Online / Offline

08.27.2008 | 9:54 am

There’s a certain moment, usually sometime in May, that I never expect but always relish. I’ll start a ride, expecting to feel the way I always feel at the beginning of the season. Not weak, but not powerful either.

Just sorta kinda there, ya know?

But something has changed.

The investment I’ve made in my legs over the years — fifteen of them or so — plus the early-season riding, suddenly pays off.

And my legs go online. At least, that’s the term I have for it. You’ve probably got your own term for the same phenomenon. Or maybe there’s a standardized, common-knowledge term for it that I don’t know about because I missed that issue of Velonews.

Whatever you call it, it’s a great sensation. Suddenly, the climbs you’ve been struggling with don’t require struggle — or at least, the struggle feels good instead of like work. Your cadence smooths out. You find yourself with a new urge to test your legs and see what they’ll do.

And if you’re me, you give into that urge with no resistance. Training schedules can wait. Today, I’m going to celebrate that my legs have gone online.

Then, as the season wears on, I start taking that feeling for granted. Or maybe it just fades away. Either way, I forget about it until the next season.

Online Again
This year, though, was a little different, because my legs went online twice. The first time was at the beginning of the season, like usual. I honestly can’t remember where I was riding; I just remember the sensation.

But then, about a month before the Leadville 100, I turfed it. And then I was off my bike for a bit, then riding slowly, and then trying to ride back at my pre-wreck level and failing.

I could tell that I was slow. My legs just weren’t there.

Until about ten days before the race. I started a climb up the Alpine Loop, expecting another long conversation with myself about how I wasn’t sure I had it in me to do Columbine and the Powerline with my shoulder (and, secretly, legs) feeling as puny as they did.

Then my legs came back online.

The difference between how they felt — from one day to the next — was startling.

Back Offline
Since the race, I’ve avoided hard rides. I’m in the mood to ride for fun, and for nothing but fun. Plus, school’s started and the time I had been using for rides is now the time I get the kids up, dressed, fed, and out the door.

But then, last Friday, the belt drive for Kenny’s Spot singlespeed came in, and I joined him to see how it felt.

And there’s no such thing as an easy ride with Kenny.

Before I go on, though, here’s the proud papa (click the images for a closer look)…


…and his baby:


Kenny dragged me all over the Frank trail network, and I’m proud to say that I didn’t even remotely manage to even pretend to try to think about keeping up. Eventually, though, I got to what I like to think of as the top.

I. Was. Cooked.

“We’ve got just ten minutes or so of climbing, and then it’s a couple of hike-a-bikes, and then it’s all downhill,” said Kenny, perkily.

“I don’t want to climb anymore,” I said.

Kenny looked at me, uncomprehending. It’s as if I had started speaking Hebrew or something. Which I am quite sure I had not, what with my Hebrew being quite rusty.

How, I could see him thinking, because Kenny’s thoughts are always quite plainly visible, could anyone ever not want to climb?

It’s a foreign thought to Kenny, because his season never winds down. His legs are always online. Mine, on the other hand, have gone offline for the season.

So long, legs! See you again next year.

PS: I got a chance to ride Kenny’s bike with the belt drivetrain. I’ll talk about that tomorrow.


  1. Comment by fuzzy | 08.27.2008 | 10:08 am

    I know exactly what you mean Fatty. In my case it is the ride to work that provides my ’sweet’ and ‘borked’ indicators.
    I do 10 miles each way each and every work day, rain or shine, grim or fine. In ‘borked’ mode i average between 16 and 17.5 mph (the steed is a weighty aluminium framed 8 speed double road bike with rack and panniers). In sweet mode, the average is 18 to 19 mph with the odd foray towards 19.9 mph. This always seems to translate to my ‘fun’ or training rides.

    I’ve just dropped from ’sweet’ to ‘borked’.

    Interesting looking belt drive BTW.

    Luv n stuff from Fuzzy in the UK.

  2. Comment by Pete | 08.27.2008 | 10:20 am

    I’ve just started hitting my “online” for the season for some crazy, messed up, nonsensical reason.

    Has Spot announced pricing on their stuff? I know for the SS 29er they sell complete they want $1800 (!?) but that’s with a Manitou fork & the Crank Bro’s Crank. Are they going to sell the frame and the drivetrain necessities seperately so that I can build something a bit more rigid and budget concious? Because that’s what I really really want to do. SS rigid 29er, mmmmm………..

  3. Comment by Jeff | 08.27.2008 | 10:23 am

    My online/offline routine generally runs in much shorter cycles. I’ve had mornings when I ride to work feeling offline, then ride home “online”. Maybe if I were more consistent and had ridden more than one route in the past month it would be different…

    Kenny’s drivetrain hurts my brain-I find it barely comprehendable, yet alluring…can’t wait to hear what you have to say about it.

  4. Comment by Dan K | 08.27.2008 | 10:34 am

    I hope some of your riding was muddy, and you’re able to fill us in on how that right handled the mud. I’m quite curious. Especially considering the amount of time I spend cleaning my bike last night – probably half of whihc was devoted to cleaning the chain.

  5. Comment by KanyonKris | 08.27.2008 | 10:43 am

    There is an online?

    I dig that belt drive, but I’m a engineer so I’m into these things. It looks like there is only one flange on both the front and rear cogs – any chance the belt could fall off? Next time I see Kenny and his Spot I’m going to examine it in detail, if Kenny ever stops.

    FatCyclist – thanks for the SportsBeans! I was on a group ride before I picked up the beans and was hungry so I ate a pack on the way home. Yum! Guilt free candy because it’s not candy it’s a highly engineered sports nutritional supplement.

  6. Comment by Jake | 08.27.2008 | 11:12 am

    I went offline around five years ago, and apparently when I hit that switch, I hit it way too hard, as it now appears broken. No matter what I do, including my to work and from work everyday, I cannot seem to improve. I miss that feeling that just happens: one day I dig down and find that there is so much more in the tank than I had imagined. It’s been a long time.

  7. Comment by fatty | 08.27.2008 | 11:23 am

    danK – it’s been around 3 months since it’s rained in UT. there is no mud for hundreds of miles in any direction.

  8. Comment by cyclingeurope | 08.27.2008 | 11:27 am

    I love the expression! I was just experiencing this the other day, doing a mtn bike ride I’ve done much of the summer, with a 15-min very hard climbing section just before the real fun part, that just plain hurts. Anaerobic, sucking wind, quad searing hurt. So last week, I got on this ride, fully expecting to feel the pain…but it never came! I stayed right around threshold on my HR monitor (usually I’m over it by 5-10 beats on this part), riding the same pace and gear as usual, but felt GREAT the whole way. I arrived at the top just beaming, thrilled, excited! But now I have an expression for it – my legs went ONLINE! And here it is late August with only a short while before the snow flies (I’m near Vail, CO). Next year, I’m going to have to find a way to get them ONLINE earlier in the season.

  9. Comment by josh | 08.27.2008 | 11:32 am

    Does the belt break somehow? How do you get it over the chainstays?

  10. Comment by fatty | 08.27.2008 | 11:36 am

    josh – there’s a break in the chainstay right where you bolt the hub on.

  11. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 08.27.2008 | 11:41 am


    Awesome, I want a ride.

  12. Comment by fuzzy | 08.27.2008 | 12:01 pm

    josh – there’s a break in the chainstay right where you bolt the hub on.

    How does that work Fatty? Or am I just being dumb?

    I’ve done close ups of the pics and can’t for the life of me see how the belt gtreads through the rear triangle.

  13. Comment by fuzzy | 08.27.2008 | 12:01 pm

    josh – there’s a break in the chainstay right where you bolt the hub on.

    How does that work Fatty? Or am I just being dumb?

    I’ve done close ups of the pics and can’t for the life of me see how the belt gtreads through the rear triangle.

  14. Comment by fuzzy | 08.27.2008 | 12:02 pm


    Sorry about the double post :-(

  15. Comment by PissedOffCil | 08.27.2008 | 12:31 pm

    Going online… I love that one. Well my legs we’re offline for sure yesterday. Or should I say my left leg was offline, the right one feeling fresh. Mmmmmm bad wire somewhere or maybe it had to do with my hard crash on sunday and breaking my fork in two and killing my front wheel!!! I should have stuck to mountain biking, notice how accidents always happen on the road???

  16. Comment by Chris in Portland | 08.27.2008 | 12:31 pm

    Look at that first picture of Kenny! He got the helmet tatt I suggessted (modified slightly to look like he is wearing a cap underneath). I win the grand prize.


  17. Comment by KM | 08.27.2008 | 12:43 pm

    Welllllll tarnation!!! Will the wonders of modern enginering never cease???!!! (Hmmm, that sounds better with my Jethro voice than it does written..oh well) Nice looking belt drive…I’m looking forward to hear how it performs in various conditions.

    As to legs going “online”….my buddies and I refer to that as being “Switched on” or “dialed in.” I don’t know why I’m just a follower I guess.

  18. Comment by fatty | 08.27.2008 | 12:49 pm

    fuzzy, take a look at this photo:

    if you look closely, you can see the narrow interlocking slit in the chainstay where it separates, making it possible to slide the belt in.

  19. Comment by Rob | 08.27.2008 | 1:08 pm

    Cyclingnews has covered this concept a couple of times. I know I’ve seen the “ohhhh…that’s how it works picture” of the rear end disassembled, but I couldn’t find it. This gives a pretty good idea, though:

    Lotta love for Kenny this month….

    WIN Susan

  20. Comment by Snapster | 08.27.2008 | 1:10 pm

    Here fuzzy, I think this is a better pic of how the rear opens up @ the right side seat/chain stay junction or where you bolt your wheel on. This one looks slightly different from Kenny’s though.

  21. Comment by KanyonKris | 08.27.2008 | 1:52 pm

    Kenny could make a tidy sum charging for test rides. I wanna take the Spot for spin too.

  22. Comment by welshcyclist | 08.27.2008 | 2:15 pm

    Still waiting to go online, but here’s hoping it’ll happen soon, I think I’ve felt what you mean in the past, but too many outside problems getting in the way for now. I’ll just have to keep trying. By the way thanks for your blog.

  23. Comment by Clydesteve | 08.27.2008 | 3:06 pm

    I am intrigued by the belt drive SPOT, and look forward to your ride report.

    Yes, Online resonates with me. But it does not happen early in the season. Especially this year, because we had such blech weather for so long.

    I commute 21 miles each way. But only about 2-3 times per week in the winter – the logistics of drying all the layers, added to the need to remember to keep the lights charged becomes overwhelming. Or shows me how lazy I am. When Offline, my legs often claim that I need a 2 day rest between commutes. And those commutes are happening at about 16-18 mph.

    Once Online, I often bicycle commute 8 or 10 of the trips every week. Last night, I rode hard, and had the good feeling with the end of trip hill – 1/2 mile at 18 – 22% grade, plus 1/4 mile of gravel at 10%, which seems harder, being cyclocross, and all. Offline, this leaves me totally cooked, gasping for breath for 10 minutes after I get home.

    Last night, the climb was just a nice workout, and I was ready to immediately do bike maintenance when I got home. And the ride in this morning? Still feeling Online! 23 MPH seemed pokey. I did a couple of 26 MPH intervals, just to get breathing hard and feel something in the legs that felt like exercise.

    Makes me consider not slacking off this winter.

  24. Comment by El Animal | 08.27.2008 | 3:24 pm

    I want that bike sooo bad! How is it? can;t wait for your review.

  25. Comment by bodhisativa | 08.27.2008 | 4:07 pm

    Got to love climbing!
    It all makes sense and you’re not the only one to experience this phenomena.

  26. Comment by Bryan (not that one) | 08.27.2008 | 4:22 pm

    I think I’ve heard Lance, after one of his TdF stage wins, refer to that feeling as “no chain”. Like the pedals were so easy to turn he felt like there was no chain on the bike.

    Cool way to put it.

    Guess Kenny will have to say “no belt”.

  27. Comment by Sprocketboy | 08.27.2008 | 5:46 pm

    “I don’t want to climb anymore.” I see these words but me no understand them. Is it winter? Me got off bike now?

  28. Comment by Lucky Cyclist(the d----eb-g) | 08.27.2008 | 5:47 pm

    In my circles,…we call it “feeling the chi”. Not as succinct as “online” but I know what you mean. Here’s what I don’t get…..I went to the Fruita Fat Tire Festival in April, Spot was there test riding, and, I was told selling the belt drives. What took Kenny so long to get his? I am to dumb to know what my image URL is but I have photographic evidence.
    The woman that was riding the one I saw mentioned that the dust was actually the downfall of the belt because of a terrible squeak that develops. I ran into her again later and experienced it for myself. Imagine an ‘88 Plymouth Reliant K with a bad serpentine belt. The good thing is you can fix it by squirting it with your water bottle.

  29. Comment by Walt | 08.27.2008 | 5:47 pm

    Dude, those are some seriously long chainstays! Wow.

    For folks interested in a non-riding pure geekery diatribe on the belt drive:

    Hopefully I’ll have some real-world riding info too at some point. But not until I get sick of riding a lot or the weather gets bad.


  30. Comment by Mike | 08.27.2008 | 6:03 pm

    My legs go on-line occasionally, but only dial-up. Ha!

  31. Comment by spokejunky | 08.27.2008 | 6:13 pm

    Digging the Spot bike. Is that a bottle of baby oil in the background?

  32. Comment by roadrash | 08.27.2008 | 7:12 pm

    My legs finally went online, just in time for the Hotter’n'Hell 100 this past weekend. I was at mile 80 before I even realized I was pedaling. Maybe it was the Jelly Belly sport beans… The caffeinated cherry flavor worked wonders. Very nice to see several Fat Cyclist jerseys in the HHH peloton this year.

  33. Comment by Kathleen | 08.27.2008 | 7:15 pm

    Love your online/offline description. This is only my first season of biking (I know, I know, how could I have lived this many years without it?) Anywho, good to know I have this to look forward to!

  34. Comment by CLBlood | 08.27.2008 | 7:33 pm

    Sometimes, deep into the season on my favorite trail, the circles are right, the cadence is right, the breathing is right, the weather is right, suddenly I don’t recognize where I am.

  35. Comment by fatty | 08.27.2008 | 7:38 pm

    Lucky Cyclist – I’m not sure why it took a long time for Kenny to get his belt drive. I think it might have been a squeaky wheel kind of thing, and Kenny’s not much of a squeaker. In the one ride I was with Kenny on, the belt didn’t squeak at all. but that doesn’t mean it won’t. Please note that my first and second mentions of squeaking were metaphorical, while my third was literal. And the fourth was explanatory.

    Walt – I had never noticed that before. You see things I don’t. And I found your writeup of your initial impressions of the belt drive really interesting. I had to read it only thrice to understand it.

  36. Comment by Paul | 08.27.2008 | 7:50 pm

    How, I could see him thinking, because Kenny’s thoughts are always quite plainly visible, could anyone ever not want to climb?

    Ha! People tell me my thoughts are visible like this. I have to agree, though. I don’t think I’ve ever not wanted to climb more.

    Oh and I wanted to tell you, your Christmas gift inspired me. I put my down payment on my winter bike, and it’s an SS. Wish me luck in the New England winter!

  37. Comment by aussie kev | 08.27.2008 | 7:51 pm

    my every day loop is 30km, i go on and off line up to 10 times each time i ride it ( apart from mondays 15kph loop which always feels awesome!!! )


  38. Comment by Lucky Cyclist | 08.27.2008 | 8:07 pm

    Don’t get me wrong, I was not trying to pea all over Kenny’s Cheerios. If I was in a position, I would want one for the sheer “check this out” aspect. Also, the one I saw wasn’t squeaking until after the entirety of Mary’s loop on a very dry dusty day. And if I could completely clean my chain with my water bottle I’d be stoked.
    Come to think of it,…I used to fix my squeaky Reliant by running a bar of soap on the belt. I suggest Ivory.

  39. Comment by fatty | 08.27.2008 | 8:28 pm

    lucky cyclist – same here. i generally won’t drive 30 minutes to go on an mtb ride since i can go on a good mtb ride right out my front door. but when i heard kenny had his new drivetrain, i made an exception, just because i had to see it.

    oh, and because i wanted to ride with kenny. of course.

  40. Comment by Flahute | 08.27.2008 | 10:01 pm

    Dunno about a good term for “online” legs, but when I lived in NorCal, the term we had for “offlne” was “February legs” …

  41. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 08.28.2008 | 2:01 am

    My legs went offline mid-Feb and 30 pounds ago. I’ll blame to southern hemisphere winter and study load. I on the other hand will hear nothing of the sub-tropical locale I reside in, nor the flexibility afforded university students.

    But offline will start to disappear in 9 weeks when my study is finished FOREVER. Especially since my qualification means that I have absolutely no job prospects until late January. My paranoia about being unadequate will be pushed to the background by my new super-power… the ability to bundle the kids off to school at 8:30am and then ride my bike for as much of the subsequent 6 hours as I feel appropriate. Or capable.

  42. Comment by Paul | 08.28.2008 | 7:32 am

    I find that my legs can go online/offline depending on who I’m riding with.

    Sometimes I can’t even find them, and have to look around for them.

    Lately they’ve been offline.

  43. Comment by Clydesteve | 08.28.2008 | 4:06 pm

    Here is a FAQ sheet about the ‘Gates carbon drive’ system of sprockets and pulleys: (Note, none of the links come up for me when I right click and ‘open in a new tab’, but they work when I left click.

    Here are the different sizes of front & rear sprockets and belts they make:

    front: 46,50,55
    rear: 22,24,25,28,32, for several different hubs in some sizes
    belts: 113, 118, 122, 125


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