How to Ride With Complete Strangers

03.4.2010 | 6:26 am

A Note from Fatty: In yesterday’s post, I neglected to mention that all the photos were taken by my awesomely talented professional photographer sister Kellene. Gee, I wonder if there were other things on my mind.

Another Note from Fatty: This post — and all the posts for the next few days — rescued from my old MSN Spaces Archive. Originally published a long time ago. When I lived in Washington.

Technically, I should never have ridden with Bob (no, not this Bob). I wasn’t even going in the same direction as he. We should have never crossed paths, much less ridden together.

Here’s what happened.

I was riding along 202 on my fixie—oh, how I love the Pista—planning to ride up to Snoqualmie Falls, then maybe continue on. Just see where the road takes me.

Then, as I went by Ames Lake Road, I looked to my left and saw another cyclist heading away.

“I know,” I thought to myself as I went by, “I’ll use him as a rabbit. It’ll be fun to catch someone while on my fixie.”

So I turned turned around, turned on to Ames Lake Road, and started cranking hard. It’s a twisty road, so I could no longer see him. I pushed hard, though, and before long could catch glimpses on the straightaway.

There was just one problem. Even though I was close to redline, I still wasn’t catching him. He was successfully holding me off, without even knowing I was there.

And then, fortune smiled on me. He pulled over to the side of the road.

“A flat,” I thought, and figured I’d offer him a tube or whatever he needed to get rolling again.

But no. As I got closer, I could see: he was just taking a call. So I nodded as I went by, trying to look casual. Then, as soon as I got past, I cranked it up again. Now I was the rabbit. I figured, though, that just as he had held me off, I should be able to hold him off.

I was not able to hold him off.

Conversational Tactics

“Is that a fixed gear bike?” Bob asked.

“Yes,” I said, proudly.

“You doing that for any reason?” Bob asked. This, of course, was a trick question. If I replied that I was doing it because I wanted to become a stronger rider with a smoother cadence, Bob would know that I was a serious rider, which would make his victory over me that much sweeter (for him, not for me).

“Nah, no reason,” I said. “I bought it because I wanted to try track racing, but it turns out that I just really love riding a fixed-gear bike. So I’m just cruising along.”

“Cool,” said Bob. “I’m doing a recovery ride today after a big sufferfest I did last weekend. Some friends and I did a 300-mile ride. Mind if I tool along with you?”

“Sounds great,” I said, backing my effort off ever-so-slightly, to prevent my heart from exploding.

We were on an empty country road, so we rode side-by-side. This meant conversation, and a chance for me to gain an oxygen advantage, by doing the following:

  • Ask short questions that require long answers. “So, tell me about this big ride you did last weekend. Don’t leave out any details.”
  • Parry questions back to the questioner. “Sure, I’m following the Giro whenever I get a moment, but I haven’t been able to track it for a few days. What’s been happening?”
  • Play deaf. “You know, cars keep passing. Could you repeat everything you’ve said in the past 90 seconds?”

Riding Strategy

Since we had both identified that we were not going hard today, you would think that we wouldn’t have to go hard. However, the statement, “I’m taking it easy today” is really nothing more than a thinly-veiled offer to race. Here’s how I managed to stay with Bob:

  • Half-wheel him. Drop behind just a little bit and catch a little draft, even though I’m technically riding beside him.
  • Take advantage of quick dips. The nice thing about the ride we were on is that it rolls. Lots of quick ups and downs. A fixed gear bike is perfect for converting a quick downhill into a short blast of uphill power.
  • When you’re about to blow, bow out. After about forty minutes of riding at what I would call a brutal pace and what he called a recover ride, I knew I was going to crack. I preferred this to be a private moment. So when we crossed highway 202 and he looked like he was going to go straight up to Issaquah-Fall City road, I turned right. “Good riding with you,” I said, and then really turned the cranks hard for 30 seconds as I went down highway 202.

And then, once I was sure he was out of sight, I felt free to softpedal the whole way home.


  1. Comment by Paul H | 03.4.2010 | 7:11 am

    Ever ride with Bob again? Was he actually on an “recovery” ride?

  2. Comment by MrDaveyGie | 03.4.2010 | 8:00 am

    Oh good grief. I can sure relate to that “internal” battle that occurs when bicycler, meets bicycler out on the road.

  3. Comment by skippy | 03.4.2010 | 8:36 am

    must try that on the italians that try to draft instead of assist!

  4. Comment by JFW | 03.4.2010 | 8:50 am

    Yep my HR jumps 10bpm when I just see another rider ahead, even before I try and haul them in…

  5. Comment by JAT in Seattle | 03.4.2010 | 8:57 am

    I think this was among the first posts i read – I’d been googling around (yup) looking for ride routes on the east-side and your blog was a promising looking hit. (of course it didn’t turn out to be…)

    congratulations by the way, and I sure hope you stuck the landing in your shiney slippery wedding shoes…

  6. Comment by D Man | 03.4.2010 | 9:00 am

    Isn’t it kinda unfair to compare yourself to someone when you were on a fixie?

  7. Comment by Fuzzy | 03.4.2010 | 10:20 am

    Just like commuter racing! Ride to/ from work- see bike ahead- brain goes to race mode- forget a relaxing journey.

    Luv ‘n Stuff
    Fuzzy from the UK

  8. Comment by NYCCarlos | 03.4.2010 | 10:29 am

    ah, the food chain game. :)

  9. Comment by Greg @ Greg Rides Trails | 03.4.2010 | 11:24 am

    Haha yes, that is hilarious! And I totally agree with D Man, the comparison just isn’t fair. You can at least feel good about yourself for that.

  10. Comment by Slowtrain | 03.4.2010 | 11:53 am

    Fot those of you who need an additional Fatty fix, this excellent interview is on the LiveStrong website today:

  11. Comment by Mike | 03.4.2010 | 12:29 pm

    You used to live in Washington?

  12. Comment by MattC | 03.4.2010 | 2:02 pm

    Slowtrain…thanks for the link…Fatty gives a GREAT interview…brings me back to the last few years, during Susans Fight. I hope I never have to be a hero. But I also hope that if necessary that I CAN be.

  13. Comment by Dan O | 03.4.2010 | 4:19 pm

    They aren’t rabbits in front of you, they’re targets!

  14. Comment by BykMor | 03.4.2010 | 6:01 pm

    My dad grew up in Carnation, WA and we went to visit grandparents a few times as a kid. I remember riding my grandpa’s SS cruiser all around. Never made it as far south as Snoqualmie Falls, but beautiful riding around there.

    I was working on my spin, too.


  15. Comment by BionicCyclist | 03.4.2010 | 11:38 pm

    An off topic question: Now that he has unloaded a few bikes, what does fatty ride on now?

  16. Comment by Born 4 Lycra | 03.5.2010 | 6:33 am

    Well there is the matching his and hers Orbea Orca’s for starters.
    I saw a couple of formulas that explain bike ownership the other day.
    1. How many bikes do I want = n + 1 where n = how many bikes I have at present and
    2. How many bikes should I have = w – 1 where w is how many bikes it takes before the wife or significant other leaves you.
    Well I laughed. Looking forward to the pics from the open house.


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