Note: This is Part V of Fatty’s Inferno. Read previous installments here:
- Part I: Prologue
- Part II: Limbo
- Part III: Laziness, Selfishness, & Greed
- Part IV: Rick Sunderlage (Not his real name) and Complainers
“Please,” I begged The Cyclist as we once again found ourselves standing at the junction, the word Whiners appearing on the signpost by the road upon which we had just traveled. “I’ve seen enough. I just can’t take anymore.”
“And you’ve been here only a moments,” said my guide. “Imagine eternity here. Or, on the other hand, don’t worry about it. You’ll be here for good, soon enough.”
“But in which of these places am I doomed to ride?” I asked, terror (or something) welling up in my throat.
“Wow,” replied The Cyclist. “That’s actually a really interesting question. I’m not sure I’ve ever met another rider as deserving of being in multiple cyclists’ hells as you.”
“Thanks,” I said, not sounding at all thankful.
“Hey, maybe you could move around,” The Cyclist mused. “A few millenia in this one, a couple of millenia in that one. You know, mix it up a bit. Let you get the full effect of all of the sins for which you are guilty.”
“Whatever,” I replied.
“Yeah, I knew you’d say that,” responded. “Anyway, we’ve still got a lot to see down here, so let’s check out this next road.”
“You mean,” I asked, “You’re not even going to pretend to let me choose?”
“No, no point in that anymore.”
We began on the road, which immediately turned downhill, sharply. Suddenly, I could see the entirety of this circle of hell, and I had to stop, trying to let my mind process it.
Before me lay a pristine valley. Clean air. Pines and aspen. Tall grass, waving gently in the light breeze. Not a single building in sight.
A single road dropped sharply down into this valley, at which point — with no flat to speak of — it immediately climbed steeply back up. The only riding to be had here would be hard climbing and steep descending.
“This is a beautiful place,” I told The Cyclist. “And this is an incredible road. How can you call this a level of hell?”
“No kidding,” agreed The Cyclist. “Actually, I vacation here. It’s one of my favorite places.”
And then I saw something far down at the bottom of the valley that perplexed me, deeply. Thousands — perhaps millions — of bikes laying down (drivetrain side down, of course), littering the valley floor.
Meanwhile, not a single rider was in sight anywhere. “Where is everyone?” I asked. “Why is nobody riding?”
“Take a closer look at the bikes,” replied The Cyclist.
And then I got it. Every single one of them was a fixed gear bike, built without brakes, for showing off and for urban riding — and entirely useless in a place like this.
“But where are the riders?” I wondered.
“Oh, they’re here all right,” smiled my guide. “It’s just that I have made them invisible. You see, fixie care much more about being seen than about the ride itself. In the absence of an audience — not to mention coffee shops and thousands of pedestrians and exhaust from a road choked with cars –they quickly lose interest in riding.
“So what are these guys doing for all eternity?” I asked.
“Mostly they spend their time reloading Bike Snob’s site, hoping they will someday be the first to comment on his blog. They don’t realize that I’ve ensured that never happens because the internet here is on a twenty-second delay.”
“Well, I don’t even have a fixie anymore,” I said. “I guess this is one hell I don’t have to worry about winding up in.”
“Yeah,” agreed The Cyclist. “You don’t have to worry about winding up in the place where you just mentioned you’d love to go riding. Isn’t hell ironic?”
Back at the junction — where Fixie Hipsters had just appeared on the signpost by the road we had just been on — I told The Cyclist, “You know, you’re kind of mean.”
“You have no idea,” affirmed The Cyclist. “Let’s check out this next road.”
We were back on our bikes, and riding together on a road that felt strangely familiar. The road was perfect. The partially-obscured sun was overhead, staying out of our eyes. The temperature was exquisite. The variety of terrain would suit any taste. This was a perfect spot to ride.
It took a moment, but then it occurred to me. “Hey, you’ve brought me here before. This is Limbo, the very first place you brought me!”
“No, it is not Limbo, though it is very similar,” replied The Cyclist. “In fact, your mistake is understandable, since the place itself is identical — we saved a lot of expense when we had it constructed by using the same blueprint.”
“But,” he said, “It is not the same place. Look at the people.”
As soon as I saw them, I understood. Millions upon millions of people were here. All of them very fit, all of them in cycling clothes — shorts, jersey, gloves, helmets, shoes, the works — all of them clearly ready to ride.
But none of them were riding.
In fact — apart from the bikes The Cyclist and I were on — there were no bikes at all in this place.
“This is the true cyclists’ hell,” said The Cyclist. “This is the place where are sent those who have lost the right to ride. This is the place made for biking, but where there are no bikes.”
“In this place are the people who bought bikes, then hung them up in their garages.”
“In this place are the dopers, as well as doping conspiracy theorists.”
“In this place are those who inhibit innovation in cycling in the name of tradition.”
“In this place are triathletes who only did the bike part of the race because they couldn’t find any events that did just swimming and running.”
“In this place are the people who stopped riding because they claim to have burned out.”
“In this place,” concluded The Cyclist, “Al Trautwig commentates every single move every single person makes.”
I collapsed on the ground, sobbing uncontrollably.
We were back at the junction. No Bikes Allowed appeared on the sign by the road we had just been on.
“What new horror will you show me on this final road?” I demanded of The Cyclist. “A road paved with nails and glass? A place with an atmosphere specially designed to rust chains? A hell where bike thieves outnumber cyclists three to one?”
“No,” replied The Cyclist. “Nothing like that. In fact you’ve got it all wrong. In fact, this last road doesn’t lead to a version of hell at all.”
“This seventh road,” continued The Cyclist, “goes to Cyclists’ Heaven.”
“Please, Cyclist, please take me there!” I begged, now on my knees. “Show me Cyclists’ Heaven, so I will have something to strive for, something to think about and earn for the rest of my days!”
“Oh, I don’t need to take you on that road,” replied The Cyclist.
“You’ve been there before,” said my guide. “Many times, in fact.”
“I have?” I asked, dumbfounded. “In my dreams, you mean?”
“No,” said the spectral figure that had guided me through these many levels of hell. “In real life. This seventh road leads to Moab, Utah.”
“Heaven,” said The Cyclist, just as I began to wake up, “is for mountain bikers.”
PS: Believe it or not, this story is my April Fool’s joke, or at least it was supposed to be. My idea was to do a week-long shaggy dog story (a guided tour through hell), with a weak punchline (heaven is for mountain bikers) on April 1. Which is sort of what I did, but pretty early along the way I got a lot more into writing the story and kinda stopped thinking about the fact that it was supposed to be just a long, drawn-out joke. So, April Fools! I guess!
PPS: If you want to spend a few minutes reading a good bike-related April Fools joke, I liked the one over at Gu. I also like the one about Johan Bruyneel over at Velonews, mostly because they mention me in it (but would it have hurt to link to me, guys?)