Brilliant Moments in Cycling: The Surge

10.12.2005 | 7:13 pm

I am a clumsy oaf who can only barely manage to make a bike do the most mundane things: go straight, turn, go faster, go slower, stop. I was reminded of this recently (um, today) when I sat up to ride no-handed on my fixed gear bike, and immediately started veering hard to the right. I just — but only just — managed to put my hands down in time and avoid dropping into a ravine.

Really, this was lucky. It served as a reminder: I am not the guy who can do tricks on a bike. I am not the guy who can pull pranks. I am not the guy who impresses the neighbor kids by riding a wheelie down the street or sitting backward on the handlebars and riding the bike facing the wrong direction.

Because when I show off on a bike, bad things happen.


The Surge

The most powerful example of my oafishness happened three years ago, the day before the Leadville 100. Kenny, Mark, Serena, Bry and I were out on a short ride, just to keep loose. We were joking around, doing 5-second sprints, trying to ride our bikes up stairs, and just having a good time in general — enjoying the nervous energy that comes before a big ride.

Caught up in the moment, I forgot that I am incapable of doing anything clever on a bike, and decided to try a prank that Kenny had played on me once: pass someone on the left, and as you go by, grab their bike lever to slow them down. Finish off by pushing off on your victim’s handlebar to give you an additional surge of speed.

When Kenny had done it to me, it had worked beautifully. He brought me to a near standstill, and shot on ahead of me 30 feet or more before I was able to get back up to speed.

So, thinking how funny I would be, I passed Bry on his left, grabbed his brake lever, and pushed off, yelling "Surge!"

To say it didn’t go off very well would be an understatement. A vast understatement.

I had grabbed Bry’s brake too hard; I didn’t just slow him down, I put him into a nose-wheelie. And my push-off was way too enthusiastic. It didn’t so much as push me forward as crank Bry’s handlebar hard to the left.

The result was as predictable as it was embarrassing: Bry’s handlebar hooked up nicely with my seatpost. Everyone gasped as Bry tumbled down to the left, landing squarely on top of me. I landed half on the pavement, half splayed on my bike.

It took half an hour and a borrowed pair of the Jaws of Life to untangle us.

Later, the scrapes and bruises from the fall would hurt like crazy. At the moment, though, the only thing I could feel was intense humiliation. I had just caused a good friend of mine to wreck the day before a race he had been training for for an entire year. Probably ruined his bike, too.



As it turned out, Bry hadn’t been hurt much at all. He had landed on something soft: me. His bike had some scratches, but nothing severe. I’m lucky; Bry’s an easy-going guy and he didn’t get anywhere near as mad at me as he should have.

However, every time we ride together now, Bry shies away from me if I get too close. "Please, Fatty" he begs, "Don’t try The Surge."

Don’t worry, Bry. I won’t try that kind of thing ever again, or at least not until the next time I forget that I’m a spaz.


Today’s weight: 161.0


Bonus Search Engine Wonderfulness: If you do a search on "Assos" in MSN Search, guess what the 4th-highest result is?


  1. Comment by Unknown | 10.12.2005 | 8:49 pm

    Damn dude……….you need to pretend every day is monday,tuesday, or wednesday. You have probably lost 90 pounds on those days this year.I had a friend once who tried a similar manuever (on road bikes) while I had a broken wrist in a cast at the time (I could only ride one handed) causing me to crash. I then proceeded to smack him ‘upside’ the head with my good hand and busted a knuckle. I was pissed for months. I am sure Bry would have smacked you ‘upside’ the head if he did not have the race the next day. Good for both of you he is a level headed young man.

  2. Comment by Unknown | 10.12.2005 | 9:19 pm

    Har har, that is super funny! It wouldn’t have been half as funny if you hadn’t yelled "surge!" as you did it.

  3. Comment by Unknown | 10.12.2005 | 9:23 pm

    my personal favorite is one stuart taught me. ride up behind someone, grab the top of their lycra shorts (doesn’t work with bibs, maybe the only redeeming thing about bibs), and pull the shorts back behind and under the saddle. ride away.the victim is left not only with his (i’ve never tried this on a woman, not sure why) ass hanging out, but also weaving all over the road/trail while trying like crazy to get the shorts unhooked from the saddle.good times, good times.

  4. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 10.12.2005 | 9:52 pm

    It seemed from most of your postings that you were just a danger to yourself but this goes some way towards proving you are a danger to everyone who knows you.I am beginning to feel that in the interests of self preservation I would be better off not looking you up when I visit the USA.Dug – you are a nasty, school yard bully. I like it a lot.

  5. Comment by Zed | 10.12.2005 | 10:55 pm

    I just sampled the "Greatest Cake in the World" as made by Danimal’s wife. Pretty rich. By the way, I want you to know that although I burst out laughing while reading it, I feel some serious empathy toward you with regard to "the surge."

  6. Comment by Unknown | 10.12.2005 | 10:58 pm

    Yup…that’s dug. I remember him running Brad’s brand new Merlin into a brick wall in Leadville, and laughing the whole time whilst Brad spewed obsceneties, insults about his mother, and sundry other familial epithets in response to his calloused abuse of his new and finely tuned race machine. Schoolyard bully indeed! One of dug’s most endearing qualities.Fatty is definitely a danger to all in range whether he intends to be, or not. But he is loveable.

  7. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 10.12.2005 | 11:01 pm

    Rocky – Cute like a hand-grenade???

  8. Comment by Unknown | 10.13.2005 | 12:21 am

    At 17 years old when my buddy and I started riding mountain bikes we started playinig bike football (American). The way you "tackled" was by forcing the other person to put their foot down (i.e. wreck). It became pretty common for us to try to "tackle" each other once in a while on the trail. All good clean fun, until we were riding with a third person who didn’t know to ride defensively. I thought my buddy was coming by to ride me off the trail, and I took offensive (quite) action, and put the unsuspecting third person right into a tree. oops.Botched

  9. Comment by Unknown | 10.13.2005 | 12:47 am

    around these parts we call bike football "derby." we’ve filled many a parking lot with bike parts and skin shavings. derbying has a few basic rules.1. hands on the bars (your own bars) at all times. 2. feet on the pedals (your own pedals) at all times.3. elbows, heads, knees, and shoulders are all useful tools.4. no t-boning (i think/hope this is self-explanatory. wait, i just blew that, didn’t i? if it were self-explanatory, i wouldn’t have this horribly long parenthetical thing going.)5. you touch a foot down (or, you know, if you crash and fall), you get a point. points are bad.6. whenever you’re done, whoever has the fewest points wins. sometimes you play rollerball extreme style, where it’s last man standing, sometimes you play with a point limit, or time limit. derby is especially exciting on the hockey is an outgrowth of derby. mostly same rules, but you have a rock, ball, or homemade pelota (i took a small rock, and wrapped it in duct tape till it was about 6 inches in diameter, and heavy), and you try to use your front wheel (or back wheel for advanced players) and flick the ball into a goal, or to a teamate, or to the other side of the street. derby is always "on" during bike hockey. unless a car is coming. then it’s derby "off." but game "on."

  10. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 10.13.2005 | 12:53 am

    Botched just reminded me…When I was about 18 (isn’t it always the way) me and my mates (all state reps on road or track) were constantly "practicing" riding in tight groups by travelling 2 abreast, hands on the brake hoods and bumping each other. Knuckle to knuckle, elbow to elbow, headbutts (trackies remember). That was 20 odd years ago when triathlons were just taking off. One Saturday morning our group of 7 or 8 caught and merged with about 20 hairy legged, knees out, elbows flapping triathletes (this was the dark ages and it was still a very us-and-them mentality). We set up a nice double pace line and when everyone was introduced things started to wind up. On a 4 lane highway we owned the inside lane at about 33 mph.We all got comfortable and some old habits started to creep in. When the bumping started it didn’t last long. The whole process basically went – bump, wobble, tangle, slide. And it took as long to happen as it does to say it. The final score was 13-1. Yes one of our guys went down. But only 1. All but one of the triathletes came out the following Saturday, and most of them had shaved their legs during that week. Even after 20 years, that bunch ride still runs every Saturday at 6am through spring, summer, autumn and 7 am in winter. A hard, hard, hard 45 miles followed by 2 hours of coffee shop talk overlooking the beach.

  11. Comment by Unknown | 10.13.2005 | 3:33 am

    Mike, I believe I’ve seen a pretty common racing drill that works along those lines. Only you are supposed to do it at low speed. On grass. Without committing attempted murder. On the other hand, I kind of like Fatty’s style and give it a better score. While you and your mates’ vicious attack on unaware triathletes was no doubt shocking to them, it must have been even more terrifying to have some lunatic doing the same thing while holding the brake lever and screaming "surge!" as if it was some wierd cross between a Candid Camera episode, and a deranged X-treme soft drink commercial.My only biking in between getting off a road bike 15 years ago and getting back on this summer, was some mountain biking in the Adirondacks for a couple years in the mid-90s. We didn’t pull each other’s brake levers, but it was considered the height of skill to run over anybody who managed to bite it on the root-strewn mountain corduroy single track we usually rode. More than once we had an impromptu crashing derby trying to be the first to clip a downed rider. Wheelly-ing over their back and bike, instead of bunny hopping or lighting riding over them, earned bonus points for style. Body hits only – it would have been bad form to break somebody’s fingers or ankle. But tire tracks up the ribs… man, chicks dig that. At least that’s what we told each other.

  12. Comment by Susan | 10.13.2005 | 3:52 am

    Glad to read that your friend was okay after that manuever you did. You write so vividly I could picture everything in my head as I was reading it.Hugs,Sue

  13. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 10.13.2005 | 4:07 am

    Al – we only bumped them, they fell down on their own, but they were uncaring enough to take down one of our guys with them. It seems you mountain bikers are bred nasty. We never used a skinny tyred bike to run over anyone intentionally, even gently.

  14. Comment by Ariane | 10.13.2005 | 6:09 am

    You know, I don’t know what I would do if somebody did a "Surge" on me. I guess I’d probably fall over, but I wouldn’t know if I should laugh or cry. Dug… dude… the shorts thing; that’s amazing.

  15. Comment by Michael | 10.13.2005 | 7:55 am

    A friend of mine used to enjoy changing my gears as he rode past when I was new to mountain biking. I tried it once on a friend a few years ago and it didn’t work so well so I vanished that trick back to the cupborad.

  16. Comment by Angel | 10.13.2005 | 2:56 pm

    Congrats! You have the dubious honor of being one of the two blogs I have read that have made RC squirt out my nose…a mean feat, I assure you. I shall return to read this blog again and I will take the procaution of not having anything close by to drink when I do so. GREAT site;)

  17. Comment by Susan | 10.13.2005 | 3:32 pm

    Thank you for the comment. I still don’t know how much detail to write. I want to keep my entries short so that people want to read it. At the same time I would like to add more detail too. Problem is the first trip alleviates my brain so I don’t remember much. To me the first trip was hell. Sore butts, numb hands and arms, angry, scared, tired and sweaty are just a few descriptive words. Maybe I should just give up now before I fall, eh. Instead of waiting for someone to do a ’surge’ on me! D’oh!!!

  18. Comment by Unknown | 10.13.2005 | 5:19 pm

    A more subtle trick shown to me by a Tour de France rider is that you can easily hook a rider’s hip bone with your 4 fingers to send them back -usually in punishment for going too fast while the peleton is trying to digest breakfast. Of course this won’t work if the recipient is fat so you don’t have to worry (yet).I can’t wait for your response to the WADA dope quiz!

  19. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 10.13.2005 | 5:29 pm

    craig – yep, you’ve spied my pattern: lose a lot at the beginning of the week, gain most of it back over the weekend. i no longer fight it, as long as the week-over-week trend is – yeah, the confident "surge" boast does seem to ice the cake of humiliation, doesn’t it?dug – you would look totally hot in bibshorts.big mike – oh, my menace-to-society-ness goes way beyond this one event, i assure you. i expect to do more "brilliant moments in cycling" installments, after which you will never want to ride with me. of course, after reading your second comment, i’m not so sure i want to ride with you, either.caloi-rider – you describe the best cake in the world as "rich." would you also describe it as mind-bogglingly delicious? because you should. and thanks for the empathy. i’m guessing you’ve had your moments of white-hot humiliation too, then?rocky – you know, under that mean, callous, sweaty exterior of yours is a guy who would do just about anything for anyone. which brings me to my question: can i have your other kidney?botchedexperiment – the difference between you and me is that you injure people on purpose. which makes you much much cooller than – i wish i had a cool domain name like "" by the way, i’m reading and enjoying your blog like nobody’s business. that said, do you seriously ride over people? you run with a tough crowd, man.sue – if he hadn’t been ok, i doubt i would have yet recovered from the embarassment to such a degree that i could write about it. also, we don’t hug on this blog. we punch each other on the shoulder.a.toad – i like to think that if someone pulled a "surge" on you, you’d whip out some of your wicked street fighting moves and show that person who is boss.michael – i get the sense there’s more to this story. don’t hold back, man.lilmarysun – i apologize for any damage your monitor may have suffered, and for any damage done to your nostrils when the aforementioned RC blew out your nose. however, if you can recreate the incident on camera, i’d love to see it.

  20. Comment by Unknown | 10.13.2005 | 5:31 pm

    <i>It seems you mountain bikers are bred nasty. We never used a skinny tyred bike to run over anyone intentionally, even gently.</i>Two points Mike. First, I was a dickhead roadie, who was just a dickhead for a while, but who then converted briefly to being a dickhead mountain biker. And most of my friends were just drunks, and not mean per se. So I’m not sure it’s fair tarring all mountain bikers – many of whom are basically stoned to the bejus peaceful hippie types (God, I hate hippies) – with that slur. Second, of course roadies never run over anybody intentionally. With most roadies, the light weight and fragility of their rig simply wouldn’t withstand the shock, and if their tires are narrow enough, they might actually cut the downed rider clean in half, splattering hard to clean viscera all over the Serotta. The risk to the equipment is the real fear, though. Given the choice between riding up and over a downed rider and risking the Ksyriums, or swerving in front of an oncoming semi (but avoiding the crasher), almost any real roadie would prefer to risk death with the truck, so long as there was a fair-to-middling chance to avoid rim damage in the ensuing vehicular manslaughter. I’ve been very nearly crashed out by idiots trying to avoid a single piece of gravel on a fast descent. I can’t imagine what some superroadie on a 16 spoke rim would do to me, if some "surged out" rider was downed in front of us, and I happened to be blocking the superroadie’s escape path. Of course for that matter, I can’t imagine what I’d be doing riding next to the superroadie, unless I was being lapped… BTW Dug, I think that shorts thing is what they refer to as a Great Hack. ROTFLMFAO. I’m going to try that on a group ride sometime, probably on somebody other than myself.

  21. Comment by Unknown | 10.13.2005 | 7:40 pm

    Al–yup, those skinny tires might cut a human in half. I once hit a rabbit on the road and severed its spine. There was no blood because the tire never broke its skin. It was like one of those stuffed animals with its stuffing bunched up in both ends but nothing in the middle. Poor critter. It was a little unnerving, no pun intended.

  22. Comment by Sondra | 10.16.2005 | 3:15 am

    Oddly when you search Google for "assos" your article only comes up #15. Gotta wonder how those algorithems work…


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.