The Psychology Of Forgetting Things

01.28.2013 | 8:21 am


Going on a bike ride says some very important things about you as a person. It  says that you are the kind of person who likes to ride a bike, for example. But it says more than that.

Much, much more.

It says that you are willing, in the name of doing something simple and fun, to purchase, assemble, and maintain an extraordinary array of equipment: shoes, socks, shorts, jersey, gloves, helmet, bottles, tire repair kit, tools, sunglasses, phone, GPS, ride route, food, and water.

And that’s only if you’re going on a short ride and don’t have something else you have to do afterward, like go back to work.

With the ridiculous amount of equipment required for riding, there is no shame in occasionally forgetting to bring something for a ride. Indeed, it’s amazing anyone ever remembers everything they need, and a testament to the OCD inclinations of cyclists of any stripe.

What you forget to bring for your ride, however, says some very interesting things about you. Subconscious things that only an expert in Jungo-Freudian psychology — i.e., me — can unravel and explain.

I shall do so now.


This item comes first, because it is the thing that more cyclists forget more often than any other thing: their biking shoes. And no wonder, for neglecting to bring your cycling shoes says that, subconsciously, you are uncomfortable with the highly-connected sensation that clicking in to your pedals — and hence your bike — brings.

The commitment of joining your body to your bike mirrors the commitments you are confronting elsewhere in your life, and forgetting your shoes shows that you are looking for escape — or at least respite — from these responsibilities. Essentially, deep within you, a part of you would rather risk having a metaphorical pedal spin around and crack your metaphorical shin than face a completely connected relationship.

In short, forgetting your shoes means you’re a feckless jerk.

Forgetting the correct shoes — bringing your road shoes to a mountain bike ride or vice versa — on the other hand, simply means that you’re a befuddled, middle-aged man. Don’t worry about it.


Forgetting one’s helmet is the second most-common thing cyclists forget to pack. Trust me on this; I have scientific studies that back it up. I just choose to not cite them.

What forgetting your helmet means is quite exciting, actually. As the center for thought, your brain is what you think of as the place for thinking. (That last sentence is very profound. I promise. Go read it again, as many times as necessary, until you agree.) It is the place where your perception of reality is housed. Your head represents, in effect, your understanding of the world.

Your helmet, quite naturally, is an object that literally protects your head, and as such, figuratively protects your worldview. Hence, by forgetting your helmet, you are subconsciously expressing a willingness to experience new ideas and philosophies. You are saying that you are willing to open up and encounter — in a non-defensive manner — other people’s points of view.


And this is a really awesome and liberating thing for you to do, because only by allowing new ideas in can you measure and understand your old ideas.

If, however, you forget your helmet consistently, it means that you are open to the idea of letting your skull get bashed in.

In dreams, hands represent labor. Wearing gloves means that you want to isolate  or hide yourself from labor. Hence, forgetting your gloves means that you are concerned that you live a coddled, uxorious existence, abstracted away from the meaningful and manly (or womanly or whateverly) tasks that keep you close to the earth.

It means you are, at some level, tired of having so few callouses on your hands. You want to get your hands dirty. You want to grow crops. Or hunt for wild game and eat it raw.

Unless you’re vegan, in which case it just means you’re going to finish this ride with some new blisters. 

What does forgetting your phone say about you? Oh, that one’s too easy.

Food and Water
Food and water are the very foundations of life. Without them you cannot live, any more than you can live without breathing. At least, so I’m given to understand, though I’ve never tried going without any of the three for very long, and hence cannot independently verify these assertions. For now, let’s give other sources of information the benefit of the doubt on this.

Presuming, then, that food and water are essential for life and that you have forgotten these essentials, you may now believe that you are subconsciously expressing a wish for death.

In this you would be totally wrong, which is why I am the expert and you are reading this.

Neglecting the essentials means that you have reached a new plane of existence; you have transcended the banal needs of the flesh and are now a being of light and wind.


Unless you are going to be out riding for more than 2.5 hours, in which case it means you’re going to bonk and have to either beg food off your riding buddies or soft-pedal it home.

Tubes and Tools
You have forgotten your tools, patch kit, pump, and a spare tube. What does this say about you? It says you’re a weight weenie, basically, and didn’t forget anything at all — you just didn’t bring any of that stuff because you figured if something broke, you could mooch off one of those of us who actually come prepared.

In other words, you’re not fooling anybody with that “I forgot” nonsense, buster. We all know that you never bring any tools on any ride. 


Forgetting biking shorts means that deep inside, you’ve been wondering whether a chamois is really all that necessary. After all, your saddle is padded, right? Do you really need to have padded shorts, too?

In psychology, this translates to a deep-seated need you have to question authority. It means you want to reject the “because everyone else is doing it” mindset and find out for yourself what is — and isn’t — important in your life.

And the chamois is overrated, by the way. Try riding without one for a few weeks and you’ll wonder why you ever rode with one. (But I have not tried this myself.)

Forgetting socks doesn’t mean anything. You don’t really need them anyway. 


  1. Comment by Paul W | 01.28.2013 | 8:51 am

    “The comittment of joining your body to your bike mirrors”

    I’m sorry?

    … or is it only the cyclo-commuters that will be as confused as me!

  2. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 01.28.2013 | 9:05 am

    Bike Mirrors!!!! That’s what I keep forgetting!

    Though I might disagree with the tubes and tools assessment. I think those of us (me) who go out without these things are just trying trying to live Life on the Edge….at a very low level.

  3. Comment by Wife#1 | 01.28.2013 | 9:52 am

    Bwahahaha! This is fabulous. So much good stuff in here, though I am still guffawing over this…

    “Neglecting the essentials means that you have reached a new plane of existence; you have transcended the banal needs of the flesh and are now a being of light and wind.”

    Snaps for the use of banal, that is right up there with Lance’s use of apoplectic during his “interview” with Oprah. ;-)

  4. Comment by Jim B | 01.28.2013 | 9:54 am

    What does it mean if you forget to bring your bike?

  5. Comment by TK | 01.28.2013 | 10:03 am

    What does it mean when you forget that your bike is still on the roof rack when you pull into the garage, or worse yet, the fast food drive-thru?

  6. Pingback by The Psychology Of Forgetting Things | Bicycle News Gator | 01.28.2013 | 10:12 am

    [...] this article: The Psychology Of Forgetting Things This entry was posted in and tagged bike, bring, deep, food, forget, forgetting, [...]

  7. Comment by Daniel Weise | 01.28.2013 | 10:16 am

    Jungo-Freudian or Jungian-Freudian??? I do have a question though, what if you’ve never forgotten these things????? Too much OCD? Former boy scout who is always prepared?

  8. Comment by JRay | 01.28.2013 | 10:40 am

    So that’s IT! I had reached a new plane of existence when I reached the top of a local climb having forgotten my water bottles yesterday…. Thanks for clearing that up. Whew! I am better now.

  9. Comment by ClydeinKS | 01.28.2013 | 10:45 am

    ah yes – leaving the essentials and my thought of now being “a being of light and wind” always leaves me thinking that my speed will be MUCH higher on this ride. But alas, I will at some point realize my true commitment to reading Fat Cyclist and actually being able to (still, for now) safely assume the true meaning (title, of course TRUE meaning is comraderie and doing good things!) of being a member of “Team Fatty.” Although leaving the food may also help toward fighting off those pounds during a great ride, but really, who doesn’t enjoy a good bonk?
    Most excellent post today! Sadly, have fallen into many of the categories…

  10. Comment by Cyclin' Missy | 01.28.2013 | 10:52 am

    Don’t need socks?!

  11. Comment by Mark | 01.28.2013 | 10:57 am

    Forgetting shorts?! I was dropped by a guy wearing hastily cut off polyester trousers once. I was busy thinking what a jerk he was as he pulled away. Worked for him!

  12. Comment by Marsupial MattC | 01.28.2013 | 11:21 am

    What about those who leave their EXPENSIVE front wheel at the trailhead? (and I don’t mean ME here Fatty, if you get my drift)…

  13. Comment by Marsupial MattC | 01.28.2013 | 11:24 am

    uhm, er, maybe it wasn’t actually left AT the trailhead (my apologies…my memory fades)…if I recall it was lost in route back to camp?? (though years back I do recall my brother leaving his front wheel at a trailhead…thankfully it was still there when we got back)…I don’t seem to forget ’stuff’ very often, though I can’t remember what I did yesterday…(or maybe I just can’t remember when I do forget ’stuff’)…

  14. Comment by rich | 01.28.2013 | 11:26 am

    Great stuff in here!!
    I’m hoping with your wisdom and knowledge you can explain why I always remember to bring my ipod and gps, but forget to charge them?
    Or remember to bring gloves but forget to check to see if they’re a set or two left/right handed ones?

  15. Comment by Kukui | 01.28.2013 | 12:12 pm

    So THAT’S my problem! I’m a befuddled, middle-aged man! I think, as a mid-20’s woman, I’m having an identity crisis…

    Now, what does it mean to be constantly forgetting my light-kit and/or Garmin?

  16. Comment by Clydesteve | 01.28.2013 | 12:14 pm

    “a being of light and wind”…. somehow this brings to mind Wash in Serenity saying: …I am a leaf on the wind!” right before he took a Reever harpoon. I don’t want to be within one degree of separation of that.

  17. Comment by Clydesteve | 01.28.2013 | 12:19 pm

    The most amazing thing about this post, Fatty is how that psychologist guy whose photos you show – that Mr. NewImage.png guy – how he looks so different in all the varied stages of his life.

    It makes me afraid to think about brains.

  18. Comment by Clydesteve | 01.28.2013 | 12:22 pm

    @MMatt – Greg must really be a powerful rider to even leave the trailhead without his front wheel!

    I cannot imagine getting 1 foot past the first face plant riding down the trail sans front wheel!

  19. Comment by Wife#1 | 01.28.2013 | 12:23 pm

    @Clydesteve… anyone who can quote from a Joss Wedon production, especially from the Firefly series, is automatically elevated to “we love you” status by AKChick and me. :-)

    Another favorite Wash quote: “Terse? I can be terse. Once, in flight school, I was laconic.”


  20. Comment by bikemike | 01.28.2013 | 12:51 pm

    These are the same kind of people that “ALWAYS” forget to pick up bacon at the grocery store. Morons.

  21. Comment by Marsupial MattC | 01.28.2013 | 12:53 pm

    @Clydesteve…actually it was my little bro (Dave) who left his front wheel at the trailhead (AFTER the ride). But for those who are able to ride a ‘unicycle’ (or those who can do wheelies), it’s possible. I’m not one of them sadly.

    But yes, if anybody I know was strong enough to ride w/out a front wheel, it would be Greg (tho he doesn’t MTB much these days…he’s prone to crashing, and prefers to crash on the road for some reason).

    I know a guy who did an entire MTB ride without a seatpost/seat…THAT is quad-building for sure! Me, I stand up for 20 seconds and I’m wasted!

    Also knew a guy (different guy…and actually, it’s a friend of a friend, as I wasn’t there for this one thankfully) who’se seat-post fell out on a mtb ride (he was unaware).. and he sad down on the spinning rear wheel…that involved a trip to a hospital with some rather serious damage to his undercarriage (makes me cringe just thinking about it).

    Ahhhh..Serenity/Firefly…now THAT is good stuff! Think I saw some Reavers on my ride yesterday…either that or I was so cold that I halucinated them…

  22. Comment by leroy | 01.28.2013 | 1:14 pm

    Twenty years of therapy and my dog asks me “You know it’s all in your head, right?”

    Fortunately, I don’t believe half the stuff he says.

    Twenty more years and I bet I’ll know which half.

    Hmmmph. Some therapy animal he turned out to be.

  23. Comment by Terry | 01.28.2013 | 1:23 pm

    Went on a MTB ride at a local loop here in socal. After getting to trail head, realized I forgot my shoes at home. Rode anyways. Nothing like ride in flipflops on clipless pedals.

  24. Comment by centurion | 01.28.2013 | 1:38 pm

    What’s it mean when you look in your seat bag, and see a tube, then get a flat later and fide out that the tube is a 26″ and your on a bike that need 700 tubes?

  25. Comment by Steve | 01.28.2013 | 2:02 pm

    And forgetting your heart rate monitor or even your bike computer just means you want to be unplugged from all of the technology that anchors us to our banal existence in today’s world.

    Of course I usually turn around and go get it … so what does that really mean?

  26. Comment by Richard P. Kelly | 01.28.2013 | 3:59 pm

    Jung above Freud? tsk, tsk.

    Way above Freud. – FC

  27. Comment by leroy | 01.28.2013 | 5:01 pm

    Oh, “Jungo-Freud.”

    I misread that as “Juggalo-Freud.”

    Which is okay for treating an insane clown posse, but not much else.

    My bad.

  28. Comment by roan | 01.28.2013 | 8:21 pm

    Road shoes vs mtn bike shoes, have both but never ride with road shoes…I never know when I’ll need to regress to knuckle dragging. If I forget my helmet I don’t ride, with my good looks you wouldn’t ride either. Forget bike shorts, no problem and my saddle isn’t padded either (too much energy loss due to not using road shoes already). With shorts, the thinest chamois, hold the cream. Luv italia stella flite(old style). You wouldn’t believe my ischial callositces.
    Freud cake I’m one to usually ‘pass’ that one after Christmas. Freud cake doesn’t matter how old, that’s what the coffee is for…dunking.
    Fatty, I think some of those pics are from my family album. Esp the last one, that’s Uncle Edna (Ed for short).

  29. Comment by UpTheGrade SR,CA | 01.28.2013 | 9:36 pm

    I recently saw a cycling group in San Francisco that had all forgotten everything – clothes, shoes, helmet, gloves – unfortunately, I forgot to look away in time – burned retinas. I’m still trying to forget that!

  30. Comment by David | 01.28.2013 | 10:51 pm

    How about remembering everything but forgetting to ride? As in, whenever I take off my helmet I go inside. Bug bite itches. Helmet comes off to scratch. Suddenly I’m inside again … huh?

  31. Comment by Mike | 01.29.2013 | 2:19 am

    Bah, forgetting tubes and tools doesn’t mean you’re a moocher – it just means you’d rather risk an unrepairable flat in the middle of a ride than spend countless hours researching which frame pump isn’t a complete hunk of junk because your trusty stalwart of over a dozen years finally gave up the ghost, while the fancy new one you got 2 years ago never actually worked.

    Or at least that’s my excuse this past weekend. And yes, as predicted, I got a flat. According to my GPS, I ran the last 2.5 miles of the trail at an 8-minute mile pace, pushing the bike and gaining 150 feet of elevation. Not too shabby.

    Good thing I’m a jerk, too, because I don’t use (or even own) those fancy-pants shoes that clip in – woulda been a painful run in those!

  32. Comment by Andy | 01.29.2013 | 6:44 am

    What about keys to your bike rack’s lock? I’ve definitely arrived and found that my bike was stuck, locked to my car, with the key back at home…

  33. Comment by Barton | 01.29.2013 | 7:55 am

    @Clydesteve – the same horrific moment of Wash’s final lines went through my head as I read as well! Of course, a better moment was yesterday when someone asked me to “define ‘interesting’” and I did so, per Wash (which wasn’t quite appropriate for the place, conversation of audience of corporate bankers, but hey! It’s Whedon!)

    I am constantly amazed by the number of fellow-cyclist moochers I see (tubes? I don’t need no stinking tubes! Oh, wait, can I borrow yours?) Last year had someone ask me if they could “borrow” a tube on a sportive. “Borrow? are you going to give it back?” “No.” “Then you can certainly buy one off me,” I reply. “I don’t have any money.” “Then you don’t have a tube either.” Luckily for her (mid-30s, well fit blond) the guy who came up next was much nicer (bigger fool?) than I was.

  34. Comment by Brian | 01.29.2013 | 8:53 am

    I disagree with the no bike shorts thing. I think you need a picture of the Marquis de Sade there, because you’ve become a new level of Masochist (beyond the standard cycling level of crazy).


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