A Note from Fatty: If you missed yesterday’s post about how you can win a cycling vacation in Italy or a pair of top-of-the-line Sidi shoes, you should go back and read it, then enter before it’s too late. Both contests end tomorrow (Wednesday). And you really, really, really want to win these. Really.
As a very popular, handsome, respected, and award-winning blogger, I am frequently asked questions regarding bicycles. Here are some I’ve received recently:
- What kind of bike should I buy?
- What are good foods to eat before, during, and after a ride?
- Is it important that I stretch before riding?
- How should I select the right saddle for my anatomy?
At first glance, these questions do not seem to have anything in common. However, if you will dig a little deeper, you will realize that these questions do in fact share a characteristic. To wit: they are all stupid and uninteresting.
Let us dismiss them from our thoughts.
Recently, however, I encountered a question that caught my attention, primarily because I am the one who conceived it:
Why does cycling hurt?
The answer is not obvious. Consider other activities, for example. Driving an automobile does not hurt. Watching television does not hurt. Eating nachos does not hurt.
But cycling — in particular, certain aspects of cycling — does hurt.
I am pleased, after considerable research which I suspect will garner me still more awards and accolades, to provide the answer.
Introducing…The Pain Pellet
As most of you know, there are four commonly-known elements, from which all substances on Earth are made. These elements are Earth, Wind, Fire, and Cheddar. The more cheddar the better, but that is the subject for another paper.
What most of you do not know is that there is a fifth element, and it is not the one starring Bruce Willis.
The fifth element is Pain.
Unlike other elements, which can be combined to form other substances (nachos, for example, are a combination of Earth, Fire, and Cheddar), Pain keeps to itself, clumping into small balloon-like spheres called Pain Pellets.
While difficult to see, Pain Pellets are nevertheless easy to detect, for when touched by a human, they (i.e., the Pain Pellets, not the human) burst, splattering you with a certain amount of pain. The larger the pellet, the larger the pain blast radius.
And if one encounters several Pain Pellets while traveling in a certain direction, one will experience sustained pain.
Pain Pellets: Properties and Proclivities
The reason, then, cycling hurts is because cyclists — due to some cosmic accident — tend to frequent places where Pain Pellets generally congregate. Specifically:
- Pain Pellets adhere to slopes. As everyone knows, an upward slope is in tension with the magnetic forces that some call “gravity” (I will discuss the folly of the theory of gravity another time, but for our purposes today, we can pretend that such a force does exist). A byproduct of this tension is friction, which in turn creates static electricity. Pain Pellets, being very much like balloons in both size and texture, are drawn to this static electricity on upward slopes, and cling to it. The steeper the slope, the greater the density and size of Pain Pellets collected.
- Pain Pellets settle at the bottoms of treacherous places. Pain Pellets are subject, to a degree, to the normal forces of “gravity,” and will settle where you might expect them to: just below slippery roots, at the base of a three-foot ledge, and just beyond a surprise hairpin are three good examples. Mountain cyclists are particularly adept at discovering these Pain Pellets.
- Pain Pellets are attracted to heavier people. A surprising fact is that if two people — let’s call them “Brad” and “Fatty” for no particular reason — ride up a given hill, the heavier one (“Fatty”) will encounter more Pain Pellets than the lighter one (“Brad”). Indeed, the Pain Pellets will actually move out of Brad’s way and wind their way toward Fatty. It is almost as if the Pain Pellets are sentient and find heavy people especially attractive. Some of my less-credible colleagues assert that the Pain Pellets find me because I have a greater gravitational mass, but this (of course) relies on the convoluted — and thoroughly debunked — theory of gravitational pull to work. For now, let us say that Pain Pellets like heaviness, and leave it at that.
- Pain Pellets grow back quickly. Cyclists often attribute the “drafting” effect of riding to the thoroughly debunked notion that the cyclist in front of them creates a slipstream. In reality, the rider in front is hitting a disproportionate number of Pain Pellets, allowing the rider behind to ride the route relatively unscathed. Unfortunately, Pain Pellets reform in their original location in a mere matter of moments.
How to Avoid Pain
Of course, some cyclists find the near-incessant encounters with Pain Pellets sub-optimal, even to the point that the Pain Pellets may impede the cyclist’s progress. “How,” the cyclist may reasonably wonder, “might I avoid the Pain Pellets?”
There are multiple strategies.
- Slow down. When riding up a hill, one notices a surprising amount of pain. Further, the faster one rides up that hill, the more it seems to hurt. It is therefore worth noting, then, that one generally will encounter the same number of Pain Pellets, regardless of whether one is going up the hill very fast or very slow. However, since when going slow one encounters the Pain Pellets at a slower rate, the perceived pain may be decreased.
- Weave. When climbing a hill, one may reduce the frequency of Pain Pellet encounters by “paperboying” up the hill. Some theorize that Pain Pellets grow in long uphill strands and that by weaving one’s way up the hill, one may avoid at least some of these strands of Pain Pellets. In reality, though, one is actually encountering perhaps more Pain Pellets over the course of the climb, but since one is hitting them at a slower rate the perceived pain is again reduced.
- Don’t fall. One universal truth about Pain Pellets is that they remain on the ground. When one remains upright on one’s bicycle, one is merely splattered by the exploding Pain Pellets as one’s bicycle wheels burst aforementioned Pellets. However, when one crashes off one’s bicycle, one is almost certain to land directly on several Pain Pellets, soaking the cyclist in pain. It should be further noted that Pain Pellets do very little to cushion the cyclist’s fall.
In summary, Pain Pellets and the cyclist seem to have a strange mutual attraction. Cyclists are drawn to inclines and treacherous locations, which are the natural habitat of Pain Pellets.
And in short, the question “Why does cycling hurt” has a sensible answer based on pure physics. Cycling hurts because cyclists are drawn to pain.