Me and My Shadow

04.11.2006 | 7:31 pm

The sun came out today, which is a big deal in Seattle in April. Of course, I reacted in much the way you would expect: I got out the fixie and went for a ride.
One of the things I like about where I live is the wealth of beautiful road rides I can do right from my front door. I love to just start riding without any particular idea of what the ride will be, and then making up the ride on a turn-by-turn basis.
Yesterday, I wound up going out to Carnation via Tolt hill, then taking Union Hill road until it joined up with East Lake Sammamish Parkway, up Thompson Hill, and then through a number of residential areas. I guess I was in a meandering mood.
Today’s route was much simpler — Highway 202 to Snoqualmie Falls and back: a one-turn ride.
As I rode back from the waterfall (forgot to take a picture of the falls, even though I’ve got a new phone with a pretty decent little camera built in), I settled into the drops and made up a little game for myself: I would ride the entire way home without touching the brake. That’s easy except for the first mile, which is a twisty, steep descent. I kept my speed in check, though — it’s not really hard to keep a fixie from going fast downhill, it’s just tricky to slow down once you’ve got a full head of steam.
After that, I just had several miles of spinning on the rolling road, the sun at my back.
Which gave me a chance to observe my shadow. Here is what I noticed.
Pros of My Shadow
  • My shadow seems to have enormous quads. Almost comical, but not quite. As I rode, I positioned my legs in numerous ways to see if those quads are enormous only from certain angles, but no: my shadow’s quads are enormous from any angle
  • My shadow’s helmet seems to fit his head quite nicely. No matter what helmet I’m wearing, it always feels kind of bulky, but my shadow’s helmet looked nice and svelte.

Cons of My Shadow

  • My shadow seems to have atrocious love handles. Really, he needs to go on a diet.
  • My shadow turns a very slow cadence. I’m willing to cut him some slack, though, because his bike is a fixie and he’s turning a big gear.
  • My shadow is rather short and thick in general. I’d say he’s built more like a wrestler than a cyclist. I’m glad that’s not true of me.

It occured to me after my ride: staring at and evaluating my shadow for fifteen minutes is almost exactly as vain as staring in the mirror for the same period of time.

I’m sure no other cyclists ever stare at their shadows, right?



  1. Comment by Unknown | 04.11.2006 | 7:38 pm

    Are you and your shadow ever concerned about crashing into each other as you stare?

  2. Comment by Unknown | 04.11.2006 | 7:40 pm

    It’s a Darwinian thing, this shadow-staring.  Many cyclists do it, but many don’t survive it.

  3. Comment by Unknown | 04.11.2006 | 7:49 pm

    Slow cadence?  I’m surprised you didn’t notice the way your knees grew to overshadow your huge quads over the 15 minutes you spent staring at the ground.  That’s what happens to dopes who pull 22 year-old bicycle messenger fixed gear ratios with their 40 year-old software analyst knees.
    Besides, the whole thing is weird.  You’ve got this reverse-Narcissus complex.  You look in the mirror or at the shadow hating yourself, yet you can’t look away.  Weird.  Bazza (Barry for you non-English English speakers) was right.  You’re totally turning into a roadie.  Next stop:  "I Was a Middle Aged Manorexia Sufferer, By The Unbelievably Fat Cyclist."  Roadie all the way, baby!  Anybody got some depilatory foam they could spare?

  4. Comment by Unknown | 04.11.2006 | 7:55 pm

    Forget your friggin shadow! How are you able to be in Utah AND Washinton at once?!?
    P.S. I’d say that staring at your shadow has the appearance of vanity without any of the substance of vanity.

  5. Comment by Zed | 04.11.2006 | 8:23 pm

    The shadow can be a very motivating sight. Okay, now what’s the deal with you moving back to Washington already? Utah’s gotten that bad since you were last there?

  6. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 04.11.2006 | 8:37 pm

    In answer to the "What am I doing in Washington?" question: my location is in constant flux right now. I don’t know what state I’m going to be in from one day to the next. Our move will be finalized toward the end of May.
    Frequent flyer points galore!

  7. Comment by craig | 04.11.2006 | 8:49 pm

    I usually just glance in store windows as I go by. I am really interested to see if I look as fat and slow as I feel. 
    Or if I look as fast and svelte as I feel on those good days.

  8. Comment by Renee | 04.11.2006 | 9:00 pm

    The worst one is when you look at yourself on the side of a car.  Short, fat, totally disproportionate … it’s awful!

  9. Comment by Jose | 04.11.2006 | 9:06 pm

    My shrink would say that there is a relationship between your shadow and your self perception.
    Your persona represents your "ideal self" (the one you like to think you are). Then there’s the Shadow, the part of you that you don’t want to admit. That is why you see a wrestler’s body in a slow cadence.
     Workout and stop staring at your shadow!

  10. Comment by jim | 04.11.2006 | 9:24 pm

    There is a joke somewhere in here about seeing a shadow and more winter months but I just cannot seem to make it work.

  11. Comment by barry1021 | 04.11.2006 | 11:11 pm

    Edge Man
    Actually I think the joke is about FC and a groundhog, but I can’t make it work either.
    FC you must be complimented for some excellent work whilst you are "in flux". (Having been an air conditioning mechanic in a previous life, where flux is the stuff you use to make the solder flow to the joint when you are soldering pipe, I have always found that phrase somewhat amusing–I have open many cans of flux but have yet to find anyone inside). It must be difficult juggling a job, a family, two residences and a blog. And you are even getting your riding in!! Hey, do you actually HAVE a job??

  12. Comment by barry1021 | 04.11.2006 | 11:26 pm

    Oh and in tonight’s educational moment, as mentioned by Al M. earlier:
    manorexia: a portmanteau of man and anorexia.
    I know I know, I have no idea either:
    portmanteau:  a term in linguistics that refers to a word or morpheme that fuses two or more grammatical functions.
    Pah!! I am stuck in an endless loop:
    morpheme:  the smallest language unit that carries a semantic interpretation. Morphemes are, generally, a distinctive collocation of phonemes
    Help me Mr. Wizard!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Comment by Fazla | 04.12.2006 | 12:05 am

    hihihih….wonder what the shadow was thinking bout…hmm
    luv the space

  14. Comment by Unknown | 04.12.2006 | 3:04 am

    Fazla – It thinks about the evil that lurks in the hearts of men, of course.  Surely, your comment was an intentional setup inviting that response, right?
    Bazza – do you meant to tell me that Fatty is anti-semantic?  Because I don’t put up with that kind of bigotry…
    And I think the Morpheme was that guy in The Matrix who gave Keanu Reeves the Green Pill/Red Pill option, a metaphysical choice that translates into Roadie speak as "Would you have the Bianchi with Campy Record, or the Giant with mixed Ultegra&Dura Ace?"  While I’m busy burning off all the espresso I drank today, one other thing.  What was up with the techno orgies in those Matrix flicks?  I didn’t get that at all.  It’s like humanity is threatened, we’re the core survivors and we have to protect all that is good about mankind… and the best we can come up with is a raggedy clothes, humans covered-in-motor-oil humpty-hump performed to an electronic soundtrack?  I think I’d rather be a living battery powering the machines, to tell you the truth.  It’s a less dehumanizing activity.  

  15. Comment by Unknown | 04.12.2006 | 8:37 am

    I know that shadow self. When we walk back from the crags (climbing lingo for pieces of vertical rock suitable for climbing), I always find that I have a kickass shadow that looks like she could DEFINITELY outclimb me (maybe she does and I haven’t noticed…)
    Anyway, haven’t really noticed my cycling other self, but she probably resembles my photo self (MUCH fatter than I feel!)
    Condolances, I guess I’ve got the same problem…

  16. Comment by barry1021 | 04.12.2006 | 11:00 am

    ..and that would be TWO THUMBS DOWN from our resident movie guru on The Matrix.
    Al I don’t think FC has an anti-semantic bone in his body…course he is moving to UTAH!

  17. Comment by Unknown | 04.12.2006 | 11:34 am

    Controlling your speed sans brakes– it’s all about skipping.  Do a mini bunny hop with your back wheel and lock up the cranks at 3 and 9 o’clock for a split second so it makes a little "poot" sound– it’s a mini skid (but not long enough to mess up your knees and wear holes in your tire).  Rotate thru 1/2 revolution and repeat so that you’re "skipping".   It’s a pretty effective way to slow down without using the brakes.

  18. Comment by Unknown | 04.12.2006 | 11:43 am

    I’m glad I don’t live in Seattle…I like the sun too much!

  19. Comment by Unknown | 04.12.2006 | 1:27 pm

    I guess you’re right about Fatty, Barry.  He really doesn’t seem anti-Semantic at all now I think about it.  I’m just overly sensitive because I’m mostly Semantic myself, and always on the lookout to take offense.  But you know, throughout history, Semantic people have been the target of abuse and ridicule by people who don’t like our religious adherence to the laws and the books handed down to us over the generations, like Strunk & White (which many call "the Bible"), Black’s with its fancy latin, and the Book of Daniel (Webster).  We were even persecuted by the Pedantic Empire, which I found totally shocking, but they used seemingly trivial differences in outlook to commit rhetorical genocide against us, exactingly pointing out that there is a difference between being Semantic, and being a practicing Pedant, which is against the law in most states and taboo even in aboriginal cultures.  I think this discrimination explains and justifies the rise of militant sign-ism, as some post-structuralists have described it.  And you don’t have to be Mike the Bike to understand why we’re defensive.  So I take back what I said, Fatty isn’t anti-Semantic at all.  Though I do suspect  he sometimes engages in Pedantry, much to the horror of his family and friends, and probably quite scarring on his children. 
    Wow.  If that wasn’t a festival of Lit Crit inside baseball bad punning, I don’t know what is.  And for the record, I liked the first Matrix as a film, but the second two descended into bong water-drinking sophomoric philosophizing, and totally lost me.  The special effects were good but if you’re going to do philosophy in a film, you need to either get it right in the dialogue, or just allude to it.  Putting badly framed existential arguments into Morpheus’ mouth was like… Ayn Rand doing science fiction – both the drama and the philosophy fell apart. 

  20. Comment by Jsun | 04.12.2006 | 4:24 pm

    its no contest, your shadow is much cooler than you,
    in fact, you suck,  your shadow could kick your butt, or at least box ya around until you cried
    come on now , toughen up buttercup

  21. Comment by Joshua | 04.12.2006 | 4:24 pm

    I love that ride out to the falls.  my brother-in-law and I both live in Sammamish and have made that ride a couple of times.  he is a much better climber than I so he flys up the hill, however he can’t keep up with me on the decent.  I guess it all evens out in the end.BTW if you’re in that area again and looking for an easy/lazy ride, just go around Lake Sammamish, at the south end you can hit PCC for juice and cookie. :)  mmmmm  also if you’re in the mood for a hill, Inglewood is always right there off of East Lake Sammamish for you.  I do that every night on the ride home from work.if you need the calories there is a new Jamba Juice inside the Safeway at 228 & Inglewood.

  22. Comment by Unknown | 04.12.2006 | 5:05 pm

    Al, you’re scaring the humans.  Again.

  23. Comment by Unknown | 04.12.2006 | 6:57 pm

    look at your shadow, in the mirror,
    then get back with us.

  24. Comment by Unknown | 04.12.2006 | 10:15 pm

    …shadow’s probably short and wrestler like in punishment for all the nonsense going on around these parts about triathlons…

  25. Comment by Unknown | 04.12.2006 | 10:30 pm

    Dumber than looking at your shadow while riding:
    1)  Trying to line up your helmet with the sun so the holes in the helmet are visible (this actually qualifies as looking at your shadow but adds a dumber dimension to it), and
    2)  Trying to read the safety warning label on the bottom of your helmet visor while descending at 35 mph.
    These are things I have done or almost done but stopped short wondering I would explain a really stupid crash caused by doing stupid stuff…  Oh the other hand I once passed the time on a long climb (which started 98 miles into the day’s ride) by looking at my shadow and working on minimizing upper body movement and improving my form…

  26. Comment by A Dawn Tinsley | 04.12.2006 | 11:00 pm

    I didn’t even know you could look at things like this while riding. I’m usually just trying to keep from falling off…

  27. Comment by pete | 04.13.2006 | 12:11 pm

    Was it Lightning Jack who could outdraw his own shadow? That’s fast, boy

  28. Comment by turnonthejets | 04.13.2006 | 3:33 pm

    Hey!  My shadow is short most times too…sometimes he’s really long though.  Strange dude that Shad’er

  29. Comment by Tom Stormcrowe | 04.13.2006 | 7:12 pm

    I’ve gotten so skinny, I don’t have a shadow anymore, just the shadow of the bike on the ground!::GRIN::

  30. Comment by barry1021 | 04.13.2006 | 8:17 pm

    i have gotten so fat, i don’t have a shadow either. When i pass, people think there is an eclipse, teachers tell their students not to look or they will go blind.

  31. Comment by Tim D | 04.13.2006 | 9:43 pm

    I used to have a shadow, but it dropped me on a climb and I could never get back on.  We don’t ride together anymore.

  32. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 04.13.2006 | 9:54 pm

    I think it’s funny how hyper-defensive all the semant’s get when faced with a little verballing.  Personally, as a verbal half-breed (my mother was a pun and my father was alliterate) I try to avoid judging others by the way they wear their words.
    As far as the shadow goes:  I haven’t seen mine for quite a few weeks.  I’ve slipped out a few times to train before the sun got up and it looks like my shadow is lacking a little in the fitness so it struggles to keep up when I go out in the daylight.  But with teh Easter long weekend upon us, my shadow promised to go out and do wome big miles while I stay home and play with the kids.  Maybe next week my shadow will be able to come through and do a turn on some of the gentler rides.

  33. Comment by Kelly | 04.14.2006 | 3:14 am

    Awwwww, Fatty. I usually wonder just whose freakin’ shadow that is because it’s surely not mine. I’m not fond of my larger-than-my-husbands calves. It’s just not fair. I tell myself they belong to him when I see them but I really don’t believe me.

    Hey, hope the move stuff is still going smoothly. Sure do miss seeing you around.

  34. Comment by Rebecca | 04.14.2006 | 4:11 am

    A friend of mine, an honestly talented triathlete, sent me your "Open Letter to Triathletes," which nearly caused me to faint from laughing so hard.  I am actually a triathlete, although a really bad one, and swimming is the absolute worst part.  I often spin long diatribes in my head about how awful it is – usually while I am doing it – that I long to write up and send around.  Why bother when you’ve done it – and with such a delightfully ascerbic tone!
    I shared some of your other triathlon ideas with some friends; we probably wasted at least another hour creating new triathlons, many of which involved "skeet."  One of my friends is obsessed with skeet.
    I continue to do triathlons for the mental and physical challenge.  My favorite part is the biking – it is the closest I think I’ll ever feel to flying, and I don’t even feel much like a troll (until I see my shadow).
    At any rate, I have now become a FR of Fat Cyclist.  FR being "frequent reader."  People seem to give you a boatload of crap, and honestly get very offended at what you say.  Most of them should lighten up.  Almost every post you make gets me to laugh out loud.  Keep up the great work, and perhaps one day you’ll see some posting about The Adventures of the Troll and the Praying Mantis. 
    Keep riding,
    The Troll

  35. Comment by Unknown | 04.14.2006 | 6:10 pm

    I assert that your shadow is only a slight over-exaggeration of your true self.  If you are fat in your shadow, you are likely fat.  And all of the other options, too.  It’s the sun’s clever way of gently telling you the truth.  That’s why fat people should live in the Pacific Northwest, where the shadow gets a rendering only a few days a year.  On the other hand, fat guys should not live in the northern hemisphere where the sun never sets, as in Finland or Alaska, for example.  That constant image of one’s shadow could induce suicide if one tends toward the girthy side.

  36. Comment by Ariane | 04.16.2006 | 4:51 pm

    My shadow looks best when the legs half remains stretched along the ground and just its torso is projected on to a wall/rock/wooden fence. Lemme tell ya.. legs up to here, little bitty waist… Way cuter than I am on my best day…

    Stupid shadow; bet it starves itself when no one’s watching.

  37. Comment by Seattlite Lost | 04.17.2006 | 2:03 am

    Well, shadows in Seattle can be deceptive. Yet, shadows in LA are strangely truthful. I do not like it. As a fellow fat washingtonian, I feel your shadow pain. Perhaps one day we will all be able to live together in skinny harmony.
    Until then, shadows beware.

  38. Comment by Peter | 04.18.2006 | 8:35 am

    I’m a sucker for watching my spokes.  I have no idea why, but I seem to get an inordinate amount of pleasure watching them go round and round.  Especially when they’re nice and true.  That of course leads us to the incredibly embarrassing situation when I smacked into the back of a park car whilst watching aforementioned spokes.  *sigh*.  At least the bike wasn’t hurt.  My pride suffered a fair bruise though.

  39. Comment by David | 04.27.2006 | 5:34 pm

    "I’m sure no other cyclists ever stare at their shadows, right?"
    Only after surging on my pull and hammering hard – to check if that guy/gal behind me is still there (they always are, dunno why I look). ;-)

  40. Comment by Angie | 12.20.2010 | 3:32 pm

    Hi Elden,
    I’ve been reading your archives trying to catch up. I’ve been at it for months now. I thought I would start commenting when I reach the current time, but at the rate I’m going, that will take me years. So, hello! I love you blog. One of the things I love is that you talk about things that I’ve always thought about but never verbalized…. like my shadow. I too check out my shadow every chance I get. I especially like when I am on my mt bike and I corner tightly, leaning the bike, and find that I look like a down hill rider laying the bike down! Well, sort of like that…


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