Fatty’s Hierarchy of Needs

08.2.2010 | 12:12 pm

Abraham Maslow is famous for creating the “Hierarchy of Needs” — a graduating set of general requirements for human motivation. Like this:


The idea behind this pyramid is that you need to fulfill the needs in the lowest (Physiological) level of the pyramid before you start thinking about the needs in the second-lowest (Safety) level. Then you can move on to the Love / belonging needs, and so forth.

Then, hopefully, once you have satisfied the needs in the first four levels, you can start working on self-actualization, at which point you are a fully-realized human. Which would be, I assume, awesome.

Sadly, however, this hierarchy is woefully out of date.

Updating the Hierarchy

Now, I’m not slamming on Abe (Maslow’s friends called him “Abe”); back in the 40’s, this was a pretty good scale.

Since then, however, things have changes. Specifically, mountain bikes have been invented (thanks, Gary!), and road bikes have gotten much, much better.

And hence, our needs — and the order of precedence and priority for these needs — have changed. Which is why I am happy to present:


You can tell that my hierarchy is superior to Maslow’s, just from a quick glance. For example, where Maslow’s pyramid is only two-dimensional, mine is three-dimensional. Where his uses stodgy, overly-saturated colors, mine uses eye-pleasing gradients. And my pyramid has an attractive shadow.

There’s more, of course. Mainly, my hierarchy is much more relevant and meaningful to today’s cyclist.

Fatty’s Hierarchy, Explained

I shall explain the needs of the cyclist, beginning with the lowest level.

  1. A Working Bike: Before all else, the cyclist must have a bike that can be ridden. The tires must be able to hold air. The brakes must stop the bike. The crank cannot creak so loudly that the cyclist loses his or her mind when riding. The bike must fit, at least sorta. In the absence of a working, rideable bike, the cyclist simply ceases to exist and becomes a much lower form of life (i.e., a non-cyclist). In short, having a rideable bike is the most important thing in the world, which is why many cyclists amass a sizeable collection of both bikes and bike parts — if one has enough bikes and components, one need never step outside to begin ride only to find an unexpected and catastrophic mechanical problem, thus causing one to — for all intents and purposes — cease to exist.
  2. Lose 15 Lbs / Kg: Any cyclist that says she or he rides strictly for pleasure is a liar. The truth is, all cyclists have an event or race in the back of their minds, and they have a goal for that event or race. And to achieve that objective, the cyclist must lose either 15 pounds or kilograms. Also, cyclists know that their clothing — specially designed to be embarrassingly revealing — is going to look a lot nicer if they lose that fifteen pounds (or much, much nicer if they lose 15 kilograms). And they’ll be able to beat people to the tops of climbs. And they’ll be able to get into their drops without their knees pushing all the air out of their lungs.
  3. Riding Buddies: Once you’ve got a bike in working order and have lost (or at least frequently talk about losing) that fifteen pounds / kilograms, you will naturally try to find a group of like-minded individuals. Individuals who will not condemn you for the way you spend all your time, money, and mental cycles on doing something you learned to do when you were five. Individuals who agree it is not even remotely pointless to expend a huge amount of energy and time to go in what is, invariably, either a loop or out-and-back, arriving exactly where you left, except much more tired. Individuals who are enough like you that when you’re around them, you can convince yourself that you’re normal.
  4. Good Gear: Once you have the basics of cycling down — a working bike, good fitness, people who share in your warped perception of priorities and fun — you will no doubt want to recapture the extraordinary feeling you had the first time you rode a decent — i.e., a non-big-box-obtained — bike. You will need a lighter bike, nicer components, an expensive pair of shorts with an anatomic wicking antibacterial chamois, and handmade Italian shoes. The more you spend, the easier it is for you to convincingly imagine that you notice a difference.
  5. A Perfect Place to Ride: The ultimate expression of a cyclist’s needs is the perfect route. What that perfect route is depends on the rider (although it has been widely rumored to be Tibble Fork in American Fork Canyon, Utah). Paradoxically, you may have — in fact, almost certainly will have — ridden the perfect route many times before you discover that it is, in fact, perfect.

I am looking forward to your reactions supporting this hierarchy. (I would also look forward to your reactions rebutting this hierarchy, but since is perfect, there can of course be no convincing counterargument.)


  1. Comment by dug | 08.2.2010 | 12:39 pm

    at the top of the pyrimid, the little known “floating in a shroom-like glaze” section that hovers above the self-actualization section, is the “FIRST COMMENTER ON A HIGH-TRAFFIC BLOG!!!!” level.

    yay me. i am now self-actualized.

    i recently took a bunch of teenagers to moab to ride bikes. most teenagers are stuck at or below level one.

    we rented.

  2. Comment by D n S | 08.2.2010 | 12:40 pm

    how true, how true.

  3. Comment by HeidiR | 08.2.2010 | 12:47 pm

    Awesome! I had to memorize Maslow’s hierarchy for an education class a few months ago. While his pretty much assumes that most people will never reach self-actualization, yours is attainable. Also much more attractive, easy to remember, and more suitable to real life. Yours expresses, as is so appropriate, that safety is not an issue we need to grapple with: as all cyclists know, pain is part of the equation. Maslow had obviously never ridden a bike, much less attained any of the levels in your hierarchy. I am absolutely certain that I would enjoy a graduate education class that you taught much more than the ones I am currently taking….and we would actually be able to apply your theories in the classroom. You have taught us all so much (about carbon fiber, Fatty’s hierarchy, I could go on and on). I am certain future educators would love you! You are my hero!

  4. Comment by Den | 08.2.2010 | 12:51 pm

    My name is Den and I endorse Fatty’s Hierarchy of Needs.

  5. Comment by Clydesteve | 08.2.2010 | 12:56 pm

    Fatty, this shadow is not attractive. It is on three sides of the pyramid. Which probably means it is high noon in the tropics. Too hot for riding. An attractive shadow would provide some inviting shade.

  6. Comment by SuomiTri | 08.2.2010 | 1:04 pm

    One more thing that makes your pyramid more awesome– it bends light to cast a shadow on all four (?) sides!

  7. Comment by Bruce | 08.2.2010 | 1:09 pm

    Why limit it to only 5 levels?

    I’d add to the top level drinking beer and eating with riding buddies after the perfect ride.

  8. Comment by Jenn | 08.2.2010 | 1:16 pm

    Your pyramid colors remind me of one of those red/white/blue popsicles. Or a pack of Smarties! Or, maybe, birthday cake? Oh man…I really need to get to work on my second level.

  9. Comment by Susan | 08.2.2010 | 1:16 pm

    The perfect pyramid should surely be topped with yellow? Or, maybe its yellow inside? Or, even better, filled with ice-cream!

  10. Comment by Dr. Lammler | 08.2.2010 | 1:23 pm

    Maslow’s pyramid falls flat because… it is flat.

    Your pyramid is more like a real pyramid. Except it seems to be leaning.

    But it is not perfect.

    I’m certain that I am not alone in my need, at the very top, for a multiple award winning cycling blog.

  11. Comment by bikemike | 08.2.2010 | 1:23 pm

    i personally like the pie chart hierarchy of needs. that way if all else fails, i can eat it and satisfy part of level one.

  12. Comment by Mike | 08.2.2010 | 1:28 pm

    I’d like to propose that the ‘Lose 15 Lbs/Kg’ and the ‘Riding Buddies’ levels be switched. Having riding buddies that you have to beat up the hill is the reason you need to lose 15 lbs.

  13. Comment by Boz | 08.2.2010 | 1:33 pm

    My pyramid is similar to yours, but the base is losing 100 lbs. Yes, pounds, not ounces, grams, kilos, stones, etc. I have bikes, gear, friends, great places to ride, but he weight keeps me from enjoying them. 15 lbs is no hill for a climber, but a hundo is. As a result, hills now terrify me and keep me away from group rides. I live in very hilly area, so it sucks.

  14. Comment by Former 550Lbs Cyclist | 08.2.2010 | 1:35 pm

    Best Hierarchy EVER !!!!

  15. Comment by KanyonKris | 08.2.2010 | 1:54 pm

    I loan $$$ to cyclists who need good gear. Reasonable rates.

    - Guido Gambini

  16. Comment by Karst | 08.2.2010 | 1:57 pm

    No…no…no… NO!

    15 lbs / Kg

    That’s hilarious. Every geek knows that 15 lbs / Kg is to be read as 15 pounds per kilogram.

    Wow…I can see it now: all the fat cyclists will attempt to lose 15 1bs for every Kg of body weight.

    Fatty, if you did that for long, your weight would be a negative number and you could literally float up the climbs, no bike needed.

    I leave it as an excercise for the mathematically inclined to calculate how much your starting weight would have to be in order to achieve a weight of exactly zero pounds.

  17. Comment by Jim | 08.2.2010 | 2:06 pm

    It works okay but there’s a higher invisible level. That involves “riding your friends off your wheel.”

    Actually, that may be the base of a different pyramid called “the Hierarchy of Self-Delusion.” That one is topped with “accompanies solo trainin grides with badly British accented commentary involving winning a TdF stage on the Tourmalet.”

  18. Comment by Beccles | 08.2.2010 | 2:16 pm

    I am glad you took the high ground on sex — Maslow seems so fixated on it! Perhaps there should be mention in your hierarchy of riding partners of the opposite sex though, no?!?

  19. Comment by mtb w | 08.2.2010 | 2:17 pm

    What a great line: “In the absence of a working, rideable bike, the cyclist simply ceases to exist and becomes a much lower form of life (i.e., a non-cyclist).”

  20. Comment by Arizona Guy | 08.2.2010 | 2:25 pm

    Instant Classic Fatty – rack it!

  21. Comment by Philly Jen | 08.2.2010 | 2:31 pm

    I think Fatty’s right about riding buddies coming before good gear — just ask Andy Schleck, Alberto Contador, and Andy’s front derailleur…

  22. Pingback by Fatty’s Hierarchy of Needs « flakes of nuisance | 08.2.2010 | 3:56 pm

    [...] HERE FOR MORE »» Fat Cyclist Fatty’s Hierarchy of Needs: .) break off a [...]

  23. Comment by NJS | 08.2.2010 | 4:07 pm

    I would also switch riding buddies and losing 15 lbs/kgs for the reason stated by Mike@1:28.

  24. Comment by MattC | 08.2.2010 | 4:16 pm

    Uhm…on the attractive shadow…Fatty, you’ll have to educate me on exactly where the sun (or whatever light source you choose to illuminate your perfect pyramid) is located such that it will give equal shadow on 3 sides…direcly overhead will give no shadow on any side (sorry ClydeSteve)…but hey…it IS constructed of very nice colors with eye-pleasing gradients.

    And here’s my little personal pyramid:


  25. Comment by MattC | 08.2.2010 | 4:18 pm

    Oh hey…I got cheated…my pyramid shifted when I hit enter..you can clearly see if you move the “ONT” one space over to the right, and then move the “D” 3 spaces (or so) to the right it forms a tiny little pyramid (it WAS a pyramid on my screen just so you know).

  26. Comment by Adam Bridge | 08.2.2010 | 4:41 pm

    Before you have a working bike you need a working body that’s capable of at least riding a bike. I know this because right now I don’t have that and the rest of the pyramid looks pretty superfluous until my new knee starts to work. And then OTHER new knee…but one thing at a time…

  27. Comment by AMR | 08.2.2010 | 5:04 pm

    I have all levels of the pyramid except the 2nd. You see, I do ride for pleasure. I have no weight to lose. I do not have a race or event at the back of/in my mind when I ride. I do not care when other cyclists pass me or I pass other cyclists. I just enjoy the ride. And I do not use contactions.

    Yes, the gradient colour is appealing.

  28. Comment by Anonymous | 08.2.2010 | 5:43 pm

    I agree that having a working bike is the base level. Despite a very small stable of bikes, I’ve managed to be ride less on a couple of occasion, and I can attest to the fact that I was not human at those times. Perfect place to ride? I have that, however, I still need to lose 15 lbs, and time to ride w/ buddies, and …

  29. Comment by Stephanie | 08.2.2010 | 6:40 pm

    i’m surprised some form of food is not listed on the pyramid

  30. Comment by Doug | 08.2.2010 | 6:50 pm

    I have achieved the top level of the Hierarchy, a good bike with good friend and the perfect place to ride. (Mansfield, Ontario) plus the perfect beer for after-wards. (Creemore Keller beer) I feel sorry for all of you Americans who will never ride this trail or drink the beer!

  31. Comment by roan | 08.2.2010 | 9:14 pm

    I would like to add a note to Mattc’s pyramid. I undersatnd the shift that occurred, but really stands out is the lowest level “crash” or c-rash using either of the 2 definitions for rash results in not moving above that level. If I’m too rash, acting without due caution I will “c” rash due to my crash. Even the great Fatty is like all of us…just ask his right knee. Mattc your pyramid sucks.

  32. Comment by MattC | 08.2.2010 | 9:58 pm

    OK Roan…yes, it sucks. How about this:


    yeah, it’s a bit of a leaner on top (and most likely when I hit ‘enter’ it shifted the ‘do’ and ‘not’ lines to the left, so just IMAGINE those 2 lines out there forming the pyramid).

    At the very bottom level you have ‘crash’..which most people do often as you develop the skills needed, (and yes, you can and will ‘c-rash’ when do do ‘crash’)…and in time you will attain the next higher level…’not’…where you now have some skills and don’t crash very often, but you are still trying very hard NOT to crash (which as Fatty has illuminated us all to last week, can cause the very crash). And as you continue to ride, you will hopefully elevate to the ‘do’level…where you stop thinking about it cuz you now have mad skills and you just ‘do’. Right up until you ‘don’t’. And then you find yourself right back at the bottom as you are now thinking about it and crashing. Until you don’t. And then you do again. It’s quite a viscous cycle.

    If I were to add a level, it would be something about eating copius amounts of chili verde. And donuts (not at the same time). But just becasue that doesn’t really fit into my basic pyramid, it doesn’t mean it’s not important. Shoot…all this pyramid building has got me hungry!

  33. Comment by JamesR | 08.2.2010 | 10:54 pm

    I couldn’t let this pass. The fat cyclist blog site simultaneously has adds for KFC and McDonalds! Nice to see you staying true to your roots!

  34. Comment by Jeremy | 08.3.2010 | 12:19 am

    Sadly, I struggle to reach level two, year after year. It must be my strong affinity to all things tasty and good around the holidays. Okay, all the fall and winter months. Okay, I’m an eater. Are you happy?

  35. Comment by Jeremy | 08.3.2010 | 12:20 am

    P.S. I think someone is spamming the heck out of the Fatty forums.

  36. Comment by gus | 08.3.2010 | 1:57 am

    As I ride alone, the buddies can be eliminated. The rest is on, except for the Zen riders, as myself. We ride to ride. There is no competition. Peace.

    By the way, I love the new tee shirt, waiting for my hoodie, I don’t wear jerseys.

  37. Comment by Patrick | 08.3.2010 | 3:50 am

    I’d like to insert a nice steep hill into the pyramid, not literally, but as a need. A cyclist needs to suffer on a climb.

  38. Comment by Anne | 08.3.2010 | 5:43 am

    Hi Fatty,

    Reg. your second need:
    Loose 15 lbs I can understand but 15 kg?! That is 33 lbs. Do you really need to loose that much weight?

  39. Comment by Kevin | 08.3.2010 | 7:15 am

    Your pyramid needs a soothing reflection. Then it will be perfect for our time.

  40. Comment by Razor | 08.3.2010 | 7:22 am

    Near perfect.

    I would add ‘quality Sleep’ in there somewhere.

    And – see your 15kg and raise to 20kg.

  41. Comment by Jenni | 08.3.2010 | 10:40 am

    Maslow’s is a triangle, not a pyramid so Fatty wins.

  42. Comment by oye | 08.3.2010 | 12:17 pm

    “In the absence of a working, rideable bike, the cyclist simply ceases to exist and becomes a much lower form of life (i.e., a non-cyclist).”


  43. Comment by fattyfan | 08.3.2010 | 1:55 pm

    I would simply like to add that I originally read Maslow’s “acceptance of facts” as “acceptance of farts.” I believe this misreading could easily be paired with Fatty’s top level – particularly considering his well-detailed history with this issue.

  44. Comment by Clydesteve | 08.3.2010 | 2:09 pm

    MattC – If the pyramid is floating 1″ above the ground, it will have a narrow shadow all around with overhead sun. I assume Fatty’s pyramid is somewhat ethereal, and, thus, floating.

  45. Comment by HSK | 08.3.2010 | 5:05 pm

    Actually I understand that Mr. Maslow preferred to be called Ham. His closest friends referred to as Hammie.

  46. Comment by Jenni | 08.4.2010 | 5:59 am

    You’re right? Where is the mayo?

  47. Comment by Travis | 08.4.2010 | 7:09 am

    The pyramid is better than the original, however, the shadows that you claim make is superior are surrounding the pyramid on all-sides. I assume your pyramid is located indoors or in a parallel universe with 4 suns, which would make is far superior to the original.

  48. Comment by Greg @ Greg Rides Trails | 08.6.2010 | 4:39 pm

    @ JamesR, what cyclist doesn’t eat McD’s occasionally? That’s why we ride bikes… right? So we can indulge in greasy, nasty burgers every so often.

    I think this new hierarchy of needs is exceedingly superior to the previous. Long live cyclists! (Make sure your bike doesn’t stop working).

  49. Comment by Anonymous | 08.17.2010 | 1:26 am

    I believe you forgot coffee after working bike….


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