Selling the Lifestyle…or Not

08.19.2005 | 10:44 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.


  1. Comment by Born 4 Lycra | 01.26.2008 | 4:01 am

    So Fatty as a matter of interest what was the date of your very first blog as the fat Cyclist?

  2. Comment by Born 4 Lycra 43 11 0 N 2 32 0 W | 01.26.2008 | 4:04 am

    OOps and also I reckon this is another good idea.

  3. Comment by Tim D | 01.26.2008 | 4:06 am

    I remember taking my friend’s Joe and Alan up to Rivington for what is really an easy ride. The first big descent meant riding over the lip of a drop off and, although it was a fairly gentle slope, you couldn’t actually see that from the top. Alan chose to walk. Joe followed fearlessly. By the time he reached the bottom he had his belly on the saddle and his legs trailing out behind him, screaming all the way. He was hooked. He pushes me up the hills now.

  4. Comment by Kristen | 01.26.2008 | 5:57 am

    Fatty I really liked this look into the past. I am currently working my Aunt over to a buy a bike from the LBS I work at. She really wants to get into riding on our local rails-to-trail. I know the perfect bike for her and I can’t wait to have cycling buddy besides the ones I’ve made through the shop.

  5. Comment by Mike Roadie | 01.26.2008 | 6:29 am

    Thanks for the “Best of Fatty”….it beats waiting for Monday for some cycling-oriented entertainment.

    For those regulars who check in this weekend, I have signed up AGAIN for the LAF’s LiveStrong Challenge…I am riding in honor of Susan (Mrs. Fatty) and others who are fighting the fight against cancer…and in memory of those who have not made it.
    This year’s site is:
    Please help us!!

  6. Comment by | 01.26.2008 | 8:08 am

    Pshhh, regulars who check in on the weekend. Right, what kind of loser would… oh, crud. Right then.
    Serious note: Fatty, Thatnks for doing the best of! I’ve been reading for a while, and had started to go back in time when I first started, and It’s cool to get caught up! *sorry, that was pretty incoherent wasn’t it?
    Hope all have a good weekend!

  7. Comment by fatty | 01.26.2008 | 8:09 am

    Born4Lycra – my first post was May 10 2005. That entry is already in the archive:

    After this weekend is over, I’ll move these “best of” pieces to they’re in their proper chronological place in the archive.

  8. Comment by Bitter (formerly known as Lissee) | 01.26.2008 | 8:22 am

    Are you going to bring over the comments from the best-of? :) Some of them are hilarious!

    I first found you when you were highlighted as one of the weekly msn blogs to vote for back in… what was it? ‘05? Some of the comments were what hooked me in.

  9. Comment by fatty | 01.26.2008 | 8:26 am

    bitter – moving the comments is a great idea, but is just too hard. They don’t format well at all when i paste them in.

  10. Comment by Emma | 01.26.2008 | 9:15 am

    Hi! Just found you through Pioneer Woman. I liked your letter to Clif bars – not sucking up at all. No worries. I am kind of curious though (’cause as a woman I’ve been on a diet since birth) FATcyclist? Really? I like you’re title but am dubious

  11. Comment by Emma | 01.26.2008 | 9:17 am

    (whoops! hit post too soon) am dubious as to your fatness. I suspect you are quite buff and being modest.

  12. Comment by Paris | 01.26.2008 | 9:42 am

    What madness is this that I find a cycling blog so compelling and about to be put on my daily blog reading list?

    I see that I am late to the party as others have known about you, but my bike had a flat tire.

    Congrats on your 2008 nomination!

  13. Comment by fatty | 01.26.2008 | 9:56 am

    emma and paris – thanks for the kind words. that’s really great of the Pioneer Woman (Ree) to plug my site like that. it’s easy to see why so many people visit her site. she was nominated for two bloggies herself, so be sure to vote for her!

  14. Comment by Boz | 01.26.2008 | 10:12 am

    Fatty – thanks for the weekend posts. I got stuck working today w/ only 2 techs on, so I’m bored. Your blog brightened things up a but, so again, thank you!

  15. Comment by Chris | 01.26.2008 | 11:13 am

    I just moved to AZ, where I mountain biked for the first time, and my friend, that took me on my first ride, loves to remind me how big of a puss I was that first ride.

    BTW I love the new look.

  16. Comment by Weean | 01.26.2008 | 1:10 pm

    Repeats on the weekend- do you work for the BBC?

    I remember this post first time around (how old school am I?), but couldn’t be bothered to register to post on MSN. Now I can just ramble on, with nothing of worth to say, without any hassle.

    Now that’s progress.

  17. Comment by Tim D | 01.26.2008 | 1:21 pm

    Weean et al, the proper response is to try, like I did, to repeat your comment from the first time round. I think it might be a hidden competition, whoever gets the highest percentage of repeat words wins Fatty’s Pista

  18. Comment by Born 4Lycra 43 11 N 2 32 W | 01.26.2008 | 2:30 pm

    Thanks FC I had seen that and was just trying to confirm it was the first. So FC has a birthday then. I wonder what other significant things have happened to Team FC on May 10 overtime.

  19. Comment by Angel Pasos | 01.26.2008 | 2:57 pm

    Congratulations, you are not only a good ciclyst, you are a great writter.

    Regards from Spain

  20. Comment by Lifesgreat | 01.26.2008 | 3:12 pm

    I still ride my Bridgestone MB5. Got it at a bike store near the old Bamboo Hut in Provo in 1990.

    So no, I didn’t steal it from you. ;)

  21. Comment by fatty | 01.26.2008 | 4:58 pm

    lifesgreat – that’s exactly the same store where I got mine. Man, I miss the bamboo hut.

  22. Comment by Rocky | 01.26.2008 | 5:16 pm

    This one resonates. I took my manager from Texas on a “Colorado Experience.” We were headed to a trail that is by all accounts, the easiest trail in Western Colorado. We were almost ready to ride – he was getting used to the bike on the road before we started the trail. He was returning on the road on slight incline when he grabbed an enormous handful of front brake.

    Six months later he is still in physical therapy – can you say greenstick fracture? From his elbow up to the middle of his humerous bone was split – nearly 1/2 inch at the widest point – requiring six screws, and, well, you get the picture.

    My point: Profile the newbies before you take them out. Unless of course, you are a little sadistic like dug and enjoy the misery of others. Had I done so, I would have found out the following: “I hadn’t ridden one of those bike with hand brakes.”

  23. Comment by Weiland | 01.26.2008 | 6:10 pm

    Howdy Fatty,

    I came across your blog last week and enjoy what you have so your “reruns” are all new to me.

  24. Comment by welshcyclist | 01.27.2008 | 9:04 am

    I think it’s great that you all can spread the word, when it comes to gaining converts to cycling. Me well, I’m a loner when it comes to riding, tried to ride in company, a couple of times, with a neighbour of mine, don’t get me wrong, he’s a very nice chap, but I didn’t enjoy. Consequently, I avoid riding in company.

  25. Pingback by Fat Cyclist » Blog Archive » Three Useful Tips | 03.15.2008 | 8:48 am

    [...] Those four words of advice very nearly make up for the fact that it was Stuart who basically caused me to get a concussion on my first mountain bike ride ever. [...]


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