Ride Bikes, Drink Beer, Flout Darwin
Survival of the Fattest
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...
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.
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".
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?