The Climber in a Gorilla Suit

There is a force upon this world which governs all manner of voodoo and wizardry. This force ensures the streak in your windshield wiper is always precisely at eye level. It ensures that the phone call goes to voicemail just as you touch the “answer” button. It ensures that a product which you endlessly encountered but did not need will vanish into oblivion the moment it becomes of use.

The more time I spend as a Cyclist, the more apparent it becomes to me that this force also controls which of us are to become good climbers or bad climbers. I will never be a good climber, however much I enjoy it; I am much too big for it. But I climb well enough for my weight because I enjoy the work and the suffering. I enjoy testing to see how far I can push myself.

I see small, powerful riders and I imagine they must go uphill like a whisper on the wind, but when the climb comes, they drift back in the group and disappear down the road the wrong way. The mysterious force has decreed that they shall not be a good climber, especially for their weight.

Most mysterious is the large rider who goes uphill like a beast; they are too big, too heavy, and too strong to defy gravity like the mountain goats do, with none of the grace and fluidity that the true grimpeur holds. Yet they go to the front and heap coals on the fire, sending everyone on their wheel deep into the pain cave. This rider is the Climber in a Gorilla Suit, and they are the sleeper agents of the peloton.

Look out; there likely is one lurking on the group ride tonight.

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75 Replies to “The Climber in a Gorilla Suit”

  1. @Rusty Gramm

    @Sparty

    @Jay

    I see whats happening here, “lets take the guy from delaware and drag him through the hills”  …..sure, i’m down.  Gonna need a fair bit of notice to make the trip happen though, I better start chatting up the boss now.  Any luck and i can bring some other flatlanders with me.

  2. There is a former team-mate of mine who fits this description very well. Im around 56kg & 1.70m and this SOB must have been 70kg+ and 1.75m but fuck me if he couldn’t make me work to keep up with him sometimes. I have seen it in soccer as well. The fucking bowling ball with an extra set of wheels that can run everybody off the God damn Pitch! They are just true athletes. Freaks of beautiful nature. My self well I should be a better climber but Im on the wrong side of 40 and spent too many years fucking off, but I still look fantastic for an old bastard.

    P.S. relocating to Seattle from Los Angeles and curios about long climbs in the area. I guess I am asking Frank this.

  3. @anthony

    There is a former team-mate of mine who fits this description very well. Im around 56kg & 1.70m and this SOB must have been 70kg+ and 1.75m but fuck me if he couldn’t make me work to keep up with him sometimes. I have seen it in soccer as well. The fucking bowling ball with an extra set of wheels that can run everybody off the God damn Pitch! They are just true athletes. Freaks of beautiful nature. My self well I should be a better climber but Im on the wrong side of 40 and spent too many years fucking off, but I still look fantastic for an old bastard.

    P.S. relocating to Seattle from Los Angeles and curios about long climbs in the area. I guess I am asking Frank this.

    Shit – not sure that 1.75 and 70Kg is really in the TFTC category!  A Merckx though 56 KG, what do you eat, grass?

  4. @Teocalli

    @anthony

    There is a former team-mate of mine who fits this description very well. Im around 56kg & 1.70m and this SOB must have been 70kg+ and 1.75m but fuck me if he couldn’t make me work to keep up with him sometimes. I have seen it in soccer as well. The fucking bowling ball with an extra set of wheels that can run everybody off the God damn Pitch! They are just true athletes. Freaks of beautiful nature. My self well I should be a better climber but Im on the wrong side of 40 and spent too many years fucking off, but I still look fantastic for an old bastard.

    P.S. relocating to Seattle from Los Angeles and curios about long climbs in the area. I guess I am asking Frank this.

    Shit – not sure that 1.75 and 70Kg is really in the TFTC category! A Merckx though 56 KG, what do you eat, grass?

    This was exactly what I thought, being 1.74 and 70 kg I don´t consider myself a bowling ball on wheels. SOB then would probably nail it better.

    And I don´t think I´m TFTC but being mid-aged and just plain weak works good enough for me…

  5. @Teocalli

    @anthony

    There is a former team-mate of mine who fits this description very well. Im around 56kg & 1.70m and this SOB must have been 70kg+ and 1.75m but fuck me if he couldn’t make me work to keep up with him sometimes. I have seen it in soccer as well. The fucking bowling ball with an extra set of wheels that can run everybody off the God damn Pitch! They are just true athletes. Freaks of beautiful nature. My self well I should be a better climber but Im on the wrong side of 40 and spent too many years fucking off, but I still look fantastic for an old bastard.

    P.S. relocating to Seattle from Los Angeles and curios about long climbs in the area. I guess I am asking Frank this.

    Shit – not sure that 1.75 and 70Kg is really in the TFTC category! A Merckx though 56 KG, what do you eat, grass?

    Try hauling yourself up a mountain when you’re 85kg. Fortunately, I’m strong as fuck…

  6. @RobSandy

    I think the term you are after is “built like a brick shithouse”.

    @oligali

    Yeah at a spit under 170 and 67-68 kilo I don’t think I have excessive excess baggage that would be easy to shed.  My problem is that I’m plain old.

    That has me thinking, when does one move from having “amazing muscle definition” to “wirey old man”?

  7. @Teocalli

    That has me thinking, when does one move from having “amazing muscle definition” to “wirey old man”?

    That, amongst other things, lies in the eye of the beholder, I´m afraid.

  8. @oligali

    My bad typo 80kgs not 70kgs sorry bout that boys! He is still fucking way faster than he should be.

    P.S  i eat beer mostly

     

     

  9. @ChrisO

    @gilly

    I don’t have any mountains close by, but I do have Dartmoor. You learn a lot about yourself climbing on the moor!

    You don’t need mountains then.

    I’m a pretty good climber because I can sit on a decent power number and hold a good pace. So when I went to visit my son at Exeter university last October and thought I’d take a spin around Dartmoor I mapped out a route and didn’t really look at the profile. OMG.

    Forget steady power, it was out-of-the-saddle maximum effort just to keep the bike moving. I can imagine doing those on a regularly basis would require considerable self-reflection.

    You’re not wrong. Aside from the terrain it’s got it’s’ own micro climate too so I generally dress for the worst of weathers even if I leave home in glorious sunshine

  10. @Teocalli

    @anthony

    @oligali

    My bad typo 80kgs not 70kgs sorry bout that boys! He is still fucking way faster than he should be.

    P.S i eat beer mostly

    Phew. I can look in a mirror again.

    Ha yeah

    @Teocalli

    @anthony

    @oligali

    My bad typo 80kgs not 70kgs sorry bout that boys! He is still fucking way faster than he should be.

    P.S i eat beer mostly

    Phew. I can look in a mirror again.

    Ha! yeah I try to avoid the mirror at all cost, after 40 well I don’t need to see that

  11. @gilly

    As I remember it, it had it’s own macro climate.  Can get really nasty down there, particularly in the winter.

    @anthony

    There comes a point when they come back into their own so you can check that you did actually manage to get up in the morning.

  12. @Teocalli

    @gilly

    As I remember it, it had it’s own macro climate. Can get really nasty down there, particularly in the winter.

    @anthony

    There comes a point when they come back into their own so you can check that you did actually manage to get up in the morning.

    Well said! Cheers.

  13. How does this – http://cyclingtips.com/news/just-enough-tools-jet-roll-iii-tool-roll-review/ – fit in with rule #29?

  14. Shit! At 171cm and 68~70 kg I thought I was small, it turns out that I’m only “real world small” and that once over the border into Velominatiland I’m decidedly medium… Maybe verging on large…

    Still can’t climb worth a fuck, though…

  15. @dinosaurJR

    Shit! At 171cm and 68~70 kg I thought I was small, it turns out that I’m only “real world small” and that once over the border into Velominatiland I’m decidedly medium… Maybe verging on large…

    Still can’t climb worth a fuck, though…

    The funny part is that my cycling buddies want me to put on weight as I’m useless for drafting!

  16. @Teocalli

    Drafting… I read that the best times to be putting your nose in the wind is on full on climbs and full gas descents – never on the flat.

    On a related topic, I have a really short head tube on my main bike (I wouldn’t go as far to say my #1 bike, as I use her for commuting, but she does have a genuine gruppo, though… well, really a collection of some Italo-Romanian bits…) and the result is that if I get really down into the drops and give it my best Whale shark impersonation there is literally nothing for wheel suckers to draft…

    I might be medium-verging-on-large in Velominatiland, but a big diesel I most certainly ain’t.

  17. This photo by Graham Watson of Sean Yates is always the first one that pops into my mind when I think of someone being TFTC.

    Now Yates was strong as FUCK but I just love this photo.  Just captures so much of the pain of racing the bike.

  18. Fantastic article – I was recently in Utah for a MTB trip, and at the end of the trip, bikes dropped off at the bike shop for shipping home, we went out for a non-bike activity which involved driving up the phenomenal Kolob Reservoir Rd just outside Springdale, Utah. The road goes into and out of Zion National park but it CLIMBS incessantly. Even in the car it’s shocking how long it goes. If you make it all the way to Kolob Reservoir it’s over 4000 feet of climbing. Sitting in the back of the truck on the drive down I just stared at the road and kept saying how much I wanted to ride it. Hit the bike shop, rented a road bike and did it. It hurt, but I had never done anything nearly that big and I just had to know what it was like to ride a climb so big the biomes change as the climb wears on. Desert at the start… then green fields… then pine forests. I didn’t make it to the reservoir, ran out of gas at 3000′ – but I’ll be back, and I’ll throw myself at the climb again, next time I’ll make it all the way. It won’t be pretty then, either.

    Your quote about never being a good climber but doing it anyway summed up so perfectly why I knew I had no choice and _had_ to ride that climb. Thank you.

  19. @Buck Rogers

    This photo by Graham Watson of Sean Yates is always the first one that pops into my mind when I think of someone being TFTC.

    Now Yates was strong as FUCK but I just love this photo. Just captures so much of the pain of racing the bike.

    0

    For newbies, there was a full discussion of this photo on here years ago. It’s Yates in an early Paris-Nice (or M-SR, can’t remember.) I do know he was a neo-pro and wasn’t the lean, mean machine he would go on to be. I can never decide if the look on Yates’ face is one of hatred or embarrassment at being photographed near the back of the bunch.

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