The Surge

10.12.2005 | 2:14 pm

A Note from Fatty: This Best of Fat Cyclist post, rescued from my MSN Spaces archive, was originally posted October 12, 2005. It seemed strangely appropriate to move it over to my domain today.

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.


  1. Comment by Corey | 08.16.2008 | 2:36 pm

    Well played, Fatty…
    (I mean posting this, not the surge maneuver)

  2. Comment by gelmski | 08.16.2008 | 2:49 pm


    I believe if Louis had posted this, he would have blamed Bry.

  3. Comment by Bryan | 08.16.2008 | 3:12 pm

    Great story. Sounds like something I would do. I just discovered your blog yesterday and am really enjoying your writing style.

    Best wishes to you and your family while you are going through what you are.

  4. Comment by Clint | 08.16.2008 | 3:45 pm


    Yeah, learning that kind of lesson once is (almost never) enough for me.

    Good to see someone else can be an oaf, though. =)

  5. Comment by dug | 08.16.2008 | 3:48 pm

    i, um. wow. all i can say is wow.

  6. Comment by Lizzylou | 08.16.2008 | 3:49 pm

    Classy, very classy.

    I’m wondering why you thought today would be an appropriate day to move it over? Did you do something equally well-thought-out today?

  7. Comment by Jen | 08.16.2008 | 4:30 pm

    I have almost needed the jaws-of-life to untangle me, myself and my bike. Sometimes a loose headset on an old bike fitted with a new suspension fork doesn’t correct so well when being bounce by tree roots around a tight curve. The bike was curved around my right leg, the trail fell off into bramble on the right and was steep to the left. I had fallen and couldn’t get up. Fortunatly, my buddy came back and hoisted me up and then untangled the bike.
    I always like to hear fellow spaz sagas!

  8. Comment by regina | 08.16.2008 | 5:04 pm

    this is your blog you can say anything you want, the choice to read is ours, I find you concilliatory that you gave Louis equal time, I am with you it is done. You vented, you came then with remorse and now today as an act of contrition you have given Louis the gift of your making a similar mistake, fini.
    I will always be reading. that is my choice.
    WIN SUSAN!!!

  9. Comment by Hamish A | 08.16.2008 | 6:45 pm

    Seriously people. Can we stop mentioning the Louis Situation ™? It’s over. The guys have moved on. Time for us to do so as well.

    You’re not alone in your ‘Spazziness’ Fatty, my favorite tale comes from a ride that took place many years ago. I was working in a bike store at the time and we’d just been given shiny new bikes to try out. Needless to say we were all excited and headed off for a days riding in the local Forest.

    One of our staff was a National Level downhiller and on the final run of the day feeling far too confident I figured I could stick with him. Turns out he’d been holding back for us and me ‘keeping up’ was all the incentive he needed to let fly.

    All the way down the run we’d been pretty close, (I was lucky, wearing body armor and very foolish) and in the final series of hairpins he had pulled about 15 feet out of me when I saw him make a nifty move to get around a turn faster – he deflected his front wheel off a tree stump at the edge of the trail and that literally threw his bike into the turn. At 30mph my brain figured “if he can do it so can I” and I committed to the move.

    Next thing I know I’m waking up with the other members of our group picking themselves and bits of bike off me and the surrounding area. I don’t remember the crash but I’m reliably informed that instead of lightly ‘pinging’ my front wheel off the stump I plowed straight into it launching myself & the (brand new) $6000 DH bike into an air/tree/air/tree/ground ballet of chaos.

    You remember the scene in Return of the Jedi with the speeder bike crashing through the forest and erupting into a huge ball of flames? Well that was me. Just not quite so stylish, (or quite so explosively). I’m told that I was out cold for a couple of minutes but still can’t remember the crash itself.

    Luckily, nobody else was hurt and the bike escaped with nothing more than a slightly wobbly wheel. Needless to say my downhill aspirations are now much more realistic. Mostly. At least I haven’t taken out anyone else lately anyway.

    There’s some fun pics of you (and lots of FC jerseys) over on the Leadville photographers site. Funny how the FC Jersey wearers seem to be the only ones really having fun!

    WIN SUSAN!!!

  10. Comment by bikesgonewild | 08.16.2008 | 6:49 pm

    …ok, mister humility…everyone has been served…

    …now everybody stand up & wave your olive branch…that’s good…ok, now, group hug, big group hug…

    …all right, i’m being facetious but your “surge” post is a nice gesture…

  11. Comment by formertdfan | 08.16.2008 | 7:24 pm

    I remember this post when you first wrote it and it is still made me laugh — someday you should write a book

  12. Comment by MTB W | 08.16.2008 | 8:33 pm

    I gotta say Fatty has completely neglected a very important item all last week (including in his marathon length -but very entertaining – race report).


  13. Comment by Karen | 08.16.2008 | 8:51 pm

    Thanks for this post and every other. I enjoy them all. Hoping Susan’s chemo treatments are going well. You haven’t mentioned but I think they were to start on the 12th. My fingers are crossed for her.


  14. Comment by Don | 08.16.2008 | 8:55 pm

    Yeah, apparently all of my medical claims are being systematically denied. Nothing serious, check ups and such, but lots of money they say they aren’t going to cover. Why do I mention this? I am currently in the midst of the migraine that is dealing with the insurance company to get them to pay it.
    I check in on your blog, and the headache is gone, bye-bye, over and out, etc. Now the only problem is I almost peed my pants. HEY! You should save the How To Pee On A Bike story!

  15. Comment by aussie kev | 08.17.2008 | 3:32 am

    i “surged” in a madison once, missed the guys hand then grabbed hold of his handle bars and threw those in instead, carnage ensued !!!!!


  16. Comment by bcd | 08.17.2008 | 9:38 am

    i see what you did there….

    aside: you should move all your old content over; i found your blog (the old one) doing a Google search on some random bike (can’t even remember what it was…Klein? Ibis? hmmm.)

    at least i had the smarts to read all the old posts and then move onto the new site!

  17. Comment by fatty | 08.17.2008 | 9:48 am

    bcd – little by little, i am moving the posts over from the old site — at least, the ones worth moving. but it’s a slow, tedious process.

  18. Comment by Di | 08.17.2008 | 11:37 am

    I’d really like to see the surge executed well. Perhaps you could make a video of Kenny demonstrating this. Then, you could make a video of you showing us how not to do it. ;-) I would love to see it.

    Some people are just so talented and smooth on their bikes. I am not one of those people. It’s best if I just leave both hands on the handlebar and keep pedaling. :-D

  19. Comment by cheapie | 08.17.2008 | 12:57 pm

    i want to see kenny do the surge as well! don’t one of you have a flip mino? it would be easy to film and post.

  20. Comment by dug | 08.17.2008 | 1:22 pm

    wow, people are not subtle in their requests for “kenny beefcake” shots.

  21. Comment by DD | 08.17.2008 | 3:35 pm

    Kenny is HOT!

  22. Comment by fatty | 08.17.2008 | 4:16 pm

    dug – you need to fix your url. you’re currently sending folks to, which isn’t as effective as sending them to a place that actually exists, such as just a thought.

  23. Comment by Jay Peitzer | 08.17.2008 | 6:14 pm

    I guess you could say” the surge didn’t suit you”. Probably too obscure…….

  24. Comment by gus | 08.17.2008 | 6:35 pm

    I used to read you on MSN. I found your site when I used Stumble Upon. I now have your RSS feed. My how we progress. Keep up the good work, and save a large men’s pink tee shirt for me. It will match my pink Chuck T’s rather well. For the record I am a “50 year-old, male, chubby cyclist”. I look forward to wearing the shirt with pride, when I order it!! Thanks for great reading over the years, and WIN SUSAN!!!!!

  25. Comment by Sarah P. | 08.17.2008 | 7:02 pm

    You make my sides ache when I read your posts. LOL!
    You are so good at making fun of yourself, not taking life too seriously. Thanks for brightening my day and making me really laugh! :)

  26. Comment by Ann | 08.17.2008 | 9:24 pm

    Nice and gentle transition. Much less snarky than now. Though snarky I like.

  27. Comment by just me | 08.18.2008 | 8:32 am

    This reminds me of something that happened to my little brother last year. He’s not a biker; he’s just a teenage boy. My mom had been trying to make him and his friend abandon their videogames and go outside when the electricity randomly went out. With no excuse to stay inside, they decided to ride bikes. As they were coming down the hill and turning into our driveway, someone turned too sharply and the other braked too slowly and the edge of our driveway turned into a sort of ramp. My brother ended up in a ditch with a broken elbow and his friend flew about 30 feet and racked himself on the handlebars. Suffice it to say, they don’t try to race down the steep hill to our house anymore.

  28. Comment by buckythedonkey | 08.18.2008 | 8:46 am

    Blimey, I go on holiday for a couple of weeks and look what I miss out on!

    First a request: more faded pink Fatty T-shirts please. Lots of people asked about mine and lots of people wanted to know where they could get one.

    Oh, and I look fabulous in it, according to Mrs B.

    Well done on having such fun at Leadville, although I am a little disappointed that you didn’t attempt the 100 on a recumbent. L’année prochaine, eh?

    I know I’m not supposed to comment on old posts, but I’d like to wish you both belated congratulations on the occasion of your 20th anniversary!


  29. Comment by Big Boned | 08.18.2008 | 9:10 am

    Just me –
    Wow! Flew 30 feet and landed “just there” on the bar. Should be sporting a nice falsetto to this day!

  30. Comment by Anonymous | 08.18.2008 | 10:48 am

    Sheesh, enough self-flagellation already!


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