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 fatcyclist.com 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 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.