The Tell

06.11.2009 | 11:32 am

I’ve always loved having visitors over, but now I love it for a completely different reason. Which is to say, when family comes over to stay for a few days, I now assume they are here to give me a break. To let me take a ride. To, in short, revert back to my natural ways of laxitude and irresponsibility.

And so it was that as soon as I found out my Ma-in-Law was going to be staying with us through the weekend that I IM’d Mark and said, “Hey, remember how you were talking about riding a Nebo loop (more about past Nebo rides here, here, and here) sometime? My Saturday just opened up.”

And within a couple hours, we had a ride plan established. Eventually, nine of us would start the ride: Me, Kenny, Jon, Jon’s brother Paul, Mark, Mark’s brother Steve, Chucky, Linde, and Vince (joining us at Payson Lake).

A Little About The Ride

You should know that the Nebo Loop is in contention for the coveted “Best Road Century in the Entire World” prize, having easily captured the local version of this prize (“Best Road Century in Utah”). It begins with a twenty-mile spin-up, giving you a chance to get warmed up and to chat with the group.

This is followed by a twenty-mile climb up an incredibly scenic, winding mountain road. About halfway up the climb there is a good spot to refill water bottles and regroup: Payson Lake.

The second half of the climb messes with your head, because there are at least six or seven places where you could swear you have reached the summit. But you haven’t. Mt. Nebo is the king of mindgame epics.

Once you (really, finally) summit and regroup, there’s the descent — which, just to show you who’s boss, still has three steep climbing pitches in it. Once the descent begins in earnest, it winds and turns at the top, then straightens out into a working descent. If you manage to form a group for this part of the ride, you can build a huge gap on those who find themselves soloing it.

Oh, by the way, right now there are several places in this descent where the pavement has been torn out. Just two feet long, but spanning the width of the road, presumably to put down cable or pipe.

Which means you get to decide whether you are confident doing a high-speed road bunnyhop over two feet of gravel.

It turns out that I am not.

Linde’s Tell

As proof that I am not fast, light, nor strong, I got shot right out the back of the group as soon as the road turned upward. For a while, Mark and Chucky rode with me as a shepherding move. Then, finding it difficult to ride so slowly, they went ahead.

I would be alone with my thoughts until we regrouped at Payson Lake, where Vince and Linde caught up with us.

For your information, by the way, my thoughts primarily took the form of, “Wow, I’m slow. And I hurt. And I’m fat. And I’m slow. It hurts to be this slow when you’re fat.” And so on.

Once we left for the second half of the climb, I was — again — shot out the back. Almost as if I were not as good a cyclist as the people I was riding with.

The difference, this time, was that Linde — resplendent in brilliant-white Assos clothing, head to knee — was in the back with me.

A side note: As much as possible, I avoided looking at Linde, because his clothing was so brilliantly white — or was it actually luminescent? — that I would see a Linde-shaped purple afterimage after looking at him.

From time to time, though, Linde would surge ahead, making me think that he was about to drop me. But then — every time — he would drop back and I would catch him, after which he would tuck in behind me.

Then it occurred to me: The Surge-Sag is Linde’s “Tell.” He was doing those mini-attacks to make me think he was strong, when in fact he was actually suffering. So of course I did the neighborly thing: the next time he did a mini-surge, I kicked up my speed just a hair. When Linde dropped back, he found that he couldn’t hold my wheel, and he was gone.

Mark’s Tell

I buried myself a little bit, wanting this attack — yes, I was attacking a friend on a friendly group ride — to stick. And there, up ahead, was Mark. I could see him.

And I could see that he was suffering. Because Mark had a Tell, too. Where he had been riding smoothly earlier in the day — his legs spinning, his shoulders flat and steady — he was now mashing, and his shoulders bobbed up and down as he pumped the bars.

I got the exact same feeling I get when I’m swimming in the deep ocean and smell blood.

I then exhibited one of cycling’s exceptions to the laws of physics: I gave 110% of my maximum energy output. Yes, I knew — even as it happened — that I would pay for it later, but at the time that seemed like a reasonable trade.

Twenty minutes later — I’m lucky it’s a very long climb — I caught Mark.

Apologetically, he stepped up the pace, at which point I begged him to back off, because I had just given everything I had to catch him and needed a few moments to revel.

Jon’s Tell

As Mark and I rode, we could see Jon, tantalizingly close — maybe just 100 yards or so. And you know what? Jon was showing off his Tell, too. Evidently, when Jon’s tired, he locks his elbows, rests his hands flat on the bars, and lets his head slump forward.

You know the look.

And Mark knew it too. He pulled away from me, hoping to bridge to Jon. After all, we were getting near the summit, and Mark surely did not want to finish the climb with the slow guy.

Hey, if I could have finished with someone besides myself, I would have.

Fortunately for Jon, this was not a concern for him. Tell or no Tell, I was not up to another push.

My Tell

As I finished the climb, I asked myself: “So, what is my Tell? How does my riding change when I’m cooked?”

All I needed to do was look down to get the answer. I was on the double yellow line. You see, my Tell is not only the most obvious one in the world, it’s actually deadly. Which is to say, my Tell is: I drift left.

I don’t know why I drift left when I’m tired, but I do. Reliably and predictably. And I’m generally not aware of it until a car honks at me or I cross the divider line.

Note to everyone who ever rides with me: try not to be on my left once I’ve bonked.


  1. Comment by Rantwick | 06.11.2009 | 11:42 am

    Drifting left? Don’t get bonked, man! You might get bonked in a bad way! Nice post, enjoyed the Tells.

  2. Comment by mark | 06.11.2009 | 12:07 pm

    I have no idea what Paul’s, Kenny’s, Chucky’s, Vince’s, or Steve’s Tell is.

    Me either, though I think maybe Kenny’s is that he starts riding with a really low cadence. No, wait a second, that low cadence is because he’s climbing 6000 feet with a 53×17 gear. – FC

  3. Comment by KK | 06.11.2009 | 12:39 pm

    My tells are rather subtle. You have to be a keen observer to notice the profuse sweating, gasping, drooling and weeping.

    I am hoping my newly arrived Team Fatty jersey will prove a compelling distraction.

  4. Comment by Jamieson | 06.11.2009 | 1:02 pm

    That’s a very dangerous tell as you get smoked.

    BTW – Team Fatty jersey arrived today/yesterday at the post office. Can’t model it here at the office though. Looks great!

  5. Comment by matt (ming) | 06.11.2009 | 1:12 pm

    i tell jokes to anyone around me when im cooked

  6. Comment by Lizzylou | 06.11.2009 | 1:18 pm

    My tell is extremely obvious. When I’m cooked on a climb I get off and hoof it.

  7. Comment by Angie G | 06.11.2009 | 1:43 pm

    My tell is an obvious case of Turrettes Syndrome. With every gasping breath comes a stream of expletives that only a seasoned truck driver or sailor can interpret. I have been known to string words together in a continual litany until the summit is reached.

    For some strange reason my legs seem to respond to the abuse. Go figure.

  8. Comment by DAGray | 06.11.2009 | 2:11 pm

    I’m a commuter rather than a racer, but I do like to go for a metric century once in a while. (100km – I’m in Canada) Thought it might be of some small interest that this weekend (June 13-14) I’m doing 200km in two days. It’s called “The Ride to Conquer Cancer” in support of Canada’s premier cancer research hospital, the Princess Margaret in Toronto. Last year we raised $14 million. I’ll be wearing the Ride jersey on the road, but I will be wearing a Fat Cyclist t-shirt during the overnight. Win Susan!

  9. Comment by Philly Jen | 06.11.2009 | 2:48 pm

    When I am cooked, I am brown and crispy on the outside, and warm and mushy on the inside.

    Like a fine dessert…that is enrobed in a layer of SPF70 sunscreen.

  10. Comment by Shiny Flu | 06.11.2009 | 3:32 pm

    I’m like Jon. Hands on the tops and a droopy head.

    I figured out why you drift left:

    In a former life you lived in England and/or one of her colonies. This is why you always skid your rear when breaking since you’ve learnt that right hand=front brake=most effective stopping.

    Of course that could just be me (all my bikes have ‘moto’ set up, now).

  11. Comment by aussie kev | 06.11.2009 | 3:55 pm

    my tell always involves me shaking my head in a “i cant believe i’m about to get dropped” type fashion followed almost straght away by the gap between my front wheel and the rear wheel of the “kid” infront increasing so quickly it defies physics !!!!

    so if you see me shaking my head — come around !!!!


    allez cadel

  12. Comment by Jonnie | 06.11.2009 | 4:04 pm

    Good riding with you Fatty. That was an amazingly beautiful ride. Even if I did have my head hanging low for a good majority of it.

  13. Comment by SurlyCommuter | 06.11.2009 | 4:07 pm

    I can be a bit chatty on a ride, witty irrelevant banter is my typically my only consistent companion – when I’m cooked, I’m pretty quiet.


  14. Comment by skippy | 06.11.2009 | 4:25 pm

    My tongue starts to drag on the road slowing me down even more. Eventually it wraps up in my spokes and then I have a convenient excuse to stop riding and untangle my tongue. The bloody mess allows me to “tell” everyone I was hit by a semi and everyone believes that I never have bonked.

  15. Comment by HobbleCreek Possee | 06.11.2009 | 4:45 pm

    that was a grate ride and even better company thanks to all. nice skip i liked that post!!!

  16. Comment by Grant | 06.11.2009 | 5:36 pm

    Being an antipodean, it took me a second or two to figure out why drifting left would be an issue… yeah, you don’t want to do that up there.


  17. Comment by dougg | 06.11.2009 | 5:38 pm

    Road Ride???? Whats that??

  18. Comment by Steve | 06.11.2009 | 6:20 pm

    Nah Fatty’s tell is just more proof he should come ride with us in Australia, so long as he rides a CX or mountain bike drifting left would never be a problem on the road.

  19. Comment by buckythedonkey | 06.12.2009 | 3:17 am

    When I’m baked a sweat gland above my right eye kicks into overdrive and I end up riding with one eye shut. I’m told it looks quite alarming.

    One sure fire way to induce an involuntary Linde-like surge-sag is to overtake any stranger while wearing a jersey with FATCYCLIST.COM emblazoned across it. Never fails.

  20. Comment by jeff | 06.12.2009 | 4:11 am

    You know I’m in trouble when I’ve shifted all the way down (do they make a great-granny gear?) and still look like I might fall over.

  21. Comment by Mike Roadie | 06.12.2009 | 4:42 am

    Wheels up, arms and legs splayed sideway, dead-cockroach style!!!!


  22. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 06.12.2009 | 6:56 am

    When I saw the title and then the first paragraph I was immediately thinking you go stuck listening to family stories… tellin’ the tell. Mad Max style. Not a poker tell. Yes I watch too many movies.

    Your Tell is a natural reaction… you’re trying to put yourself out of your misery. The wrong side of the road is the perfect place for this.

  23. Pingback by Stones Cry Out - If they keep silent… » Things Heard: e71v5 | 06.12.2009 | 7:43 am

    [...] Drifting left. [...]

  24. Comment by Pinkbike | 06.12.2009 | 8:36 am

    I will never exhibit a Tell of any sort, now that I have my new and so very cool Team Fatty jersey.

  25. Comment by Lowrydr | 06.12.2009 | 10:40 am

    I just flat tell ya I’m wiped so go on and leave me alone, I’m used to it.

    Fatty, you made #3 on the top 50 list over on the other side of the big blue water it’s here:

    Peace and Good Karma to Susan and the Family

  26. Comment by USAFANARC | 06.12.2009 | 10:46 am

    I’d like to “tell” ya’ll that Team Fatty – Seattle has eclipsed the $111,000 mark! Nice. Very Nice.

    One week to go until the ride!

  27. Comment by Kt | 06.12.2009 | 2:36 pm

    My Tell: silence, gasping, head down, and mean thoughts sent out to whoever is pacing me chatting away and asking questions.

    GO AWAY. Seriously. That’s annoying.

    Oh, and if there’s no one around– I make weird faces. Furrowed brow, mouth open, squinty eyes, shoulders hunched. Not on purpose, it just seems to happen. Then I catch myself at it and stop myself until I forget to stop myself.

  28. Comment by AMR | 06.12.2009 | 3:05 pm

    Drifting to the centre line is your body’s way of telling you that you should be there in that position on the road…and behind a wheel driving yourself home.
    With the AC on and a big sandwich in your hand.

  29. Comment by Iowa Dave | 06.15.2009 | 8:45 pm


    During a moment of clarity during my road ride today, I unlocked the secret of the universe. Well, really I think I have “discovered” the reason for your left drift tell. You are clearly “right legged” meaning that when you get tired, you pedal harder with your right leg than with the left making you veer to the left with every cadence. Then again, I could have been loopy with fatigue which is my tell… unintelligible statements


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