, that I was never going to ride my rollerblades again (yes, I was still rollerblading five years later).

Every day for the next month I went out to the trail Dug had showed me, until I could ride the whole thing without putting a foot down.

Is it much of a surprise that climbing became the most important part of bike riding to me, or that it still is, ten years later?

I don’t know anyone who has turned more people into cyclists than Dug. In fact, a few years ago, we started calling him "Shepherd," because he had built up such a big flock of cycling followers. Which is not to say that Dug’s a wonderful person. Depending on his whether he needs something from you he is one of the following:

  • Snide, mean-spirited, impatient and irritable
  • Cloying, saccharine, and sycophantic

But he’s a remarkable bike evangelist.


My Turn

A couple years ago, Jeff told me that he wanted to try mountain biking. We talked through dozens of different bike options until he settled on a bike he liked — a full-suspension Trek Fuel.

Conscious that this was my chance to give him a great first impression of mountain biking, I picked out one of my favorite easy trails. Not too much of a climb, no frightening descents, nothing very technical, lots of places where you can bail out.

Jeff had a miserable time.

The trail was too narrow, it twisted and turned with numerous blind corners, and there was a nasty, deep, rocky ravine on the left — which he tumbled into.

To his credit, Jeff wasn’t a baby about having a bad wreck on his first ride, like I was. He’s caught the bug, and is riding more and more. He’s even shaved his legs and bought a road bike.


What Have We Learned?

I write all this as a reminder to myself, because this weekend I’m taking a friend to look for bikes. Once he’s found a bike and is ready to take it out for a spin, I will remember the following:

  • What I consider an easy ride is not an easy ride.
  • What I consider slow is not slow.
  • What I consider an easy climb is a hard climb.
  • What I consider a fun downhill is terrifying.
  • What I consider a short ride is a long ride.
  • If I give him more than 2 or 3 tips on how to ride, I’m a dork.
  • If I take off to show how fast I am, I’ve completely blown it.

I don’t know any cyclist who doesn’t get excited at the prospect of bringing a convert into the fold. The trick is remembering to share it on the new guy’s terms.


Today’s Weight: 167.6 lbs. The Sweepstakes jackpot goes up to $50!



  1. Comment by Unknown | 08.19.2005 | 7:55 pm

    Amen.My introduction to cycling was similar though on the road side instead.Good luck with the dropping of the pounds.

  2. Comment by Unknown | 08.19.2005 | 8:16 pm

    while i sign on to snide, mean-spirited, impatient and irritable, i have only ever been cloying, saccharine, and sycophantic with my wife, and it didn’t work, so i went back to snide, mean-spirited, impatient. now we’re married and have been for 15 years. brad is a mortgage broker, and finds that the meaner he is to his clients, the more business he has, so he’s given up niceness forever.on the other hand, cloying, saccharine, and sycophantic might accurately describe your comments on your sister’s blog. whoops, was that snide and mean-spirited?

  3. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 08.19.2005 | 8:31 pm

    folks, don’t mind dug. he’s a nice guy. really. he’s just a little bit snide, mean-spirited, and bitter. good guy to ride with, though.

  4. Comment by Jodi | 08.19.2005 | 9:10 pm

    Hold the phone, dug.Each comment was well deserved by me, and fatty (pudgy?) had no choice but to type the truth……Don’t make me put your mean-spirited snideness in your impatient and irritable sycophant. If you know what I mean.p.s. you guys could dumb it down a little with these words….dunno if I’m using them correctly…..

  5. Comment by Unknown | 08.19.2005 | 9:33 pm

    hey erudite errorista, i’m a fan of your work (except the parenting is easy thing, you one child, still in the honeymoon phase newbie), but ya gotta admit, you seem to be the only person in the world who brings out cloying, saccharine, and sycophantic in elden. except maybe that ken guy who runs the leadville 100. so you and ken.

  6. Comment by Jeff | 08.19.2005 | 10:21 pm

    He’s downplaying the trail. For someone as out of shape as I was, that singletrack was not very fun. I still bear the scars of my close encounter with the scrub oak. But despite his attempt to dissuade me from enjoying biking, I like it anyway. Also, I gave up the leg shaving. Suggested to others that I was either a strong or competent cyclist, and I am neither. Still.

  7. Comment by Sondra | 08.19.2005 | 11:38 pm

    My introduction to mtn biking was in St. Edwards Park, which i highly recommend to anyone starting out in the Seattle eastside area. My second introduction (graduation ride?) was up on Snoqualmie pass, after taking the ski lifts up. Bad idea. If you’re not prepared to go up, you’re probably not ready to go down it. Go easy on your friend this weekend!

  8. Comment by Vivian | 08.20.2005 | 2:07 am

    "and God said let them all come to me… and he created the junk food" hahaha, just good luck with the pounds. You dont really seem to hunky chunky, but u also recognize u are not Lance Armstrong haha! Best wishes from the LadyMagician!!!

  9. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 08.20.2005 | 2:30 am

    yup, i admit it: no lance armstrong am i. i like to imagine myself as more of a cross between tyler hamilton, jan ullrich, and rodney dangerfield.

  10. Comment by Lauren | 08.20.2005 | 3:20 am

    somebody stole my bike. dammit

  11. Comment by Caren | 08.20.2005 | 3:24 am

    But what about those who have really tempted fate introducing their wife/girlfriend/female significant other to mountain biking!?! And every story I’ve ever heard and the one I experienced myself was NOT on a nice, easy, firm singletrack but some hills ups and downs, covered with boulders, and sand in the valleys! How I must love my husband to give up my road bike on some weekends :-) Especially since I am a total control freak that completely understands that the laws of physics apply – more control as you go faster – but am certain that I need more CONTROL!!BTW – it is ALWAYS fun helping someone else spend their $$ on a bike!

  12. Comment by tressie | 08.20.2005 | 7:15 am

    honestly?? one of the funniest and most inspiring spaces and blogs i have read – thanks for the laugh and the kick in the butt. . . . . and Dug??? man, i hate those friends who push you and piss you off and help you be more of who you are suppose to be………..sounds like my life as a mom and teacher, and i hope that i am having the same effect.

  13. Comment by M | 08.20.2005 | 12:42 pm

    Good luck on the weight drop.. I NEED to do the same. At 5′10" and over 225, I’m in sad shape. Keep on keeping on

  14. Comment by Camille | 08.20.2005 | 1:19 pm

    Hi, I’m a 48 year old fat grandmother of three little boys whom I am crasy in love with. I’m 240 lbs and bought a bike to loose weight with. I love the bike and I love cycling even though I can’t do any hills yet and I can only go about a mile before I have to stop. I still love it anyway. I love the feeling of muscles moving and the wind blowing in my face. I love being and doing SOMETHING outdoors besides sitting. I will regularly come back to your spaces because I think that you are the encouragment that I need. I also got my husband to put a bike on layaway so we can go biking a whole mile together. I’ll probably be able to go longer when I am with him. Did you have to shave your legs? Men should look like men, hairy, even with the gut and all that. My man isn’t hairy but he has the gut and I love him anyway!

  15. Comment by Maureen | 08.20.2005 | 1:50 pm

    I’m a middle-aged, overweight female who also bought a bike a number of years ago; ‘finally convinced my husband after a couple more. Last summer we tried this "trail" outside of chicago (in a forest preserve; we got the info. online). It was FANTASTIC! however, I waaaay over-did it & was nauseously ill, had to pull over (good luck finding anywhere!) & lay down ’til it passed! How Embarrassing! the other bikers who rode by were very kind & offered everything from water to power bars…how ’bout just my pride back??? We’re not quite hooked, but tryin’ to get there; one way or another, the weather never quite seems to cooperate! *sigh*

  16. Comment by Harold | 08.20.2005 | 2:24 pm

    It’s 7am on a Saturday and for some ungodly reason I’m awake. This is my one day off a week and instead of sleeping till 1pm I wake up at 7am. Anyway, I click on MSN and see yer blog and had to laugh. I was 5′10 and about 225 3weeks ago. That’s when I changed my diet, stopped drinking like a fish, and started to ride my bike again. Nothing major, I just toodle around the neighborhood a few times a week after work. I was down to 214 the other day. I still have a generally lazy life, I just changed those few things and they seem to be working. And, being a videogame junkie, I found that after I come back from a ride and jump on a CS:S server (CounterStrike:Source) I find I play better. I’d start a blog as well, but see previous comments about lazy.

  17. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 08.20.2005 | 3:03 pm

    LIZARDBOY – nice work on losing 11 pounds in just a few weeks. feels good, doesn’t it? sounds like you’re the same as me: avoid a few bad habits is good for losing some weight, even if you don’t change anything else.PSYD_2005 – overdoing it is one of the hallmarks of riding a bike. i remember on one long ride — 140 miles on a mountain bike — one of the fittest friends i have completely fell apart, and was barely able to make it back to our support vehicle. so you’re in good company. keep riding!CHEROKEEWOLF – go buy a bike — or fix up the one you’ve already got — and ride it for half an hour every day for a week. i bet you lose 3 pounds, even if you don’t change anything else about your life. of course, not all the weight will come off as fast as the first 5 pounds or so, or i’d be super-skinny by now. still, it’s a start, and this is a great time of year (at least where i live) to get outside, and have some fun while you exercise.CAMILLES1957 – you’ll be riding a couple miles, then ten miles, before you know it. and you’re right about shaving legs, but it’s sort of a fraternity thing. i’m sure i’ll be all fuzzy again by the winter.tressiepoohkers – don’t say nice things to dug, he doesn’t respond well to nice.caren – my experience with introducing significant others to biking is that one of 2 things will happen. 1. they’ll hate it and won’t try it again or 2. they’ll love it and eventually surpass you at it. quite a conundrum. whatever ‘conundrum’ means….sondra0101 – nobody should be ‘invited’ on chairlift rides. when you’re ready for that kind of riding, you suggest it yourself. whack whoever invited you over the head for me.

  18. Comment by Unknown | 08.20.2005 | 4:54 pm

    Congrats on all of the work you’ve done. Biking is amazing–especially for those of us who can’t run (even if it’s only because of a bum knee!)

  19. Comment by Unknown | 08.20.2005 | 5:10 pm

    More power too you and congratulations. I tried this whole cycling to get in shape about 6 years ago. I pulled out my classic Spauliding Mountain Bike, had it reconditioned, and got on board to take off down the sidewlak (I hadn’t ridden a bike in the 7 years since 2 knee surgeries). I got 5 feet away from my lawn, rolled down the driveway sideways, and after humiliating myself in front of the neighbors put the bike back in the garage and started playing softball. one day I will figure out how to ride the damned thing again and start taking it to Balboa park and riding around the track every day since I remember loving it. But I have to figure out why I forgot how to ride a bike first, something I was told could never happen!!!

  20. Comment by Blog, 007 Blog | 08.20.2005 | 6:52 pm

    I like my reality tv show too!I hope you like my blog.

  21. Comment by Blog, 007 Blog | 08.20.2005 | 6:55 pm

    I meant to say reality tv show. I hope you like my blog.

  22. Comment by Jon | 08.20.2005 | 7:17 pm

    You go dude. Just got a bike–started riding in Colorodo this summer and bought a bike when i got home! Great weight loss program and alot easier than running!

  23. Comment by Shauna | 08.20.2005 | 7:22 pm

    Back in middle school, after I had hit puberty, I was a fat kid. The summer after 7th grade I had decided I had enough and I started cycling…a little at first, and then more and more. I dropped a lot of weight that summer and kept going through 10th grade. I still cycled after that, but not as diligently. Then I went off to college without a bike (yikes!) and fell out of the habit. However when I was cycling I got into great shape (supplemented with other exercises as well, of course). The last time I rode a bike with my father during one of my breaks from school I remembered why I loved it so much. I wish I had one now but I am so much of a nomad I can’t really carry one around all over the country. Some day I hope to get another road bike (a better one this time) and start riding again.

  24. Comment by Christine | 08.20.2005 | 8:14 pm

    Hey, what an admirable thing you’re doing. Good for you! I hope your plans work out and I hope you’re tough cycling work pays off. Do you have an e-mail address you’d be willing to share with me? I’d like to get some information from you about your goals and how you plan to achieve them. I am a very self-motivated person who shares similar ideals. E-mail me and let me know if we can correspond with each other!

  25. Comment by Laura | 08.20.2005 | 8:51 pm

    Just wanted to say congrats on the weight loss, which is never easy. Successful weight loss is more a lifestyle change than simply crash dieting…and it is a hard thing to do because you are changing habits (not just what you eat, but how and also having a study exercise routine).Hope you continue to reach your set goals!

  26. Comment by Unknown | 08.21.2005 | 2:35 am

    Keep up the good work. Best wishes to you.

  27. Comment by teachaa147 | 08.22.2005 | 3:43 am

    My guess is 4920


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