December 9, 2014 § 28 Comments

There is no greater fear than the Fear of Getting Dropped.


I used to think it was a function of cowardice, because everyone gets dropped, and people who avoid rides because they’re afraid of droppage, well, come on. Eddy got dropped. Lance got dropped. The fastest guy on your group ride got dropped. And of course you got dropped — repeatedly. It’s the nature of the beast.

Since droppage is inherent in cycling, i.e. there is always a point where, when people are going hard enough, you will get shelled, I’ve never understood why people avoid hard rides or hilly races because of their FOG’d. On reflection, though, it’s not about cowardice. For some it’s about the humiliating nature of reality. Getting shelled every time, every climb, or coming off the back early in the ride/race means you’re not very good. The people riding away from you? They are better than you, and all of the complex emotional defense mechanisms that we generate to “attaboy” ourselves crumble when the peloton rolls away.

But that’s not the main reason for FOG’d. The main reason is primordial and lies with the herd and the tribe. Whether it’s solitary confinement or lagging behind the other zebras because of an injured leg, being culled from the group speaks to our most primitive fear of defenselessness and death. When the tribe can no longer support you, you were either put on an ice floe or taken to Obasute-yama. When you could no longer keep up with the healthy herd you fell prey to the wolves who forever shadowed the group, waiting precisely for you to stumble or lag, and then pull you down, and then sink their fangs into your throat as they sunk their bloody snouts into your gore-soaked entrails.

Starting out with the group, getting popped, and flailing home alone has all of those connotations, not to mention mile after mile of cursing the sorry bastards who didn’t even have the common courtesy to wait.

When I heard about Tony Manzella’s new  Dogtown Ride and glanced at the list of guys like Rudy Napolitano and Matt Cutler who were in attendance, I knew it would be a great ride. It would be great because, with 60 miles and 6k of climbing, it was going to be hilly and hard. I knew it would also be pitiless and therefore a small group. None of these guys were hand-holders. They might wait for a couple of minutes at the top of the first few climbs, but after a while if you couldn’t keep up you would suddenly remember a kiddie soccer game or a load of laundry or that this was December and not really part of your profamateur training plan.

The ride began at 8:00-ish at Dogtown Coffee on Main Street in Santa Monica. There were about 30 starters. After the first hour we were down to less than twenty. By the time we took our first rest stop at the bottom of Piuma there were about ten, and when we got back to Santa Monica there were perhaps eight riders left. I’m sure I’ve done harder rides with better riders, but I can’t really remember when.

And you know the funniest thing of all? At one point or another, almost everyone got dropped.



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§ 28 Responses to FOG’d

  • Joe says:

    getting dropped doesn’t have to mean that the ride (or race) is over for you – just don’t be the 1st guy dropped – if you can hang in there and get dropped with a bunch of guys behind you – sit up, wait for the other poor sods, collect up on the road and then chase in an smooth, organized, fashion. if it’s truly a hard ride you will then pick up the guys in front of you that get dropped and your group will get bigger and bigger. at some point your chasing group becomes bigger and stronger than the lead group (hopefully) and you can catch them – or at least you’d have died trying. just my 2 cents

  • Brian in VA says:

    I don’t have a fear of getting dropped. I have a certainty of getting dropped. There’s always some young buck, or old one for that matter, who can fly up a hill while I’m flailing my fat ass up it. Result? Droppage. The only way to avoid being dropped is to not ride.

    Kinda like the only thing worse than a dumb wager is not having money down at all!

  • MCB says:

    Dropped is still faster than the guy staying home gathering fat. 🙂

  • Dan K says:

    Dropped is my middle name. Or “Lapped”. Or riding alone is. Doesn’t matter. I’m just happy to be able to ride a bike in sight of the fast guys.

    • fsethd says:

      Right? As long as everyone gets back together at the end of the ride, or at the beginning, or at Christmas, it’s all good.

  • Stefanovich says:

    i learn more by getting shelled

    • fsethd says:

      Well, you’ve taught a thing or two by shelling, as I recollect.

      Especially that one ride back from Swami’s or wherever it was. Thanks for the memories!

  • AA says:

    I don’t get dropped………..unless there’s hills! With hills, I’m the first one lagging. But it’s simple to remedying this, drop ~50# or 1/5 of my weight, that’s all.

  • sibex9591 says:

    There are two kinds of groups in this world. Ones that drop, and ones that don’t. When I first started showing up for one local group ride, I rode with the “B” crowd since I knew some of the people, but more importantly I didn’t know anyone in the A group. Turned out there wasn’t an A group, but the B group didn’t want a single person to get shelled out the back. After two rides with them I knew I needed a better group. That was when I found the A+ group in Colts Neck, and at first I rode with the A+ group because who are those guys in the A++ group? Soon I moved up to the that group and that is when I truly started to love riding my bike with others again. The constant battle to try not to get shelled was an elixir better than any drug of choice from my youth. That first recovery period where someone looked back saying “Did we drop the Landshark guy?”, and there I was.

    I am a lot older now and still love the pace of an A++ ride when I can get it.

    • fsethd says:

      Yep. Manzella and I were talking during the ride about the “no drop” mentality, and he was like, “Dude, when I started mountain biking, all I ever got was shelled. People were nice, but it was, like, when you can keep up then you’ll be able to keep up. When you can’t, well, bring a light and a map.” It’s so true. Hand holding is good only up to a point, like training wheels. After that it’s a matter of figuring out how long you can hang on.

  • Sausage™ says:

    The ride has just one rule that I am ware of: “no kooks.”

    I was there at Dogtown Coffee at 8am last weekend, and as I sized up the riders who came out, I was immediately reminded of the old gambling adage, “If you’re sitting at a poker game and don’t see the sucker, get up – You’re the sucker.”

    Let’s just say I looked around and saw no kooks.

    Needless to say, ouch.

    • fsethd says:

      Ha, ha! BTW, what happened to Michael Relth? That wanker used to be cannon fodder at TELO, and he ripped my legs off on Saturday. Am I that old? Is he that good? What ARE you doing over there at the new, improved LaGrange?

      • Sausage™ says:

        Time happened. But not to him. To us. We are old. He is young. Sausage Haiku™.

        • fsethd says:

          Hmmm, we need to bust that into proper format:

          Time happened but not
          To him, to us we are old
          He, young Mike, is strong.

  • Deb says:

    We accordian. The faster riders go out, the slower riders drop back, and at some predetermined location we all get back together again and start the process over. Then again, we don’t race. We’re those riders you call “clogstacles”. Heh! But we’re out there, and we’re still beating the couches.

  • kcornell7 says:

    I stopped getting dropped on group rides when I stopped doing my Gym work outs on Friday night.
    Then I started getting dropped at races.
    One must prioritize.

  • Rob says:

    Getting dropped as a cyclist…not bad. Getting dropped as a boxer…bad.

  • Time happened, but not
    To him, to us we are old
    He is younger now.

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