How to be Popular, Part II: How to Behave

01.16.2008 | 9:56 pm

If you were to meet me in person on a road or trail, a number of things would immediately occur to you:

  1. I am extremely good-looking, and above average in height (provided we define “average” as 5′6″). I believe I have made this clear in yesterday’s post, so will not belabor the point, but I thought it was worth bringing up so as to prepare you. Otherwise, you’re likely to stare.
  2. I am constantly surrounded by people. Many of these people are celebrities, some are press. A few are friends. And one is my faithful Sherpa. Every single one of these people adores me.
  3. I always know the right thing to say, and the right thing to do. It’s eerie, really, how well-suited I am for the cycling experience.

It’s this third item — knowing how to behave while on a bike, that I intend to address today. I recommend you read, memorize, print, laminate, and always carry this with you.

Catching Up
It is a sad fact of life that not everybody on a bike ride is going to go at the same speed. Someone’s going to have to wait up, and someone’s going to have to catch up.

  • If you’re the person who is waiting up, it is your responsibility to not look like you have been waiting around for very long when the group arrives. They all know you’re faster than they are. Don’t rub it in. Please be aware that if you glance at your watch, ask questions like “Fixing a flat?” or are straddling your top tube, resting your forearms on your handlebars as people arrive, they have the legal right — nay, obligation — to punch you in the throat.
  • If you’re last person to arrive, you need to understand that you owe nobody an explanation. If you feel you must give an explanation, it had better be interesting. You should know, by the way, that any explanation that sounds like an excuse is an excuse, and is automatically not interesting. So, if you’re last to arrive, simply say, “Thanks for waiting up,” immediately followed by a comment on what a great road / trail this is. In short, nobody minds a slow guy. Everybody minds a sad-sack, hang-dog whiner.

Oh yes, I should also say one last thing on this matter: I am assured it is impolite to turn around, ride back to the group, and then ride back with them. This message has been conveyed to me through the medium of a punch in the throat.

Sometimes bikes break, which is why I always have my full-time pro mechanic ride with me. You, on the other hand, probably do not have mechanic on staff, so must fix your own bike. How sad for you.

As you repair your bike, you should first offer to take care of the problem on your own. “Go on ahead, I’ll catch up when I can” is the proper phrasing. If your riding group has any ethics at all, they will decline. If they take you up on that offer, that’s either a statement about you or the group, and it’s not my job to figure out which. I can’t do everything for you. Sheesh.

As you work on your bike, you should be careful to accept offers of help, but only if the offers of help come from competent people. Which is to say, not everyone who says they know how to true a wheel has the same technique in mind. I.e., one person may get out a spoke wrench, the other may get out a very large rock.

As you repair your bike, stay focused. Don’t be chatty; it’s not the time. If you start talking up a storm, your co-riders are permitted to observe that you may want to spend more time fixing and less time talking.

On the other hand, anyone standing around while a mechanical issue is permitted and encouraged to offer observations and advice. This advice does not need to be practical, helpful, nor even relevant to the situation. I, for example, like to offer the following observation when others are fixing their bikes: “This wouldn’t have happened if you had been riding with a song in your heart.”

If the person repairing the bike complains that they in fact did have a song in their heart, I like to first offer the advice that it’s clearly time to choose a new song, and then observe that they might get done fixing the bike a lot sooner if they’d focus on fixing their bike and not on whether or not they had a song in their heart.

Occasionally, you will fall off your bike and get hurt. There’s no getting around that fact. So the question is, when you fall and sustain a compound fracture to your femur, will you scream like an idiot, or will you be prepared with a witty, self-deprecating phrase that will diffuse the tenseness of the situation?

Of course, you want to be able to say something funny and interesting when you’re injured, but the fact is it’s not easy to come up with clever witticisms when you’re writhing in agony.

The solution? Think of what you’ll say when injured ahead of time. For example:

  • If you’re suffering waves of nausea due to blunt force trauma: “Hey, I think I’m going to barf. Can I borrow your helmet to catch it in?”
  • If you’ve sustained a large puncture wound due to a large-diameter impaling object: “Cool, I’ve been core-sampled! Now I’ll always know how old I am!” [Note: Use this line only if your co-riders are intelligent enough to intuit the connection between the large hole in you and the fact that a tree's age can be determined by being core sampled and having its rings counted.]
  • If you’ve sustained a concussion: “Darn! Now I can’t seem to remember where I’ve buried all the treasure!”
  • If you’ve sustained a compound fracture: “Before you ask, yes, that’s my femur poking out of my shorts, although I am also happy to see you.”

This is just a sample. There are lots of other injuries you can and will sustain as a cyclist, and I can assure you there is a clever quip that can be made for every single one of them, if you’re willing to apply yourself.

Wear a clean jersey and shorts, for pity’s sake. And for my sake. I’m begging you.

The Route
Of course you have a great idea of where the group ought to ride today. But sometimes the group will want to ride somewhere else. When this happens, you should pout and make observations at every opportunity about how you’d all be having a better time if you had gone on the ride you had in mind. Example: “We wouldn’t be riding into this headwind if we were riding the Wasatch Boulevard loop.” Your friends will love you for that.

You should be aware, however, that your friends may choose to express their newfound love of you through the medium of avoiding you and never inviting you on another ride.

There are many kinds of love, after all.

Giving Advice
When you ride with others, bear in mind this simple axiom:

“Every rider is allowed to give three pieces of unasked-for advice per lifetime.”

So make them count.

I, of course, am the obvious exception to that axiom.


  1. Comment by dug | 01.17.2008 | 11:25 am

    you’re on a roll clyde. magic.

    i regret that uses up my allotment of 3 compliments in my lifetime. sorry in advance.

  2. Comment by mark | 01.17.2008 | 11:39 am

    Is it OK to intentionally be the last on a climb because you know there are pro women riding intervals on the same hill and one of them is likely to give you a push?

  3. Comment by fatty | 01.17.2008 | 11:47 am

    no, mark. that’s not ok. cut it out before i contact the authorities.

  4. Comment by Boz | 01.17.2008 | 12:10 pm

    I still say a big sack full o’ money beats anything on your lists. Except for maybe cake.

  5. Comment by MOM | 01.17.2008 | 12:37 pm

    You ARE a funny boy. Always were. Anyone want to know about your antics as a kid?

  6. Comment by Al Maviva | 01.17.2008 | 12:50 pm

    People like me because I’m big into crash ettiquette, since I’m a bit of a crash monkey, it seems, as are my friends. When somebody else crashes, I’m the first one to chip in with a cheerful, “Hey, nice femur. Is that original?” or “Dude, that was a GREAT frickkin crash… bet that hurt lots, huh?” and, “you’ll be fine… but if it turns out you aren’t, can I have your Pegoretti?”

    When I go down, I usually tell people to leave me alone, to go eat a Clif Bar, and by the time they choke it down, I’ll be fine. Then I crawl off into the bushes, or a nearby ditch, wait for the bleeding and waves of nausea to pass, while I try hard not to let my tears fall into a puddle of my own blood. Most importantly, I always ride it out, no matter how bad the crash was, which has led to such fun comments as, “Hey, can you help me get my hand off the bars, I think it scabbed on, that or my fingers wont unbend,” “no, I feel great, just fine… hey, why are you looking at me like that?” and my legendary, “Oooh boyyy… I don’t feel so good… No, really. Not good at all. I *mean* it…”

  7. Comment by TIMK | 01.17.2008 | 12:52 pm

    The mechanicals part is spot on.

    I recognize that I am a chatty guy, so I pretty much insist, as John Wayne would, that my co-riders “go on without me” or kick me if I start talking during my flat change.

    And yes, Mom – we’d love to hear about his antics as a kid!

  8. Comment by Born 4 Lycra | 01.17.2008 | 1:13 pm

    I must be going through a phase as I am seeing innuendo everywhere. Yesterday it was the “in case you come across a boy scout” comment which made me think treating them like that is what probably causes them to light fires in the first place. Today Mark is riding at the back waiting for a push from a pro woman – suppose its better than a pull.
    Also I’m a big Al fan and was concerned yesterday when he said no one likes him and he likes noone. I was going to write and say I like him but I note today people do like him so now I feel good.
    In fact I feel real good. About 15 months ago I wrote asking for advice on how to tell the missus I had accidentally bought a new bike and got some good advice from people in Fat Cyclist Space. Yesterday I accidentally bought another one but this time Mrs Born 4 Lycra was with me. Brilliant. Only went in to get a couple of CO2’s came out with an Orbea Opal in Euskaltel colours – I swear they knew I was coming. They almost gave it to me ….. almost.
    Oh yes another brilliant effort Mr FC – it probably does not make me popular but when our leaders come back to check on how us L Rouges are going on a climb they invariably ask me if I am the last one which I invariably am and I invariably say no I think someone else is back there. I don’t check to see how far they go back down because I lose whatever forward upward momentum I have but I do enjoy it.

  9. Comment by MTB W | 01.17.2008 | 1:18 pm

    So, are you really, really, ridiculously good looking? The admiring public wants to know.

    Mom – absolutely!

  10. Comment by bikemike | 01.17.2008 | 1:18 pm

    how much (in monopoly money or cheez whiz) do you pay people to hang out with you?

  11. Comment by Stan | 01.17.2008 | 1:43 pm

    When I was younger, I always used to be the first to the top of every hill. Then I’d turn around and ride down to meet the group and then beat them to the top again. It was not intended as a polite move. Heh.

  12. Comment by Denise | 01.17.2008 | 1:43 pm

    Mom- I would LOVE to read about the antics of young Elden!

  13. Comment by Sprocketboy | 01.17.2008 | 1:45 pm

    Let’s hear Mom’s stories. After all, there are many kinds of love.

  14. Comment by Anonymous | 01.17.2008 | 1:52 pm

    Fatty, your mother has officially hijacked your comment thread. Kinda hard to use the banhammer on your own mom, eh?

  15. Comment by DP | 01.17.2008 | 1:57 pm

    I experienced the ultimate humiliation after being last. When I pulled up to the group, some were drinking water and eating, but a few were on the ground in a full nap. Embarrassing! I definitely got the impression they were waiting around for me for a while, a looooong while.

  16. Comment by cheapie | 01.17.2008 | 1:58 pm

    you’ve outdone yourself this time eldon. this stuff is as good as bill bryson’s “a walk in the woods.” if you’ve never read it, he’s got the same ability to make a person laugh out loud while reading as you do.

    i do need you to expound a bit on the waiting at the top etiquette….do the faster rider start riding again as soon as the slow guy gets there or does he allow the slower person to recover?

    that’s what i hated the most about riding with guys that were not as, ummm, aerodynamically challenged as i was when i started. i would stagger up a hill and they’d be like, “welp, you made it. let’s go.” and the cycle would continue.

    now, instead of letting them know i’m really anxious to get going, i’ll act like i’m enjoying the scenery when my slower friends finally crest the hill, covered in dirt and on the verge of puking.

  17. Comment by fatty | 01.17.2008 | 2:09 pm

    cheapie – fast riders are required to give the last rider three minutes of breathing time before starting again. if they don’t, the last rider is within his rights to make a sarcastic remark.

    mom – uh, how much do i have to pay you to NOT talk about when i was a kid? i’ve got an image to maintain here, and it’s taken years of therapy to get past my childhood. it would be a shame if all those sessions with the psychoanalyst wound up being undone because my mom decided to do the blog equivalent of showing my baby pictures to my prom date. not that i ever went to prom — too afraid of my mom showing my baby pictures to my date. evidently, that was sound judgment on my part.

  18. Comment by jsager | 01.17.2008 | 2:14 pm

    you used the word axiom

  19. Comment by Primal | 01.17.2008 | 2:22 pm

    I have been on both ends of the group ride. On a good day (these are far and few between and totally dependent on who is in the group on the day) I might be able to be the rider waiting for the group. As this happens very little I prefer to call getting dropped on a climb (please remember I’m 6’7” and not built for climbing) “Attacking out the back”. It works for a laugh with the group if you mention it just you’re losing the last wheel in the group. From then on it’s a lonely ride to the top.

  20. Comment by Clydesteve | 01.17.2008 | 2:39 pm

    Elden, there is something that has been bothering me since Part I — I really do not think you should store the quart of gasoline right next to the welding torch…

  21. Comment by Al Maviva | 01.17.2008 | 2:50 pm

    Born 4 Lycra – please, do not expect consistent statements from me. I think we’ve established that I’m a bit of a pinhead sometimes, albeit like the Grinch capable of gaining 3 whole heart sizes sometimes. Though Botched may prefer to think of me as merely suffering from microcephaly with periodic bouts of cardio hypertrophy.

  22. Comment by fatty | 01.17.2008 | 3:03 pm

    jsager – but you successfully italicized something in the comments section. i consider your feat the greater of the two.

  23. Comment by Mbonkers | 01.17.2008 | 3:25 pm

    “Uh, excuse me, but you seem to have some of my brain on your jersey. Could you scoop it up and put it back where it belongs? Much obliged.”

  24. Comment by eunicesara | 01.17.2008 | 3:30 pm

    I almost had the Eurythmics singing “would I ride for you?” out of my head, but you had to mention song.
    My “group” is two, sometimes three, kids whose ages added together still don’t equal mine. I’m really quite OKAY with the two boys racing off against each other, because they are polite enough to come back and suffer at my pace. For a while, at least.
    I’ve been reading the specs on the organized group rides here in the almost-flat-lands, and I’m going to get back to working on a steady 15mph when it’s warm enough.
    Not a wimp, I just get cold enough with barn chores and firing up the wood-stove. Cold is not my favorite flavor of ice cream unless it involves cross-country skis or ice skates.

  25. Comment by Clydesteve | 01.17.2008 | 3:39 pm

    “This wouldn’t have happened if you had been riding with a song in your heart.”

    Fatty -> Funny – You got nose on me!

    Al – Just went back and read your response from my snarky comment day before yesterday – about the cigs & thesauri, etc. You got nose, too!

  26. Comment by System6 | 01.17.2008 | 4:15 pm

    Last coming up the hill? When you get to the top only seconds back, ask if anyone remembered TP because you didn’t quite finish things back there. That’ll impress on several levels.

    Also, what’s the etiquette about watching a fellow rider go down and slide off the road into the woods; I mean, in what situations is it expected for you to stop and see if he’s alive? And what if this happens on a beautiful downhill and you really hate to lose the momentum?

    Is it okay to just yell “I’ll ride up and see if I can get help” and keep going?

    Finally, how do you cover up the fact you’re getting massive charley horses without sounding like a wimp?

  27. Comment by hobgoblin | 01.17.2008 | 4:25 pm

    I plan to use the song in your heart line a lot. Will that make my riding group love me even more?

  28. Comment by cheapie | 01.17.2008 | 4:38 pm

    i didn’t get dropped, i was just the only one not in the breakaway!

  29. Comment by Lifesgreat | 01.17.2008 | 4:48 pm

    I am ALWAYS in the back, except down the hills, where my size is a definite advantage. I don’t like being last, but my height and age guarantee I will never be in the front group while climbing. Being last is better than not being.

    My most common line as I arrive to the group is “Did you see (insert something that those going fast would miss)?” I truly see much more on a ride than my faster counterparts. We end up covering the same distance. My lack of speed allows me to see wildlife, natural features, people, etc. that others miss.

    BTW, what song should I have in my heart?

  30. Comment by KeepYerBag | 01.17.2008 | 5:19 pm

    Is it sweeps week? Some pretty funny stuff hitting the press here lately.

    Oh, wait, that’s right–it *is* sweeps week!

    Good Luck. I nominated you for “Best Kept Secret”, “Best Writing of a Weblog (which you should win every year)” and “Best Weblog That Emulates Those Magazines With Fifty Ways To Lose Weight On The Cover and One Hundred Recipes Inside”

  31. Comment by blinddrew | 01.17.2008 | 5:21 pm

    Surely the three-minutes-waiting-at-the-top thing is a variable? I mean, 3 minutes for every 100ft of vertical climb or something like that? Please?

    Though actually i’m well into schadenfreude territory at the moment, my friend (by far the fastest rider of our little bunch) came off and broke his ankle. In the car park at work. How we’ve laughed. And will keep laughing until our first ride when he’ll whip our sorry little asses again…

  32. Comment by jacquie phelan | 01.17.2008 | 5:30 pm

    I;m with cheapie: at least as funny as mr. Bryson and his damn walk in the woods, which of course was one laff after another.
    I”ll pour the tea and make apple quisp if you tell me some of those antix of lil’ el’s.
    Old Bat

  33. Comment by Mike Roadie | 01.17.2008 | 5:51 pm

    I ride last ONLY because I don’t want to have to turn my head around. That could result in a whole blog’s worth of injury stories!

  34. Comment by Uphill Battle | 01.17.2008 | 5:56 pm

    Mom, We definitely would love to hear about young Elden and his escapades!

  35. Pingback by | The RocBike Review » Links of the day: 17 January 2008 | 01.17.2008 | 6:04 pm

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  36. Comment by Bluenoser | 01.17.2008 | 6:41 pm

    Bicycling Magazine says that to ride back and offer a person dropped or struggling your wheel shows pure class. So which is it??

    Just curious.

  37. Comment by cheapie | 01.17.2008 | 8:07 pm

    blue, i think it depends on the dropped rider’s state of mine.

    if he’s [phil liggett]been put into difficulty[/phil liggett] but he’s still [paul sherwin]reaching into his suitcase of courage[/paul sherwin] then yeah, help him out.

    but if [phil liggett]he’s calling down to his engine room, but I’m afraid there’s no steam left[/phil liggett] then there’s not a lot you can do and you’ll only leave yourself stranded and forced to cross the void when he waves you on and tells you his legs [paul sherwin]are like sandbags to him. He wants to throw them out and float to victory.[/paul sherwin]

  38. Comment by cheapie | 01.17.2008 | 8:07 pm

    dang. that’s state of MIND.

  39. Comment by Dobovedo | 01.17.2008 | 8:53 pm

    “Fatty, your mother has officially hijacked your comment thread. Kinda hard to use the banhammer on your own mom, eh?”

    This would never happen on my blog. MY mom knows the rules. She’s welcome to read it, but if she ever comments, even once, she’ll be black listed. And yes, I would drop the banhammer on my own mom.

    It’s really hard to maintain an aura of supreme aloofness and spread fear and intimidation if everybody knows how much longer you had to have training wheels on your bike compared to the other kids.

    “Finally, how do you cover up the fact you’re getting massive charley horses without sounding like a wimp?”

    You finish the climb, at a personal best, beating people you’ve never beaten, fall sideways off your bike (don’t get off – FALL off), yell “MULTIPLE LEG CRAMPS! I need a triage unit, STAT!” and get the three people who DID beat you (one of whom cheated by not regrouping at the previous stop) to massage your legs for you, all the while congratulating all the other people you DID beat as they finish the climb.

    In this way, you accomplish three thing: You get medical attention from the winners who can’t trash talk you while they’re helping you, you get to whine without appearing a wimp because it’s obvious you just did something awesome, and get ‘how to behave’ points by congratulating the losers, who feel better because they know you gave 110 percent.

    They also congratulate you right back a) because they are in awe, and b) they know there’s no way in hell you’re ever going to beat them the rest of the trip.

    “Oh yeah, he’s done. He’ll never ride that well again.”

  40. Comment by randomhigh | 01.17.2008 | 10:06 pm

    “It’s just a flesh wound… how’s my bike?” – for when your femur is sticking out of your shorts.

  41. Comment by solidjack | 01.17.2008 | 11:00 pm

    I am probably the last one that has found this but I think this gadget idea is pretty freaking sweet:

    Think of the possibilities for carrying all the stuff fatty mention yesterday

  42. Comment by Tim D | 01.18.2008 | 12:51 am

    On the 25% climb from Threkeld to Blencathra lies the shallow grave of Derek. He climbed this formidable hill way ahead of the rest of the group, then cycled back down to see where we were, then, rather than get off and turn round on the very narrow road, he rode back to the bottom, where he could turn round without getting off, then rode back up and still beat us to the top.

  43. Comment by buckythedonkey | 01.18.2008 | 1:02 am

    Oh look, your favicon has changed into a a little orange and black horse. Nice! The site re-design must be near! HUZZAH!

    As for those who summit and circle back, please don’t. If you want to slow or wait and help pull a straggler (and this fat cyclist is often that straggler) that shows a laudable commitment to the group and is an offer that I will gratefully accept every time.

    However, if you’ve already reached the summit, kindly stay or I will use my superpower (hairy, mass-induced descents at speed, preferably in the wet) to chase you down wherupon I will exact disproportionate revenge.

  44. Comment by Bluenoser | 01.18.2008 | 2:15 am


    Thanks for clearing that up. I was hoping that (Bob Roll) maybe would have had some advice on what to do when the elastic snaps (Phil Liggett) but he doesn’t post to anything because he is too busy waving his hands in the air to type.


  45. Comment by Pammap | 01.18.2008 | 6:00 am

    Fatty, this post was killer! Thanks for the laugh.

    Mom, we not only want to hear the stories, we want to see the prom-date baby pics. Please.

  46. Comment by Al Maviva | 01.18.2008 | 6:44 am

    I was thinking about it Born4Lycra, and here’s the deal. My friends like me but they kinda dislike me too. I’m a major pain in the _ _ _ pretty often but as long as you’re not the victim of it, it’s kind of amusing. So they love me ‘cuz they can’t stand me. Does that sort of explain where I fit in the local peloton?

    Ps. Don’t hurt your head thinking about it.

  47. Comment by Dave | 01.18.2008 | 10:27 am

    So what happens if you race everyone to the top of a hill, turn around to ride back down to some newer riders you invited along, with the promise of the best cake in the world once they reach the top. But unknowingly pass them on the way down, while they ride up. So by the time you get back to the top everyone is gone except the two new guys who you invited.

    Is there any throat punching for making them wait for their cake?

  48. Comment by KT | 01.18.2008 | 11:11 am


    Cheapie, your use of famous commentators’ language made me snort coffee.

    Blue, great comeback. And you are correct, Bob has trouble typing because of the hand-waving. Is he Italian??

    Fatty, great post. Just exactly what I needed in my break from doing mass quantities of quarter and year-end payroll forms processing. My brain is now my own again instead of the mush it was 10 minutes ago.

  49. Comment by fatty | 01.18.2008 | 11:30 am

    dave – believe me, after that fiasco i already felt like i had been punched in the throat.

  50. Comment by mark | 01.18.2008 | 12:23 pm

    KT, speaking of Italian hand waving, I would love to see a Nintendo Wii program that could turn Italian sign language into text.

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  53. Pingback by Musings of a Modified Mummy » Blog Archive » It’s their fault, not mine! They swayed me with fancy words! | 08.28.2008 | 3:59 pm

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  54. Comment by Angie | 02.3.2011 | 1:46 pm

    Aw man, I really want to ride back the the slower ones in the group and then ride back up with them a second time. I want to keep moving! What’s wrong with that?


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