05.28.2009 | 3:00 am

Here is a universally-understood cycling axiom:

  • Any time two or more cyclists of approximately equal ability share a ride, that ride will become an impromptu race.

And here are the universally-understood corollaries to that axiom:

  • At no point shall any party to that race state that a race is about to begin.
  • At no point shall any party to that race acknowledge that a race is in progress.
  • After the race, the loser shall decide whether to acknowledge the winner’s superiority, or to instead make a lame excuse.
  • If the loser makes a lame excuse, the winner shall treat the aforementioned excuse as implicit acknowledgment of the loser’s loss, and may in fact treat said excuse as more valid than an explicit admission of the winner’s superiority.

All those axioms and corollaries go out the window now, though. Here’s how it happened.

Last Sunday evening, I texted Dug, letting him know that due to the rain, I was seriously considering on bailing on the race at Corner Canyon the following morning. It just seemed unlikely that the trails were going to be good, and I didn’t want to pay $40 to ride trails I ride all the time anyway, albeit with much fewer people on the trail and with the trail not being a muddy mess.

Dug concurred.

I then admitted something: the only reason I was interested in the race at all was because I wanted to see who is faster: him or me.

Dug admitted he was curious about the same thing. (More about the reasons for our shared curiosity in a moment.)

So I proposed something I have never proposed before, in the history of my entire cycling life: how about — once the trails dried out — he and I race the originally-proposed Draper race course (with some minor modifications to remove the parts he and I agreed were strictly for traffic control and hence didn’t apply to us).

In fact, I don’t believe I can recall any instance of any two cyclists agreeing before the start of any ride that the ride was actually more than an “easy day,” and was in fact really a race. With an agreed-upon start and finish line, and contingencies for a tie (no finish line sprint, since our finish line is on the far side of a busy street — so if we’re together when we get to the street, it’s a tie).

But Dug agreed. So today, after work, he and I are duking it out. Two laps, Draper race course.

We’re going to find out which of us, right at this moment, is the less pathetic of the two.

Why We’re Interested In This Race

Dug and I have been riding together for 15+ years. Yeah, really: 15 or more. And at any given moment, we both had a clear idea of which of us was the faster of the two.

For the first few years, Dug was much, much faster than I was, both in climbing and descending.

Starting in my fourth or fifth year of riding, though, I got serious about climbing and became the faster of the two of us in climbs, although still lagging far behind in descending skills.

And that’s the way it’s been for several years.

This year, though, Dug’s outridden me or at least matched me on more than one climb. For example, he demolished me at RAWROD — not just in the climbs, but altogether. In our most recent road ride together, I was unable to shake him in the climb.

But that’s not the only change.

A switch has flipped in my brain and this year I’m finally at near-parity with my friends in descending speed. Part of that’s due to my owning some exquisite bikes. Part of it’s due to my finally having internalized some lessons BotchedExperiment taught me a couple years ago. Part of it has to do with my having found that I am about ten times more confident in my braking when I single-finger brake with my middle finger on the lever.

In any case, I can mostly hang with Dug on the descents, now. Or at least not lose major time.

In other words, for the first time in years and years, I don’t think Dug nor I would be confident in calling the outcome of this race.

And that is why it must happen.

Points of Consideration

Dug and I each have riding strengths and weaknesses. We’ve been riding together long enough that I’m sure he knows everything I’m going to list here (though I am terrified he is holding something in reserve that I don’t know):

  • Dug is a slow starter: Dug takes a while to get his motor going. I have an easy opportunity to get to the long singletrack climb (Clark’s Trail: about 13 minutes at our rate) before he does, after which it will be difficult for him to pass me.
  • I run hot off the start line: I am blessed / plagued with massive amounts of adrenaline at the beginning of a race, and I will fly off the start line, apparently without effort.
  • Dug is a strong finisher: In every race I have ever seen him, Dug seems to become less tired as the race progresses.
  • I fade badly: If I don’t manage to rein myself in at the beginning of the race, I often find myself all out of matches long before the race is over.
  • Dug is a better tactician: Dug will often think about race strategy during the race. He will make actual judgement calls and everything. I, on the other hand, tend to be a little bit…um…stupid in my race strategies. As in, I ride really hard until I can’t, at which point I slow down a lot.

In other words, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where I shoot off the front, thinking I’m winning for 75% of the race, only to have Dug pass me right after we climb “The Wall” for the second time and I have gone into survival mode.

What is at Stake

Since neither Dug nor I did early registration for the Draper race, we now each have a theoretical surplus of $39. The winner gets the losers race registration money.

But both of us know that the money is the least of what’s at stake.

And later this afternoon, we’ll — once again — know which of us is faster.

I’d like to go on record as saying that I would like it to be me.


  1. Comment by dicky | 05.28.2009 | 3:43 am

    Is anyone taking bets?
    What’s the spread here?

    I’m not entering a race this weekend, so I got $35 of my own to risk.

  2. Comment by william | 05.28.2009 | 4:02 am

    I think he’s gonna kick your ass ;-)
    Does that help with motivation?

  3. Comment by Tom | 05.28.2009 | 4:07 am


  4. Comment by Jim | 05.28.2009 | 4:48 am

    The reason you descend better is that you’re as fat as Roseanne Barr, and nothing can slow down a heavy descending object, not even air brakes. Trust me on this, fat people descend like a lawn dart thrown dropped from the edge of space, with a couple lead ingots, a bag of nickels, and a box of old school Power Bars taped to the fins.

    Why do you think 240 pound downhill MTB racers are so fast? It’s not because they use their middle fingers for breaking. Believe you me, if they are using their middle finger for anything it’s to shovel a few (okay a dozen) extra wings in at happy hour and to keep an extra tight grip on that 22 ounce Sam Adams.

    Embrace your pulchritude!

    I would, but I can’t seem to get my arms around myself. – FC

  5. Comment by Mike Roadie | 05.28.2009 | 5:06 am

    Fly like the wind…………

  6. Comment by bikemike | 05.28.2009 | 5:57 am

    First rule of Fight Club is…don’t talk about Fight Club.

  7. Comment by Phill | 05.28.2009 | 5:58 am

    You know we won’t believe unless we see the VIDEO Proof. Make sure you take the Camera. Besides if Dug wins, you can blame it on the extra weight of the camera.

  8. Comment by Hamish A | 05.28.2009 | 6:05 am

    I think Jim has been beaten a few too many times by riders more substantial of mass than he ;-)

    Remember the most important part of the race – trash talk! It doesn’t matter who’s fastest, be ready with the awesome zingers and you’ll have won before the wheels even start rolling.

    Now, you two kids behave yourselves, play fair, have fun and be back by dinner time, ok?

    WIN Susan, ummm… and Fatty… ummm… and Dug… I can’t play favorite.

  9. Comment by Big Boned | 05.28.2009 | 6:41 am

    Here’s hoping you both make it to the finish line alive…

  10. Comment by MikeonHisBike | 05.28.2009 | 6:53 am

    If you throw some chocolate covered cinnamon gummi bears on the trail behind you Dug might get distracted and forget about the race entirely for a while. Try that for some strategy.

  11. Comment by Clay | 05.28.2009 | 6:57 am

    Good luck to both, can’t wait to read/see videos of this one.

  12. Comment by Ka_Jun | 05.28.2009 | 6:58 am

    Battle for honor and glory, excellent!

  13. Comment by MOCougFan | 05.28.2009 | 7:04 am

    Sweet. Gotta take video of this. If you lose we’ll agree to blame it on the extra weight of the camera.

    Post the result tonight. Please don’t wait till tomorrow, we’ll be anxiously waiting.

  14. Comment by Bob | 05.28.2009 | 7:34 am

    You do realize that this will NOT be the last race between you two…the loser will most definately want a rematch. I think you may be starting a dangerous precedent here

  15. Comment by Dave699 | 05.28.2009 | 7:40 am

    Fatty – does still work? Thanks.

  16. Comment by Dobovedo | 05.28.2009 | 7:57 am

    See bikemike above regarding Fight Club.

    That said, my money is on Dug.

  17. Comment by 331miles | 05.28.2009 | 7:59 am

    Don’t try any hand-on-the-jersey takedowns. That stuff will get you banned from informal mano-a-mano races.

  18. Comment by GenghisKhan | 05.28.2009 | 8:40 am

    Sounds like a first annual Battle of the Titans type of event. I say that the stakes need to be high–time on the others favorite bike or something like that or the loser must enter a race wearing only a tangerine speedo. Not sure, but you get the point.

    @Fatty: charge battery, remove lens cap, etc., etc. :)

    @Jim: Good think I’m not a coffee drinker or it would’ve been spraying out my nose with your comment, starting at “Roseanne Barr”–Ha!

  19. Comment by KanyonKris | 05.28.2009 | 8:40 am

    What’s wrong with detente?

    I’ll sweeten (literally) the pot with 2 pounds of chocolate covered cinnamon bears to the winner. Thanks for the idea MikeonHisBike.

  20. Comment by chtrich | 05.28.2009 | 8:48 am

    I’m taking Dug in this one……sorry Fatty

  21. Comment by Rantwick | 05.28.2009 | 8:56 am

    You know what they say about borrowing money from friends? I think a similar rule may apply here. You will end up bitter, trash talking enemies forever. Either that, or it will be a fun rivalry that keeps you riding and racing even after you are both old enough to need trikes instead of bikes…

  22. Comment by dpcowboy | 05.28.2009 | 9:02 am

    Your axiom (and subsequent corollaries) are not based in fact. Often, riders ride just to ride, and may even be licensed ‘racers’ who are having a training day, a planned tempo ride, or even an easy ‘leg-opener’ type of ride.
    However, I do like the tenor of the writing, and I found it funny.

  23. Comment by Rick S. | 05.28.2009 | 9:07 am

    It would be nice to get some stats. Age, weight, height, gear ratios, and current record.

    $39 is a significant pay out in this economy.

  24. Comment by eber | 05.28.2009 | 9:20 am

    fatty wins lap 1

    dug wins lap 2

    where can the peanut gallery sit for best viewing?

    keep an eye out for buzzworms.

  25. Comment by mark | 05.28.2009 | 9:41 am

    I’ll follow with the helmet cam if you don’t want the extra weight. Seriously, what time does this thing start so I can come watch and take bets?

  26. Comment by MOCougFan | 05.28.2009 | 10:18 am

    I’d definately take SBJ up on carrying the helmet cam. That way we could see both in action. Good idea Mark.

  27. Comment by Angie G | 05.28.2009 | 10:49 am

    I would say some good race strategy would be to insist Dug take his phone along for safety reasons. After watching the video of your ride with Jill he has serious phone anxiety.

    You could give a chosen few his phone number and we could call him randomly. He will be so distracted you will end the victor.

    Good Luck to you both!

  28. Comment by Clydesteve | 05.28.2009 | 11:38 am

    What whar WAS it that BothchedExperiment taught you, Fatty?

    That any wreck on a downhill is not as bad as chainsawing your leg off, so Go for it?

  29. Comment by Clydesteve | 05.28.2009 | 11:39 am

    I have no idea who typed whar in that post.

  30. Comment by Sarah | 05.28.2009 | 12:18 pm

    It is my experience that the universally understood cycling axiom only applies to those with gonads. I’m often pleased that I am not male because I am not forced to prove my um, size.

  31. Comment by Kt | 05.28.2009 | 12:29 pm

    Jim: Lucky for me I have no co-workers in my part of the office today, they would be concerned by the constant giggling right now.

    I too am taking no sides. I would cheer you both on indiscriminately, because that’s how I roll.

    Clydesteve, I think you are either channeling your inner pirate or inner buckaroo, you pick.

  32. Comment by London Cyclist | 05.28.2009 | 12:36 pm

    The unspoken laws of cycling and manhood in general that ultimately mean anything you are taking part in is a competition. Who has the best kids? Who has the best bike? Who looks cooler on said bike?

    Good luck Dug! (Sorry)

  33. Comment by Freddy Freshlegs | 05.28.2009 | 12:44 pm

    I call dibs on your bike if you die.

  34. Comment by El Animal | 05.28.2009 | 12:56 pm

    WHere is botched when you need it? Did he stopped reading your blog 25 times per hour?

  35. Comment by Jenny-Jenny | 05.28.2009 | 1:14 pm

    1. Trash Talk.
    2. Candy distractions.
    3. Helmet cam.
    4. Invite bees, tasty dug, not so tasty fatty.
    5. Trash Talk.

  36. Comment by Bob B. | 05.28.2009 | 2:37 pm

    Dug and I used to have mano a mano races around Slickrock back in the 90s. I don’t recall who won, or at least I don’t want to recall who won, because he did. He’s surprisingly resilient. You think you’re stronger than him, and you gap him, and then he’s on your tail again. Or maybe he just cheats.

    Best wishes in all your racing endeavors.

  37. Comment by MattC | 05.28.2009 | 2:45 pm

    Uhm…Fatty….you posted Mano-a-mano at 3am? A little Pre-race anxiety? Or is that just what it takes to be an ‘Award Winning Psyching blogger’? When do you sleep? Just curious…cuz I thought that I was busy…but I’m NOT gonna be up at 3am on the computer. EVER.

    Good luck on the race…all us guys know what you are talking about…it’s an instinctual thing…kind’a like when you are riding along and see another bike ahead of you (the rabbit syndrome). Man’ly law says that you MUST catch and pass said rider, even if it takes you to the brink of death. And everybody knows that there are LOTS of mini-races in any given ride…top of each climb, each downhill, a rock on the side of the road, any road sign, the turnaround point, etc). There are some things you just gotta do. Breathing. Eating. Racing your buddies every single time you ride. Making excuses when you suck. And bragging rights from being stronger on any given day are like gold. Only better.

  38. Comment by yeagermeister | 05.28.2009 | 3:11 pm

    I’m pretty sure Ethan and I unspokenly race each other on every ride. He beat me when he rode as a Junior, then he took some time off. When he came back he was MINE!!!! It was only a matter of time before the beatings started again, though…

  39. Comment by Kathleen@ForgingAhead | 05.28.2009 | 3:56 pm

    Ah, to be an eagle soaring above the trail to watch this battle of wills and skills. Good luck to both of you!

  40. Comment by Skimoab | 05.28.2009 | 3:57 pm

    Only roadies care about sprints, climbs, and mile marker 18 on a recreational ride. Actually, they don’t even call them “recreational”, they’re all “training” rides.

    I think this may be a very unhealthy meshing of both your road and MTB personalities, and I can only fear what may come of it.

  41. Comment by km | 05.28.2009 | 5:55 pm

    You know, this brings up an old beef of mine. When I was racing sport class, eight, seven…ten……several years ago. When I was racing my racing weight hovered around a respectable 167-172lbs. I was a respectable top 15 racer. But what always irked me was I was often crushed by guys weighing 150lbs or less. (Don’t get your bib shorts in a twist Fatty, I’m getting to my point….but it will take awhile.)

    I always thought that to even the playing field the winner of a race should have to fight the first 5 finishers that come across the line (tap out or knock out preferably). I think this alternative would provide one of two things. First either the faster lighter guys will start slowing down hoping to finish just high enough to fight the winner who is thoroughly exhausted or the little guys will all have to start training in MMA or some form of martial art to effectively defend themselves and their potentially temporary title.

    The side benefits of this system are self evident. The little guys will have to spilt their training time to accomodate learning a new skillset. The big guys however can continue to train like maniacs on their bikes. The entertainment value of bike racing would go up exponentially due to the crossover between the UFC and USA Cycling. The sport would be able to tap into a great new demographic. (although beer swilling testosterone laden men….oh wait, that’s most of cycling already)

    Here’s my point. You and Dug should pilot this concept. I’ll take you to tap Dug out by anaconda choke….what do ya say??!!!

  42. Comment by joliver3 | 05.28.2009 | 6:35 pm

    Jim. Dude. Funny comment, but I’m pretty sure you just called Fatty attractive. Not that there’s anything wrong with that….

    Looking forward to the race report!

    WIN Susan! (and FC)

  43. Comment by Annie | 05.28.2009 | 6:39 pm

    Go Fatty! Can’t wait to hear all about it. WIN Susan!

  44. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 05.28.2009 | 7:29 pm

    What I taught Fatty was that he shouldn’t try to go downhill fast and flawlessly, because that’s impossible; rather, I told him that he should realize that there is no hill.

    No wait, that’s not it. I remember now, I told him to stay on target and search his feelings.

    One thing I’m pretty sure I said was that he should forget about using the brakes. The idea is to go downhill fast, and those brakes do absolutely nothing but slow you down. In fact, I advised him to remove the brakes from his bike altogether.

  45. Comment by Jamieson | 05.28.2009 | 8:26 pm

    Congrats on the results…. what is it with insects and your rides?

  46. Comment by james | 05.28.2009 | 10:04 pm

    Talking about fightclub, a similar post here today:

    Oops…just broke the first and second rule of fightclub

  47. Comment by Philly Jen | 05.29.2009 | 1:01 am

    Per instructions above:

    Downhill + rigid singlespeed + no brakes = fixiesque = cage match w/BikeSnobNYC at the bottom of the hill

    Definite pay-per-view potential there, esp. with BSNYC in a luchador mask

  48. Comment by Philly Jen | 05.29.2009 | 1:04 am

    (While Dug gets to costar in a Pixar film…)

  49. Comment by buckythedonkey | 05.29.2009 | 2:19 am

    Aaaargh! The suspense!


  50. Comment by Leon | 05.29.2009 | 2:40 am

    “Here’s hoping you both make it to the finish line alive…” Big Boned

    I think you just jinxed these two guys right there

  51. Comment by Chad | 05.29.2009 | 7:57 am

    You won and there is no gloating yet? ????

  52. Comment by Uphill Battle | 05.29.2009 | 8:23 am

    Fatty, Dug stole your thunder…however, I am interested to hear your side of the story.

  53. Comment by Donna | 06.2.2009 | 11:28 am

    Good grief! Your Axioms and their correlaries made me giggle snort my coffee. The best humor comes from real life. :)

  54. Comment by Corey | 06.14.2009 | 8:45 am

    After reading this post, that very evening I tried out middle finger braking. What a difference! How could I have missed this little trick?!?


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