Not a Good Sign

01.20.2014 | 8:08 am

It’s not a good sign…

…when you notice that when you ride in the drops, your knees have started hitting your belly. And you can’t raise the bar because you—in what is now quite clearly a fit of foolish vanity and lack of foresight—“slammed” the stem and cut the fork to its absolute lowest position, back when you weighed twenty pounds fewer.

…when you notice you can no longer get into the drops at all. At least, not if you want to breathe.

…when you go out to ride and notice that your bike’s tires are all squishy and soft—and you know it’s not because you got a flat while riding recently. No, it’s because it’s been so long since you’ve been on your bike that all the air has had time to seep out of your tires.

…when none of your “Summer” jerseys fit anymore.

…when none of your “Winter” jerseys fit anymore (and not because they’re too large for you).

…when you start turning down invitations to ride with friends, because you don’t want them to see exactly how far you’ve fallen.

…when you bib tights stop having a “Spanx” effect, and now simply relocate your muffin top up a few inches. And also make it nigh impossible to breathe. (Especially deadly when combined with trying to ride in the drops.)

…when you realize — as you open it — that your seat pack contains the CO2 canister and tube from the last time you flatted.

…when there is sufficient time between the precipitating event and the impact itself for you to consider exactly how bad this crash is going to hurt. 

…when you start tipping over at a standstill and you twist your foot to clip out and nothing happens and time slows down and now you’re at 30 degrees and you’re wrenching violently and your shoe won’t unclip because of either fusion or evil magic and now you’re at 60 degrees and you’ve put out an arm to break your fall even though  part of you knows that what you’re actually about to do is break your collarbone and tear your rotator cuff. And now you’re at 80 degrees and you’ve still got plenty of time to notice that everyone in a 100-meter radius is watching you.

…when you go out for a ride in the winter and start to lose feeling in your face and fingers, but can’t say anything because everyone else on the ride seems to be perfectly comfortable.

…when you go on a ride with someone during a hot day in the Summer and they start by saying, “Hot enough for ya?” Because who knows what else they’ll say.

…when you spit and realize even as it’s leaving your mouth that the whole thing isn’t going to clear your mouth—and it’s very high-viscosity, due to the gel you sucked down a few minutes ago.

…when someone else spits and you’re in the slipstream.

…when you’re in a fast, low tuck and suddenly discover what “decreasing-radius turn” means.

…when you start thinking about how much you’re looking forward to the ride ending…and you haven’t yet reached the turnaround point.


  1. Comment by MicroTim (in IN) | 01.20.2014 | 8:36 am

    Perfect poetry… this encapsulates my entire lifetime of riding experience (all one year of it..) Thanks for a good start to a great week!

  2. Comment by AUChefDave | 01.20.2014 | 8:41 am

    Well at least it’s Monday! Having never rode without my knees hitting my belly I can’t relate. Yet, I there was a time when I only could dream about getting in the drops. Well just keep on keeping on.

  3. Comment by TominAlbany | 01.20.2014 | 9:29 am

    Based on your chart at left, I’d say that puts you up near 180. Time to get back on the omelet diet, my friend!

  4. Comment by Fat Cathy | 01.20.2014 | 9:59 am

    Yep, with ya on the knee hitting the belly thing. I’ve been practicing getting the maximum push off from the belly – a little extra force on the rebound. Doesn’t work too well though since I can’t really breathe due to my lungs getting totally squished.

  5. Comment by Bart the Clydesdale | 01.20.2014 | 10:15 am

    I particularly love having my shoe not unclipping when returning to a parking lot which is full of people who all seemingly have nothing else to look at except the feeble attempts of one attempting to gracefully recover from falling over like a petrified tree. Humiliation is always my first step to humility.

  6. Comment by Jeff Bike | 01.20.2014 | 10:17 am

    Ah just give it a few years and then you can add the stiffness and soreness even before the ride. Not being able to touch your ankles much less your toes. Doing the little hoppy move to put your socks on without sitting down. The grinding noise in the knees.

  7. Comment by EdwinH | 01.20.2014 | 10:20 am

    Great motivational post about the cycle of the seasons, opportunities for improvement and teaching/learning moments … Spring is just around the corner, right?

  8. Comment by todd C | 01.20.2014 | 10:27 am

    right there with ya. i climbed on my Epic yesterday after a 6 month layoff. I didnt know spandex could shrink so much.

  9. Comment by BigShorty | 01.20.2014 | 10:46 am

    Wait, wait,

    My knees AREN’T supposed to crash into my stomach with each revolution?

    Who knew!

  10. Comment by Tim Joe Comstock | 01.20.2014 | 10:56 am

    How ’bout your daily rider, your road bike, your long rider, sitting in the corner with a flat for the last month? Who knows what my knees will hit? Probably the ground as I pray for release from this our winter of discontent.

  11. Comment by rich | 01.20.2014 | 11:21 am

    Great post and great start to the week.
    I rode yesterday and was trying to come up with a medical term that would describe the bruises on my belly where my knees continued to pound…bellyslap-ititis is what my oxygen starved and overworked brain came up with.
    For some reason I found it particularly funny (probably a result of the oxygen deprivation) and probably made the people in the car next to me wonder what was going on….

  12. Comment by UpTheGrade, SR, CA | 01.20.2014 | 11:28 am

    I think I’ve embodied most if not all of those “bad signs” yet I can’t complain (even though I didn’t win a WBR bike) for I live in Santa Rosa,CA, cycling mecca for the world’s best and am basking in perpetual summer thanks to a weather anomaly that means its always great for cycling. I’m just thankful I can get on my bike a go for a blast on a regular basis.

  13. Comment by blair | 01.20.2014 | 11:47 am

    the knees on belly thing? you get used to it. not so much the restricted breathing thing. oh, and your bibs? they’re probably showing your asscrack by then. hi!

    i’ve done the pedal fail thing a few times. once in my own driveway (long story). once coming up to a stoplight with nobody in sight…except a police car a few seconds behind me rendering me unable to just bail on stopping and blow the light…

    never got hurt by it, though. during the slow-motion montage of possibilities rushing through my head i see the one where i can get off the saddle to re-balance a bit, then shift my butt way down the falling-to side, so that my center of mass, and thus my potential energy and moment of inertia, are much lower, which reduces angular and linear velocity going to the ground and lets my hip contact first allowing me to roll up to my shoulder instead of smacking it broadside at full speed.

    so i got to answer “yes” when the chuckling smokey asked “you okay?” not that i looked up at him or anything.

  14. Comment by Al Pastor | 01.20.2014 | 12:16 pm

    Carrying a patch kit and a pump shouldn’t be that tough.

    Falling over at a stop. Yep, done that multiple times. Not quite as embarrassing as dropping a motorcycle at a stop sign. Did that once. It’s even more slow motion.

  15. Comment by Clydesteve | 01.20.2014 | 12:38 pm

    BUT – I THINK they have an app for that…don’t they?

  16. Comment by Davidh-Marin,ca | 01.20.2014 | 12:45 pm

    The belly/knee connundrum can be solved by loosening the float on the pedals, allowing your knees to move out and around the offending belly as you pedal in the drops. Of course there is some increased drag due to the larger face to the wind, and sometimes you have the problem with your heels hitting the chain stays as you pedal in a ‘duck walk’ style, but hey, you’re in the drops so you’re a racer!

  17. Comment by MikeL | 01.20.2014 | 1:43 pm

    At least I can blame my Kevlar abdominal muscles for my knees hitting my belly. As to the rest, “Welcome to my world”.

  18. Comment by Clydesteve | 01.20.2014 | 2:06 pm

    With the Spanx reference, Elden, I assume you are referring to the Slimplicity open-bust mid-thigh bodysuit, and not the Bra-llelujah Racerback?

  19. Comment by FlyinRhinoDan | 01.20.2014 | 2:25 pm

    Thank you. THANK YOU!

    This is a perfect explanation as to why, even after I have “slimmed down” to a “svelte” 286 pounds (Rhino…much larger than Clydesdale) and gotten on a road bike, I still can’t ride in the drops.

    And the belly bruises.

    And why the toughest part of any ride is from the La-z-boy to the door.

  20. Comment by rich | 01.20.2014 | 2:29 pm

    Amen on the la-z-boy to the door obstacle course….

  21. Comment by KM | 01.20.2014 | 4:06 pm

    What are Fatty’s observations on “fat man cycling woes.” Alex.

  22. Comment by NancyJBS | 01.20.2014 | 4:24 pm

    And how “not good” is it when all of these signs occur in a single season? I’m just trying to understand where things are on the continuum of Super-Duper to Seriously Not Good.

  23. Comment by LIdsB2 | 01.20.2014 | 8:55 pm

    Great stuff. Although, I can’t can’t help but ask…regarding spit (or any fluid), doesn’t “low viscosity” mean it flows freely? I think the gels increase viscosity, which make is nigh impossible to fully clear your mouth. It’s especially humiliating when it wraps around your face all the way to your neck…depending on the airflow, of course. Wind tunnel testing would be quite valuable for a study on the subject. We could combine it with testing on “snot rocket” technique while we’re at it.

    I thought “low-viscosity” meant something was thick and “high-viscosity” meant it wasn’t. But you’re right; I had it backwards. I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever learned the correct meaning of a word on this site. I’ve revised the post. Thanks! – FC

  24. Comment by Jerry Pringle | 01.20.2014 | 11:12 pm

    Yes to all of these! I once unclipped my left foot, only to have the bike start leaning right – slow motion indeed! I am already standing, can’t sit fast enough to get my feet switched. Last second I did pull it off, and the kind person walking across the street said that they didn’t see anything.

  25. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 01.21.2014 | 6:35 am

    Just wondering how many of these you are experiencing simultaneously right now Fatty ;)

  26. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 01.21.2014 | 6:37 am

    BTW. It’s never a good sign when…. The trees are cracking because it is cold outside. -20F (air temp) at my house this morning.

    I really am missing riding outside right now. Well I am not missing riding outside right now, but missing the ability TO ride outside.

  27. Comment by Fat Bike Racer | 01.21.2014 | 7:28 am

    Looking forward to the next crazy diet, I need one and the inspiration. Fat causes cancer!

  28. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 01.21.2014 | 9:36 am

    @DougB Get out the hose it’s time to make Luge. Just don’t make it through the trees.

  29. Comment by Karen | 01.21.2014 | 1:00 pm

    Thanks for an excellent morning laugh!

  30. Comment by Eric L | 01.21.2014 | 1:13 pm

    …and that dear Fatty is why there are stems with rise. Some have a lot of rise in fact. Changing out a stem is simple enough, even you could do it Fatty. Just don’t over-torque and crush your steerer.

    We are, apparently, skipping this winter here in northern California this year. Nothing but sun and perpetual dilemma – shorts or knickers, arm-warmers or wind-breaker.

  31. Comment by Carl | 01.21.2014 | 8:50 pm

    I feel your pain…

  32. Comment by Graham | 01.24.2014 | 7:52 am

    @FlyinRhinoDan – I prefer the term “Mega-Clyde” myself. I’m down to a practically emaciated 273 and was actually able to reach the drops for a minute yesterday. (Then I had to inhale).


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