Rush to Judgment

09.10.2007 | 9:05 pm

I’m going to let you in on a personal little secret. One I’ll bet you wouldn’t have guessed about me: I am not good at mixing and mingling with strangers. If I’m at a social gathering where I don’t know many people, I will hang out exactly long enough to make sure that the person / company that for some reason expects me to be there has noticed that I am in fact there, and then I’m gone.

You see, I’m lousy at small talk.

I know, that seems like a bizarre thing for a guy who, for about 2.5 years now, engages in what amounts to electronic small talk on a pretty much daily basis.

But that’s because we’re talking about bikes. I can talk about bikes all day, day after day, with anyone who’s also interested in bikes. Doesn’t matter if they’re interested in road bikes, mountain bikes, track bikes, BMX, downhill, endurance, cross-country, cyclocross, building bikes, restoring bikes, racing bikes, touring with bikes, or some other thing about bikes. If you’re interested in bikes, I’m genuinely interested in your story, and maybe have a story you’ll enjoy, too.

So, armed with that knowledge, I always look forward to meeting other cyclists when I’m riding. Almost certainly, we’ve got stuff to talk about, and we’re going to get along great.

There are, however, exceptions.

Hello, Rabbit
A few days ago, I was riding my bike to work — I had my Banjo Brothers Commuter Backpack on, loaded up with my computer, lunch, and a change of clothes. This pack’s comfortable and holds everything I need, but loaded up this way, it’s certainly not light.

As many of you know, I’ve got a good-sized climb as part of my 20 mile commute to work: the South side of Suncrest — a four mile ascent with 1300 feet of altitude gained. I had planned on just kind of churning my way up in my granny — no special need to set a PR today.

And then I saw the guy up ahead.

You probably play the same game I play: “Close the Gap.” You know, make a note of a point the person ahead of you passes and note the time, then see how long it takes for you to reach that point. When you do, note another point the person passes and see how long it takes for you to reach that point.

The point of the game being, of course, to reduce the amount of time between each measurement.

The first time check showed he was 1:40 ahead of me. The next one, I brought it down to 1:35. Not much of a change.

So I started pushing myself a bit.

By the next time check, I had brought the gap down to 1:20. Then 1:00, then 0:45.

By the time I got to within half a minute, I decided I no longer needed to measure gaps and should just concentrate on catching him.

And, in the middle of the penultimate pitch, I got close enough that I knew I would catch him.

I slowed down for a few seconds, taking time to note that he had shaved legs and an extremely expensive — and clean — bike. Which is to say, this was a person who takes his riding seriously.

I, for one, hate it when people pass me and say, “Hey, how’s it going?” It just sounds so condescending. When you say, “Hey, how’s it going?” you clearly actually mean, “Hey, look at me! I’m faster than you!”

OK, If I’m going to be honest with myself I guess I have to admit that when you pass another rider, no matter what you say, you actually mean, “Hey, look at me! I’m faster than you!”

Don’t try to tell me otherwise. We both know better.

So I pulled alongside him and said, “Man, killer hill, isn’t it?”

“Oh, this is side is nothing,” he said, in a condescending voice. “I’ve actually already climbed the other side this morning — it’s a much harder climb.”

Character Assessment
It’s remarkable, really, how much you can learn from a simple exchange like this. Here’s what I learned from his response:

  • He was mortified that he had just been caught.
  • He was even more mortified that he had just been caught by a guy with a large, full backpack.
  • He needed me to know that the only reason I had caught him was because this was his second big climb of the day. If he had been fresh, I would never have gotten close.
  • I would not ever willingly ride with this person. If you can’t give props to someone who, while wearing a pack, just caught you on a hard climb, you’re a dork. Seriously.

He then continued, saying, “Not many people are as crazy as me, getting up this early and doing this kind of a ride!” Which made me wonder:

  • Had he not noticed the 40 or so other people on bicycles I had noticed as we each climbed the same road this morning?
  • It was 75 degrees and brightly lit outside — maybe 7:30 in the morning. My guess is that 80% of the people in Utah who planned to ride that day were currently on their bikes. This dude was definitely not an outlier or showing any wacky amount of dedication by being on his bike right then.
  • Climbing both sides of Suncrest is hard, but not crazily hard. It takes just over an hour. Climbing to the top of the Alpine Loop is harder.
  • Apart from any number of sarcastic remarks I could think of related to the three observations above, what kind of response could he possibly have expected from me? Abject admiration, perhaps?

So, following the “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all . . . but blog about it later” rule, I just grunted — an aknowledgment that he could take however he liked.

The Winner!
Now we were at the beginning of the final pitch to the top of Suncrest. He stood up and took off, sprinting.

When you’ve got a twelve pound pack on your back, a standing climbing sprint just isn’t in the cards. So he gapped me, beating me to the top by about ten seconds.

Except he knows, deep in his heart of hearts, that some guy closed a nearly two minute gap on him in a twenty minute uphill, while wearing a big ol’ pack.

And I have a sneaking suspicion that this knowledge keeps him awake at nights.


  1. Comment by aussie kev | 09.10.2007 | 9:15 pm

    Only losers would try to outsprint somebody to the top of a climb if they where wearing a back pack. i blew up during a timetrial about plentysix years ago and got caught by somebody with mudgaurds, panniers, hairy legs and the thing i still remember……. a bell……. which he rang as he went past !!!!!!, i can still hear it.


  2. Comment by Dudley | 09.10.2007 | 9:22 pm

    It really only hurts to have someone pass when you’re trying to go all out yourself. When someone goes by then: ouch.

    Hope your shoulder is better.

  3. Comment by Surly Dave | 09.10.2007 | 9:52 pm

    Generally people who are being condescending are like this bloke: they have nothing to be condescending about.

    Like the bloke in the changeroom at work this morning. He sees me every morning, changing out of my cycling gear and says nothing. This morning I’d dropped a couple of tubulars on the bench and he says something like: “Oh, tubulars, you must be a cyclist.” With the emphasis on “cyclist” as if previously I was unworthy and now I’m in some kind of knowing elite with him. No dude, there’s no club we’re in together. Not even in your mind.

  4. Comment by Lins - Aust | 09.10.2007 | 10:16 pm

    I first came across your blog a couple of years ago via your fake news on Just now I opened the latest Form & Fitness Q&A section on CN and lo and behold the first question is about YOU!

    Your mate, Dan, (Stand up Dan and show everyone who you are. Thankyou Dan. You can be seated now.) has written about your climbing ability in absolutely glowing terms, you scalded cat you. There is, however, a however to this. Better hop over and read it.

    (Go the Wallabies – Rugby World Cup is on)

  5. Comment by Weean | 09.10.2007 | 11:06 pm

    With your shoulder and all, isn’t it time you thought about panniers (I believe Banjo Bros make a nice set)?

    Also, now I’m not as fast as I once was, whenever someone passes me on a climb wearing trainers (I think you call them sneakers), I can console myself that this crappy bike with panniers (which doesn’t have any eyelets, and which I used to race) is the real reason I’m being passed, not because I’m truly slow.

  6. Comment by Bones | 09.10.2007 | 11:25 pm

    No, it really hurts when someone old enough to be your father passes you rapidly in a friendly fashion when you’re hammering your hardest up the steepest hill you MAY be able to finish if you are lucky!
    Very brief conversations with strangers are prone to misunderstanding, but I gotta agree, this guy sounds like a creep.

  7. Comment by Tim D | 09.11.2007 | 12:26 am

    Being an anti-social type, I don’t really play the rabbit game. What I do do is try and work out our relative speeds. If we are similar, I ease up slightly. If I am much faster, I speed up and blow by as quickly as possible. Anything really to avoid a conversation. If, due to carelessness or tiredness, it looks like I might end up cycling with a stranger, I will fake a mechanical. This also has its risks. What if the other person stops to help?

    Cycling can be such hard work.

  8. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 09.11.2007 | 12:55 am

    If you really wanted to rub his nose in it you should have responded with 3 facts…
    1. declare loud and proud that you are THE fat cyclist.
    2. comment that it’s too damn hot to be dragging a 30 pound (white lies are OK) backpack up this mountain.
    3. that you’re on the waiting list for a shoulder transplant.
    And then for good measure pop that sucker out right in front of him so he knows for sure that he’s been caught by a one armed, backpacked “fatcyclist”.

  9. Comment by Big Boned | 09.11.2007 | 2:34 am

    The only thing that rivals his hill sprint are those cyclists that jump in your draft as you pass, then sit there for miles, just to sprint ahead just before their turn. Does that REALLY convince them they could have been pulling the whole time?

  10. Comment by mocougfan | 09.11.2007 | 3:27 am

    “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all . . . but blog about it later”. Hillarious. Seriously, these kind of laughs are why I come to this site every morning.

    Although…. are you sure he wasn’t sprinting because he didn’t want to be seen with you and your superfly white sunglasses? Just checkin

  11. Comment by Boz | 09.11.2007 | 4:15 am

    I got passed the other day by an old dude on an upright hybrid with very noisy running gear, sneakers and a Walmart helmet. I almost stopped and threw my bike in the river and walked back home. Only it’s hard to walk 20 miles in stiff soled road shoes.

  12. Comment by Mrs. C. | 09.11.2007 | 4:16 am

    My second year as a serious cyclist, my husband, two sons, and I did the Bike Across Kansas ride. I, being the slowest rider in the family really did a Draft Across Kansas because I sucked my husband’s wheel the whole way.

    Bob (hubby) was pulling me up a long incline (they don’t have hills in Kansas, just inclines that go on for-freaking-ever,) anyway, he was kindly going a speed I could keep – slow – and an old man blew passed us and said to Bob, “Nice job young man.” I almost fell off my bike because I was laughing so hard. It was the best moment of the trip. Bob getting dropped by a really-old-yet-buff man who bashed him with his condescending little nice-job-young-man-who-I-am-leaving-in-my-dust! Priceless.

    Anyway, Fatty, that guy was a tool. I just loved the “not many people are as crazy as me” part of the story. He didn’t see the other people because he was obviously too busy gazing at his own splendor! Like I said, Tool!

  13. Comment by Mike Roadie | 09.11.2007 | 4:23 am

    I get passed on the big hills all the time—-you get used it after a while! Now, this isn’t painkillers talking, is it. Not the delusional ramblings of someone who has been sidelined by hitting the rocks shoulder first, right? I’m not sayin’……I’m just sayin’

    I read on Yahoo! today that since it is Sept. 11th, people have made today a special day of doing good deeds for others ( as a way of turning today’s remembrances into something positive for the community. We here at FC can all help out by donating to the sites that I and Clydesteve have set up in support of Susan and other friends and family for the upcoming Livestrong Challenges. He will post his, mine is:

    Steve is riding in Portland this month, and I will be in Austin next month for the Livestrong Challenge and the annual Ride for the Roses. So do something special today…..for Susan, for friends, for others, and in remembrance od Sept. 11!!!


    Thanks to all!!!!

  14. Comment by cheapie | 09.11.2007 | 4:32 am

    he’s not a tool for mentioning his prior climb, he’s a tool for the way he said it. if he had instead responded with, “yeah. this hill is a killer! thank God i didn’t have your pack when climbing the other side this morning! i don’t know how you do it!”

    that would be bragging, but graciously doing so.

  15. Comment by Rob | 09.11.2007 | 4:44 am

    Hhahaha! That knowledge will keep me amused all day long today while reminding me of my ride friday… Cheers for eating his face! :)

  16. Comment by art | 09.11.2007 | 4:50 am

    Sounds like the kind of guy who sprints against little kids with training wheels on the bike path.

  17. Comment by Born 4 Lycra | 09.11.2007 | 5:02 am

    See this sort of thing does not happen to me when climbing. Holding any form of conversation while pedalling upwards is near impossible as my mouth does not seem to work properly. If it did I would then be required to string some coherent words together necessitating some sort of output from the brain which altho untested I am also confident does not work in these conditions. The legs are only just managing to do what they are told and coordinating the breathing out to happen at the times I am not breathing in is a real challenge. In fact its quite possible that if I was able to make some sort of oral response it would be at a pitch only dogs could hear. Sad but true.

  18. Comment by eunicesara | 09.11.2007 | 5:20 am

    Just think how embarassed he’s going to be when he gets back to his hotel room, logs on, and finds out he just blew off FC! and now has a World Wide reputation as a full blown LOUT!

  19. Comment by Fast Eddie (a.k.a Tool) | 09.11.2007 | 5:26 am

    I feel I must defend myself here in the spirit of confronting one’s accusers. Had Elden, your so called “Fat Cyclist”, been a bit more genial and chatty, he would have learned a few things about me that make my comments and attitude not so much braggart-ish, but rather noble.

    You see, I recently lost a lot of weight (nearly three ounces after shaving my legs) and was proud to be doing so well. But wait, that’s not all. I lost my feet in a strange lawn-mower accident a few years ago and had chimpanzee feet transplants–finding shoes can be hard!

    And, that is only the beginning of the challenges I have faced to ride as swellingly well as I did that morning. I donated my lungs to those in need, my thumbs are actually the toes from my monkey feet (Yeah, I know chimps aren’t monkeys–poetic license, folks!), my bike is at least plentysix years old, a fixie (78 x uh, 2!) and, last year I lost my eyesight when accidentally blinded by a blinding sort of event.

    So, I in no means intended to offend, I was simply basking in the glow of my own supernal achievement.

    Fast Eddie

  20. Comment by John Daigle | 09.11.2007 | 5:32 am

    Argh! I just posted a really funny story about being passed by a former olympic pursuit cyclist on the track…

    The point of the story is that I was trying to stay clear with a 100 meter lead and 200 to go, but she was motorpacing and was into her burnoff. I’ve never been so emphatically passed by anyone. I thought this was pretty funny, but when I tried to share the joke, she thought (to my embarrassment) that I thought I could hang on her wheel.

    Which I couldn’t. On my best day. With my freshest legs. And the cumulative PED intake of the
    entire 1996 TDF peloton.

    The point being, even when you are trying to give props, you can end up looking like an asshole. So don’t say anything. You got passed or passed somebody, we all saw it, and that’s pretty much all that needs to be said about that.

  21. Comment by Rob R. | 09.11.2007 | 5:44 am

    The pseudo-race game you played catching him is just as pointless as when he sprinted by you.

  22. Comment by Big Bird | 09.11.2007 | 6:01 am

    So, what should you say when you pass someone on a climb? I feel condescending if I say hi, but I feel like a jerk if I say nothing.

  23. Comment by GenghisKhan | 09.11.2007 | 6:07 am

    I find the pseudo-race game to be a good way to motivate me to ride a bit better and get out of any slowness I may have fallen into due to whiny legs and otehr such annoying traps (we won’t go into the voices in the head here!). Still, a friendly hi or hello is always appropriate. After all, someone is always going to be faster or slower, but it doesn’t mean we can’t have good manners and be polite and friendly, right?

  24. Comment by JDannettel | 09.11.2007 | 6:09 am

    After reading this blog pretty much religiously for over two years and not being able to count the number of times that I have laughed to myself, today I realize that I would really enjoy going for a ride with you sometime. You would be a hoot. You would probably have to wait for me because I am just plain out of shape after the recent deployment to the Middle East but I would give it my all.

    Thanks for the great blog and the interesting stories. I will continue reading until you stop publishing…

  25. Comment by Fan of Susan | 09.11.2007 | 6:14 am

    Was he wearing something from Assos?

  26. Comment by GenghisKhan | 09.11.2007 | 6:15 am

    You are most welcome, Loyal Reader…

    Oh, wait, you probably meant Eldon, right? ;o)

  27. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 09.11.2007 | 6:28 am

    When I pass Elden on a big old climb, I don’t want him to feel bad, so I say “I’m feeling SUPERHUMAN today.”

    If I ever got passed on a climb, I’d just say “Zone 1″ as the person passed.

    Bob would offer them a piece of fried chicken.

    Kenny would mention the extra metal in his body that was slowing him down.

    Dug wouldn’t even realize anyone was passing becuase he’d be listening to his ipod.

    Maddox would strike-up a conversation and try to get some sort of business plan worked out for the guy.

    Superlage would tell them to watch out for El Chupecabra that has been known to inhabit this area and attack unsuspecting cyclists.

  28. Comment by Maggi | 09.11.2007 | 6:40 am

    I’m another rider who gets passed on the hills all the freaking time. But, I’m also the rider who posts distances that are four times those of my friends. So they all go a lot faster than me, but apparently they don’t get anywhere!

  29. Comment by Thom | 09.11.2007 | 6:44 am

    In this guy’s defense, it’s so easy to read bad intentions into the little things strangers say and do to you on a ride. Better to shrug it off and forget it. But then you wouldn’t have anything to write in the blog today. Hmmm…dilemma.

  30. Comment by Tom | 09.11.2007 | 7:00 am

    Ok – my post has nothing to do with Fatty’s blog from today (although I have to admit I did the ole “Nice day for a ride” comment as I passed four riders on Deer Creek Canyon and Highgrade this weekend :).

    Anyway – my wife and I are looking for some roadies/moutain bike riders to ride with in Denver. Of course I’ll say that we are both strong riders….if anyone out there on Fatty’s site lives in Denver and wants to do some “group” rides…give me a shout.

  31. Comment by fatty | 09.11.2007 | 7:03 am

    those who have wondered what the proper thing to say when passing somebody: I shall address that, fully, in the very near future. But probably not on this blog. i shall have an announcement regarding why quite soon.

  32. Comment by fatty | 09.11.2007 | 7:05 am

    rob r – i contend that the game of Close the Gap has two very important, non-pointless functions:

    1. it gives me a reason to push myself when i otherwise might not.
    2. it allows me to occasionally feel victorious, in spite of the fact that i never win anything.

  33. Comment by cheapie | 09.11.2007 | 7:12 am

    altho, there was that one time when you thought you won something. but it just turned out the the winner was WAY out in front.

    wait a minute! didn’t you just win a T.O.N. of stuff from the peeps that lost the challenge? you’ve got to do an entry just telling about all the swag you’ve gotten so far.

  34. Comment by PeteDMeat | 09.11.2007 | 7:48 am

    A few months ago they opened up a new trail not too far from my house. I went out with a handful of buddies as we sat through the opening speeches from various state reps and such. So we start going out and I pull a few passes and find myself at the front of the group and decide to start pushing myself.

    About ten minutes later I hit the worst boink of my life. I drop it into double granny and just start plugging, hoping that it’d be over soon.

    Eventually one of the reporters catches up to me on a wallybike and we have a brief conversation about how she hasnt ridden a bike in a few years and decided to try out the course since she had to be out to do the story.

    Worst ride ever.

  35. Comment by Caloi-Rider | 09.11.2007 | 7:52 am

    I just did a double-take on your first comment there, Fatty. Hmmm. I’m not even going to speculate.

    Sometimes I commute on my mountain bike (with semi-slicks) to work. Of course I don’t dress in full lycra road kit. I always get a little annoyed when I wave at some road rider as he passes the other direction and he doesn’t wave back. It’s like some sort of insecure elitist Pinarello-riding snobbery. Of course I mutter something like, “See you at the next time trial, buddy,” under my breath.

    It’s significant that female road cyclists always wave back—at least in this area.

  36. Comment by Kris | 09.11.2007 | 7:55 am

    Your title pegged it – rush to judgment. As humans we’re wired that way and it’s hard to suppress. Then add that cyclists tend to love what they do which gets the ego wrapped up in it. Add to that, if you are male, the testosterone factor and it’s amazing there isn’t more full-contact aggression in cycling. ;-)

    I try to be sociable when I encounter other cyclists in the brother/sisterhood. But it’s hard for me not to be a little grumpy when I get passed when I’m pushing the pace. I also can’t resist trying to catch a cyclist ahead of me – it’s like a big carrot dangling out there – I almost can’t stop myself. I try to be gracious, but I often say stupid things when someone comes up beside me and says “hi”, so I tend to cut others some slack for what they say in these brief encounters.

    Good topic – fun grist for the mill.

  37. Comment by GenghisKhan | 09.11.2007 | 8:03 am

    Maybe the dude was just ridin’ his ride (Perhaps his iPod started playin’ a little BM (Heeey, that’s not where Ima goin’)–you know, “get up, stand up, bike for your rights…”) and it had nothing to do with Fatty–not quite everything does! ;o)

  38. Comment by MTB W | 09.11.2007 | 8:03 am

    FC, you have me intrigued! What is up your sleeve, other than a bum shoulder? I guess I’ll have to stay tuned to the same bat channel for the big announcement.

  39. Pingback by » Links Of The Day: 11 September 2007 | 09.11.2007 | 8:05 am

    [...] Rush to Judgment [...]

  40. Comment by chtrich | 09.11.2007 | 8:11 am

    Fatty says “those who have wondered what the proper thing to say when passing somebody: I shall address that, fully, in the very near future. But probably not on this blog. i shall have an announcement regarding why quite soon.”
    Hmmm – changes are afoot perhaps??? The questions and wondering start…….we are left hanging endlessly.

  41. Comment by GenghisKhan | 09.11.2007 | 8:16 am

    I know, he’s shuttin’ down the blog and will be mailing out a daily newsletter, complete with SASE for replies and such. You know, it’s “Old Skool”… Kinda like riding a SS 29er (Doesn’t that sound very much like a BMX bike?!) ;o)

  42. Comment by sans auto | 09.11.2007 | 8:19 am

    There’s a weekly ride out in Astoria OR that I used to try and do. My Uncle told me about it. I show up the first week and got dropped real fast. I trained a few weeks and went back, thinking I was good enough to hang with them. I was wrong. Again I got dropped hard early on.
    I recounted this to my Uncle and he mentions that Mike, one of the regulars who leads the ride is an old friend of his… He just turned 60. I haven’t been back since.

  43. Comment by Al Maviva | 09.11.2007 | 8:23 am

    Interesting stuff. I generally hate passing anybody I don’t know on hills or anywhere else on my commute, because it inevitably triggers an acute attack of Commuter Asinine Racing un-Grokking would-be Hinault Syndrome – C-AAAARRGHs for short. On my actual 10 mile commute, I’m almost always either warming up or cooling down. I stick to my training plan and hate it when people screw with me (e.g. passing then slowing down) or try to draw me into impromptu races.

    If somebody sidles up to me on a hill I usually downshift and try to encourage them to pass and leave me alone. If they really bug me, I have a good hard dig, stay seated, whip out the cellphone, call a buddy and talk about the morning’s training while gesturing with the other hand, and basically make a show of crushing the other guy, or of at least climbing really fast without looking like it’s hard work. I don’t do this with any other roadracers because roadracers don’t screw with each other the way triathletes & commuters screw with each other, unless it’s a serious training ride – around here, unless they are doing intervals, most racers in that situation will recognize jerseys, slow down and have a chat, even if they’ve never met before.

    Anyway, I know what I do is AAAARRGGGGH baiting and it’s not pretty.

    My favorite AAAARRRGGGHHH baiting maneuver is to dole out a stiff Jenish Voigting. I usually only do this if I am supposed to be getting in some threshold or VO2max work, but a good stiff tempo pace works to drop most AAAARRRRGGGHHHs. This works best on flats or slightly uphill false flats. If a commuter starts bugging me and wheelsucking or trying to draw me into a duel, I’ll gradually ratchet up the speed. When he catches the wheel, I’ll start ratcheting up the speed a little more. Then when we get to a little up-and-down dip, or turn into a head or head-cross wind, I’ll turn up the speed a little more suddenly and open up a slight gap, enough to let him dangle about 6-8 feet off my wheel. For a fast AAARGH, we’re usually going at least 25-28 at this point, higher if the wind is favorable – though most AARGGHHs are drop-able at about 22-24. As he tries to bridge and regain the draft, I’ll match his pace. To do this non-obviously, you have to look down and study your chainline intently, like you’re looking for more gears. It will give the impression that you are suffering, but you can look back and just see the AAARRRGGHHH’s front wheel and keep him dangling at a constant distance. Then, if the AAARRGGHHH is still hanging, I make it tough and as soon as we get a good head or crosswind, I gutter the AARRGGHH. That is usually a pretty quick coup de grace. Most people, unless they’ve been training hard, can only keep this kind of pace up for about two minutes before they blow like an old steam engine, and turning them into the wind when they are already maxed out finishes them. After they blow – I always hear the heavy sigh – I keep on the gas for another minute or so (or if it’s interval day until the interval is over), then drop back to a nice zone 2 spin. This works really well on days where I’m supposed to be doing 5 minute intervals of one sort or another. Cruel, yes. But merited, too.

  44. Comment by KT | 09.11.2007 | 8:47 am

    Oh, my, that guy sounded like he was pretty full of himself.

    Good job catching him, though!

    I try to give friendly waves or “good mornings/afternoons” or whatever… that said, I too would rather ride alone than ride with strangers.

    However, catching people is always fun, as is passing– but I don’t try to be condescending about it to their faces (I save that for story-telling when I get home).

    So I’ll either hang back and pace– some people only appear to be going slow, then they pick it back up and I don’t want to be the one who passes and then gets passed…. or pace and then pass– when it appears that the person I’m following really is slower than me. I can usually tell by the first roller just down from the office if another rider is going to be slower than me.

    And what do you say when you pull up to the red light behind another cyclist?? Sigh. Social interactions are hard.

  45. Comment by fatty | 09.11.2007 | 8:50 am

    sorry everyone, i didn’t mean to be so mysterious. i’m not shutting down the blog. i just got a weekly humor column with a cycling publication. i didn’t / don’t want to say which one until the first installment comes out. why not? superstitious — i’ve had publishing arrangements go south before and it always seems to be when i pre-announce who i’ll be writing for.

    i will say this much: it’s probably not the cycling publication you think it is, but it is one where i approached them because i think they’re new, interesting, and open-minded about doing things a little bit differently.

  46. Comment by Clydesteve | 09.11.2007 | 8:52 am

    This edition of the blog is a crackup to me, as a fellow 20+ mile commuter who sometimes (ok always) sees a cyclist ahead as a potential pseudo-race victim. Al’s comments are priceless. You almost got ‘nose’ on me, Al! (I can really smell the coffee.)

    There used to be a community college instructor living near me who commuted to the CC near my work. We generally take different routes, so we would not meet up. But I have a work-mate from down the road who often commutes on the same route as this guy.

    One time my friend was doing his usual 19-20ish commute, and this guy starts closing on him. He picks up the pace a little, essentially starting a slower version of Al’s AARRGGHH-baiting move. Eventually this guy catches up and starts drafting JR, who is wishing he was not trying to maintain 23MPH as they get aquainted. Finally, the guy says, “Listen, I can’t pretend to keep this up, I am a 17MPH commuter, see ya!”. JR responds: “Whew! That’s a relief! – I’m a 19MPH commuter, but I am thinking 17MPH sounds good about now!”

    JR is so good with people – I would have blown my legs trying to keep up the pretense!


    Please support me and/or Mike Roadie in our LIVESTRONG Challenge rides with an encouraging donation in honor of Susan Nelson and others close to you who are in the fight of their lives against cancer. So far, generous folks, including a few FC readers have donated over $9000.00 toward my 100-mile ride, many of the donations publicly honoring Susan on my Fund Raising site:


  47. Comment by buckythedonkey | 09.11.2007 | 8:53 am

    Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, beats closing a long gap, excanging pleasantries, then drifting on past with FAT CYCLIST emblazoned on your arse. For those of us who can claim to be fat cyclists, these rare moments are to be savoured.

    On the other hand, imagine the guy a couple of minutes behind you. He’s doing what Fatty did: clawing the yards, shrinking the gap second by second. He gets close enough to estimate the gap visually. Oh yes, he’s closing. “Soon”, he thinks to himself, “I’ll be able to read the writing on that guy’s jersey!”.

    It must be so gutting. Team Fatty jersies rule!

  48. Comment by Big Boned | 09.11.2007 | 9:04 am


  49. Comment by Little1 | 09.11.2007 | 10:01 am

    ok this is a topic of interest to me, why, well because I’m 5ft 1, blonde little chick on a rigid Mtb riding a road race where the first 10km is uphill. Now it must be noted that this up hill is my bikes favourite, not mine, my bikes. It sings all the way up and not some rocking tune, no it sings the wheels on the bus (aaggghhh) and I have to keep cadence all the way up. Now what do I say, on the way up, to roadies on expensive carbon fibre etc etc bikes, I admit I’m cheeky, “sorry it’s not me, my bike won’t let me go any slower”

    (I have since gotten a road bike… but the blasted bikes have coluded and now the road bike also sings!!!!)

  50. Comment by Less Fat Mike | 09.11.2007 | 10:08 am

    I’ve always been one to chase the person up the road, mostly to my detriment. I just have to let og of the pride in my case. I’m a sprinter so bridging the gap is always an ordeal. I am polite if I manage to pass someone that didn’t see/hear me sneaking up on them and just say hi. If someone baits me and I still catch them (very rare), I don’t say anything as I pass because my heart rate is somewhere between 196 and 206 and fluids in my lungs are causing me to choke.

  51. Comment by Caloi-Rider | 09.11.2007 | 10:22 am

    Not to change the subject or anything, but Fatty, have you read the CN fitness Q&A lately?

  52. Comment by Boz | 09.11.2007 | 10:32 am

    So Dan Richardson thinks you’re ridiculous. I think, funny, witty, insightful, but not ridiculous. What say you, Iago ?

  53. Comment by Caloi-Rider | 09.11.2007 | 10:40 am

    Ha ha. I think it’s just great they actually answered the question. Maybe he has a point about your seat height, eh?

  54. Comment by mike | 09.11.2007 | 10:58 am

    I usually just give a polite wave. I’m usually so out of breath I couldn’t make small talk anyway.
    I do worry sometimes that it might look like I’m flipping off the person as I pass them.

  55. Comment by GenghisKhan | 09.11.2007 | 11:02 am

    Mike–how many fingers you wavin’ with? ;o)

  56. Comment by GenghisKhan | 09.11.2007 | 11:02 am

    Mike–how many fingers you wavin’ with? ;o)

  57. Comment by FliesOnly | 09.11.2007 | 11:27 am

    Most of the time when/if I pass someone on a climb I either say nothing, or just a quick “hey” as I go by. I also try to make it look as if I’m working my fanny off (and I often am…but even when I’m not) so as to not make them feel too bad about getting passed by a middle-aged man with way more hair on his legs than on the top of his head.

    But I am more than just a bit curious as to what the proper etiquette is when passing someone on a climb. I await you answer.

  58. Comment by Marrock | 09.11.2007 | 12:06 pm

    There’s a couple people in the area where I live that try got go the whole route, you know, silly shorts, ugly jerseys, uncomfortable shoes, and even the funny little caps… and they don’t like me.

    I think it has something to do with chasing them up and down the hills between my home and town with my frankenbike pulling a BoB trailer overloaded with groceries while wearing a backpack.

    Passing isn’t really an issue but they’ve yet to lose sight of me on the way.

    Granted I’m huffing and puffing like a busted pipe organ by the time I get home, it’s worth it for the looks on their faces.

  59. Comment by GenghisKhan | 09.11.2007 | 12:20 pm

    Go Marrock!

  60. Comment by Jef | 09.11.2007 | 12:43 pm

    I enjoy reading the FC and the comments give insight into what others are thinking as they ride. Thank you all.

    Hill climbing is never going to be my forte and I’ll get passed more often than do the passing. When I do pass someone it is almost always some one who started the climb behind me and passed me going all out on the lower levels. I must admit to smirking a bit when this happens. Getting to the top and having energy enough to power over the summit is a satisfaction that I find hard to beat especially when the hammerhead I just caught is aware that an old coot just went by and is not even breathing hard.

  61. Comment by Willie Nelson | 09.11.2007 | 12:47 pm

    I hope that guy doesn’t read your blog, well if he did, he doesn’t anymore.

  62. Comment by Jose | 09.11.2007 | 1:22 pm

    Hey FC, Yesterday I landed on my shoulder, and broke something there, still to be determined by the X-Rays. It hurts so bad. I have limited movement in my arm, and the doctor says that I shouldn’t be riding for awhile. The weird part is that after stopping my painful cry in the trail, instead of thinking about calling 911, the first thing that came to my mind was Kenny’s accident and the ambulance fee. That’s why I rode 5 miles back to my car and drove to my house where I almost passed out, all with one hand. I did not go to the hospital either; instead I went to the doctor this morning. Thanks for the tip; I did not know that a rescue could cost $1200. Your story saved me probably $1200 + the ER co-payment. What’s the problem with enduring a little pain and saving money?

  63. Comment by juancho | 09.11.2007 | 2:28 pm

    And what you say about him says a whole lot about you, but that is another blog post isn’t it?

  64. Comment by | 09.11.2007 | 2:36 pm

    OK, first off… have you noticed that you used “penultimate”? Did you? Alright then, just checking. If we ever do meet, I will greet you with exuberance, and possibly offer gifts. Your superlative vocabulary is astounding. Anyway, you are clearly in the right on this one. I mean seriously, it’s like taking pride in beating a five year old for his Kool-Aid®. I would be torn between my feelings of never wanting to ride with this guy, and wanting to take a serious ride, sans the pack and open a can-o-whoopâ„¢ on him. But, alas, you are probably a better man.
    Also: I really need to take a month long to Utah, Colorado, and Arizona to ride. Don’t I?

  65. Comment by lmouse | 09.11.2007 | 3:53 pm

    This must be a guy thing. When people pass me, I generally just say Howdy-do. If I pass them, I just comment on what a nice day it is for a ride. What’s the big deal? As for burning a lot of energy just to overtake an unknown rider up the road, well, to me, that’s just wasted effort. Am I missing something? It wouldn’t be the first time.

  66. Comment by Accident Prone | 09.11.2007 | 4:50 pm

    Nice one, Fan of Susan.

    So I had the dilemma this weekend of how to succinctly explain the Pink Lemonade jersey to others in a group ride, without sounding like a tool myself. It’s rather harder than it seems. Despite my excitement in spreading the news, judging by the “oh” response received, I’m failing to convey the wonderment that is Team Fatty. It really is a challenge to explain all of this in 20 seconds or less. But I do love being a moving billboard for something so cool.

  67. Comment by sometime reader | 09.11.2007 | 5:05 pm

    When I pass people on my commute, I usually say, “on your left!” (as nicely as I can.) I don’t generally make small-talk unless they initiate it. Dunno if that’s a city thing or just a me thing…

    I don’t typically try to catch other people when I’m riding, but if I’m riding faster, well, then, I am… I do get a kick out of it when I pass some lycra-clad, expensive-bike-riding guy on my 25-y.o. steel frame commuter bike with a straight bar, because I know it just KILLED them to get passed by a girl! On a cheap bike! Ha!

  68. Comment by thejerry | 09.11.2007 | 5:28 pm

    I’ve got a question for Al Maviva. Why is it so disagreeable to have a wheelsucker hang with you? Can’t we be on the same team?

    I have a very short commute and usually just hope to arrive home without too much sweat. But my commute home is on a well traveled bike path and inevitably I find a cyclist in the full team kit cruising by and can’t resist “jumping on the train” to see if I can get home a couple minutes faster. Inevitably I figure out we’re not on the same team as he “pulls an Al”, and I find myself going 25 mph to not get dropped. I’m not trying to race or challenge the rider, I’ve got a backpack and jeans on, we both know who will win. Instead, I see it more as respecting him, by trying to ride in his shadow. I wish I could use some of that slipstream that would otherwise be wasted without somehow upsetting it’s owner. Maybe I’ll just have to break down and converse with one of them some day. It seemed to work really well for fatty. Or does someone have a better suggestion?

  69. Comment by Al Maviva | 09.11.2007 | 6:20 pm

    thejerry – I have no problem with it. It’s the sidlers that bug me. Remember that Seinfeld episode with “the sidler” who just sidled up to people and creeped them out? It’s like that. If you say, ‘hey, want to work together” or “mind if I sit in / pull through” I’m more than cool with it. I actually like the company, my commute is usually a combination of boring and easy, and given that it’s uphill in one direction, I usually have to take it real easy to keep it a recovery / cool down ride, so I don’t mind a relaxed paceline to keep the power output down but the speed up. Yet too many people just hop on and wheelsuck, and their lack of common courtesy and bike etiquette makes me question their riding skills. Road cycling is called “a discipline” for a reason. If they don’t know enough to have basic bike etiquette, what else don’t they know? Do they know enough to look over my shoulder up the road and not at my rear wheel? If they pull through, do they know enough to call out obstacles, to not stop pedaling suddenly or not to “throw” their bike backwards as they stand up? You never know when somebody will do something dumb, but I figure if they know the manners and a couple correct terms (pull through, sit in) that they should be presumed competent. Moral of the story: ask before you wheelsuck. That’s all.

    Sometime Reader, you should take up racing, really. It sounds like you have the makings of a world champion, with the way you tear the legs off guys on nice bikes while you’re commuting.

  70. Comment by Gordon in Melbourne | 09.11.2007 | 7:03 pm

    Love the website, have been reading it for years and this is my first contribution.

    This story reminds me of a mate I was riding with up a nearby hill one day. He had a great tactic to leave me on the hill. On the first part of it he was able to start telling a tale and timed it so that the punchline was delivered just before the last steep section.

    I was listenining intently to his story (becasue I could hardly speak due to exhaustion) and the fact that the “punchline” involved a work junket and a stick on tattoo (of the company he was working for) that he placed on his unmentionable to exhibit to his bosses and various female models in order to win a prize left me practically falling off my bike.

    He beat me to the top but did it with much more finesse than the guy you caught.

  71. Comment by Jimmy in Jackson | 09.11.2007 | 7:45 pm

    I think I may have one potential solution for what to say when passing. You can move to the fattest state in the Union (Mississippi) where the only other cyclist you will ever see will be your children that are taking the six mile ride to school with you. A side benefit is that all of the car drivers that drop there kids off hail you as a god of fitness even though it takes you 30 minutes to make the six miles. I blame some of it on the tandem and the 9 year old stoker but time is about the same when I bring the bike empty for the afternoon pickup.

    The real insult is when the rider who drops you is your 12 year old son who just finished cross country practice. At least I know what to say then, “you ‘re grounded”.

  72. Comment by Jimmy in Jackson | 09.11.2007 | 7:53 pm

    My real point is if you have others to say good morning to you are blessed. At least you can play catch up games and maybe have a friendly interaction. Some of us do not have that opportunity. There are of course cyclist in our great state but not too many on the south side of town and off the bike paths.
    Count your blessings and I hope you can enjoy the company

  73. Comment by Ricky | 09.11.2007 | 8:54 pm

    It’s always good to have a carrot out there when we’re riding. I sometimes think that it’s easier for the person chasing to push than the person off the front. In this case, slick was not part of the ride. He was simply an object that helped you shift the pain of the double-digit Suncrest climb from your body to your mind. His comments and actions were totally unnecessary but probably helped him feel better about himself after getting gobbled up like that.

    Once, on the same climb, I chased down a decked-out rider on a sweet bike. “Hey, how’s it going?” I said as I passed him. He replied, “Yeah, have to keep it under 135 today,” which I interpreted as, “Hey, I look fast but ride slow and feel pressure to offer lame excuses for my slowness.” I said, “Me too,” and dropped him on a matter of principle. Same champ?

  74. Comment by Orbea Girl | 09.12.2007 | 3:47 am

    FC: Will your article address cultural differences? For example, French cyclists (male) regard passing wonen on the road as yet another opportunity for flirtatious banter, as do Italians. This has never happened to me in UK, Germany, Holland, Switzerland or Austria. What about overtaking a motorised wheelchair? Can one take points from this, or only if they attempt to wheelsuck.

  75. Comment by mark | 09.12.2007 | 5:54 am

    Once during a century ride I was chatting with a well-traveled older gentleman when a slick roadie came charging up on us from behind. Just as the kid drew even with us, the old guy turned and hollered, “Late start?” right in the kid’s ear. Ha.

    On the day a middle-aged friend of mine first tried commuting by bicycle, he was climbing a steep hill when a roadie passed him and startled the crap out of him with a loud, rude, “Watch your line!” (I never wished thorns and nails upon another rider’s path until I heard that story.)

  76. Comment by Marrock | 09.12.2007 | 7:24 am

    Some folks need to be made aware that talking trash to some cyclists isn’t the best of ideas.

    Some of us carry things like chains and padlocks, as for myself I have seven feet of Kryptonite cable in the bag on my front rack, well within easy reach if needed.

  77. Comment by KT | 09.12.2007 | 8:29 am

    I forgot to mention, that if by some strange chance I actually pass someone going up a hill, I’ll give them encouragement: “Almost there!” “Doing great!” “Keep it up!” etc. Since I’m not passing very quickly, it’s generally well-received.

    I know that I appreciate some encouragement when I’m huffing and puffing and pedaling for all I’m worth getting up a hill.

  78. Comment by Joshua | 09.12.2007 | 9:02 am

    In 2003 I did a loaded tour from Astoria, OR to Boston. We timed it so that we could participate in RAGBRAI, the bike ride across Iowa that’s a 10,000 cyclist party moving across the state.

    By the time we got to RAGBRAI, we had been on our loaded touring bicycles 5-8 hours/day for nearly 7 weeks. I took great secret pride in powering up the rolling hills of southern Iowa on my fully loaded touring bicycle while passing lots of out of shape young and old riders on their expensive looking road bikes. Of course, I got blown out of the water by plenty of other cyclists as well.

    On a giant tour like that, it’s kind of nice because there are so many people that you don’t have to worry what to say when you pass someone or get passed.

  79. Comment by mocougfan | 09.12.2007 | 9:06 am

    A short while ago I rode in the Alpine Gauntlet with Fatty and others. I of course was dropped quickly on the first climb. I was methodically moving my way up the hill when a spry, cute, athletic (add more adjectives) young lady passed me on the climb. She slowed for a bit and told me she liked my jersey and that I wasn’t fat. She was very nice. I held her wheel through great determination for about 30-35 seconds before she dropped me as well. Elden later said he knew her and expected her (Lisa perhaps?). She showed the great way to pass when your not passing a lot of people. Just be polite. Although I was a bit miffed that I was too out of shape to keep up with anyone.

  80. Comment by thejerry | 09.12.2007 | 12:46 pm

    Thanks Al. You make a good point, and Seinfeld speaks to my heart. I’ll have to give it a try. I suspect and hope that most will be friendly and will team up, but it seems that even fatty meets some who are on a different team so I guess I won’t be too surprised if I’m still chasing.

  81. Comment by Boz | 09.12.2007 | 1:28 pm

    How about when you catch and pass someone shout “Winner, winner, chicken dinner” . Now that would be cool.

  82. Comment by sometime reader | 09.12.2007 | 4:42 pm

    Whoa Al – I never claimed world-class fitness! I’m just a commuter. I can’t pass the guys who actually ride their bikes regularly, I can only pass the unfit ones who think they can buy their way in.

  83. Comment by Chubby | 09.13.2007 | 7:25 pm

    I used to get cranky when folks didn’t return my hellos, until one day I was pushing myself into the red when I realized I’d passed someone (headed the other way, that is) without really registering he was there.

    Then I started cutting other people some slack…

    As for passing people going the same direction… I’ve never really had to confront that problem. Ahem.

  84. Comment by AMG in Texas | 09.17.2007 | 11:39 am

    OMG, I am so slow that it takes me 7 days to respond to this blog! And I thought that I was quick with at least the computer!! My excuse for being slow to post is that I was in Aruba:-)

    I have only passed 2 people on my bike…. one was a roadie who blew past me and then had a flat and the other one was a jogger. I was so out of breath both times that all I could do is a Robbie McEwan and keep on going!!!

    Fatty is far funner than I am. Too bad Al was not as snarky in this post than he normally is.

    Go team Fatty!!!

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