Mike Roadie’s Ride for the Roses Report

11.28.2008 | 3:36 pm

A Note from Fatty: This Monday kicks off the 2009 LiveStrong Challenge. I’ll be setting up teams at all four events as soon as I possibly can, and will post on how you can join the team — either with plans to go to the event in person, or to be a virtual team member.

Also, on Monday I will be announcing the beginning of the first LiveStrong Challenge Team Fatty raffle. You’re going to want to check that out, because there are three prizes you are really going to want. Here’s one of them:


Yes, it’s real. And yes, it’s the whole issue. And yes, it’s in great shape. And yes, it has real value as a collector’s item.

You’ll find out what the other two things are you can win in the first (among several) Team Fatty raffles this Monday.

Another Note from Fatty: About this time last year, Mike Roadie — a frequent commenter on this blog — emailed me, asking if I’d help him raise money for the LiveStrong Challenge in 2008. I said I’d be happy to and made a little ad I put in my blog sidebar.

Then, earlier this year, I asked Chuck Ibis if he’d help, too. Chuck and the rest of the great guys at Ibis Cycles and Shimano came through in a big way. And so did Fat Cyclist readers. Together, we raised around $38,000 for the LiveStrong Challenge, in ten days.

Thanks to you, Mike Roadie had more individual donors than any other person in the 2008 LiveStrong Challenge, and that meant he got the VIP treatment at the Ride for the Roses.

And Mike Roadie made sure everyone knew how he got there.

By the way, Mike was the one who came to me this year with the suggestion that we do a Team Fatty in the 2009 LiveStrong Challenge. I’ve come to trust — and like — Mike so much that I immediately agreed. Mike will be acting as my advisor and primary helper in this endeavor, so this is a great chance for you to get to know him a little bit.

Here’s Mike Roadie’s Ride for the Roses report.

Ride for the Roses Weekend, October 2008

I guess since this is Thanksgiving week already, I should start out by saying how thankful I am for all of you out there in fatcyclist.com land. What started out for me as just an overly-hopeful goal of trying to raise more money for The Lance Armstrong Foundation than I did the year before ($15,000+ in 2007) by networking through Elden’s blog, turned out to be the most meaningful few months of my life.

When I went to the LiveStrong Challenge in San Jose back in July, I was amazed to be approached by people who just wanted to shout out to FatCyclist and share their wishes for Susan’s health. I was truly touched by all the folks who wanted to get their picture taken with my “Win Susan” placard, later placed on my helmet during the ride.




The success of LSC San Jose got me invited to the annual Ride for the Roses as a member of the Yellow Jersey Team. The weekend in Austin went to a completely different level! On Friday night, the invitees (as distinguished from riders in general) were taken by bus to a “secret” location for a Welcome to Texas Dinner. Because of my wife’s travel schedule, I was not able to attend, but FC.com was well represented by Medium Brad and Clydesteve. I went to last year’s dinner, so I was OK with missing Willie Nelson playing for our private group at the famous Salt Lick BBQ…..are you kidding me?!?!? Oh well, there was plenty of weekend still to come!

On Saturday morning there was the LSC 5K race, which ran down Congress Street from the Capitol Building. I ran it in 2007, so I just decided to watch the pain on everyone’s faces as they ran and walked at 7:30 in the morning. If you have never been to Austin, it has a fabulous bar, music, restaurant, nightclub scene that could ruin anybody’s Saturday morning!

Following the run, the Yellow Jersey and Polka Dot Jersey teams were bussed out to the Hill Country to a private ride with Lance and a lunch. With police escort we rode in a peloton behind Lance, and then came up one by one for a chat and some photos. Here I am giving him some fitness pointers and a rah-rah about racing next season:


Believe me, the guy is totally ripped and ready to tear up the races next year! After the ride, I was able to give him a FatCyclist t-shirt and exchange a few words about how much the LAF has meant to me by giving me a way to channel my energies to help others.

Saturday night brought the awards program dinner; an always emotional and motivational discussion of how much we still have to do in the fight against cancer. This year, the focus has turned to what we also can do on a global stage, where healthcare is even more behind in this battle. The amazing thing was that, just as I had done in San Jose, Brad won the Messenger Award for having the most donors to his site for the Austin ride! Even better, I was recognized for having the most individual donors for the whole series (the four event cities), so we both got speak in front of the crowd. Brad talked about his inspiration from his mom’s fight (WIN Diane!) and I represented the FatCyclist.com community. Lance presented me with an autographed and framed poster for the award:


And I got to make a presentation back to him:


Now he can be a winner and stylish!!!

A good portion of Sunday morning’s ride was spent by me trying to catch up to Clydesteve after being left in the dust by my new protégé, Mr. Armstrong. He was probably finished, showered, massaged and had eaten by the time I crossed the finish line…..but I was still smiling!


It was a great time for a great cause and I hope that many of you will join us in 2009 by joining Team Fatty and making the biggest impact the LAF has ever seen!!!!

Happy Holidays to you all, and…………WIN!!!

PS: Here’s the video from the event:


Gratitude 2009

11.26.2008 | 12:55 pm

It’s been pointed out to me that every Thanksgiving (or possibly more often) I take the time to blog about how I make the best mashed potatoes in the world. Well, this year I’m not going to.

Even though it’s true.

And I’m also not going to go on and on about how the excruciating process I go through to make the Banana Cream Parfait results in what is widely regarded as the best dessert in the world.

Because I’ve done that before, too.

Instead, I’m going to take a few minutes — like I did last year — to list a few of the things I’m thankful for.


Yesterday I was thinking: When was the last time Susan felt really normal? Well, she was originally diagnosed with cancer about five years ago, so at least that long.

Except five years ago the twins had just turned two — and any parent with twins knows that those first two years aren’t exactly restful. And then of course, before the twins were born Susan was pregnant with them, which was a major ordeal, too.

So: the last time Susan felt really healthy that I remember was about eight years ago. In fact, I remember the last weekend of when she felt healthy: She and I went to Moab to do a charity run (yes, run). I did the half-marathon, she did the five-miler. She remarked afterward that she felt kind of tired during the run. The next Monday, we would find out she was pregnant (we wouldn’t find out about the twin part for a while afterward).

Eight years. That’s just not fair. And yet, she’s dealt with it and continued to take care of us and be exactly the kind of mom and wife her family needs.

Now, of course, I take care of her, and I’m thankful for the chance to repay her a little.

My Kids

While I am writing this, my twins are sitting on the kitchen floor, drawing and singing made-up songs. The twins are always together, taking care of each other and working as a team in ways that nobody but twins (and maybe parents of twins) can even begin to understand.

Last night, the boys — without my asking them to — made dinner, read to Susan, and put the girls to bed. Seeing that I need help, they’ve jumped right in.

I’ve got great kids. I’m thankful for who they are. I should also be thankful to Susan for how they’re turning out, too. Credit where credit’s due.

My Family

It’s funny how when things get really bad I just assume my parents are going to be there to help. I guess that’s an assumption I make easily, because — if they can be — they are. My dad’s in Portugal right now and can’t easily come back home, but my Mom moves heaven and earth to come out and help. And Susan’s mom — in spite of the fact that she has her own mother to take care of — finds a way to come over and help, too.

And then there are my sisters.

When I was a kid, I used to privately feel cheated. Four sisters? Why did I have to have four sisters?

And now I am so glad I have these four sisters. Each as different as can be, but similar in that they are all very strong, practical, smart, and ready to help.

My Neighbors

Not a single day goes by that I don’t lean on my neighbors in some way. They’ve taken my portion of the carpooling to school. They take care of doing the twins’ hair before school. They come over to hang out with Susan. They’ve come and spent the night when I needed to take Susan to the emergency room. They moved stuff and rearranged my living room under vague instructions with no warning to make a new bedroom for Susan.

These are all people who have their own kids, their own jobs, their own troubles. But they make time every day to help us out.

I am very thankful for my neighbors.

The Core Team

I’ve been riding with the same group of guys for about fifteen years now. These are the guys I would rather ride with, eat with, and go on a road trip with than anyone else in the world. It still seems amazing to me that I have such a great group of friends, and that furthermore we all like doing the same stuff.

When I write this blog, I picture the core team as the people reading it. So, if you like this blog, chances are you’d like the guys in the core team. I’m pretty sure my logic is flawed, yet I remain confident in my conclusion.

My Co-Workers

This will make your head explode, but it’s a true story.

A few months ago, my boss told me he had just finished working with our HR person to put a new policy into place: a “vacation donation” program. The idea is that employees can donate their vacation days to another employee.

As soon as this program was announced, employees throughout the company donated about three months worth of vacation days to me.

Wrap your mind around that, if you can. I still have a hard time grasping it, myself.

So: I’m thankful for a good job, for the kind and smart people I work with, a company culture that promotes generosity, and for a CEO that treats his employees like family.

You: My Blog Neighborhood

When Jodi flew out to help take care of my family for a few days, she did it using frequent-flier points gifted by one of you. When Lori flies out next month, she’ll be using frequent flier points from that same person.

When Susan rides in her wheelchair, I remember every time that it was a gift from one of you — an owner of a medical supplies store.

When I got the stair chair setup and the electric scooter, that was using money I got because you bought Fat Cyclist jerseys.

You have sent hundreds of cards. You have sent thousands of email messages.

You have offered to help in every way possible, and several that are not possible.

You have stuck with me as this blog has gone from silly to serious to occasionally desperate.

So, finally: I’m thankful for you.

Happy Thanksgiving, whether you’re in the U.S., or not.

PS: I didn’t plan it this way, but this year my gratitude list consists of nothing but people. So, if you feel like it, keep up the theme by leaving a comment describing someone you’re thankful for, and why.

An Open Letter to Everyone Who’s Been Helping Out Lately

11.25.2008 | 7:33 am

Dear Everyone Who’s Been Taking Turns Staying at Our House Lately,

First of all, I wanted to offer my thanks. You’ve all been really wonderful. Your competence, kindness, and compassion have been practically without limit.

But many of you — no, make that every single one of you — have offered (repeatedly) to do anything else in your power to help out, and the truth is, there is one small thing I’d really appreciate if you could do.

I need you to start acting like helping out is hard work. No, not just hard work. Exhaustingly hard work that has taken you right up to your limit, flew right by that limit, orbited the world, and then finished up by flying up behind you and kicking you in the butt.

Do it for me. My reputation’s at stake.

You see, about a third of the time, there isn’t anyone here to help me take care of Susan, the kids, and the house; I handle it all solo. And after about 48 hours of this I start looking for ways to have a debilitating accident. You know, just so I can sit down for a stretch.

And then you breeze in, clean up the place, fix nutritious meals, get the kids off to school, and then have a nice, meaningful chat with Susan.

And you make it look easy.

Then, when it’s time for you to head back home and I grab onto your leg and try to prevent you from leaving and then eventually pull myself together enough to say something like, “Thanks for everything; I couldn’t have made it through this week without you,” you twist the knife by saying, “Oh, it was easy and fun. Kind of a vacation, really.”

And then you leave and I turn around and walk back into the house and everyone stares at me until someone comes out and says it: “See, nobody thinks this is hard but you.”

So here’s what I’m going to need you to do next time you visit:

  1. Reduce the home-cooked meals ratio. When I’m in charge of meals, a Subway sandwich counts as a home-cooked meal, because, well a sandwich from there is no different than if I made the sandwich myself, right? I’m just saving a little time by not having to cut up the vegetables, that’s all. So when you go and turn on the stove, it makes me look like a fool. Order some pizza or have everyone eat cereal for dinner or something. Otherwise you’re just setting unreasonable expectations going forward.
  2. Get irritable over something trivial. I recommend telling the kids that the local post-meal cleanup union has, sadly, gone on strike, meaning they’re going to have to do their own dishes for once. Or tell the twins that somebody told the Cleanup Fairy that he didn’t believe in her, and so she vanished, and now they’re going to have to start cleaning up their own room. My kids never get tired of obtuse sarcasm.
  3. Wander around, looking overwhelmed. I recommend going into the kitchen, standing there for a minute looking lost, then going back to Susan’s room, then remembering what you needed from the kitchen. Repeat 74 times per day.
  4. Lie when it’s time to go. The truth is, folks, I’m not really interested in whether you had a great time with everyone (except me, for I am currently not a pleasant person to be around) while you were here. I need you to tell me, when it’s time to go, how next time you come you’re going to bring a few extra people along, just to keep up with the — frankly impossible — workload. Tell me you don’t know how I do it all by myself. Tell me you are going to go to a spa for a week just to get the kinks in your back and knots in your muscles worked out. Feel free to get expansive on this. Elaborate freely.

In short, everyone, I spend about 30% of my time on the verge of panic. By taking over and making this look easy you’re undercutting my main sympathy tactic. Don’t do that to me.

Finally, if maybe you could call each other and talk a little bit about how amazing it is that I manage as well as I do, and how, frankly, you just about lost it from the constant demands put on you, I’d very much appreciate it. I promise, it’ll get back to me (everything any of you says always does; that’s the way our family and friends network is).

Maybe you should even blog about how hard it was, as opposed to…say…how you heard angels singing when you saw my admittedly-awesome dishwasher.

In advance, thank you for your attention to this matter.

Kind Regards,

Elden Nelson / The (Increasingly) Fat Cyclist

PS: Seriously, everyone who’s been keeping me (more or less) off the ledge: thanks.

PPS: Oh, and while you’re at it, if one of you could figure out who all these casserole dishes ought to be returned to, I’d really appreciate that. Because I personally have no idea.

How Not to Get Eaten by a Mountain Lion

11.24.2008 | 8:21 am

A Note From Fatty: Today’s guest post is by Alex, the VP of Sales at the company where I work. He’s also a fast cyclist — the kind who wins races and stuff — and has the kind of sense of humor that lets him include slides like this in the middle of his presentations to the entire company.

What didn’t click for me — until just recently — is that he may well have been separated at birth from Bill Nye the Science Guy (same height, same build, same friendly enthusiasm, same rapidfire delivery). Alex’s Blog — Watching the World Wake Up — is definitely a cyclist’s blog, but it’s full of all kinds of interesting science. He’s made genuine botanical discoveries while riding. He knows all the plants and animals in the area, and interesting stuff about them. And even if you don’t care about those things, you’ll still like his blog: Alex (like his estranged twin Bill Nye) keeps it light fun. I just added his blog to my blogroll. You should go check it out.

I’m not a big worrier, but like most everybody, there are several things that I really hope don’t happen to me. Some of these things are losing my job, or my kids getting kicked out of school, or my wife running away with my next-door neighbor. (Not that I would really blame her; he really is better-looking and much nicer than me.)

But right at the top of my list is this: I really don’t want to get killed and eaten by a wild animal. And the reason I think about this is from time to time I either see a mountain lion, or recent evidence of a mountain lion, while biking.

alex-1.jpgTuesday morning for example, about ½ way up Dry Creek, I saw this- picked over carcass, little left of this deer except for spine and rib cage, which is classic cougar-kill. I think about mountain lions because they’re most active at dawn and dusk, and at this time of year more than ½ of my biking is at dawn, before work. When I go out, 3 or 4 times a week at dawn, I’m always the first guy on the trail. Sometimes I see another biker or a trail-runner on the way home, but I never see anybody on the way out, and oftentimes I don’t see anyone else for the whole ride.

Over the past 20 years, there have been more and more human-cougar encounters across the West, and several of these have been fatal (initially for the human, usually later for the cat as well.) In 2004 a mountain biker was apparently killed and partially eaten in California. And so here’s the uncomfortable reality I’m facing: as quite possibly the most consistent, frequent dawn-mountain-biker on the Wasatch Front, if a mountain biker’s going to be killed and eaten in Utah, it’s probably going to be me.

So here’s what I’m doing about it.

alex-2.jpgAlthough cougar attacks on people are still (thankfully) pretty rare, there’s a place in the world where big cats kill and eat people pretty much every other week. In the Sundarban Islands in India, about two dozen people get killed and eaten by tigers every year. Over the past few decades the local villagers have tried lots of tricks to dissuade tigers from attacking them, but probably the most effective has been this: they wear masks on the backs of their heads. Tigers, like most cats, always prefer to attack their prey from behind. Villagers who wear the masks when out and about in the jungle get attacked way less often than those who don’t.

Now I’m no feline-ologist, but a cat’s a cat, and since I don’t have any better ideas it occurred to me to try a similar approach here in Utah with mountain lions. There is however, a limit to the level of both discomfort and bad fashion I am willing to endure in the name of safety, so wearing a Dick Nixon mask on the back of my head for example, is right out. But I do have some spare real-estate on the back of my helmet, and here’s what I’ve done with it:


So far I can report 100% effectiveness with this prevention method; I have ridden once with the eyes on the back of my helmet, and been attacked zero times. Now since Fatty’s blog is all about service and sharing, I figure the least I could do is to provide his loyal readers with similar protection. So just print out the eyes below, cut them out and secure to the rear of your helmet with clear tape.


Of course, not all of you are brown-eyed, and so I have included a blue pair for your convenience, should you prefer.


And also a green pair.


And lastly, for you stoners out there, a bloodshot pair.


Now, It may have occurred to the astute reader that a big, wily cat — like a tiger of mountain lion — might eventually get hip to the mask trick. And sadly, this indeed appears to be the case; over a period of several years, the efficacy of the masks in the Sundarbans diminished. But since the rate of big cat-attacks in the Western US is about 1% of that in India, I figure this one shtick should last me until I’m too creaky to get up and ride at dawn anymore.

And the next generation can come up with their own dumb gimmick.

J. Geils Was Right

11.21.2008 | 10:32 am

A Note from Fatty: Jim — the Unholy Roleur — brings an aggressive, testosterone-laden, hilarious perspective to cycling. Also, we both like to eat, where the word “like” can be defined as “think about it whenever I’m not doing it, and often plan what I’m going to eat next even while I’m eating now.” I’m excited to have Jim as my guest poster today.

Yes, this post is a little long. That’s Jim’s way. My advice? Pace yourself. Stick with it. You’ll be glad you did.

Oh, and for you kids under the age of 35: I recommend you watch this before going any further.

When Fatty offered me the chance to be a guest blogger, I leapt at it. It’s not often that somebody who could inadvertently eat you mid-binge asks for favors. But since he asked, I couldn’t resist.

My normal blogging is probably a little too off-color for a lot of you. I talk about my experiences racing as a Clydesdale, with an emphasis on the rear end of the horse; food; booze; or whatever strikes my fancy. So what could possibly be suitable for the (mostly) kind-hearted folk who read Elden’s site? A love story, I guess.

But this is no ordinary love story. It is a story about falling in love with the modern-day Marquis de Sade. It is an abusive love story, of love that is requited only in the regular abuse that the Marquis doles out to me. The Marquis never treats me well, yet I love him. Worst of all, he makes me pay to visit him, in spite of the fact that I’m the one prostituting myself. It is a terrible love affair, if you ask me. But I’m pretty happy with it, and the worse it treats me, the more I seem to like it.

It’s my affair with Mountain Biking.

A bunch of guys ride out of my local shop. They ride okay on the road, and have helped turn me from an obese sofa rat into a merely really fat bike racer through mere peer pressure, and making me ride to the point of unconsciousness. Yet in the woods, they are serious mountain bikers.

The winter before last they got me out on my old 26” wheeled rigid Kona MTB, converted down to a single speed. When you have the human equivalent of a one-track cockroach brain, it’s advisable to limit the number of inputs that it has to deal with. For my first ride, they took me down to Rosaryville, a lovely local park that has a lot of twisty but very smooth single track, in a flowing 8 mile loop. There are a few logs (like Giant redwoods, the first time I rode them) and a few creek crossings (veritable crossing-the-Rhine-under-German-fire-in-1945 type deals, I thought at the time) and scenic vistas (aka long drops to your death down steep hills).

We dropped out of the parking lot, pedaled smoothly down the trail, got into a rhythm, and within 20 yards of starting, I stacked it hard into a tree. It hurt like mad, I was nearly unconscious and I was dripping blood, but a persistent back pain I had been suffering all fall simply disappeared. The rest of the ride was uneventful, since they had to stop so often and wait for me as I braked hard for every corner, died riding up the hills on that brutal single speed, and generally terrified the wildlife with my ability to ride up to logs, stop, tip over, then hurdle over them on foot.

Hard to have an event at 5 MPH average speed, right? Yet it was a blast! Quicker than you could notice the blood running down the front of my jersey, I was falling in love.

You love her, but she loves him
And he loves somebody else
You just can’t win
And so it goes, ‘t the day you die
This thing they call love it’s gonna make you cry
I’ve had the blues. the reds and the pinks
One thing for sure
(Love stinks)
Love stinks yeah yeah
(Love stinks)

A few times that winter I got out on the shop’s demo bike, a nice rigid Soma 29’er. It was light, responsive to my touch, a pleasure to ride… Still, my sights were set on roadracing. But it seemed to me I could get a nice cheap rigid 29’er and work in some mountain biking somewhere along the line. I kept thinking about it all summer. I started reading that collection of dirt perversion, Dirt Rag. I started noticing cars with bike racks on top that had disc brake adaptors attached to the fork mounts.

There was a definite itch.

So I put some money down on a Redline Monocog Flight. It doesn’t have a lot of cachet, but it’s a nice, inexpensive, light, smooth rolling 29’er, perfect for a roadie who plays dirty once in a while. It took forever to come in, but just after Thanksgiving last year, I took it for a virgin ride. It was great. I stacked it so hard about a week after that that I thought I was going to die. It was truly love. It really hurt.

Over the course of the winter, I mountain biked probably once every ten days. I managed to crash hard in all the local parks, biting it on logs at Rosaryville, crashing in grass at one of the regional ballparks, and wadding it up repeatedly on a corduroy road section at Patapsco, a moderately technical local state park with some serious rocky and root-ey climbs.

This was all mere courtship though.

Around the middle of last winter, the bug really bit and we consummated our unhealthy relationship. I was riding along at Patapsco on a balmy 35 degree day. We were flying through this non-technical section that is a transit loop between a couple more challenging bits. I was swooping along, spun out, and I was in the groove, feeling a flow for the first time and hanging on with the group. About 15 seconds after I arrived in the zone, my front wheel hit a tiny stump in the middle of the trail, wrenched the bars from my hands, and flung me into a 6” sapling head first. All this at a speed of maybe 18 or 20 MPH. I was knocked out briefly, sprung to my feet, then fell right back down, probably in some poison ivy.

So this must have been love. My head was spinning. I was nauseous. When somebody suggested I get back on the bike I suddenly felt shy and coy. Eventually I did get back on, and we rode to a friend’s house. He gave me some aspirin and an espresso, while his wife – also a mountain biker – advised me not to bleed on the floor, or there would be consequences.

So I sat there for a while in a daze, with paper towels stanching the flow of blood from my ear, pondering how much I really was enjoying the ride right up to the point where I wasn’t. On the way out I thanked my friend, used the bathroom to wash some of the excess blood off, and stole his Blackberry. Or maybe it was his Palm. I’m not sure, I was seeing double and the difference between the monochrome screen and the color screen that distinguished that generation of handhelds would not have been eminently clear to me at that point.

Two by two and side by side
Love’s gonna find you, you just can’t hide
You’ll hear it call, your heart will fall
Then love will fly,
It’s gonna soar, I don’t care for any casanova thing
All I can say is…
Love stinks
(Love stinks)
Love stinks yeah yeah
(Love stinks) yeah yeah

You see, love makes you do stupid things. Like getting right back on the bike and signing up for the 12 Hours of Lodi, an endurance race near Fredericksburg VA that starts at midnight, and traverses a steeply rising and descending, muddy postage stamp of a course peppered with loose rocks, slippery roots, big holes, mud, dropoffs, and poison ivy.

Love also makes you tell people stupid things about how great your significant other is. If they have any sense, they tell you to go away until you’re over it. Unfortunately, most of my roadie friends are equally senseless. This resulted in a couple of my roadie friends joining me to form a 3 man team for the race, something I cannot apologize to them enough about.

We raced it, and I found out that while you may pride yourself on your ability to crash a bike repeatedly and hard, you don’t know anything about crashing repeatedly and hard until you’ve spent an entire night on highly technical terrain wadding the bike up. It was painful on the rigid frame, and adding to the humility some guys on fixed gears were doing laps about 50% faster than we were.

The apogee for me was crashing in this hole just on the other side of this two foot high root. I was able to get my front wheel up and over the root each time, but the drop down the other side, into a hole, ate the wheel each time and I ate the ground each time. I crashed exactly there on each lap. It was awful. On the final lap I decided to get off the bike, hoist it over and walk past. I stuck my foot in the hole and fell over, with my bike landing on top of me, biting my neck. A horrible experience. A truly horrible experience.

On the drive home, scratching my newfound poison ivy rash and looking at my wrists, which were swollen up like eggplants and about as purple, I decided to race some more.

But first I dropped some coin on a set of forks. If you’re going to have an ill-fated love affair, it’s no good for it to be brief. The pain has to be dragged on, and by lowering the pain threshold a bit, suspension forks allow your beloved to really, really torture you over an extended period of time before throwing you to the ground.

This led to more regular mountain bike rides. I crashed pretty much once a week, and on some lucky rides, I crashed three or four times. At a race at Granogue, hosted by my friend Fat Marc, I attempted to dodge a downed rider by riding into some innocuous-looking bushes.

And in fact, the bushes were innocuous…but the tree they hid was not. I hit it head first, stopped instantly, had clear fluid running out of my nose and a broken helmet. I compensated for this fairly obvious concussion by crashing twice in the rock garden, including an endo that somehow put me face and shin first (simultaneously) into some sharp rocks. I’ve been out on the bike since then and have tried to duplicate that particularly stimulating position, but we haven’t been able to achieve it together since that time. On the way up toward the start/finish line, I took a beer handup and decided to call it a day.

Nor were my romantic interludes over for the summer.

The thing about love is it’s addictive; the ones we love can hurt us but we keep coming back.

I’ve been through diamonds, I’ve been through minks
I’ve been through it all. . .
Love stinks
(Love stinks)
Love stinks yeah yeah
(Love stinks)
Love stinks yeah yeah

So I raced in the local cross country Wednesday night series. This introduced me to the idea that change in a relationship is a good thing. It also kills when you realize your beloved has changed radically, and you were unaware of it. Like if your wife / husband came home with a new person and suddenly announced that it was an open marriage, and by the way, the new person is also going to put everybody in the house, including the dog and the fish, on a macrobiotic diet, and the jogging regime starts tomorrow morning at 5:30 AM.

That’s what it’s like to go from a rigid frame to a frame with forks.

So I spent most of the summer Wednesday night series getting thrown off the bike violently at this creek crossing where the forks would bottom out, I’d go over the handlebars, the front wheel would taco, and the bike would jump on my back and bite me, while making eyes at all the other racers who were passing me by.

Those forks represented the open relationship phase of this love affair, and it was tough on me to realize I’d have to be a little more understanding of my beloved’s newfound flexibility and her wandering front end if I wanted to hang on to her. She didn’t want me if I couldn’t handle her new bounce.

Then the love really bit me. Some of the guys I ride with are real countercultural fellows. Not content to ride singlespeed, they have to ride fixed, or combine booze with fast MTB riding. Or hang out with people for whom mountain biking and sporting interesting facial hair is not an ironic statement, but a way of life. They kidnapped me and took me to an underground single speed MTB decathlon. I wasn’t the slowest guy everywhere – we had an insane gravel road descent where I was utterly in my element, but the uphill TTT and the technical stuff killed me. I mean, the chicks were kicking my butt even on flat ground and technical downhills.

It was rough.

But then I found my event: Bike Derby! It turns out there’s an underground mountain biking sport where you just ride around in a tight circle and knock people down! Having specialized in this in my crit racing days, I’d found my place in life. I didn’t worry about the front wheel tacoing – if it wanted to taco, we’d do that. I didn’t worry about the forks cutting under – it only meant I’d fall on top of somebody, which is good for laughs and style points in a derby. Most of all, I didn’t mind that it hurt, since I could pass on the pain to somebody else! Like settling in after a honeymoon, I understood my bike, and it understood me.

So the other week I was out at Patapsco with my friends, and we were pretty much jamming around the place on a three hour ride that wiped me out. I was thinking about this long hill that I can never clear. We were going up it and for a change, I thought I’d be able to get all the way up cleanly, past the steep rocky / rooty section right near the top. It didn’t happen, of course. My front wheel hit this big, tall root that always thwarts me, I stopped dead, and slowly tipped over, landing full in a bunch of poison ivy and some rocks. It’s what always happens, of the maybe 20 times I’ve tried to climb that hill.

But on the drive back, as I was scratching at my poison ivy rash, I had the last laugh. The second time we climbed that ridiculous hill, at the very end of the ride, I did manage to clear it. I got to the top clean for the first time ever, and felt like I’ve never felt before. The bike and I have a new understanding. Sure, she still tries to throw me off and stomp on me. All the time. But I understand that if I respect her boundaries, she’ll reward me with her little favors once in a while, and it feels great. Even without that I’d stick it out, but those rewards make it a lot sweeter.

Because of what it does to you, love still stinks. But once in a while, it’s the best thing in the world.

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