Thursday, September 26, 2019

Type II Fun: The Sweet Spot on Two Wheels

Not all fun is the same.

I learned this nearly ten years ago on a climb in the Cascade Mountains. I was having fun -- legitimate fun -- climbing South Early Winter Spire. It was a beautiful day, I was with a group of good friends, and although the climb was challenging, it was well within my abilities. After some time, we came to a part of the route where we needed to traverse "The Whaleback." This rocky spine entailed quite a bit of exposure, something I had not yet experienced. All of the sudden, I was no longer having fun.

Me, about to cross The Whaleback in 2010.

I didn't have time to dawdle, as there were a number of us on the climb, and we still had a long day ahead of us. And so, with little time to muster up courage, I stepped one foot in front of the other and continued to do so until I crossed the narrow spine. Despite my apprehension, I managed The Whaleback just fine. Once I passed this crux, fun returned. In fact, the fun that returned was like fun on ectasy.

As it turns out, the "legitimate fun" I experienced early on in the climb was Type I Fun, while crossing The Whaleback was Type II Fun. I hadn't realized this distinction at the time, but when I was told about the three types of fun later in the day, it all made sense -- crystal-clear sense.

Type I Fun

Type I Fun is what we typically think of as "fun."

Examples of Type I Fun include:
  • Frolicking under sunshiney-blue skies. 
  • Breaking into gut-busting laughter upon hearing a joke.
  • Playing with baby anythings -- puppies, hedgehogs, and unicorns alike. 
Examples of Type I Fun on Two Wheels include:
  • Being propelled by a glorious tailwind.
  • Cycling on a flowy dirt trail through a lush, green forest. 

Type II Fun

Type II Fun is when something sucks in-the-moment, but is fun in retrospect.

Examples of Type II Fun include:
  • Being chased by a bear.
  • Running a challenging 50k trail race with more than 10k of elevation gain.
  • Skinny dipping in a shallow'n'clear lake when a flock of priests suddenly appears waterside and you realize your clothes are piled 100 feet away from the shore. 
Examples of Type II Fun on Two Wheels include:
  • Being caught in a cold hailstorm, with lightning crashing all around.
  • Hiking-a-bike up 16% grades...with a heavy-ass loaded touring bike...for 13 miles. (Hip, Hip, Hooray for all my badass bike amigos who survived the Malahat Connector on this year's Pacific Northwest & Gulf Islands trip.) 

Type III Fun

Type III Fun is truly a misnomer, as there ain't no nothin' fun about Type III Fun.

Examples of Type III Fun include:
  • Getting punched in the face.
  • Undergoing a full, frontal lobotomy. 
  • Having thin slivers of bamboo slower inserted underneath your finger nails.
Examples of Type III Fun on Two Wheels include:
  • Getting a flat tire. Flat tires suck royally. There is nothing fun about them.
  • Getting hit by a car. Yeah, this sucks, too.

Learning about the different types of fun gave me a vocabulary to differentiate amongst the various colors of fun and to identify the type of fun I enjoy the most.

Sure, I enjoy Type I Fun. Who doesn't? But Type II Fun is my most favorite. Type II is when I feel the most fulfilled. The most alive. The most happy. Type II Fun is my sweet spot.

Nearly all of my favorite memories of Type II Fun have occurred on two wheels.

There was that one time at Crater Lake. I had biked the east rim of the lake under a perfectly blue sky. Cars were not permitted on the road that day, and I only saw one other person during my entire ride. This was exquisite Type I Fun.

The fun, however, was a wee bit different the following day. As my buddy, Alex, and I cycled from the Mazama Village north towards the Rim Village, a cold and heavy rain began to fall from the sky.

Soon the rain drops turned to snow flakes.
By the time we pedaled along the west rim of Crater Lake,
we were biking through a full-on, freezing cold, blizzardy Snowpocalypse.
(Photo: Alex Walter)

There was that time in Patagonia. While Crossing Tierra del Fuego, from south to north, the headwinds blew a constant 20-40 mph, with gusts up to 60 mph.

There were times we couldn't balance on our bikes
because the wind would quickly topple us over.
There were other times when it was faster to walk
our bikes against the wind rather than ride.
(Photo: El Mecánico.)

Then there was that section of "No Man's Land" between Argentina and Chile.

We hiked our bikes (El Mecánico is shown here) uphill
through a steep, narrow, and deep dirt channel...

...and then lifted our heavy steeds up and over steep
steps carved by tree roots.
(Photo: El Mecánico.)

We rolled our bikes across rivers and streams --
some deeper and wider than others...
(Photo: El Mecánico.)

...where we were sometimes afforded a bridge,
albeit a tricky one.
(Photo: El Mecánico.)

Then there was that time I Biked the Baja Divide with my friend, Ron...though, we weren't always "biking."

Sometimes we had to push our steeds through thigh-deep arroyos...
(Photo: Ron Norton)

...and walk our bikes down rutted hills that were surely steeper than 50 degrees.
Descending on two wheels would have been a definite death sentence.
(That tiny pink dot is me, and the tiny green dot is Ron.)
(Photo: Will)

Two years ago when I Cycled The Great Parks North & Great Divide Loop, rain had turned the dirt road to a peanut butter mess.

The peanut butter clogged my wheels and brakes;
I could only ride a few feet before having to scrape away the mud.

To add to the fun, as I stopped to scrape away a clump of mud,
an imprint in the peanut butter indicated that a bear had recently passed through.

Revisiting The Great Divide this summer brought even more Type II Fun.

My buddy, Don, and I had to maneuver our bikes down
the ridiculously steep embankment known as "The Wall."

And there were miles of trail that traversed through creek beds.
Some of the trail was navigable on my Surly Disc Trucker.
Other parts would have been rideable on a bike with wider tires.
(Photo: Don Annonio)

The mosquitos at a roadside stealth camping spot in British Columbia were atrocious.
My face was swollen red and painfully itchy from all the bites.

To top it off, the next morning I woke to find my tent covered
in gigantic black slugs, trails of slug juice, and piles of slug shit.
And none of them were on Don's tent!

Despite all the sucky-in-the-moment experiences, these memories -- the snow, the wind, the mosquitos, the slugs, pushing my bike through water and mud and up ridiculously steep hills -- have been some of my favorite life experiences. In the moment, I was pushed outside my comfort zone. Thoughts of "Why in the hell am I doing this?" crossed my mind frequently. But after the hardships had passed, I realized that the suckage-in-the-moment was fun after all, in a somewhat masochistic way.

Type II Fun is my sweet spot. It enables me to grow -- physically, mentally, and spiritually. Type II Fun exercises my grit muscle. Through experience, I broaden my concept of perspective and realize that I can accomplish a lot more than I think I can.

Do you like Type II Fun? What's your favorite Type II memory?

Mike Turnbull recently created an enjoyable 10-minute video called "A Pinch of Type II." I think you'll enjoy it. My favorite line from the video is: "This. This is it. Hurting yourself every day for fun." Yup, that sums up Type II Fun peachily!


  1. I want to hear more of the skinny dipping priest story....

    Another type I bike fun, a mile long downhill after a mikes long climb.

    I think I can easily say I am a type II fun dude... looking back my attempts at Mt Rainier and all the training hikes in the worst weather ever.

    1 day STPs on a hot July day! Type II as is the RAMROD (ok RAMROD might be Type II and a half, glad I did it, not doing it again. I love type to laugh and make others do the same, But it’s the II’s that I look back on and relive

    Loved this!

    1. Thanks, Tony.

      There's no skinny-dipping-with-onlooking-priests story. Sorry to disappoint, but it was just an example.

      I, too, think there should be finer gradations in the types of fun, such as 2.5 to describe RAMROD.


I would love to hear your comments on this post!