Ride Bikes, Drink Beer, Flout Darwin

Survival of the Fattest

Words Andrew Major
Date Mar 17, 2017

Survival of the Fattest

Alright, my Fatness Goals are set. I'm pedaling through rain, snow, sleet, epic rain, snow and more damned snow to get back up to speed on my bike. I'm drinking (a bit) less beer. I'm eating healthier. Sounds good, right?

The problem is not all of my riding buddies are in the same fituation. Nothing like suffering at the back right? That's motivation for you...


With so many North Shore riders rolling heavy these days it's a good thing amazing NSMBA TAP builders Daniel Lui, Pat Podolski and their crew engineered new supports for the Swamp Monster on Boogieman. Photo: Kaz Yamamura

Head down, post up, trying not to puke my guts. Survive to thrive, baby. I'm cranking myself back into shape one rotation at a time. That said, it isn't just about working harder. I'm working harder and smarter with a simple game plan that my oxygen deprived proto-brain can follow. Even when I'm seeing unicorns.

Just remember. History is written by the survivors.

"To survive a war, you gotta become war." - Rambo

The Airing of Excuses

It's the middle of a ride. I need a minute before we roll. Everybody is staring at me. They've already shed a layer, checked Strava, read their horoscopes and discussed the relative sport surface. Any excuses I bust out now will be meaningless whining. I close my eyes, put my head down and prepare myself mentally for the all-ride pain cave. Say nothing. I put my thumb in the air to indicate my submission to the pace. Ouch.

It doesn't have to be that way.


Inception! Start every ride with a friendly airing of excuses over a cup of coffee. Then when I bust said excuses out on the trail all my friends will just nod, being appreciatively aware of my ailments. Photo: Dave Smith

I try and encourage all rides to start at the local coffee shop. Then I let everyone know I'll be fifteen minutes early having a coffee. When enough of the group arrives, it's time for the 'airing of excuses'. The beautiful thing is that because it's divorced from any actual performance metrics, this isn't whining - just friendly banter.

Later on in the ride when I mention that I discovered a stuck brake piston just before the ride, haven't slept in three days, was drinking Tequila Negronis last night and my bottom bracket seized up yesterday and the local shop didn't have one - I'm in the clear. It's not making excuses in the moment if my buddies already know the score.

It's also the best opportunity to identify 'The Sandbagger'.

Burn The Sandbagger

There's one on every group ride. The guy who is "sooooooo out of shape", hasn't ridden for "at least three weeks" and is definitely not regularly working out with that personal trainer that posts three photos of him a week on social. The spin bike in his basement may not be telling stories but he is - and it's time to use that.

Look, if in doubt, The Sandbagger is probably the guy commenting on articles with posts like "basically me on a bike right now: photo".


Now I ain't saying he a sandbagger
But he ain't losin' at no
Shore Fivers
Now I ain't saying he a sandbagger
But he ain't losin' at no Shore Fivers
Shred down guy go 'head shred down
Rip up guy go 'head rip up

Photo: Dave Smith

This is no time for gallantry. There is no honour among thieves and I'm trying to steal oxygen from anything alive within a square mile. This is war and I'm fighting for survival.

Catch the group. Catch my breath. And throw that guy under the bus. Everybody loves taking the piss out of a sandbagger and while they're all laughing - except maybe the guilty party - my heart rate is riding back down to earth. Now I don't want to go too far - in theory I like these people - so a flawless victory is when the whole crowd is quietly chanting "saaaandbagger, saaaanbagger" and then the sandbagger is still focused on defending themselves.

Zip Ties

Remember, if the group is standing about laughing they aren't riding - and aren't thinking about riding. No sandbagger? Already burned the sandbagger? It pays to be observant!

This only works if there are at least a couple of meticulous bike nerd types in your group. This is why I try to always have at least one professional engineer on every ride. While partaking in the Airing of Excuses, be sure to pass a quick eye over everyone's bike. Find the one that's the least meticulously maintained and soak it in.


If everyone has meticulously functioning bikes with perfect cable routing, and you're dying, just go with the nuclear option. Make fun of the shants. Photo: Kaz Yamamura

Untrimmed zip ties are an easy target. Especially ones that were cut but haven't been trimmed flush with a razor. Just pointing out these little plastic spears will buy me a couple of minutes as the offender unleashes a stream of excuses for the oversight.

No problem zip ties to target? Loose pedals, bad cable routing, worn sidewalls on tires, and any number of items can buy a few minutes of precious rest while listening to excuses and having a few laughs.

It's especially awesome if these are fresh excuses. Remember, if they didn't come out during the Airing of Excuses they don't really count.


"When I'm going to be riding with my wife I just adjust her rear brake caliper so it rubs. Then when I get home I adjust it back. She never notices and it makes a big difference when it comes to keeping up." - B.G.

Sense of humour not saving the day? It may be time for more drastic measures. All's fair in love and group rides, right?


Time to adjust your friend's rear brake caliper so it rubs the rotor. Anyone who regularly espouses the advantages of resin pads is the prime target - less rubbing noise. Photo: Andrew Major

The sky's the limit for an inventive sufferer with a bit of time to pre-plan but if you're headed to a ride right now, here are a few suggestions:

All you need is a 5mm Hex Key or a T25 and it's easy enough to adjust a rear brake caliper so it rubs the rotor. We all know 'that guy' who swears by resin brake pads and he's a primo target because they'll make a lot less dragging noise after you put in the fix. Next, target anyone old or who works with heavy machinery - their hearing won't be as sensitive. It pays to know your friends.

No time and need a more subtle bit of sabotage? Palm your valve tool and loosen off the rear tubeless presta valve just enough to create a slow leak. This way it's either a bunch of extra breaks over the ride as they stop to pump up their tire or a long break while they pop in a tube and then use that tiny pump in their 'hip pack' to inflate it.

Other ideas?


Loosening a valve core ever so slightly to create a slow leak will either buy a bunch of small breaks to add air or a big break to stick in a tube. On a big group ride maybe pick a couple of targets! Photo: Andrew Major

You Gotta Crash Yourself

It's all over but the dying. Excuses are spent - or never properly valued from the beginning. The sandbagger's been bagged. The sabotage has been fixed. Ouch.

Look, crashing a mountain bike never earned anyone a Darwin Award and now's the time for desperate measures. There's no better excuse than "I ate sh*t" especially when there's a corroborating witness.

Night Rides vs Fatness Goals

All excuses, crashes, and taunting are automatically escalated on a night ride. Play to the advantage! Photo: Andrew Major

No one will begrudge a few minutes to straighten a bent brake rotor, re-align a handlebar, or to walk-it-off after putting the bike down. Hell, on a night ride the only metric for measuring how much recovery time should be allotted is how much noise happened in the crash, so don't be afraid to vocalize!

We're All In This Together

I have to draw the line somewhere. Don't pull that sacrificial lamb bullsh*t and invite a rider along who you know is slower just to save face. It's lame. It's not the least bit creative. It's a dick move.

Beyond that, it's a choice between suffering in silence and suffering with a smile on your face. What are you going to do to survive till you reach your fatness goals?

Trending on NSMB


+3 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman Adrian White
Andrew Hewitson  - March 17, 2017, 11:35 a.m.

Bring my dog.  She's the perfect sandbag.  You need to make extra stops at branches in the trail so she doesn't get lost which guarantees extra spots to catch your breath. (Before anyone gets uppity I don't really bring my dog on days when I think the pack will be to fast for her.  She's fast but she's not Fiver World Series fast. Lol)


+3 CoilAir Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
whatyouthink  - March 17, 2017, 12:25 p.m.

i have never identified with an article so much.


+3 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman Cr4w
WNCmotard  - March 17, 2017, 1:15 p.m.

Drew, have you been following me in the woods? Cause I know I'm out of shape and suffering! Also, for trimming zip ties use large nail clippers. Safer and easier than razor blades, and they leave them perfectly flush each and every time.


+2 WNCmotard Tehllama42
Andrew Major  - March 17, 2017, 1:37 p.m.

But, I live for the danger! I'm too cheap to buy a pair of flush cutters but I'll definitely try the nail clipper trick.

You'd know if I was following you on the bike... on the uphills I sound like wounded buffalo with a respiratory infection.


+1 Andrew Major
Andrew Hewitson  - March 17, 2017, 4:01 p.m.

I learned this trick from an electrician years ago.  Super easy.  Twist them off with a pair of pliers.  No sharp bits and no special tools.


+1 Andrew Major
Brad_xyz  - March 17, 2017, 4:26 p.m.

I've always thought the best subtle sabotage would be to mess with someone's suspension setup, especially their rebound damping and/or perhaps air pressure.  An ideal combination before dropping into one of the North Shore's faster lines might be rear rebound damping all the way open and front fork pressure dropped just enough to make the front dive when aggressively weighted.

The again, you might not want to do this to your friends unless you want to visit them in the hospital =)


Andrew Major  - March 17, 2017, 4:37 p.m.

What's with guys named Brad and twiddling other people's knobs?!


Brad_xyz  - March 18, 2017, 5:24 p.m.

Not sure about other Brads but twiddling knobs is what I do for a living and for pleasure ;)


+2 Pete Roggeman Andrew Major
DMVancouver  - March 17, 2017, 6:20 p.m.

You have put into words something many of us have thought about. Nicely done.


Andrew Major  - March 18, 2017, 5:52 p.m.

Thank You!


+1 Andrew Major
Garrett Thibault  - March 18, 2017, 7:11 a.m.

Back when I lived in Regina for a short while, I was far far from my dad's basement full of tools and had a pretty janky setup. I think it usually took 2 or 3 rides before locals would openly mock everything about my bike. I didn't realize until now that it generally extended break time.


+1 WNCmotard
trumpstinyhands  - March 18, 2017, 8:29 a.m.

I used to get annoyed by people turning up on rides on daft bikes and being miles behind, but now I see the merit in bringing a drop bar rigid fixie monstercross thing along. Everyone else is blowing themselves up and I get a nice walk in the woods.


WNCmotard  - March 18, 2017, 10:02 a.m.

A single speed works great too. Let the geared, lycra clad hammer fest types take off like rockets at the start of a ride. With any luck they'll be so far ahead (at least in my case) that they'll never hear the oxygen deprived cries of agony. And if that fails, when you catch up to the group that is now impatiently waiting on you, you can always bust out the old "Yeah, but you guys all have gears!"


+2 WNCmotard Andrew Hewitson
Andrew Major  - March 18, 2017, 5:59 p.m.

I'm of two minds...

My response:

I'm all over riding 1FG but never as an excuse - ride whatcha brought. 

I hear ya though!

Cooper QuinnDURO's response:

Q: How can you tell a single speeder is choking?

A: They aren't talking about single speeding!


WNCmotard  - March 18, 2017, 9:27 p.m.

^^LOL, touche`


Please log in to leave a comment.