A Farewell to My Left Pinky

10.15.2008 | 8:00 am

I don’t think I’ve ever loved a road or trail the first time I’ve ridden it. No, the first ride is always a little anxious: will this road expose my weaknesses (technical downhilling) or play to my strengths (umm…)? Will I get lost (yes, I constantly worry about getting lost)?

And the biggy: Will I run out of steam before I run out of ride?

The truth is, I don’t really start liking a road route / trail until I’ve ridden it three or five times.

And I expect it’s not at all insignificant that all of my very favorite rides are ones I’ve been on for years and years.

Likewise, while I’m always excited to get a new bike, I am usually at a loss for an answer when — during the inaugural outing — someone asks how I like it. Because usually I just don’t know yet. There’s too much new about it. The geometry is new, the parts are new, maybe even the kind of bike is new.

How does the new bike feel? It feels new. I’l get back to you on how I like it after I’ve been riding it for a month.

So something occurred to me yesterday: Practically everything I like about biking has to do with familiarity and tradition.

I like riding the trails and roads I’ve been riding for years — in fact, when we moved back to Utah, my one stipulation to Susan was that I wanted to be close to American Fork Canyon.

I like riding with the friends I’ve ridden with for years. I’ve known the guys in the Core Team for a minimum of 8 years. Most I’ve known since before Susan and I had kids.

And I like events that I’ve done for years. Like the way I’ve done the Leadville 100 an even dozen times now. I don’t keep doing that race because I’ve got something to prove (though I’d definitely like to prove something). I keep doing it because I love the tradition of the event.

In other words, I like cycling because — in addition to the exercise and adventure — it is one of the best constants in my life. I like it for its familiarity and tradition.

Fall Moab
So, with that said, you should be able to guess why I’m excited for November 7-9. It’s when a bunch of us — the core team and a number of core team interns — get together for a long weekend of riding. It’s a perfect storm of mountain biking tradition: it’s the guys I like riding with, riding trails I love to ride, in an annual event that becomes increasingly storied.

And as of last night, the first part of the Fall Moab tradition happened: Kenny sent out his annual Fall Moab poster (usually based on a recent film).


Kenny is a genius.

Hard Question

I have to ask myself: is this gravitation toward the familiar a sign (ie, yet another sign) that I’m getting old? That I’m set in my ways and uninterested in trying something new?

Or am I normal (at least in that regard)? Do all cyclists gravitate to the familiar?

Here’s a way to test how important tradition in cycling is to you: Which would you rather give up: your favorite ride, or one of your fingers?

Some of you will respond, quite sensibly, "There are always new rides out there; I’ve only got the fingers I’ve got."

As for myself, I saw the question as an interesting challenge to figure out which finger I use least.


  1. Comment by rich | 10.15.2008 | 8:15 am

    Actually, I think I’d give up a ride before my pinky finger. There’s nothing that fits so perfectly in my nostril….um..never mind
    Seriously though, I like you, really enjoy the familiar but I also enjoy new trails and new routes.
    I do the same centuries every year with the same guys because it’s a tradition. I tend to ride the same favorite loops because I know where I’ll be strong and where I’ll be dying and where I can push myself and on what hills I can judge my current fitness level.
    That said, there’s also something about a new route or riding with a new group. The anxiety (not sure that’s the right word for it) of whether or not you can keep up or finish the route without dying.
    So, yeah….I’m keeping my pinly finger

  2. Comment by chiggins | 10.15.2008 | 8:19 am

    I feel like once you’ve done something a few times, you have enough familiarity to appreciate the novel aspects, which is really fun. And after you’ve done that thing lots of times, you get to appreciate the subtle nuances that only reveal themselves through the magic of iteration. But first dates are always nerve racking.

    Hearing a song you really like for the first time is pretty cool, but hearing it a second or third time when you know the parts you’re looking for is even better, and hearing it when you know every bit of it brings perfect synchronization between the song as it exists “in here” and “out there”.

  3. Comment by Will | 10.15.2008 | 8:22 am

    All I can say is you better be prepared to answer how you lost your finger. Or, you better be good at receiving weird looks.

  4. Comment by Richie | 10.15.2008 | 8:24 am

    Hmmmmmmmm…….I agree with your thinking. My left pinkie would be sacrificed straight away!(U cud also make u a cool story as 2 how u lost your finger and what a tough guy you are)

  5. Comment by Jeff | 10.15.2008 | 8:28 am

    I’d definitely give up my favorite ride, mostly because I don’t have a favorite ride. I like to mix it up anyways so when the road got torn apart on one of my standard rides I just pick a new road to go down.

    But I can see how being familiar with a trail on your MTB would make it more fun. But I still find mountain biking scary…

  6. Comment by MikeonhisBike | 10.15.2008 | 8:29 am

    If I have a favorite short ride can I just give up a portion of my Pinky? You pose a good question. I think I’d give up a pinky but never a thumb. Then you wouldn’t be able to distinguish me from the rest of the animal kingdom. It’s already tough, I don’t need any help.


  7. Comment by Weiland | 10.15.2008 | 8:33 am

    Be careful with what you wish for: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/football/2008-10-13-wikre-pinky_N.htm He could be out the rest of the season with a shattered finger or have it cut off and miss a practice or two. He chose to have it cut off.

  8. Comment by Boz | 10.15.2008 | 8:35 am

    I would never give up an external body part. They just won’t grow back and all have a purpose. The pinky is key to a good grip on the bars. Try riding without using it. See – hard to do isn’t it?
    One thing I agree on is the getting lost. I am known as the human GPS. I never get lost. But, there is one trail system in our area that baffles me. I find my way to the far end of the system. No matter what trail I take, I end up back at the start. I know riding nirvana exists there, but I can’t get to it. Most annoying.

  9. Comment by Rob | 10.15.2008 | 8:45 am

    I’m kind of attached to all my appendages. And there’s always another ride. But excellent question.

    And great poster. I had to go to the full size version to realize that’s not Pantani under the title.

  10. Comment by 29er | 10.15.2008 | 8:57 am

    I’m not sure how you ever moved away from American Fork Canyon in the first place.

  11. Comment by Aaron | 10.15.2008 | 8:57 am

    Hmmmmmm, having broken all of my fingers, at one time or another, I have learned that they all have their uses. Being without just one, you really come to find out just how important that one finger is. And I love new trails, so I’m going to give up the trail.

  12. Comment by Rick S. | 10.15.2008 | 9:00 am

    I go to Fall Moab because I know something very funny will happen during that weekend. The riding is secondary. I’ve learned (by watching Brad) to not fall when Maddox is behind me.

  13. Comment by Richard | 10.15.2008 | 9:08 am

    I love the poster….wouldn’t give up a pinky….AND…My 2009 jersey arrived yesterday and I got to wear it on my commute today.

    A lady at the office saw the jersey and said “Fat Cyclist?, why would you wear a jersey with that on it?” I explained about the jersey, Susan, and the raising money. I don’t think she completely got it. But I still proudly wear the jersey.


  14. Comment by spkell | 10.15.2008 | 9:13 am

    Where I live, we all had to give up a favorite ride–tornadoes knocked down a bizillion trees at a favorite local trail. It was way worse than losing a digit.

  15. Comment by leroy | 10.15.2008 | 9:16 am

    FC —

    Okay, in all seriousness (something that is very hard for me), your post really is an epiphany.

    My wife asks me why I ride an event or a route if I have ridden it before; an easy question for which I don’t have a good answer.

    But you are right. There is something about a familiar route and routine that lets you focus on just riding and just enjoying riding.

    And of course, as we get older, we want to measure where we are from one season to the next and, hopefully, salvage something that suggests that we have (a) improved some aspect of our riding or (b) not appreciably declined in our abilities.

    Failing that, we at least want to convince ourselves that we are not ready for consignment to a bizarre sport where one swings a stick at a little ball and walks after it while wearing odd clothes (notwithstanding that cycling has demonstrated that our athletic clothing tendencies tend pointedly towards the peculiar).

    But as for your question: My vote is keep the digits. As my Chevy truck got older, it dropped parts all over the road. Just in case I age in a similar fashion, I’m not voluntarily shedding parts.

    Enjoy Moab. Best wishes to Susan and family. And yes, that poster is brilliant.

  16. Comment by sansauto | 10.15.2008 | 9:23 am

    I’m not with you on this one, Fatty. I think the purposes of my recreational rides is to get lost. (The purpose of my commute is to get to and from work, and I’d give up that particular route if I could have something with hills or scenery).

    For example, I used to ride up the West Valley Highway in Algona/Pacific-Federal Way looking for fun new hills to climb. Sure, I would often ride the same hills more than once, but the best rides were those where I got lost and discovered new roads, new hills and new sights.

    Now I like trying to make loops on the hills in the Wasatch front, although I think I need a cross bike to really have any success. Does the road up to Hobble Creek connect to anything after it turns to dirt? If you go up Diamond Fork long enough, will it eventually turn into another road that I can get home on?

    Please don’t answer my questions, those are two great rides ready to be discovered. If I knew the answers, there would be no need to ride them.

  17. Comment by Emily | 10.15.2008 | 9:26 am

    When I saw the title of the post on my blog feed, my first thought was, “Fatty stuck his finger in the spokes of his fixed gear while it was on the stand, and it sheared off, just like everyone always says will happen on a fixie… wait, he rides fixed now?”
    So I am glad to read it’s just a hypothetical loss.

  18. Comment by Mike | 10.15.2008 | 9:28 am

    I’m actually quite different, I think. When it comes to racing, I love doing a race I’ve never done before. That way, I have no expectation or goal for a time, no pressure (from myself, of course) to perform, and no idea who I’ll run into on the course. New races are fun.

    I’m finding there are ride routes that I love from day one. Of course, I come back and keep loving those rides, but I’m finding I really enjoy exploring new routes as well. But then, I haven’t been doing much in the way of long distance in recent years, so bonking hasn’t really been an option. I also don’t have a cell phone, so I can’t make the call of shame—even if I want to.

    Can’t wait to read the Moab review.

  19. Comment by Lizzylou | 10.15.2008 | 9:32 am

    My uncle actually lost a bit of one of his fingers when he decided to run it around the his chain ring UNDERNEATH the chain. That’s what I thought of.

  20. Comment by Hamish A | 10.15.2008 | 9:52 am

    Well my Mom manages to ride her Mountain Bike pretty darned well with just the use of one arm (has been known to regularly show up some of the younger ‘braver’ bucks in the crew as well) so knowing that losing a mere pinky wouldn’t detract from my ability to still be mediocre on the bike I’d wave bye-bye to my left pinky.

    It’s been bust too many times anyhow, I’ll just consider it cosmetic surgery, (of course I’ll come up with a manly tale involving Yakuza or something).

    Fantastic job on the poster Kenny! Here’s hoping you all have a great time at Fall Moab. If you need anyone to pack lunches / fill bottles and dispense Sports Beans I’m available at very reasonable rates ;-)

    WIN Susan!!!

  21. Comment by steve sax | 10.15.2008 | 10:05 am

    FC –

    Hey, I use all the digits pretty regularly. Keeping the digits. I too like the rides that I have done for years and years. I think that is what makes our sport a lifelong pursuit. In other sports, most of the fans are non-players, but most cycling fans are themselves cyclists. We like DOING, and we like doing familiar things. We know if we can get back before (dark, kids’ events, etc). We know where we can get water and food. We like that. But I like my digits even more.

  22. Comment by Don | 10.15.2008 | 10:13 am

    That’s a tough call… I could usually hang 7 coffee cups on one hand, and you’re asking me to drop to a mere 6?! I love rides that I know. I think it’s because as you do the ride you can actually determine differences. Example: the first time you totally clean that hill, you make it through this highly technical spot, etc. I love blowing through a ride that used to kill me and thinking, “Man, I wish I still had an hour or so of daylight.” It’s good for the ego.

  23. Comment by KanyonKris | 10.15.2008 | 10:23 am

    I’m keeping my fingers.

    I have some favorite trails / routes I can ride over and over and enjoy, but few things excite me more than a new trail.

    Riding partners complain about my behavior when riding new trails. I devour them like a starving man. I can’t help it. I’m so excited to see what’s around the next bend, over that hill, can I make it up that climb?, can I clean that technical section on the first ever try? And because I get so excited I ride fast and don’t stop as often as I should, hence the annoyance to those I ride with. Sorry, but I’m not changing my new-trail psychosis – it brings me joy.

  24. Comment by 9 fingered Mike | 10.15.2008 | 11:02 am

    tradition is key. familiarity is key. i am already down one finger, i suppose i could even out the other hand and make it 8. it might help me ride a straighter line on Porcupine Rim, my all time favorite.

  25. Comment by Woody | 10.15.2008 | 11:35 am

    I’d give up the ride. Mainly because I can’t have a favorite ride. I work on the road and am never in the same location for longer than 6 months. So it’s hard to get attached. I mainly work in very, very flat Florida – maybe my opinion would change if I lived in Utah!!

  26. Comment by josh | 10.15.2008 | 11:55 am

    The last time I tried a new trail, I walked off the mountain with a fractured wrist and elbow. You would think after that I would stick with the trails I know. But I am keeping all my fingers, and will always be looking for a new trail/road to try.

    Have a great time in Moab


  27. Comment by TimK | 10.15.2008 | 12:36 pm

    If you give up one finger, you are actually giving up two. Think about it for a second. If you give up your pinky, you are left with four fingers and as a result of only having four fingers you no longer have a middle finger. Insane logic I know, but I really need my middle finger on the road.

    I’ll take the new trail.

  28. Comment by ann | 10.15.2008 | 1:10 pm

    Yahoo – we’re back to the metaphors. A very extended metaphor, indeed. Seriously, we don’t WANT to give up anything.

  29. Comment by Kathleen | 10.15.2008 | 1:42 pm

    I’m torn…I love the comfort of a familiar ride but so enjoy the scenery of a new ride as long as someone *else* is leading the way. Preferably someone who goes at my pace :-)

    Have a great weekend!

  30. Comment by Ian | 10.15.2008 | 1:51 pm

    Keep the finger although it wouldn’t likely hold you back much, this guy is amazing: http://www.mtb-amputee.com/images/armamp-nelson4a.jpg

    Have fun in Moab.

  31. Comment by Dobovedo | 10.15.2008 | 1:51 pm

    There are millions of miles of roads, and ?????s of miles of trails. I’ve only got 10 fingers.

    Fingers win.

    And yes.. Kenny is a genius. Beautiful work.

  32. Comment by 9 fingered Mike | 10.15.2008 | 1:59 pm

    Gotta say that a ring finger is the way to go. That is the one I am missing. If you chop off the pinky, you will constantly hit the stump on things. the ring stump is nicely protected by fingers on either side.

  33. Comment by Bandit | 10.15.2008 | 2:09 pm

    “my one stipulation to Susan”

    Is that to say that you begged and pleaded?

    BTW – I’d give up the ride.

  34. Comment by josh | 10.15.2008 | 2:15 pm

    Forget about loosing a finger. If you were impaled on a ride would you ride that road again?



  35. Comment by Big Boned | 10.15.2008 | 3:29 pm

    I’d give up my middle finger – it’s only there to get me in trouble anyway…

  36. Comment by Shiny Flu | 10.15.2008 | 4:19 pm

    There’s only a few ‘new’ trails that I’ve ever loved first time. It gives you that fresh sense of adventure and sometimes it’s like night-riding… you don’t really know what’s coming so you just go fast anyway.

    But I agree, riding a well-known trail/route can be a million times better. You know just where to push for speed and which lines to pick.

    ride on.

  37. Comment by GregP | 10.15.2008 | 5:51 pm

    +1 on KanyonKris’s comment.

    There’s nothing like the thrill of cleaning a technical obstacle the first time you ride up to it.

  38. Comment by Rod Newbound, RN | 10.15.2008 | 6:15 pm

    I don’t think I would voluntarily give up a body part for my favorite ride. But it seems more likely we risk a body part (even if it’s just a bit of skin) every time we venture out to explore a new ride.

    For the most part, our brains operate on automatic, so we tend to do things that are familiar. Because they take less brain power (and even less muscle exertion in most cases).

    Even Kenny, who is clearly a genius, created the cool poster by building on a familiar theme.

    Thanks Fatty,

  39. Comment by Philly Jen | 10.15.2008 | 7:14 pm

    You can’t have my middle finger on either hand.

    I need them in order to make the Philly Turn Signal when I ride around town.

  40. Comment by Mike Roadie | 10.15.2008 | 7:25 pm

    I just thought you were trying to “one-up” that college football player!!!

  41. Comment by Bitter (formerly known as Lissee) | 10.15.2008 | 7:35 pm

    And here I spent the entire post worrying about what horrible crash you had that tore your pinkie finger from your hand. aaaccckk!

    Glad to know it was a rhetorical question!

  42. Comment by Marla | 10.15.2008 | 8:36 pm

    Give up a finger and then wear full fingered bike gloves around. You can sew the empty finger to another and no one will ever know it’s gone (you know, when you curl your fingers around the handlebar). They’ll only look at you weird because you’re always wearing gloves!

  43. Comment by Kathy | 10.15.2008 | 8:39 pm

    No way could you give up your left pinkie. You’re a writer! Could you give up a, z, q, and all capitals on the right side of the key board? I think not!

  44. Comment by Tony | 10.15.2008 | 8:49 pm

    After many years of cycling the same routes I finally explored an area I had been meaning to check out, and quickly found a new favorite ride. No matter which direction I go from home, I’m usually climbing. But this new route is almost all flat, which sometimes is just what is needed on a particular day. The classic faves are still there, but every now and then there is another great one to be discovered if we are willing to explore a bit.

  45. Comment by Ed | 10.15.2008 | 10:19 pm

    I have to say, a friend of mine lost his pinky, and the only thing is, the abusive use of the nub is creepy and unnecessary….
    Off topic: Was watching a movie w/my 12 year old twins and forgot how in love Pee Wee Herman was with his bike..

  46. Comment by Bjorn 4 Lycra | 10.16.2008 | 12:47 am

    Somebody may have said this but here goes. Even tho you love what you know you do still try new stuff. Only the other week you were combining road and trail with a new bike. Remember that? It generated a fair bit of discussion on all sorts of levels. Anywho my point would be that you should keep the finger and blow off the ride. OOps you yourself even said “There are always new rides out there; I’ve only got the fingers I’ve got” which is kind of where I am coming from.
    So I’ll simplify my response by saying dopey question – keep doing the ride and keep your finger!

  47. Comment by craig | 10.16.2008 | 8:27 am

    Good luck typing any word with the letter “a” in it. Fatty. Moab. Leadville. Utah.

  48. Comment by Tasha | 10.16.2008 | 8:30 am


    I haven’t been on my bike for months…I just haven’t felt like it.

    However, last week I received this really cool Fatty black and pink jersery (the best looking jersery I have ever seen!!!) and suddenly I feel like getting on my bike. Thanks man.

  49. Comment by Di | 10.16.2008 | 9:13 am

    How about my toe? Can I give up my little toe instead?

    I know what you mean, though, and I don’t think age is completely to do with it. I’m 31 and I like familiarity. I’ve ridden some trails that I really liked the first time around, and liked them even more after that. I’ve ridden trails I didn’t much care for the first time, but loved them after a few rides. Some trails weren’t necessarily fun, but I felt I had to conquer them. I ended up loving them once my ability developed further.

    Funny thing is, people are the same way for me. I often find that my first impression of someone isn’t always the greatest, but I end up really liking the person. I guess you can say, in mountain biking and people, first impressions are BS. :-D

  50. Comment by Clydesteve | 10.16.2008 | 11:18 am

    Ed – That is not the only thing PeeWee Herman loved. Please do not bring him in here.

  51. Comment by buckythedonkey | 10.16.2008 | 12:32 pm

    Ditch the ride and go find a better one, because there is one.

  52. Comment by Al Maviva | 10.16.2008 | 1:53 pm

    Can’t we negotiate? I’m willing to sacrifice the proverbial left nut instead for my favorite ride. What the hell, Lance did it, plus I’m married so it’s not like it’s getting used all that much, except as a roadblock to keep my boxers from riding up too far. Righty, who I’ve always been closer too, is off limits though.

    I guess I’d give up the pinky. But you’d have to be okay with me lying and saying it’s ‘cuz I joined the Yakuza.

  53. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 10.16.2008 | 3:10 pm

    Left Pinky… pffft.

    When Lance Armstrong was at his lowest mentally during his fight with cancer he had a conversation with God (ignoring the obvious point that he is a publicly declared aetheist). “I wish I wasn’t sick. I’m an athlete. I’d have given my left nut to win the tour de France.”

    Left Pinky indeed.

  54. Comment by MTB W | 10.16.2008 | 4:20 pm

    Al – funny as usual. It makes me wince just thinking about it. Good to have you back again.

    Ah, the familiar rides. The tried and true. Yep, it means you are old. After all, those young whipper snappers don’t know what they are missing when they try new trails, ignoring something as familiar as my left hand (without a pinky), dagnabit. Mr. Piddles, where are you? What was I talking about? Oh, forget it!

  55. Comment by Jsun | 10.16.2008 | 8:38 pm

    Giving up a finger always reminds me of the Alfred Hitchcock movie, I think it’s called “man from the south”.

    Steve McQueen is a gambler in a Latin American country, who is very willing to bet on anything. He is also very proud of his handsome new, infallible cigarette lighter. He is constantly boasting about his never fail lighter, when a mysterious man approaches him for a proposed wager. The man (Peter Lorre) says he is a wealthy man who likes to make an occasional bet – not for money. He will give McQueen his limousine if McQueen’s lighter will properly light ten times in a row without pause. But if it does fail to light up properly, Lorre wins. He will cut off one of McQueen’s fingers.

    The suspense of the episode is that McQueen thinks that Lorre’s bet is really a flight of unreality, but he is sure his great little lighter will work ten times straight in a row. Lorre is very matter-of-fact about the wager, even if the goal is a trifle ghoulish on his part. It is only when McQueen finally gets down to actually performing the action of the lighting of the lighter that he sees how serious Lorre really is. Lorre has McQueen’s other arm tied down, and readied for it’s thumb to be cut off with a cleaver. But McQueen starts flicking the lighter on. One…two…three…four…five…six…seven….


    As McQueen is about to light the lighter an eighth time, a woman comes in and confronts Lorre. She starts berating him about the bet – reminding him that everything he owns is hers, not his. Actually this kills the bet from continuing, as if McQueen wins it Lorre has no title to the car to give it to McQueen. Lorre, like a sullen little boy gives his keys to his wife (the woman who came in – Katherine Squire), and we see only two of her fingers remain on one hand as she picks up the keys. As for McQueen, as he sees that the bet has blown up, he is lighting a cigarette with his infallible lighter, and much to his amazement it fails to light!

  56. Comment by FliesOnly | 10.17.2008 | 6:59 am

    Well, I’d prefer to keep all my fingers, thank you If, however, we could choose any digit (not just fingers)…I might consider “sacrificing” my second to last toe. Though I will admit that I’d more likely give up my favorite ride.

  57. Comment by Yvette | 10.17.2008 | 11:14 am

    I love a trail the FIRST time. First ever ride at Oak Mountain State Park in Birmingham doing trail in the direction that makes the long gravel road downhill part for the end– I was -beat- exhausted -worn out! THEN– got to do that super fast downhill with rocks and turns & with the awesome drainage ditches (full of water that day!). Seemed to go on forever and when I popped out at the end I was totally stoked! DID NOT want to get off my bike! Then–middle of the night—nightmares about what COULD HAVE HAPPENED! MY GOD I WAS FLYING RECKLESSY ON A FULLY STIFF BIKE DOING SOMETHING THAT PEOPLE HALF MY AGE ARE AFRAID TO DO…..AAAHHH I MUST BE CRAZY!!! Thank god I will always have the memory of the first ride cause I have never ridden it that carefree since!!!

  58. Comment by Yvette | 10.17.2008 | 11:15 am

    oh and as an add on about fingers—I cut my hand with a power saw about a year ago and my left pinky is useless anyway!! Still can ride Though!!!!

  59. Comment by Rocky | 10.18.2008 | 10:25 pm

    I have noticed along the way that you lean toward the old familiar. I suppose with your penchant for crashing out some, it might be best that way.

    Now for your question. My (either one) pinkie stays. I get so bored with the same trails over and over. To stay interested, I have to see new stuff from time to time, or I find myself creating reasons not ride. As for the pinkies – well, they never get boring, and I am pretty certain that without them, it would be a smidge difficult to hang on to the bars. Yup, they are that important.

  60. Pingback by Familiar Rides « The NorLa Blog | 10.20.2008 | 5:24 am

    [...] rather than never be able to ride it again. His point is that he really likes familiar rides. Then he asks: is this gravitation toward the familiar a sign (ie, yet another sign) that I’m getting old? That [...]


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