12.20.2005 | 6:20 pm

For the first time in my career, I have finished the year with more vacation days in the bank than I can carry into the next year. I’m in a use-‘em-or-lose-‘em situation. Obviously, I will use ‘em. Which means that last Friday was my last day of work for the year.

Why am I telling you this? To gloat? Well, yes, a little bit. But mostly, I’m telling you because I’m so excited to have a couple weeks in front of me where my daily ride isn’t a commute. I won’t be packing a messenger bag. I’ll be both starting and ending the ride while it’s light outside. If it’s raining, I’ll wait until it isn’t. Unless I feel like riding in the rain, which has been known to happen.

And I will be riding my fixed gear bike every single ride. I swear, this Bianchi Pista has gotten a hold of me unlike any road bike ever.



So yesterday, I rode around Lake Sammamish. It’s a perfect ride for a fixie: about 30 miles, sometimes flat, sometimes rolling with short, moderate ups and downs, with a big climb at the end. And it’s no bad thing that for big stretches of the ride, you’ve got a beautiful lake on your left (or on your right, if you choose to ride it clockwise).

The first couple miles of winter rides are usually the worst. That’s when you’re warming up, getting used to the feel of the saddle, finding a rhythm for the ride. By the time I got down Inglewood Hill (squeezing the lone MTB brake lever at the top-left of the handlebar all the way – I’m nowhere close to able to use my legs to keep my speed in check down a 10% hill for half a mile), I was warmed up. I settled down into the drops, and cranked away.


My Best Show of Skill Ever

I cruised along East Lake Sammamish Parkway for five or so miles, cut across Marymoor Park, and then started spinning along the length of West Lake Sammamish Parkway. I was feeling good, enjoying the smooth, solid feel of a fixed gear. Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that so far on this ride, I hadn’t felt the “kick” a fixed gear gives you when you try to coast. I’m getting used to pedaling full-time.

I crested a hill — standing to pedal — then sat back down and spun lightly down the other side. I’m learning to turn fast circles on the downhill, applying no pressure to the pedals. In this way, I’ve learned to go fairly fast on downhills — maybe 28 mph — without my butt bouncing on the seat. So I didn’t move my hands out of the drops. No need for the brake.

And that’s when a big ol’ Grampa-style car (a Buick? Oldsmobile? Tuna Boat?) pulled through the stop sign at the intersection to my left, going straight through. With an uncanny sense of timing, he was driving in such a way that I would broadside the passenger side of his car almost exactly in the middle.

I yelled at the top of my lungs, hoping he would stop before he got to the intersection. Nope. So I cut hard right, turning into the intersection he was going through. Riding in parallel with him.

I missed him. A clean getaway.


I Confront the Driver

I pulled over to the side of the road, actually ahead of the car, and looked back, my hands raised in what I would describe as a “What are you doing?!” gesture. The old man in the car smiled at me and waved as he drove by. He had no idea.

Later, it would occur to me that I had just showed the most riding skill I have ever shown in my life. Namely, I had just executed a 90-degree right turn, on a fixed-gear bike, with my hands in the drops, without touching a brake, at speed (I was coming off a downhill, remember?). Which means that I kept pedaling through this maneuver, and I didn’t instinctively grab for brakes that weren’t there. And I stayed close enough to the curb that I didn’t touch the car that was rolling through.

To tell the truth, I’m still not sure how I pulled it off.

At that moment, though, I put the bike down on the sidewalk, then paced back and forth, unable to think straight, my whole body shaking. It would be another five or so minutes before I’d get back on the bike and start riding again.

First, I needed the rush of adrenaline — compounded by the rage of having been absentmindedly waved to by the guy who just nearly killed me — to subside.


  1. Comment by tayfuryagci | 12.20.2005 | 7:11 pm

    I’m glad you’re fine. At some point I thought you were going to say that you were writing this in the ICU. I know that rage and that adrenaline rush, when a stupid idiot driver nearly kills you and then smiles at you. There are so few things as annoying as this. And one more thing both you and http://www.fixedgeargallery.com inspired me very much. All I want as my next bike is a shiny new (or fairly or what the hey really used) Bianchi Pista.tayfur

  2. Comment by Unknown | 12.20.2005 | 7:30 pm

    I am surprised that you still seem incredulous that those things happen on your rides. You should plan on at least one similar episode per ride, as a matter of course.Congratulations. You’re not dead.

  3. Comment by Unknown | 12.20.2005 | 7:33 pm

    By the way, you now have a new friend who drives a really big car. "Those bicycle guys are just so friendly", he tells his wife when he gets home.

  4. Comment by a | 12.20.2005 | 7:36 pm

    no work for a few weeks? lucky…

  5. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 12.20.2005 | 8:02 pm

    tayfur – hey, if i’m in the icu, there will be no bloggin. i’m committed, but not THAT committed.rocky – you missed the whole point, man. my point wasn’t that i very nearly got wiped out. i’m getting used to that. my point was that i executed a truly sweet move while on my fixie, in the face of almost certain doom. the correct comment would have been, "fatty, you are an incredibly skilled cyclist who remains cool in the face of danger. you are as skilled as you are handsome."nikared – yep, totally lucky. two+ weeks of leisure. no travel, no big projects, no massive deadlines. it’s a little slice of heaven, i tell ya.

  6. Comment by Paul Beard | 12.20.2005 | 8:21 pm

    Nice move. Glad to hear you’re OK.Not to be too much of a downer but I’m sure you’d like to know that if you lost while trying to body check the car, you would have be worth a $1500 fine and 6 month driving ban. This was the recent sentance for killing a cyclist in this manner in Victoria, BC, Canada.Apparently I didn’t read the "open-season on cyclists" sign. Be safe out there.

  7. Comment by Tom Stormcrowe | 12.20.2005 | 8:27 pm

    Elden, always remember the cardinal rule! Trains, Tractor Trailers, Motorcycles and Bicycles are all invisible to people in cars! I don’t know how or why this anatomical and visual discrepency occurs(unless, of course it’s the placement of their cranial region inside the anal region of the body!), but it’s the most common cause of auto/any of the above vehicles collisions there is! Cool move, by the way!

  8. Comment by Unknown | 12.20.2005 | 8:53 pm

    I’m glad your fixie handling/object dodging skills are good. Mine aren’t. I rode over a downed skateboarder’s leg on my fixie a couple weeks ago – two teenage ‘boarders dinking around on the trailside went down right in front of me, boards shooting out and bodies splaying across this paved trail I was booking down, so I posted over the one guy’s ankle – the smallest jumpable part of him in the trail. Skateboarding may not be a crime, but it can be a medical condition if you fall in front of me. I bet that left a mark.

  9. Comment by Zed | 12.20.2005 | 8:57 pm

    It’s tough to ride after something like that happens. I mean, heck, you were on a low-traffic road and you still almost got killed. I had a night ride where I was almost killed by three different cars within about five minutes of each other. The last one had me screaming at the top of my lungs as these headlights bore down on me at a speed way above the limit. My wife almost banned me from night rides for life that night.

  10. Comment by Unknown | 12.20.2005 | 10:09 pm

    A few days ago you were lamenting your loss of conditioning, but you must be doing fine to pull off a move like that. The outcome could have been much worse had you not been riding daily. Enjoy your vacation, and remember: After tomorrow the days start getting longer!

  11. Comment by Tyler | 12.20.2005 | 10:55 pm

    It might have been pretty badass if you had either done a 90-degree SKID-turn, or unclipped and somehow grabbed onto the grampamobile’s mirror and been pulled alongside him while yelling or something.*emoticon implying sarcastic amusement*Nice work. Fixies = good.

  12. Comment by Kevin | 12.20.2005 | 10:58 pm

    Reminds me of the day dug came back to work with road rash covering his entire body. At least the soccermom who ran him down offered to buy a new helmet. Buickdude only offered a wave, eh?

  13. Comment by pete | 12.20.2005 | 11:20 pm

    Fatty, you are an incredibly skilled cyclist who… Hang on, what is this crap?Seriously though, those are some pretty smooth moves, Ex-Lax!Al – I once ran over a squirrel. Much like a skateboarder in many respects, but with a nicer tail. To my eternal shame, I couldn’t bring myself to go back and check if I needed to put it out of its misery.

  14. Comment by Doug | 12.20.2005 | 11:39 pm

    West Lake Sammamish Parkway can be quite dangerous. I got nailed there last year myself:<a href="http://dwelzel.blogspot.com/2005/02/unthinkable.html">http://dwelzel.blogspot.com/2005/02/unthinkable.html</a>

  15. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 12.21.2005 | 8:16 am

    insquares – knowing this, if i ever find myself in a position where i’m for sure going to die when i crash into a car, i will do my utmost to at least cause as much damage as possible to the car itself.stormcrowe – i wonder if one could use that cardinal rule to one’s advantage? such as in using one’s bike as a getaway vehicle in a bank robbery, for example?al – i’ve never tried bunny-hopping on my fixie, and can’t imagine doing it, since i always bunny-hop while coasting, with the pedals at 9 and 3 o’clock. way i see it, you handled the situation in the nicest way you could.caloi – after reading today’s post, my wife had a long talk about road riding with me. i’ve had friends whose wives have forced them to sell their road bikes after traffic encounters (hi dug, hi rick). i don’t think i earn many "ok to ride" points by telling these stories, but if i didn’t tell this story today, i would have had to write the "gross things about biking" entry i’ve been considering for a couple weeks now. and you know, there really are a number of gross things about biking.keepYerBag – you’re correct, up to a point. you need to factor in exaggeration, though. i make it sound like my fitness loss is worse than it is, and like my escape was narrower than it was.argentius – if i had unclipped and grabbed the grampamobile, my cranks would’ve come around and busted my shins, right?keebob – actually, when she found out how much dug’s helmet cost, she downgraded her offer and said she’d pay half. no, i’m not making that up.the_cosh – once i ran over a moose. cut it right in half.dougW – i looked at that post: you actually snapped your bike in half. that’s incredible.

  16. Comment by Unknown | 12.21.2005 | 12:57 pm

    Fatty – good moves – hitting a car hurts at those speeds (speaking from experience). In terms of running things over, I also hit a squirrel – first ride out on my Bianchi Virata (may it rest in peace). I didn’t need to go back and see if it needed to be put out of its misery – the rear wheel went clearly over the spine and a loud snap occurred. I also have blender-ized a bird. Commuting to work in the early 90s, a bird flew right through my front wheel. Well, actually it flew right into my wheel – it kinda flung out in parts and feathers from the other side. I knew bikes were dangerous for the people riding them (primarily from other vehicles), but I never did realize how much PETA would hate them if they read this. :-) I’ve also nearly hit a deer. I was going uphill on my commute home, head down as I was working hard, and I saw a set of hooves go racing across my front wheel. It took a bit for me to continue pedaling and I was suddenly MUCH more aware of my surroundings! You know, all of this happened in Boulder – maybe the animals there have some kind of problem….

  17. Comment by Unknown | 12.21.2005 | 4:17 pm

    Fatty–I think that I DIDN’T miss the point. If you were more handsome, then the old guy might not have made you bust out your Spidey skills because you would have been more noticible. Me for instance–I never have to dodge cars. Goblin that you are, you best continue to work on those handling skills.

  18. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 12.21.2005 | 4:33 pm

    rocky – man, you’re just mean. why are you so mean?brett – i should do a post on close wildlife encounters of the third kind. i expect cyclists would have lotsa stories to tell. thanks for the idea!

  19. Comment by T. | 12.21.2005 | 4:41 pm

    My God, what a story. I, too, have two weeks away from work (HS teacher), and I have decided that I will finally begin riding my Diamondback Outlook, won in a charity silent auction for about $100 a couple of months ago. I admire your gumption to just put it all out there as you began. I can’t even imagine riding 3 miles, let alone 30! There’s so much to learn…I’ll probably ghost around here for a while to try to pick up some tips.Thanks!T.


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