The Real Problem

11.8.2016 | 11:36 am

I know, I’ve been gone and haven’t said why. It’s just been work: we ship a new version of a product Thursday, and I’m busy. You know, to the extent that I’m working late, working early, and working weekends. 

But I wanted to write a little something today anyway, so you’d know I’m alive and stuff.

Plus, I have a story to tell.

Last Sunday

The Monster moved out into an apartment of her own a few weeks ago; the hour-long-each-way commute to school every day was wearing her down.

The practical result has been that we now see her when she needs groceries or laundry done or a bike repair. Or when she misses Duke (everyone instantly falls in love with Duke, buckets of slobber notwithstanding). 

And, importantly, we see her once in a while when she decides to ride with us instead of with some of the boys in her fan club.

That’s what happened last Sunday.

The Beginning of the Ride

But here’s the thing. when I talk about The Monster’s “fan club,” what I really mean is that she’s been riding with guys from the U of U Cycling Team. Which is to say, The Monster has gotten a lot faster very quickly, as she’s been riding with skinny, fit, young men.

So it should be no surprise that, just like when we did our 100 Miles of Nowhere, The Monster shot off the front right from the beginning, with The Hammer and me deep into the red zone.

Zone 9, to be precise.

I looked over at The Hammer with a big smile and said, “So is this how it’s gonna be today?”

The Hammer didn’t respond. She was focused on not losing The Monster’s wheel.

I laughed again, getting a good sense of how this day was going to unfold. Three family members, three competitors, a beautiful Sunday morning on perfect singletrack close to home.


Bomber to the Bottom

By the time we got about halfway up the Mercer Hollow climb — a mile of fun new singletrack just about two miles from home — things had settled down and the three of us rode together to the Peak View parking lot.

At which point, without further discussion, The Hammer and I yielded to The Monster. Because we were about to go down Rush, and there is no question whatsoever who is fastest on descents.

She was waiting at the bottom of Rush, both feet on the ground, looking well-rested when I arrived.

“It’s nice to take it slow sometimes,” she said, off-handedly.

“Yeah, I know,” I replied, “though I’m a little bit disappointed that I had to stop halfway down and swap out my rear derailleur.”

The Hammer Strikes Back

The Hammer arrived ten seconds later and — without stopping — made the turn toward Potato Hill and began riding at what I’d like to call “95% of race pace.” You know: that speed you go when you want to hurt people, but also want plausible deniability when they accuse you of trying to hurt them.

I couldn’t help myself: I started laughing. We had gone at this pace on this climb exactly one day earlier, after we had caught some strong kid on a bike…who had pulled off the trail to yield until he saw it was a woman about to pass, after which he had pretty much killed himself to never let us by.

I would have laughed at how much alike The Hammer and Monster are, but I had to reserve all my breath for holding The Hammer’s wheel.

The Monster, doggedly, held onto mine.

Stranger Danger

And then, an unusual thing happened: a guy caught up to us. Now, I’m not saying that’s just nuts or anything — once in a while, someone will catch up to us and want by. 

But usually the guys who catch us are skinny college-age kids on high-zoot hardtails.

This guy, from what I could see, was about my age (in his fifties I’m guessing), and about my build (not huge, but not gutless). 

And he was, from what I could tell with my quick backward glances, riding a big ol’ full-suspension bike.

This aggression will not stand, man,” The Hammer did not say, because she’s not a fan of The Big Lebowski. That’s OK, though, because I thought it for her.

The Hammer went into full-on attack mode, in the way that made me fall in love with her in the first place (not kidding here: her riding and running intensity are incredibly attractive). I stayed with her, but it was a near thing.

The Monster — and this stranger on a bike — couldn’t quite hold us and fell back as we rode Ann’s trail to the Maple Hollow climb.

“Where’s Melisa?” The Hammer asked — all innocence — when we got to the Maple Hollow trailhead. 

“Well, you dropped her when you attacked that badass grandpa on the full-suspension rig,” I said. 

The Monster arrived — evidently, she had finally dropped the fast guy — and said some sharp words to her mom about how you don’t have to treat every ride like a race, and we began our mile-long climb to the Maple Hollow summit.

This time, I got out in front and picked a nice, reasonable pace that would keep us all riding together. By which I mean, of course, I went just below my barf threshold.

We rolled up to the top of the steep mile-long climb completely smoked: our Sunday/funday ride had turned into a slugfest, somehow. I was loving it.

The Punchline

And then, one second later, this guy rolls up on his full-suspension bike. “You guys are strong,” he said, taking off his helmet. 

He didn’t look particularly worn out.

He continued, “It’s really rare that I don’t just catch and pass every rider on the trail. I’m impressed that you held me off.”

“In fact,” he concluded, “you guys were going so fast that I very nearly had to switch out of econo-mode.”

PS: Yes, this is a true story. And after he said this, we talked some more. His name’s Eric, he loves mountain biking, and he had heart surgery a year ago. His Specialized Turbo Levo makes it so it’s possible for him to be back on the trail. I think it’s awesome that e-bikes exist and make it possible for people to do stuff they love. And also, Eric let me borrow his bike and try riding it up a trail. It was…surreal.


  1. Comment by BostonCarlos | 11.8.2016 | 11:46 am

    haha… Great story, but prepare for the e-bike hating poo-storm! It has taken over the northeast (the hate, not the actual e-bikes… I have yet to see a wild e-bike!) like a particularly infectious disease. I don’t get it. It gets more people on bikes. What’s the issue?

  2. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 11.8.2016 | 11:48 am

    Awesome post! One, because it’s a post. From Fatty! Two, because it’s not a race report (don’t get me wrong, I love ‘em) or a fundraiser (love them too, even if my wallet sometimes balks) or a get-out-the-vote plea (love those as well, as long as it’s the correct vote that you’re getting out).

    Great meander about family and killer climbs and a surprise ending that actually ends a post (okay, okay, I love the occasional cliffhanger too).

  3. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 11.8.2016 | 11:50 am

    Carlos, totally with you on this … but ebikes are going to seriously wreck Strava. Maybe whenever the motor kicks in, Strava automatically disables?

    Back when I had a prayer at a top 10 on segments I ride, this probably would have gotten to me, too. Now, though, Strava has become strictly personal for me. – FC

  4. Comment by Jon | 11.8.2016 | 12:27 pm

    Now I am more curious as to the tale we will hear about FC riding the ebike up the trail. In what way was it surreal? FC, you have now, officially, tasted the ebike blood. We shall see how your stable changes in light of this revelation.

    Not that I expect much, just trying to add drama and levity.

    I only rode it up a trail for 100 yards or so — I didn’t want this pretty much complete stranger to start worrying about what I had done with his bike. Essentially, what’s surreal about it is: you know how it feels when you’re riding slow and someone rides up, puts their hand on your back and accelerates you forward? It’s like that. It turns a steep uphill into a flat. – FC

  5. Comment by Felipe P. | 11.8.2016 | 12:44 pm

    That was awesome. You had me laughing out loud, Fatty. Perfect mental health break on an otherwise somewhat stressful (understatement!) day.

    Speaking of which… did you see the latest crazy news? As if this election wasn’t nuts enough already. :-(

    November 8, 2016. Dateline Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire.

  6. Comment by leroy | 11.8.2016 | 1:48 pm

    Can you get a TUE for motor-doping?

    Asking for a friend.

  7. Comment by Tom in Albany | 11.8.2016 | 2:00 pm

    Nice job, Felipe!!!

    @Fatty – I long for my family to come at me hard like that. I’m still the only cyclist. I mean the wife and kids have bikes but, my 8 year old daughter is the only one that wants to go hard. What am I doing wrong?

    I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong. I also don’t think there’s anything you can really do. Some people want to ride, some people want to race, some people want to do both, some people want to do neither. It’s only in the last year or so that The Monster has become really interested in bikes and racing, and what flipped that switch is beyond me. I only became interested in bikes at all in my late twenties. Before that, no persuasion would have gotten me interested. People are going to choose what they’re going to choose. – FC

  8. Comment by centurion | 11.8.2016 | 2:09 pm

    The Monster is smart.

  9. Comment by Jim B | 11.8.2016 | 2:45 pm

    My wife used to be quite fit and rode well. Then about 10 years ago she developed chronic fatigue/aka ME. A trip around the block where we live is about a mile and has 50 feet of climbing. She can’t do it, as it takes too much out of her, and her fitness spiral keeps going down. We recently got her an e-bike (a faraday), and now she can ride around the block, once. It is still tiring, but not so much that it wipes her out. Baby steps. So, what I’m saying is, different people have different needs, so if someone passes me on an ebike while I’m gutting it out, good for them!

  10. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 11.8.2016 | 2:54 pm

    Great story LOL!

    I get the ebikes on my Golden Gate Bridge commute. Don’t object to the bike but riding them in a ‘race kit’ seems like ‘posing’.

    Elden only went a little way up the trail because the bike began to ‘get away’ from him.

  11. Comment by Christina | 11.8.2016 | 8:37 pm

    There’s a herd of wild e-bikes in western Wyoming. The BLM manages them.

  12. Comment by Richard | 11.9.2016 | 5:59 pm

    Similar eBike first exposure. Thankfully I wasn’t riding. I was just watching this mid-septuagenarian zipping up a trail so he could downhill at Leogang, Austria. I’m like “This old dude is in WAY better shape than I am”.

  13. Comment by joliver3 | 11.10.2016 | 4:39 pm

    Sounds like a great ride, and a great example of how any ride turns into a race when the right people are involved. Loved the e-bike twist at the end.

    Slightly off-topic, but I clicked on the link for the new product your company is launching, and I felt like I was reading a site in a foreign language. What exactly is it that your company does?

  14. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 11.11.2016 | 12:41 pm

    @joliver3 I too clicked through and had a simlar response.
    But it’s Infragistics I’m sure it’s in the OED. We can look it up.

  15. Comment by Eric D | 11.11.2016 | 3:07 pm

    I love these stories Fatty! Your writing style can’t be matched by any podcast. Just sayin.

  16. Comment by MikeL | 11.12.2016 | 1:27 pm

    This was just a fun story.

  17. Comment by Kelly | 11.12.2016 | 7:57 pm

    I love the competition you have w your family. I’m also looking at fitting one of my bikes w an e hub. Chemo treatments have really reduced my strength and endurance. An e-bike will allow for me to continue to get outside and do what I love. E-bikes are going to be a great for those who health issues and disabilities!! ??????


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