We Don’t Suffer

12.10.2012 | 4:02 pm

A Note from Fatty: I will not be posting tomorrow, because I am having some surgery done. Left index finger and right elbow. Wheeeee!

A More Awesome Note from Fatty: This Wednesday (December 12) at 12:00noon ET / 9:00AM PT I’ll be doing a live interview with a couple of extremely awesome people. Specifically, first I’ll be talking with F.K. Day, President of World Bicycle Relief:


We’ll be talking about how World Bicycle Relief works, why it is where it is, and what’s next. F.K. is one of the smartest, most genuine people I have ever met, and he’ll be happy to take your questions. 

Next, we’ll talking with Rebecca Rusch, also known as The Queen of Pain. Rebecca is the four-time champ of The Leadville 100, an advocate for women’s cycling, an ambassador for World Bicycle Relief, a three-time 24-hour Solo Mountain Bike World Championships winner, and otherwise has an astonishing race resume.

The Hammer, The Queen of Pain, and Fatty

I’m not even going to try to pretend I’m anything but a superfan when we talk, especially since we’ll also be talking about the latest and greatest Grand Slam for Zambia grand prize, which Rebecca will be donating.

So, to recap: Wednesday at 12:00noon ET / 9:00AM PT. Be here. (or at Spreecast)

talking with FK and Rebecca on Wednesday

One Last Awesome Note from Fatty Before I Begin Today’s Actual Post: It’s no surprise that Grand Slam 2 is loaded with prizes (and there are more to be announced, of course). But just for fun, when we hit the 1000 donations mark today, we went ahead and picked a random number between 1 and 1000 (which is to say, we didn’t take into account how much each donation was for, just that there was a donation) and gave that person a cool ZIPP disc wheel clock, like this one, being held by Ironman World Champion Mirinda Carfrae:


That prize went to Allison H, wife of extremely frequent commenter David H. And since I’m not the one drawing prizes, I don’t have to worry about choosing favorites or anything.

Oh, by the way: that’s not the only time we plan to do random drawings for cool prizes like this. So — whether you donate enough to buy a bike for a child in Zambia ($134) or the amount you’d spend on lunch or a coffee ($5 – $10), you may still win either a grand prize or a bonus prize. So go donate now

We Don’t Suffer 

Once in a while I think about all the rides I’ve done, and try to decide on which ride it was that I suffered the most.

Maybe it was when I raced the Kokopelli Trail solo, unsupported, injured and with a broken rear derailleur. That was some serious suffering.

Or maybe it was the first time I raced the Leadville 100. I didn’t know what I was up against. I didn’t know what I was doing. My knee hurt so bad I still remember the pain today. My nipples bled, for crying out loud (oh yes, quite literally crying out loud). And I was so very, very exhausted.

It’s also possible the time I suffered most was in the Summer of 2011 on a short anonymous training ride, where I turned myself inside out, giving it everything I had and quite possibly a little more — i.e., I gave 100.01%, thus defying mathematics — in my quest to give my all and hopefully get onto the Strava Top 20 for the Alpine Loop climb (American Fork side). My suffering paid off, too: I took the 18th spot, which would maybe mean more to you if you knew the guys in first through seventeenth place.

In each of these cases, though, I hurt. Bad. My legs ached — sometimes acutely, sometimes dully. Sometimes both. My lungs burned. My morale was incinerated in a fiery furnace of hot flaming burnination.

And in short, I suffered.

Except I didn’t. 

Because it is my contention that, as cyclists, we do not suffer. At all. No matter how hard you’re riding, or how much you hurt. Or how dramatic the stories are that you (and by “you,” I mean “I”) tell yourself as a way to keep riding even though you are hurting and aren’t having fun anymore and are this close to giving up, getting off, and making the Phone Call of Shame.

Please. Allow me to explain.

One of These Things Is Not Like The Others

Here are some things that you might associate with suffering:

  1. A compound fracture
  2. Eating boiled okra
  3. Imprisonment
  4. Being tasered
  5. Watching season two of Twin Peaks
  6. Riding a bike really far or really hard

What’s different between the last item and the other items? Simple. You do not take the circumstances of the first three items upon yourself by choice.

My point being that suffering — true suffering – is something that is pressed upon you. Suffering is the act of putting up with something difficult — and probably painful — that you didn’t ask for. 

Suffering is not the pain you feel when you are riding your bike.

You want to know what the correct word is for that pain you feel when you’re exerting yourself on your bike?

You do? Are you sure? You might not like it.

You still want to know? OK. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though.


See? I told you that you wouldn’t like it. But that’s what it is. That pain you’re experiencing is what you do for recreation. For fun. If you chose it and you can stop it whenever you want, you’ve got to admit: that pain you’re experiencing is your idea of a good time.

Congratulations. You’re officially a masochist. 

The News Is Not All Bad

It would be easy to read up to this point and think that I’m trivializing what you (and I) experience on the bike by asserting that we don’t suffer.

But that’s not what I’m doing. At all.

Instead, I’m suggesting that you pivot your thinking a little bit the next time you find yourself having an argument with yourself about which hurts worse: your legs or lungs.

Instead of saying to yourself, “I’m suffering” — which is something you do passively, when a horrible circumstance is forced upon you — say to yourself, “This pain is mine.” Embrace it fully. After all, you created it and you decide how bad it’s going to hurt and how long it’s going to last. Why not own it?

Smile. Sure, clench your teeth or open your mouth as far as it will absolutely go or do whatever it is you do when you’re at your limit, but let your eyes at least still be smiling. 

Because you’re not suffering. You’re not taking something someone else has put upon you. You’re hurting because you are willing to hurt to go that fast, or far, or high. 

And those two things are worlds apart.

PS: For those of you who are about to suggest that if you’re watching season two of Twin Peaks, you’re bringing it upon yourself, I’d suggest that you’re dead wrong and anybody who actually watches that entire second season did so against their will and has in fact suffered mightily.

PPS: For those of you who watch The Sufferfest videos to train and furthermore claim citizenship of Sufferlandria, I have two things to say:

  1. You are a special, wonderful kind of sick, and I congratulate you on your commitment to pain. 
  2. You’re still not suffering.


  1. Comment by NYCCarlos | 12.10.2012 | 4:12 pm

    Congrats to Wife#1, and to WBR, Fatty, and everyone involved since we’re so close to our goal! I hope we destroy it!

  2. Comment by The Flyin' Ute | 12.10.2012 | 4:59 pm

    A girl broke my heart once.

    I suffered.

    But it was for the best!

    Now i can even laugh about it.

    Suffering, apparently, can be pure comedy as well.

  3. Comment by rich | 12.10.2012 | 5:35 pm

    another keeper Fatty! Nice job!

  4. Comment by Jeff Bike | 12.10.2012 | 5:43 pm

    I’m truly astounded, Fatty you have found a way to put in to words what I have suspected for a long time. The fact that I choose to inflict pain on myself by mostly mechanical means must describe some deep underlying physiological issue. Self-inflicted pain doing an activity that has great risk of personal injury is the description of someone our society would call a nut.
    So I will now continue to enjoy being NUTS!
    Best wishes for your arm and finger.

  5. Pingback by We Don’t Suffer | Bicycle News Gator | 12.10.2012 | 5:46 pm

    [...] the original here: We Don’t Suffer This entry was posted in FatCyclist.com and tagged bad, bike, grand, ride, strong, suffered, [...]

  6. Comment by Wife#1 | 12.10.2012 | 6:05 pm

    WOOHOO! Need to go buy a lottery ticket, I must be on a roll. I am sure that Giant TCX W you are giving away will be the next thing I win. Yes I know you are not actually giving one away (yet), but I remain ever hopeful. Or is it delusional? Such a fine line.

    It would have been an awesome surprise Christmas present for David, if this blog was not his second home, making the element of surprise impratical. But the good news is with the advanced notice, he can now start remodelling the room where it will hang next to Levi’s jersey (one we have already), Chris Horner’s socks (thanks to AKChick) and Andy Schleck’s 2011 TDF yellow jersey, which is only not framed because I still need to tackle him at a US cycling event and pin him down until he signs it. He may be tall, but I give myself the edge when it comes to Greco Roman wrestling moves. I’m pretty burly. Not to mention wily and shameless.

    I’ll take a picture to share after it’s mounted. The clock that is, not Andy Schleck. ;-)

    Thanks Fatty and WBR! Made my Monday so very much better. Good luck with the surgery. Heal fast!

  7. Comment by Skye | 12.10.2012 | 6:38 pm

    Hahahaha! I was running all the “worst” rides I did last summer through my head since it seemed the appropriate thing to do when reading about suffering on a bike, and then literally snorted out loud when you decided to call them “entertainment”! Good thing my officemate is at lunch!
    I will point out that while I actually think entertainment is a very accurate word for what I’m doing while lugging myself on my bike up a hill that looks and feels impossibly steep, really, I’m doing it for the bragging rights. I feel like the two are related, but I promise I’m choosing such pain not for entertainment-sake, but so I can casually drop in a conversation the next day “Oh, you walked your dog in the park last night and your ankles are tired? How nice. I rode my bike up that impossibly steep hill that 2-wheel drive cars can’t get up in the winter”. Maybe that’s a form of entertainment in and of itself though?

  8. Comment by Davidh-Marin,ca | 12.10.2012 | 6:55 pm

    Vasectomies are done through the elbow now? I assume that allows you to get back on the bike sooner.

    Hope you find a sympathetic pain management nurse.

  9. Comment by Michael | 12.10.2012 | 7:54 pm

    All right, fine: I like it. There, I said it.

  10. Comment by ClydeinKS | 12.10.2012 | 8:06 pm

    Sad to hear for the need of surgery, but feel if I were in your vicinity and had the ability to provide your therapy following said surgeries, there could become a new post regarding suffering.
    I only say that as I know I have been referred to as a terrorist and a sadist, both endearingly though.
    Another spot on post, thank you!
    Good Luck with the surgeries and recovery!!
    Will the next interviews be performed while enjoying the benefits of prescription pain medication??

  11. Comment by BamaJim | 12.10.2012 | 9:09 pm

    Nice post, good perspective. And you’re completely right on boiled okra, it should always be fried into submission before eating.

    Sending a bike to a child in Zambia in honor of one of my brothers in law.

  12. Comment by UpTheGrade SR,CA | 12.10.2012 | 10:15 pm

    I like to sit on the sofa and read blogs while munching on potato chips. My alter ego on the other hand thinks its fun to ride 30 miles while pushing hard to average 20+ mph and also to climb impossibly steep hills that defy gravity and the frictional forces that skinny tires can produce. He is inflicting this suffering on me in the misguided attempt to beat me into shape and lose this extra 30 lbs of flab we have built up over time (well OK it was mainly the real me because I love food and am lazy).

    This other nut-job side of my psyche thinks that if he trains really hard, he will eventually keep up with the Pros. Ha, ha, fat chance! And anyway, I keep sneaking snacks in the evening and undermining his plans. It is only this fun that I get undermining his pain-fest cycling rituals that keeps me sane!

    BTW, great post today and commiserations on needing the surgery, but wishing you a speedy recovery.

  13. Comment by Clydesteve | 12.11.2012 | 12:10 am

    So…. is elective surgery, then entertainment?

  14. Comment by Rumpled/Jim | 12.11.2012 | 2:34 am

    Surgery on both upper appendages? Does this mean someone else will get wipe duty? Friend of mine broke both elbows at the same time, his wife hated him for about 8 weeks.

  15. Comment by jb | 12.11.2012 | 8:09 am

    self-flaggelation by bicycle….

  16. Comment by Barton | 12.11.2012 | 8:12 am

    Suffering. Only experienced that once this summer on a bike – once when I say I WAS suffering and not being entertained at all. There was passing out which lead to bloodloss (seriously, the fainting came first, then I gashed my cheek on the steps on the way down). I like to think that I wilted gracefully to the floor like they do in movies. Pretty sure it looked more like a sack of potatoes dropped to the ground.

  17. Comment by akaKathy | 12.11.2012 | 8:14 am

    “Entertainment” huh? You nailed that one right on the head. Thanks for the smile Fatty and good luck with the surgery.

  18. Comment by ChinookPass | 12.11.2012 | 8:24 am

    Good luck on the surgery Fatty. I hope you got the two-fer-one holiday savings deal.

  19. Comment by Gerry | 12.11.2012 | 9:00 am

    As a new citizen of Sufferlandria, if this is not suffering, I don’t know what is.

  20. Comment by AKChick55 | 12.11.2012 | 9:26 am

    Timely post! This was really, really, really needed today. I am going through some things with my mom that are truly awful. Like having to make decisions to put her in a home when she is only 65. It sucks beyond belief and to get to that point, I had to go through a lot to realize she can’t live on her own. To top it off, my dad was diagnosed with stage 2 pancreatic cancer a couple months back. Thankfully, he has a ton of support since he is all the way across country (my parents are divorced and I’m the only their only offspring,but my dad remarried and I have four wonderful sisters from his marriage to my stepmom). I digress. I used to be very intimated by hills, mountains, etc. until a friend pushed me to do some. Yeah, it hurts at the time and sometimes I have to stop to catch my breath, but I would gladly suffer riding up a major mountain than deal with my mom’s issues and worry about my dad. Hands down. So this post couldn’t have come at a better time.

  21. Comment by AKChick55 | 12.11.2012 | 9:27 am

    Shoot I forgot to congratulate Wife#1! She’s my Chris Horner sock cohort in crime. :) Congratulations!

  22. Comment by AKChick55 | 12.11.2012 | 9:29 am

    Oh dang, and heal soon from the surgery Fatty! I’m home with a stomach bug so the nausea is preventing me from thinking straight.

  23. Comment by Aristotle's Poor Pupil | 12.11.2012 | 10:25 am

    I disagree most heartily. So do English dictionaries.


    1. To feel pain or distress; sustain loss, injury, harm, or punishment.
    2. To tolerate or endure evil, injury, pain, or death.

    There’s nothing there about whether you choose suffering or not, nor should there be. Nearly everyone chooses to feel pain every day: the pain of waking in the morning; the toil of working to feed one’s family; the mental pain of thinking through complex problems; the suffering of being patient with one’s children. Some choose to suffer in athletic endeavors, and some in other recreations. On rarer occasions, persons even choose to suffer heroically, e.g., by laying down one’s life for a friend.

    People choose to suffer every day in order to gain a greater good (either real or simply perceived). The worth of the object achieved does not alter the fact that it required suffering to achieve it.

    Of course everyone does suffer involuntarily at times (some more than others), but even then we all have a choice: to suffer well, like a man or woman should, or badly, like an impertinent child.

    I argue that one can practice suffering well by forcefully choosing to suffer on the bike, or other morally neutral endeavors. There might be better ways to practice it, but the point is that when the time comes to choose to suffer heroically, the decision is made easier by this constant choosing of the difficult path.

    P.S. I doubt very much most persons do #4 on purpose, even those that know that they risk suffering it by their actions.

  24. Comment by chickenbocks | 12.11.2012 | 11:06 am

    Wishing you a speedy recovery, Fatty!

  25. Comment by Clydesteve | 12.11.2012 | 11:43 am

    @aristotle – please define ‘ironic’ and ‘joke’. We must be schooled/

  26. Comment by DarrellA | 12.11.2012 | 12:21 pm

    Left index finger and right elbow injured at the same time? A good way to avoid a repeat of this type of injury sequence is next time you win a race do not point at your competitors with your left hand while waving a heavy trophy with your right arm while chanting I won, I won, I won. I hope you have a speedy recovery.

  27. Comment by centurion | 12.11.2012 | 1:02 pm

    A good bike ride is when you you get off the bike at the end, and fall down.

  28. Comment by MattC | 12.11.2012 | 1:51 pm

    Suf’fering: “having to watch and wait and still NOT winning the most awesome Specialized FSR niner Mountain bike”.

    That is a much harder form of suffering than I ever do ON the bike.

    However I must fess-up that I have zero chance of winning ANYTHING at this moment in time (as I am broke beyond belief and haven’t donated yet…my 4-legged baby is fighting cancer right now and ALL our available funds are channeled her way…it’s staggering how much a week in a Veterinary ICU plus surgery costs these days)..however I will slip in a bit before it’s over, I promise (and thus risking getting skinned alive by my accountant/wife…which would indeed constitute suffering of the highest degree).

    Or would it be considered NOT suffering if I voluntarily donate and get caught and skinned alive?

  29. Comment by Frank | 12.11.2012 | 3:07 pm

    Well said! I wish I had your eloquence. I believe the worst suffering I ever did was with an abscessed tooth … indescribable pain. But was it worse that the dislocated knee about 45 miles from home? When I got home (on my bike) I was in pain but proud of myself for getting there. Now, that’s entertainment.

  30. Comment by Carl | 12.11.2012 | 4:09 pm

    Hope your surgery went well. You haven’t said anything about it for awhile, but while I’m at it, I hope everything is going well with your son’s treatment too.

  31. Comment by Drew | 12.12.2012 | 2:08 pm

    Man, there are a lot of tetchy people that are way, way too invested in the romanticized lexicon they use to describe a hobby.

  32. Comment by Wife#1 | 12.12.2012 | 4:07 pm


    Been there done that, David and I are donating a bike in your name right now.

    We have often been broke beyond belief over our pets, since life is cancer free for all our family right now, we’ll share some holiday spirit with you.

    So now you have some skin in the bike winning game!

  33. Comment by Herb | 12.12.2012 | 11:10 pm

    I like OKRA!

  34. Comment by JD | 12.14.2012 | 4:04 am

    Excellent post! I will no longer say that “I suffered thru a bag of Doritos.” Best wishes on your recovery.

  35. Comment by Esther in NC | 12.15.2012 | 10:07 pm

    You don’t eat okra boiled solo – you eat gumbo, or fried okra. Gumbo is heavenly!


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