So You Want to Be a Mountain Biker?

02.11.2008 | 8:37 am

A Note from Fatty: I’ve got a new article up at today. You can read an excerpt below, or click here to go to BikeRadar and read the whole thing.

As a road cyclist, you have no doubt asked yourself, from time to time, the following question:

“What would happen if I road my bike offroad?”

Well, the answer is quite simple. If you took your bike offroad, your brainpan would be shaken loose and your tires would explode, right before your rims crumpled in a heap.

But that may not have been the question you meant to ask. Maybe you meant to ask, “What would it be like to ride a mountain bike on these trails I sometimes see intersecting the pavement? Would it really be that much different?”

Yes, it would be different. Here are seven key tips and tricks to help you prepare for your grand offroad cycling transformation.

1. You must get a tattoo. Before you even begin thinking about shopping for a mountain bike, let alone taking your first mountain bike ride, you must get a rad tattoo. It’s the law. There are actual mountain bike police out monitoring the trails, and they are liable to ask you if you have a tattoo. If you don’t, they are authorized to give you one — of their choosing — on the spot.

Now, I’m certain that you are thinking, right this moment, “I’m pretty sure I saw a mountain biker without a tattoo, once.” I assure you: that mountain biker had a tattoo. It was just more discretely placed than most, probably because that biker still lives at home and is afraid his mom will find out.

So the question is, what should your tattoo be? Well, the mountain biking bylaws stipulate that a chainring must be one of the graphical elements, a mystical Asian glyph must be included, and there must be a whimsical third symbol: wings, a skull-and-crossbones, or a cloud are all good examples. I recommend a yin-yang symbol inside a chainring, peeking out from behind a cloud, as if it were the sun.

Feel free to make up your own story as to what this means.

Click here to continue reading “So You Want to Read a Mountain Biker?” at


  1. Comment by Don ( | 02.11.2008 | 8:48 am

    That was stellar man! I like the tattoo comment. It was all hysterical, but I got a kick out of that. Actually I stand corrected, the sketch part was funnier. Or the distance/time one. Great post Fatty! Can’t wait to get a MTB and the grips and hit the road! Er… trail.

  2. Comment by Bluenoser | 02.11.2008 | 9:09 am

    Where is the how to clean your keyboard blog? Good one Fatty. I went years on my road bike without injury. I lasted 2hrs on my mountain bike and ended up watching the entire TDF from bed.

  3. Comment by KanyonKris | 02.11.2008 | 9:12 am

    Sadly, that pretty much sums up mountain biking. And now I’m asking myself, “why do I do it?” Oh, yea, BECAUSE IT’S WAY FUN! Maybe there’s a more cerebral answer out there somewhere, but the fun is what keeps me coming back (no matter what BikeSnobNYC says).

    But I guess we all have our different definitions of fun as I still can’t get my head around Fatty’s favorite trail choice – downhill I can understand, but uphill?!?! :-)

  4. Comment by Bluenoser | 02.11.2008 | 9:12 am

    Do scars in the shape of bike parts count as a tattoo credit?

  5. Comment by steve | 02.11.2008 | 9:16 am

    Excellent Fatty!
    Don’t forget the need to carry at least 3 litres of water and enough chewy bars to feed a battalion even on the shortest of rides.

  6. Comment by isela | 02.11.2008 | 9:22 am

    Awesome post!

  7. Comment by je | 02.11.2008 | 9:58 am

    I thought it was the capri-wearing fixed gear crowd that required tattoos.

  8. Comment by Bob | 02.11.2008 | 10:04 am

    Excellent article and too true.
    I guess I’m a real mountain biker. I’m 36 years old. I have multiple tattoos. I ride a 26” dual suspension, “freeride” bike. I only wear bagging shorts and a skater helmet and I never, ever, ever shave my legs. Finally, my wife told me she was going to have “He thought he could make it” etched on my tombstone. I’m either homophobic, have peter pan syndrome or I’m a mountain biker.

    You have a great site going there, Fatty. I found it the other day and I’ve spent all day at work reading archives. By the way, my boss wants to speak with you about the drop of in production.

  9. Comment by Mia | 02.11.2008 | 10:11 am

    Fabulous post! I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.

    And drink beer. Definitely, drink more beer. Helps you forget how many times you endo’d.

  10. Comment by Clydesteve | 02.11.2008 | 10:23 am

    Fatty, When you said: ““What would happen if I road my bike offroad?”“, I think you meant:

    “What if I rowed my bike offrode?”

    Just trying to be helpful.

    Funny post, BTW.


  11. Comment by DaveB | 02.11.2008 | 10:37 am

    I claim to be a mountain biker (hiding that thing with curly handle bars in the garage) and I don’t have a tattoo – do I need to get something ‘tribal’ urgently?

  12. Comment by Boz | 02.11.2008 | 10:48 am

    So, Fatty, what ink do you have besides a chain ring calf shark ? We’d like to know.

  13. Comment by Boz | 02.11.2008 | 10:48 am

    I meant calve.

  14. Comment by axel | 02.11.2008 | 10:55 am

    I think the exact rule is:
    you have to get a tattoo once the wounds from your last mountain biking injury are fully healed. Based on a string of many minor incidents I have been able to put off the tattoo for the last 15 years.

  15. Comment by buckythedonkey | 02.11.2008 | 11:29 am


    By the way, the March 2008 issue of What Mountain Bike features a visit to Cwm Carn in Wales. In about 6 pictures there’s a bloke wearing a pink FC jersey!


  16. Comment by Mike Roadie | 02.11.2008 | 12:01 pm

    If I become a mountain biker, can I at least transfer my training wheels from my roadie to my MTB??

    At least I know I am going to like the beer drinking part!!

  17. Comment by Mike Roadie | 02.11.2008 | 12:02 pm

    That’s funny…..I just noticed the jumping girls purely posed picture at the top of the page!!!!

  18. Comment by sedrik | 02.11.2008 | 12:26 pm

    check out this tat…

    pretty bloody awesome if you ask me, and more than just the standard chain ring with dolphin and chinese kanji characters.

  19. Comment by Al Maviva | 02.11.2008 | 12:46 pm

    It isn’t a typo. Everybody knows “road your roadbike offroad” refers to cyclocross, a condition apparent by the rider’s vomiting of stomach and lungs out of the mouth, similar to an invertebrate eating krill. The only problem being you aren’t an invertebrate so it’s kinda painful. The only known treatment is to tip your head back, and pile Belgian beer atop the mess. The weight of the beer will force your stomach back in and down where it belongs. Once it’s there, you need to drink more Belgian beer to keep it weighed down and in place.

    Dave B – “keeping that thing with handlebars in the garage”? That’s no way to refer to your mother in-law, even if she is Chewbacca’s older, less articulate sister. Try to find some more flattering way of describing her, without insulting her primary attributes, such as “formidable she-demon with impressive Edwardian-era facial hair.” Trust me, she’ll like it, the other wookies’ll like it.

  20. Comment by Tim D | 02.11.2008 | 1:36 pm

    Bucky, I’ve ridden Cwm Carn in my pink FC shirt several times. I don’t remember anyone photographing me though and the last few times in the dark, so its probably not me. How many FC shirts are there in the UK?

  21. Comment by Duane | 02.11.2008 | 2:48 pm

    Hitting a squirrel on a road bike – potential catastrophic injury (for rider)
    Hitting squirrel on Fisher 29er: What squirrel?

    Squirrel is screwed either way.

  22. Comment by Triflefat | 02.11.2008 | 3:25 pm

    Two thoughts from a recent convert to Fatty’s world view.
    The mystique that surrounded mountain bikes for me has just been lifted my Fatty’s masterful explanation. Now it’s just a mist, or are those tears of laughter?.

    Also, not too sure about that “rowed” “road” “rode” thing, but there was a real typo cunningly provided by our getting-less-chubby wordsmith. Given his command of the language, there must have been a reason for “discretely” being where “discreetly” should have been. Could I be eligible for free stuff by picking this up?

  23. Comment by Dobovedo | 02.11.2008 | 3:43 pm

    I have never for one moment considered riding a mountain bike. Now that I have read this, I still have never, for one moment, considered riding a mountain bike.

    I have, however, now thoroughly considered NOT riding a mountain bike. he saw that it was bad, said that it was bad, and it was… bad.

    And if we are going to be eligible for free stuff by picking up typos, I’ll take credit for: “If, on the other hand, you’ve gone on a three-hour mountain bike ride, you may not get out of site of the trailhead”

    That would be “out of sight(as in vision) of the trailhead” (as in site).

  24. Comment by MonsieurM | 02.11.2008 | 4:38 pm

    Whole new equipment and bike while I have barely enough space for my existing stuff? Freak injuries? Falling face first in the mud? Nasty creatures?

    Wow, I really do need to try this.

  25. Comment by Big Mike the Bike Rider | 02.11.2008 | 5:16 pm

    Hmmm…Absolutely spot-on Fatty!
    Here’s a few more:
    • You need to start working-out on your upper body: After riding MTB for a few miles most of the major muscle groups above your groin will be screaming in pain. Those arms that got in the way of road riding will now feel as if they are made on depleted Uranium and your shoulders and back will burn as if they were being combed with a thousand rusty needles.
    • Did I mention the cuts, scrapes and other assorted nasties you will endure while MTB? They are considered a badge of courage and should be displayed proudly.
    • You will eat a variety of winged and crawling insects; especially that mid-summer delicacy, the gnat. Bon Appetite!
    • Climbs will not be 1.5 miles long at 6% grade; they will be 50 feet at 19% and covered with mud, rocks and tree stumps.
    • Remember, Ticks are your friend
    • You actually look for puddles and mud as opposed to riding around them.
    • You don’t get dropped, you get lost.
    Have fun!

  26. Comment by DougG. | 02.11.2008 | 5:16 pm

    Hey Fatty, Good post, especially the part about the different bikes, 26″,29″, fixed gear..ect..ect..
    I’m a ex-roadie who strickly mountain bikes now. As I get older I enjoy the challenged of the trails plus since I live on a gravel road my road bike tires always puncture.

  27. Comment by Debbie T | 02.11.2008 | 5:27 pm

    You asked for some info on Disneyland. Just ran across this web address >< for an online forum for planning Disney vacations; the site is supposed to give you advice on everything from budgeting to accommodations. Got it from Family Circle magazine, Feb 08. I haven’t tried it, and I have never taken my 10 kids (or 7 grandkids) to Disneyland, but maybe it will be a good source for you!

  28. Comment by Not a cyclist..... | 02.11.2008 | 6:02 pm

    I don’t think Fatty even wrote that column. Sounds nothing like his usual style. Or, perhaps he did compose this piece, mis-spellings and all, but having to write in a foreign language (British English as opposed to American English) caused a temporary case of brain fog?

  29. Comment by TIMK | 02.11.2008 | 6:33 pm

    With thanks to Triflefat and those that inspired the post I am now singing “Rowed” “Road” “Rode” your bike gently down the trail, merrily, merrily, merrily life is surely swell.
    Sing it on your next ride and sing it in proper rounds.

  30. Comment by Madisonian | 02.11.2008 | 7:04 pm

    Hm…makes me want to try serious mountain biking now. I think the hardest part for me would be picking out a tatoo; I’ve always wanted to get a flaming skull head with a rose and revolver crossed through it…but maybe flaming bunnies would be more intimidating…what do you guys think?

  31. Comment by DNAtsol | 02.11.2008 | 9:12 pm

    uh oh. My Bad! I’ve been MTBing single track for a while and have yet to get my Tat. However, since I’m not into the whole skull, ying-yang thing… I want a tat of my DNA fingerprint Much cooler that your standard “rock republic” cool. Also, at the risk of offending the deities that govern spills and endos on MTB rides. I think scars count as tats. And this weekend was a doozie for me! I figure by the end of the summer I’ll look like a cross between the swampthing and this guy (

    Heck, that wouldn’t be so bad either. This guy can RUN!! Think of the specialty limbs we could get fitted for as a cyclist! – sounds like a potential photoshop contest :).

  32. Comment by DNAtsol | 02.11.2008 | 9:37 pm

    OK I was joking on the prosthetic leg thing but I did a little searching and wadda ya know! A cyclist with a prosthetic foot and looking to optimize aerodynamics. How cool is that!

  33. Comment by buckythedonkey | 02.12.2008 | 12:21 am

    TimD: it could be you! LOL. Head t WH Smith and take a look at this month’s WMB (main headline “The Next Generation” and flick to page 146/147. WMB’s forum is one of those that Borged into BikeRadar, so maybe there’s a connection there.

    As for FC Jerseys in the UK, you have (at least) 1, I have 2. Any raise on 3?

    It’d be cool to figure out how many of these things three are around the globe.

  34. Comment by Boz | 02.12.2008 | 5:16 am

    Fatty, one more clarification – If I ride both road and MTB, do I only shave one leg? If so, which one?

  35. Comment by Tim D | 02.12.2008 | 1:11 pm

    Bucky, checked it out and its not me, sadly. Although I didn’t think it would be. Cwm Carn looks good in the daylight though. Are you anywhere near there? I am down in Bristol fairly regularly and get out as often as I can. We should have a FCUK group ride.

  36. Comment by | 02.12.2008 | 8:13 pm

    Fatty: Want to see a picture of your tattoo!

  37. Comment by Dobovedo | 02.13.2008 | 9:20 pm

    If you ride both road and MTB and only shave one leg, i think it should be the drivetrain side. Wouldn’t want anything to get in the way of a perfectly formed “natural” chainring tatoo (aka Cat 5 Tat)!

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  40. Comment by tattoodesign | 09.5.2008 | 12:33 pm

    I’ve been riding the loop for years, and that turn still sneaks up on me every time. Usually while my hands are off the bars and I’m zipping up my jersey.

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