Axioms and Epiphanies

02.2.2006 | 7:37 pm

Bob and I took off early from work to go complete the ride we had flatted out of last week. You see, Crop Circles is just part of an incredible little network of trails in Renton, WA. The other three, Tapeworm, Parasite, and Mr. DNA, follow the same trail philosophy: squeeze as much trail as possible into the smallest possible space.

The result? An incredibly twisty trail where you are almost always entering or exiting a hairpin turn, climbing or descending a short (but steep) hill, threading your handlebars between close trees, riding over roots and logs, or working on one of the constructed moves.

It was glorious.



Until yesterday, I was ambivalent about the idea of having human-constructed moves as part of a ride. I mean, aren’t the moves that occur naturally good enough? Do we really want to turn a beautiful trail into an eyesore?

Now, however, I am firmly in favor of building cool little moves into trails — owner permission permitting, of course.

This change of heart happened when I swallowed my fear and rode up and over a see-saw. The board is about nine inches wide and about eight feet long, with the fulcrum about eighteen inches high. As you ride up the first time, you naturally think that the board will tip as your body passes the fulcrum.

It doesn’t.

You keep riding up, wondering when it’s going to go. Then, just about as you stall out, the board tips suddenly. Wham! In an instant, you go from pointing straight up to rolling straight down.

It was a rush. Bob and I rode the see-saw at least a half-dozen times each. That slow…slow…slow…FAST feeling never got old.


A Clean, A Crash, And A New Term Defined

Next up, riding up and over a very narrow series (three inches or so) of slats, nailed together on a board and leaning on a log — like a very skinny ladder. Then you go down the other side on a similar series of slats.

I only tried this move once, because I cleaned it on the first try, much to Bob’s amazement.

Alas, the story does not end there.

I brought quite a bit of speed into this move, figuring it would be easy to keep the straight line necessary if I had momentum. This was correct, but it meant that I was going pretty fast as I came off the last slat. Unfortunately, I had not scouted out the rollout for this move, and it turned out to be a rooty ledge drop with a sharp right turn.

I endoed spectacularly.

I instinctively grabbed for a tree branch as I was in the air. This was a bad idea, since I grabbed with my bad shoulder — the one that dislocates just for the hell of it. I heard a “snap,” which, I thought as I flew, was a good thing, since a full-on dislocation sounds more like “SKRROPP.”

You know how there’s a spot on the inside of your knee that if you hit, hurts much worse than it ought? Sort of the knee-equivalent of your funny bone? Well, as I continued my brief flight, that’s the part of my knee I banged hard against my top tube.

I stayed on the ground for several minutes, rocking back and forth, willing myself not to scream and waiting for the pain-induced nausea to subside.

This gave Bob time to think.

“You have just experienced,” Bob said, “what I term a ‘Peak Confidence Event.’ (PCE)” Bob went on to explain that a PCE is what happens after you crash and suddenly find yourself very timid on all moves for the rest of the ride. It is mathematically impossible for your confidence to return to the level it was at just before you crashed.

Bob speaks the truth. It’s a good term for a mountain biking axiom. PCE: Make a note of it and integrate it into your lexicon.

Thank you.


More Moves

Eventually, I felt good enough to ride again, though gingerly. There were more fun constructed moves ahead of us, and I had to decide whether to try them. I figured that PCE or no, I would at least give them the three tries allotted me.

There were several bridges and curvy ladders made of slats, most of which were not difficult. There was a two-foot high stack of logs tied together that looked forbidding. Bob gave me an excellent tip: it’s easier than it looks. Bearing that in mind, I just rode over it.

There was a 10-foot-long log. I cleaned it on the first try. There was an uphill ledge followed by a pair of logs. I missed it on my first and second try, but then — hooray — cleaned it on my third. It was at this point that I coined an axiom of my own: When doing a three-try move, it is best to get it on the first. Failing that, it is better to get it on the third try than the second, because it’s more dramatic. If you get it on the second try, really you’re just demonstrating that it wasn’t that hard of a move to begin with and you should have gotten it on the first try.

Bob and I are not only extremely excellent riders, we’re very, very smart.


Thank You, Dahon

The Dahon Flo I’ve been riding was a dream this whole ride. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so confident on a bike (at least, until the PCE). It’s not just a good bike for travelling; it’s one of the best mountain bikes I have ever ridden. Who would have ever expected that from a break-apart bike?


Moment of Pride

There is one slat-type bridge that I would not have thought I’d clean. That’s because you have to wheelie up to it — about 20 inches, I think — using a single log as a ramp, then heave your rear wheel up onto it and continue riding a nice straight line, so you don’t fall off the side of the one-foot-wide bridge.

I got it on my third try.


One Last Epiphany

I could write tons more about yesterday’s ride, which reminds me of why I write this blog. I need to spend more time riding, or this blog is going to start getting very boring.


Banjo Brothers Bike Bag Contest

For today’s Banjo Brothers Bike Bag Contest, you must do two things:

  1. Tell me of a bike-related epiphany you have had. Or failing that, describe a biking axiom.
  2. Guess my weight.

There will be two prizes: One for the best epiphany / axiom, another for the person who comes closest to guessing my weight, which will — once again — become a daily feature starting tomorrow, along with the Fat Cyclist Weight Loss Sweepstakes.


Bonus Additional Reading About Yesterday’s Ride

Today, Bob wrote an excellent Top 5 about yesterday’s ride. Read it now.


  1. Comment by tayfuryagci | 02.2.2006 | 8:04 pm

    1- I had an epiphany yesterday.  I understood that I’m a big wuss when I’m on a bike. I was afraid to ride 3 kms in a safe neigborhood just because it was a little after midnight. So I begged a friend to ride 6 more kms and drop me off at my apartment.
    2- You weigh 182 pounds.

  2. Comment by Juliet | 02.2.2006 | 8:14 pm


  3. Comment by Marsi | 02.2.2006 | 8:24 pm

    I had an epiphany a couple of years ago.  It was a glorious late spring day in the midwest, sunny, temps in the 60’s or so.  And, best of all, a tail wind for several miles.  It was so effortless it was as close to flying as one can get while still attached to the ground.  I realized that the joy of riding like that will never be experienced or appreciated by my non-biking friends.  Logically there had to be headwind going home, but I only remember the  exhilaration of the tailwind section.weight – 176.5

  4. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 02.2.2006 | 8:45 pm

    Epiphany – Your bike doesn’t need maintaining for 3 years if you don’t ride it for 3 years.  If you do ride the bike, maintenance becomes a more tangible necessity.  I use traffic lights as interval points on my training rides and yesterday when I stood up to launch I discovered that all of my chainwheel studs had worked loose.  I’m typing with my goolies in an ice pack a half a dozen paracetamol tablets rattling around in my belly.
    With the weight I’m not sure whether to go with the binge and procrastinate at 181 or the gorge and purge at 168.
    OK, I believe in the human spirit.  I further believe that you have been true and faithful to yourself and your longterm goals.  Mark me down for 168.

  5. Comment by Unknown | 02.2.2006 | 8:48 pm

    i guess that you weigh 203 lbs.
    also, i think the proper term for the PCE is CA, which stands for confidence apogee. bob stole the idea from me. he is a twerp.

  6. Comment by Unknown | 02.2.2006 | 9:03 pm

    I’ll skip the axiom and go straight for the weight.  Some of the early gueses seem pretty harsh!  I did a little
    reasearch.  The last weight I could find posted is from the end of
    October (162.2), but a few weeks back you did post target weights for
    various events/races this season.  You were aiming for 158 for an event
    in May.

    So how much weight have you put on in three months?  Obviously, you
    feel you can get to 158 in the next 4 months and you didn’t really seem
    to be sweating it too much in your post.

    I think that sometime in late December you were creeping up to 170 and
    saw your hard work going to waste.  Since your announcement that you
    would be posting your weight, you seem to have been doing a decent
    amount of riding (for January, anyway).  I’m going to say you’re
    sitting pretty at 166.6.  But you’re going to lie and say it’s 166.4 so it rounds down and not up.

  7. Comment by Unknown | 02.2.2006 | 9:16 pm

    Not having been a bike commuter for very long.  My biggest epiphany thus far has been,
    "It’s not as bad as I first thought.  This is FUN"
    I started off riding a 1.5 mile ride to work every day praying to God I wouldn’t have a coronary before arriving.  I even had to stop and rest a couple of times the first week.
    Now I regularly ride the long way home (it’s still to #$%# cold in the morning for me to ride the long way in) and I’m glad that I do it.  I usually ride about 5 miles on the way home and have already started plotting longer routes for when the weather warms up. 
    I started riding in early november weighing about 259 elbees.  I’m now down to a pudgy 245 and still going strong.  I’m gonna guess you’re at about 179 elbees.

  8. Comment by Unknown | 02.2.2006 | 9:18 pm

    I don’t get big epiphanies about bike riding.  I get little ones – here’s the epiphany and the source.  
    700×23 clinchers ride smoother and easier on most surfaces inflated only to 110 or 115.  (Local rough road).
    Gold Bond works wonders on chapped butts between rides.  I wouldn’t eat it though.    (Desparation when the Body Glide didn’t help)
    Nuts – peanut butter sandwiches, cashews, ets – are better energy food on rides than bars, Gu, or anything else.  But it’s tough to shell peanuts on a hard group ride.  (7-11, post-bonk)
    One trip to the ER will cost you much more than a nice set of LIM or NiteRider lights.  On the plus side, your brain damage may preclude any regrets about pre-accident commuting with the $12 headlight.  (Recent near misses of joggers while commuting) 
    You climb a lot faster on a fixie because you have to.  Yep, it translates to improved geared bike climbing too.  But even so, you are still 2 MPH faster on that fixed gear.  I think  God just wants us to ride fixies.  Kent Peterson probably agrees. (God told me this the other day when he blew by doing hill intervals.  He was ascending, natch.  He was riding a fixie). 
    I’d kill to lay hands on a Moots Vamoots, or at least maim somebody for one.  (Pics on their website!)
    If "Breaking Away" was about a real rider, the Italian pros wouldn’t have needed to stick a pump in Dave’s spokes to break his heart and trash his dreams, they’d only have to have attacked as a group on a hill.  This would hurt him worse than the crash.  (Every time I climb a hill with fast guys I think about this).
    Some brands of bikes always look good to me - Bianchi, Serotta, Colnago, Pegorati, Seven, Schwinn, newer Specialized, and most of the quirky brand bikes have reverse charisma – so offbeat, unique or fugly that they look good - Surly, On One, Rivendell, Kogswell, etc.  Some don’t – I’m talkin’ to you, Trek. You can leave the Island now.  (On the road commute, every night).
    And Fatty, your weight is… quite enough, thank you.

  9. Comment by Robert | 02.2.2006 | 9:31 pm

    You weigh 169.

  10. Comment by Unknown | 02.2.2006 | 9:36 pm

    I don’t have a fixie yet

  11. Comment by TIMOTHY | 02.2.2006 | 9:41 pm

    There’s a move on our local trails here that I couldn’t make for the longest time.  It starts with a drop off about a 10 inch rock onto a gravel-covered off-camber rock with an immediate left turn followed by a 90 degree right.  Doesn’t sound too hard but the consequences of missing this first move are a 15-20 foot fall onto big rocks and into the Missouri River.  After the Right you start to climb a short, but incredibly steep hill (I’d say about 45 degrees or better) – right on the edge so that the 15-20 foot drop you had at the bottom just gets bigger.  About 40 feet up the hill there is a 90 degree left turn and the trail continues to climb for another 20 feet or so.  It’s harder than it sounds and I’m still not 100% on this move.
    The first time I cleaned it, however, I was riding with a guy I had just met.  It had been a group ride, an out-and-back, but everyone else had turned around leaving only the 2 of us to go further.  The move is off a side trail coming back, and the other guy went up first, walked most of it and was waiting for me at the top.  I was riding well that day and in a very "zen" moment of not overthinking I dropped off the rock and rode up like I’d been doing it all my life.  This was one of the best times on my bike – I was feeling pretty proud of myself, but trying not to show it – until I rode up and the guy said "Dude -did you just ride that??"  I couldn’t help but burst out with a "HELL YEAH!"
    Of course on a much later ride, (alone fortunately), I missed the top left turn, got off line, lost momentum and fell sideways – away from the drop, but planting my ass in a large cactus that I had never seen there before.  The big spines come out easily enough, it’s all the smaller, hair-like ones that are tough to get.  I drove home leaning on my right, spine-free butt cheek.  Thank god my wife was home: "honey, I need a HUGE favor…"  And that’s when I learned the meaning of "true love"…
    Weight guess:  165.5

  12. Comment by Unknown | 02.2.2006 | 9:50 pm

    I’m thinking those first weight guesses were a little high as well.  Though I’ve confirmed riding more can lead to higher weight.  I’ll bet a little desperation set in about 3 weeks ago so you are sitting at a comfortable 167.2 lbs with less than 10 to go for your target weight.
    I’ve been on the gum and water diet and have dropped the 5lbs I gained during the Thanksgiving to NewYears Food Fest.  I figure you did and have been doing something similar.  Go Fatty!

  13. Comment by jim | 02.2.2006 | 10:19 pm

    Epiphany when I first started riding:  I HATE HILLS!
    Epiphany now:  I love the feeling of cleaning a good hill.
    Weight: 164

  14. Comment by craig | 02.2.2006 | 10:32 pm

    Re: Weight
    I believe you probably approached 180  after the holidays. And, fully horrified and disgusted with your muffin topped figure, gave yourself the full month of january to loose as much as you could before you went public.  you expected to lose 10 pounds in january,(your rationale being that holiday weight went on quick, so it should come off quick.  One of your theories which I also beleive) which puts you at approximately 170ish.  Then, I factor in the last ditch food binge before the real dieting begins, at that puts you at 172.4, just shy of morbid obesity for a climber. 

  15. Comment by Bill | 02.2.2006 | 10:59 pm

    177 lbs.
    That reminds me I need to make your cake recipe again. The wife and squid loved it.

  16. Comment by Unknown | 02.2.2006 | 11:37 pm

    My greatest epiphany came on Day 1 of a 2 week tour of the California coastline the first time I experienced the front wheel wobble "death shake."  I was flying down a cliffside descent at over 40 mph when –*s*h*u*d*d*e*r*– Damn!  And the shaking only got worse with whatever I tried to do to slow down or even to steer.  I was sure I was going to die!    Holy whatsit!  I was at a desperate loss as to what I was going to do. 
    Then came the epiphany:  "hell, man, at worst you’re only going to be seriously maimed."
    That calmed me down.  I kept a firm grip on the bars and got more chest into the wind and rode the shake out to the bottom of the hill, braking a bit in spurts to shave speed.  Only the next day did someone say that pinching the top tube twixt the knees should’ve helped. 
    You’ve been working hard.  I’d say 174.25 lbs.  Better than I’ve done lately.

  17. Comment by Mike | 02.2.2006 | 11:41 pm

    My guess is 187.

  18. Comment by Unknown | 02.2.2006 | 11:41 pm

    Though I’m really a lot faster than I used to be, I’ll never be truly fast. 
    And that’s OK

  19. Comment by Unknown | 02.2.2006 | 11:42 pm

    174.5 weight.

  20. Comment by Jsun | 02.2.2006 | 11:44 pm

         Riding the same trails over and over should mean that I would get better at them, especially the tough spots.  Which I have for the most part.  But what I have found is that I can build up a mental barrier about certain tech sections.  My epiphany came last fall when I was riding at night with just the headlamp on.  I noticed that I had cleared just about every techy section.   The headlamp helped me to focus on the trail directly in front of me and not the obstacles that lay ahead. 

  21. Comment by Mark | 02.3.2006 | 12:43 am

    After riding my new fixie for the first time, my epiphany is that I coast more than I thought I did.
    Your Weight 167.9

  22. Comment by FatSnowboarder | 02.3.2006 | 1:50 am

    I was new in an area I wanted to find the local trails to go riding.  I rolled to the trail head of a local favorite and asked three gentlemen who were coming off the trail if this was indeed the trail I was looking for and a little bit of information about the trail.  One of the three was nice enough to stop to "chat" with me.  After asking him if this were the trail head and what kind of trail I could expect I encountered something I had not before, but have noticed very much so since then. 
    This gentleman began to inform me that if I was indeed serious about cycling I would need to lose some weight.  He told me I should join a cycle group, but that I should join the 65+ age group because I would not be able to keep up with anyone else.  I might, in fact, have trouble keeping up with the 65+ age group.  He also began to inform me that I eat too large of portions, should eat when truly hungry, should invest in a better bike, and asked me if he thought he could keep up with other riders if he was carrying an additional 70 pounds on his back.  He also informed me I should exercise more.  In the midst of all of this he told me to watch out for any elitist riders in the area.  He said they tend to be jerks.
    I believe I showed the utmost of restraint by not removing my seat from my "poor excuse of a " bicycle and beating him with it.  Near the end of our delightful chat I stated that it was getting dark and I should probably head home.  He asked if I wanted to toss my bicycle in his van and he could give me a ride to the city.  I politely declined, to which his answer was…"That’s good.  You probably need the exercise anyways."  WOW!!!
    So my epiphany that day was this:
    Most elitist jerks don’t believe they are in the elitist jerk category.

  23. Comment by Unknown | 02.3.2006 | 1:57 am

    I love to ride my road bike, but don’t get into all the techy stuff and electronic gizmos that so many riders seem to enjoy. Having said that, I’ll put my woman’s intuition up against the latest gadgets any day.
    1. The middle of a beautiful spring afternoon, I’m riding on one of my favorite 2-lane county roads. It’s recently been resurfaced, smooth as butter. I just climbed a hill and am starting a long, gradual downhill, when the epiphany hits: "It would be better to ride off the road then get hit by a car." I know what a lot of you are thinking, "duh." But let me put this in context. I have never ridden a mtb. I have a Klein Quantum Race with the little, skinny tires that came on it. The county roads that I ride have no shoulder. Instead you’ll find weeds, broken glass, culverts, rocks and other things my skinny tires don’t like. In other words, I stick to the road. Period. Now this epiphany was one I had never had before, nor have I had it since. Just a few seconds after this epiphany a car comes speeding up the hill toward me. I forgot, the county high school gets out about this time. I didn’t need a radar gun to know this kid was driving way too fast. Then, another brilliant student driver pulls out from behind this guy to pass him. So I have two inexperienced drivers coming at me at warp speed on a narrow county road with no shoulder. There’s no way idiot A would pass moron B before they got to where I was on the road. So I veered over onto the grass and dirt. I never looked at the cars, but just the ground in front of me. I felt them go by, veered back onto the road, up over the berm, and just kept pedaling, although my legs were very noodley the rest of the way home. Now I time my rides to avoid the end-of-school bell if at all possible.
    2. 178.4 (with your boxers on)

  24. Comment by Unknown | 02.3.2006 | 1:59 am

    I have faith in you — 166.3 lb.

  25. Comment by Sue | 02.3.2006 | 3:34 am

    Axiom: Jumps, drops, and obstacles look two times bigger from the saddle of a bike.
    Fatty’s weight: 174.7 pounds.

  26. Comment by Big Guy on a Bicycle | 02.3.2006 | 3:53 am

    Epiphany:  Since I’m primarily a roadie, I would have expected my greatest epiphany to come while riding a road bike.  While I have had some good ones on the road bike, the best one I ever had was on my mountain bike last year.
    There were 3 particular sections at the Haw Ridge trail system that I couldn’t clean for the life of me.  I was timid.  I was trying to think them through.  I was trying to carefully and slowly pick the best lines through them.  Then, one day, I was riding behind a buddy and watched him just blow right through one of them.  I biffed, trying my usual method, but it got me thinking.  While my brain was occupied thinking about what had happened and how he could go through so much better than I could, I followed him right through my second problem area without even realizing it until he stopped at the other side with a "Hey, way to go!"  "Huh?", I said.  Then I realized, I had always been going too slow and thinking too hard.  Speed was what got me through.  I’ve never messed up in any of those spots since, and have ridden through stuff I would never have considered trying before that day.  Since then, I found a great quote from Julie Furtado to live by on the mountain bike; "The secret of mountain biking is pretty simple.  The slower you go, the more likely it is you will crash."
    Weight: 170 (or thereabouts)

  27. Comment by Unknown | 02.3.2006 | 9:03 am

    Epiphany: After 10 years in Seattle and participating in the UW Ride in the Rain for the first time, riding in the rain isn’t so bad. If I had neoprene shoe covers and my ancient gore-tex gloves didn’t leak like cheesecloth, it would be mostly harmless.

    Admittedly, my commute is only 5.6 miles, and I still can’t see going out regularly in the wet for several hours. At least not without tiny wipers for my glasses.

    Weight guess: 169 pounds.

  28. Comment by Jim | 02.3.2006 | 12:50 pm

    axiom:  Behind the wheel of every gigantic Hummer, you will find a very small driver.

  29. Comment by Unknown | 02.3.2006 | 1:39 pm

    Epiphany: My mountain bike hates me.  It never fails, if I have a high speed dismount from my mountain bike (read endo or otherwise falling off at a high rate of travel) the bike will hunt me down and land on me after I smack the ground.  Usually this hunting down ends with a handlebar or seat against the helmet, although sometimes after I have said some particularly naughty things about the bike, it ends with a pedal or chainring to the back to bring me off my high horse.

  30. Comment by Unknown | 02.3.2006 | 1:49 pm

    My axiom/epiphany:
    Rush-hour traffic that looked non-negotiable from the point of view of a pedestrian on the sidewalk suddenly appears to be a sieve of routes from my saddle. I still enjoy flying down University Avenue, laughing at people waiting in line to get on the highway.

    I’m gonna say 172lbs, just because.

  31. Comment by knobby tires | 02.3.2006 | 4:43 pm

    this is pro’lly self-evident to everyone else, but i didn’t realise it till i rode home through a thunderstorm;
    ‘whilst riding (unprepared) in the rain, no matter how fast you go, you’re never riding fast enough’

  32. Comment by GravityGifted | 02.3.2006 | 7:54 pm

    i forgot to guess your weight…38 lbs less than me..

  33. Comment by Unknown | 02.3.2006 | 8:03 pm

    Is the weight portion going to be played like The Price is Right?  I am going to guess two-fitty.
    Aximomatically, more cowbell is a good thing, always.

  34. Comment by Unknown | 02.3.2006 | 8:06 pm

    I havn’t any profound thoughts.  However, drafting behind CTA busses is fun and the buzz from the diesel exhaust is nice too!
    168.2 pounds

  35. Comment by Zed | 02.3.2006 | 8:38 pm

    My wife was reading through my journals the other day when I wasn’t home. I called home, and she started reading sections to me (out of torture, I’d assume). Then she said, "Here’s one that is so typically you." She then read this epiphany I’d written in my journal when I was a 14-year-old: "Life is so much better when you’re going downhill on a bike at 40 miles an hour." I very seriously doubt it was at 40 mph, but the epiphany is as true today as it was then.

    I’m going to assume you’ve done pretty well, and that you’re 164.9

  36. Pingback by A Confidence Apogee | Forged Cyclist | 09.26.2011 | 10:52 pm

    [...] to the Fat Cyclist commentor from whom I poached the “Confidence Apogee” event [...]


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