Watts Fappening: Excuse and Exegesis

Watts Fappening: Excuse and Exegesis

It wasn’t raining anymore, so that was nice. But it wasn’t not raining. The world outside Rich’s living room window was a dismal suburban haze of wet and grey. Enough to dampen our already subdued enthusiasm for Watts Fappening ’23. It’s not that we weren’t looking forward to it. I very much was. Dare I even say I needed it. It’s just that we both had enough on our plates in the days leading up to zero hour that planning and hyping and even feeling it just weren’t in the cards. Which left us less in that place of “Let’s do this!” And more at “I mean… we’re still doing this, right?”

Subdued or not, we hopped on our bikes and left the dry warmth of Rich’s house with all of the aged confidence of being masters of our own adult destinies, able to make autonomous decisions and pull arbitrary plugs whenever we chose. Shit, we could even just have one beer at the first stop, hope no one else showed up, then go back to his place and watch a bad movie.

Nine hours later….

For the uninitiated, Watts Fappening is an ill-conceived bar/brewery crawl that happens annually (or not) on the mean streets of Charlotte, NC during the doldrums of February. Named, for no real reason, after me.

It’s really a very big deal.*

Because my cultural literacy is simultaneously broad and parochial, I actually had to google “fap” the first time Rich put the Fappening out there. I thought it was just phonetic nonsense wordplay. He could have easily called it “Watts Happening” and left it at that. But nooooo. Not Rich. Fap. And I have to admit… not a fan. But whether we like it or not, that’s often what makes a title stick. Like when he calls me “Wartz.” I don’t like it. For all the childhood PTSD reasons that none of us like witticisms related to our names. Like when my clit-piercing, professional dominatrix friend Laurie christened me “Twatts” in college and I made the mistake of visibly bristling. Which only brought a delighted twinkle to her eyes and the simultaneous softening and escalation to “Twattsy.


Ummm… I love to drink.

This from a guy who used to be straight-edge.

And yes, I know that’s not a particularly trendy or popular thing to declare these days, much less a healthy one. Quite likely, it’s bonkers problematic. But bare with me…

First and foremost, I’m beyond lucky, in that whatever hardwiring I have on the scale of addiction is at about a “five.” Depending on how you look at it, I either do pretty much everything in moderation….or I’m just completely moderate at pretty much everything I do. Outside of the sometimes oppressive, but always pervasive cosmic level boredom that I feel living in Greensboro, NC… I drink primarily because I legitimately enjoy the taste and tone of alcohol. And possibly even the act itself; a bizarre and deliberate controlled poisoning. Like something out of a John Hawkes novel. How very droll.

But it really is less about needing that dull, muddling buzz and pushing the darkness into a corner so I can sleep or breathe or function (it is, sometimes)… and more about a texture. I like the strange and difficult flavor of alcohol in its various forms. In the same way I tend to crave the complex bitterness of arugula or broccoli rabe.

But I’m not going to fucking binge eat it.

I might

Of course, I’m told that’s just the addiction talking.

Certainly outside of simply navigating the complicated eddies of our daily lives, a large part of our muted enthusiasm for the Fappening was the current climate of alcohol awareness. Books. Articles. Podcasts. Deaths. Lots of friends near and far are getting sober. And while we’re all paying attention, and I would never disparage people’s strides toward self-betterment… I have thoughts.

There seems to be a general… turning up these days. Everyone’s knob is resting somewhere just past eleven. It’s why memes like this not only abound…

… they resonate.

It seems like we’re living in a new Age of Anxiety. And while sobriety can undoubtedly be a useful and healthy step in addressing that for some people… I can’t help but feel there’s some deeper examining to do. And I question if we even have the capacity for that kind of digging. Instead there just seems to be this frenzied scratching at the surface. Publicly discarding a visible macro only to secretly nourish a slew of hidden micros. Less a focused, self-aware step and more a desperate and vain scrabbling. Fasts and keto and ice-bath plunges, where simple, quiet, common-sense habit changes would have sufficed.

It’s why even your sober friends seem as batshit as ever.

This will likely be a thing I repeat many times on this blog in vain attempts to clarify it in my own head, but more than anything, I think that the current human condition is mental illness. Specifically, a kind of cognitive dissonance inherent and implicit in the dot we presently inhabit on some transcendent graph; A volatile intersection of time, circumstance, and cognizance. Our ability to process the universe and our experience therein, while more advanced than some animals, is still extremely limited, and we’re unable to truly collate big pictures and process that information in a sane way. And our world is only getting bigger. We’re exposed to more information previously hidden from our meager lives, abilities, and experiences than ever before… which leads to a cascade of mental issues: anxiety and depression chief among them.

At the profound but abstract level… there are the arduous mental gymnastics employed to try and reconcile the increasingly tacit reality of our small, fleeting existence with the grandiose, ignorant myths we created about our place in it all.

And at the simple but palpable level… once upon a time you knew you wanted more out of this life than you were getting, and likely had vague ideas about what that might look like… but now, through social media, you have a million daily affirmations that you not only fucked up, but are still fucking up. It was one thing to watch movies or look at pictures in magazines and yearn for the lives of some half-real demigods… but another entirely to bear daily witness to some dim, disingenuous, sycophantic, human cipher halfway across the country seemingly live the life you fucking deserve.

It effects a burning angst… and in the absence of clear action, a desire to douse it with whatever we can get our hands on. And alcohol… is often that.

So. Is alcohol the issue? Or should everyone just get the fuck off their phones and drink more water?

All of the above, I suspect.

But I digress…

As is typically the case, a Fappening swells. Sputters. And grows again. Until it inevitably explodes. It was a smaller crowd this year. Possibly because we did very little in the way of broadcasting and hyping it. Probably because drinking to excess is less cool than ever. And definitely because who the fuck is Watts, and why is he Fappening? (Gross.) Rich and I were alone for the first half hour. Sitting at Lower Left Brewing, shoving Puerto Rican food in our faces in anticipation of a rough night. And they started to arrive. First some familiar Fappening faces… Then more… And more….

From Lower Left to Triple C to Wooden Robot, where Rich was summoned away by his boarding kennel to pick up his errant dog. On to Fonta Flora and a vast, crowded food court for drunk dumplings. To Birdsong, where we reunited with Rich. Giving ourselves a two beer pass. To the Spoke Easy, where quantities became muddled. Across the street to Big Ben’s Pub, where Fappening scholars identify the point of explosion; Dread Fiyah buying us dark and stormies. Which led to another shot of something. Probably more rum, which can seem so sweet and pleasant in the moment, but is, in fact… not. To Devil’s Logic, of which I have only the vaguest of memories. And finally to Lucky Lou’s; the best worst strip mall bar within stumbling distance of Rich’s house…

….of which I have only the vaguest of memories.

I actually felt pretty good the next morning.

Until I didn’t.

A slow, creeping hangover that built to a powerful noontime crescendo. A precipitous nausea exacerbated by… everything. One that didn’t wane until mid-afternoon, when we were more than halfway through 40 miles of gravel roads near Rock Hill, SC. A ride which included at least one pit stop along the route so I could take drunk-shit number seven in some haggard, rangy woods off the side of the road. (A thing for which I am always prepared.) The kind of hangover that tells you in no uncertain terms that you just took at least a year off your life.


Prior to the Fappening, I’d listened to a Huberman Lab podcast all about alcohol and it’s effects on us. I highly recommend it to everyone. Not to give away any spoilers, but as it happens, there are no net-positives to drinking. Even the most moderate consumption does the brain and body zero neurological and physiological favors, long term or short term. And yet…

And yet.

Without trying to be the kind of stupid asshole who digs in and tries to hold their ground on a shitty, fallible position, I do think it’s more complicated than that. In a world awash with prescribed medications for mental and physical well-being, all of which have a laundry list of dire side effects ranging from heart problems, to stroke, to anal leakage, to death… I think drinking has the potential to be… maybe not so bad? But, shit, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone has any misgivings that it’s making us better or healthier. But it might not be fucking us up as bad as some of the other myriad substances we’re ingesting… or habits we’re cultivating.

That said, it’s complicated. And there are a lot of factors involved; genetics being a huge one. The fact is that some people just can’t handle alcohol. In the same way some people can’t handle wheat. Dairy. Shellfish. Dust. Stress. Communication. Porn. Accountability. Life. A gentle loosening of the tongue and lessening of crippling social anxiety is one thing. Completely losing the ability to respect and understand the word “no,” getting into fist fights with your friends, and unleashing the rapey piece of shit that apparently lives inside you… is another.

And while we all have regrets about things we’ve said or done while drunk (or sober), I’d hazard to guess most of you know which side of that spectrum you fall on.

Which is also why I sometimes struggle to feel celebratory about people’s abstinence from a thing they know makes them a problem in other people’s lives. But then… maybe the difficulty is less with the abstinence and more with the mawkish self-congratulation. A tentative “Do you know Bill W.?” replaced with “Hey everyone, come see how good I look!” But that’s in all facets of our life these days. And that’s not a judgment on sobriety. We all know that it’s probably one of the better decisions any of us could make. It’s more an admonition to just… commend ourselves a little less.

And to once again put down the phone. Which… is definitely one of the better decisions any of us could make.

Also, let’s also be honest; brewery “culture,” moreover drinking culture… whether it’s craft beer, bourbon, scotch, white-woman wine-chic, hipster dive-bar fetishism, “mixology,” singlespeed dumbfuckery, or what… is complete fucking garbage. We all know it. But that’s what happens when people take the vague softness of a thing they enjoy and turn it into a platinum hard facet of what they perceive to be their personality. It’s the same reason “Gravel” in all its iterations… is complete. and utter. shit. Mistaking banality, myopia, and tone-deaf selfishness as some laudable permutations of triumph, inclusivity, and accomplishment.

Fucking gross.

But again… I digress.

The past few years have been… not hard… but dim. Boring. Small. Myopic. Even the sunshine seems grey of late. So the brief moment of getting to ride bikes to too many bars with new and old friends felt like a coup. However trite, and however unhealthy.

To be sure… the Fappening might be the most physically taxing event I do all year. If I had a Garmin or Whoop or whatever, it would probably tell me to recover for at least 365 days.

That absolutely works for me.

* false

King of the Wilde Frontier

King of the Wilde Frontier

A circlejerk


I was in bed when Jeff texted me.

Not asleep. Yet. Just sitting up, sipping bourbon, and retyping stupid dumb sentences that I hate and are terrible in an effort to jump start something inside of me. (Anything) Because aside from passing out rereading the same three pages in a book I may never finish, that’s apparently what I do at night.

(Squinting with increasingly bad eyes at my phone to see who the fuck was texting me at this hour. Oh. Jeff. Hi Jeff)

“You should hire me to build you a single speed.”


“Ha! Let’s do it!”

I never confirmed, but I would guess that he had just read (skimmed) my last Editor’s Choice Awards for Bikerumor, wherein I mentioned the possibility of a custom Wilde. Regardless, I was all in. Staff and customers at the shop like to tease me… because for someone who hates “gravel” I sure do have a lot of gravel bikes. It’s probably because I love “gravel.” (What? But you said…) It’s complicated. Gravel and I are like that torrid affair who try not to talk anymore, but still instagram stalk the fuck out of each other, and occasionally send drunk 2am texts.


Actually, it’s pretty simple. I love long, quiet, low-traffic dirt roads. I hate the self-congratulatory shitshow that riding them seems to engender.

And it’s not that I’m an N+1 kind of guy either. Outside of my problematic hoarding of plastic trash for no reason other than to keep it out of the landfill, I’m always actively trying to purge the things I own. But there you have it; Four gravel bikes. In a sprawling suburban yawn of a city with no real gravel to be had.

More on that another time. (So much more.)

Things I knew I wanted:

-A racey bike. Something steel and durable, but fast and light. Something to take on my long trips, but also maybe race Unbound, again. Gravel Worlds. UnPAved. True Grit. Appalachian Journey. Verboten Schotter, or some other whoevenfuckingknows event again. I’ve enjoyed the shit out of my heavy bikes and decided not-race times of late. But… call it a mid-life crisis. IDFK.

-A longer top tube. It makes sense; Jeff’s bikes fit Jeff, whether that was with All City or now with Wilde. But at 6′ even, I land solidly in that nowhere of being slightly too big for his large (55) and too small for the xl (58). I needed a 56.5 top tube at least. Maybe 57 depending on the reach.

-Some sort of slider or rocker dropout so I could seamlessly transition between singlespeed and geared. Because dumb.

Outside of that? I let Jeff pick the lengths, widths, heights, and angles. I mean… it’s his bike brand. Show me what you got.

We went back and forth a little on the paint. Damn, does that boy love a fade. Me not so much. And he listened patiently while I made aureate pronouncements about being a 90’s MTB kid in love with Herboldian kaleidoscopes of zebra stripes and pink. In the end… we went with something clean and subtle that still popped. A metal flaked black with a specific shade of pink that he had recently come across. I gotta say, it’s pretty fucking perfect.

I’d hoped to have the frame in time for Rule of Three last May, but eh… not quite. And even when it arrived soon after, I still didn’t have some of the key pieces I wanted. So I let it simmer. It’s not like I had any pressing events on my calendar. And travel has been hard of late. Sometimes I would get close to a complete build and a customer would need a part I’d squirreled away. Or I’d overthink something. (Never) Or the Nausea would creep back in. And start the waiting game all over again.

But about a week ago, it finally came together.

Le Singlespeed

Les Gears

Ummm…. It’s pretty great.

Because it was baby’s first custom gravel-bike, I gave myself some boujee leeway. I wanted to build it up “nice.” Can I afford nice things? Do I deserve nice things? God, no. Call it a midlife crisis. IDFK.

The Main Deets:

Industry Nine Ultralite 250 TRA Carbon Wheels. I resisted carbon wheels forever. 1) They are expensive. 2) Why would I be worthy of that? and 3) Even. More. Plastic. In. The. World. I don’t have any great logic as to why I’ve given myself a pass, save that I am a very big deal washed-up has-been C+(-) racer. The initial plan was to carry an XD freehub body and cassette for on the fly swaps, but currently I have an older set of Ultralite 250 CX Carbon wheels as my ready to roll geared set. Because apparently I’m a boujee bitch.

Singlespeed is dead

White Industries G30 Crank and BB. What? They’re just really nice. Light. Strong. Nice. And made in the USA. And also nice.

Plus, nice

Sram Force AXS. Sigh… I had a feeling it would eventually come to this. But for one reason and one reason only: The ease and cleanliness of transitioning back and forth to singlespeed. (Don’t even get me started.) Remove the derailleur. Swap chains. Swap cassettes/cogs. (Or wheels) And it’s done. No fucking with cables or housing or wires and what to do with them when not in use. Let me be honest and clear… I hate Shimano Di2. I just don’t see the appeal. It seems like all of the hassle of routing cables, and fucking with batteries, but with no great benefit. Smoother shifting? Beepboopbeep? It’s kind of like E-bikes. I just. don’t. care. But SRAM AXS wireless?… So easy. No lie, the shifting is fucking weird. It is. Left hand to downshift. Right hand to upshift. Which can be awkward. But you know what else is awkward?

Fucking…. Me.


The humans are dead

I decided to go with the mechanical-brake version of AXS, because when traveling, I can easily maintenance a cable replacement, but a fleld-bleed on hydraulics not so much.

HA! That actually sounded pretty good, but the reality is that at some point during Covid, I apparently ordered two sets of the non-hydro caliper-brake brifters for the shop? And well… that’s what I get and deserve (Dumbass). Although they actually feel really good. So, yeah. Currently I have them paired with some TRP Spyres, but might one day swap them out for secret Paulcomp Klampers I have stashed away. Or maybe I’ll legit go hydraulic. Who even knows? Who even cares?

I think there’s an Easton AX 90 handlebar on there now? Because I had one? But it’s highly possible that it’s a recalled Whisky. (Hmmm. I should probably check that out.) A Thomson stem and seatpost. Just because. Brooks C13 saddle. Because that’s my go to. And tires come and go, but currently I’m trying some of Ronnie and Patrick’s Rosé JFFs on one wheelset and REEN HERS Steilacooms on the other.

Pretty damn supple

Pretty damn tuff

Yes, I know I need to figure out this stack. Stop yelling at me.

Last weekend, I took the bike down to Uwharrie and managed to find some roads I’d never ridden (which is hard, because I’ve ridden them extensively). And I have to say… goddamn. God. Damn. Maybe it’s just having a bike that really fits me. Maybe it’s the super great spec that I picked. (Me!) Maybe it was just the ride and that soul-glow that comes with finding new roads (which is my absolute favorite). Or maybe the frame really is that nice. But I had such a good ride. I wouldn’t call myself taciturn, but I’m certainly not effusive about things. (Unless I’m really drunk or stricken with l’amour fou.) I think I get it from my mother, but my normal rating for anything outside of “the fucking worst” is typically “fine,” regardless of how good it actually was. I enjoy the shit out of riding long miles on all my other bikes, and if you asked me how they rode, I’d tell you. “Fine.” Why? What do you want me to say? What are you asking? Why are you talking to me? Is that your breath? Are we done here?

But my Wilde? It rode “pretty fucking great.”

And that… is a “pretty fucking big deal.”

Thanks, Jefe.

Next up.

WattsFappening. (Probably. We’ll see.)

Forget Your Life.

Forget Your Life.

It’s nothing.

Hi, I’m Watts.

Once upon a time, I had this blog called Revolting Cogs. What originally started as an extension of the shop and a way to promote timely “hot topics” (You know, like 29ers and disc brakes) almost immediately devolved into… whatever it was. Drunk storytelling (often). Occasional race reports (sometimes). Oversharing (always). And just continued to devolve. But apparently, people read it? I’d be sitting at a bar in a random city in the midwest or northeast or southwest (and once even the middle-east) that I just happened to be passing through, and a stranger would tentatively approach me to say that they really enjoyed my blog.

That was nice. Always surreal… but nice.

Then I admit, I kind of lost it.

Not mentally, mind you. (But ok, sure…) But not in some dramatic “lost it” way. Sheesh. I mean, I didn’t flip the fuck out or anything (But ok, sure…). I just… stopped. At a time when I probably could have harnessed some of that energy and notoriety into something, instead I just sighed and closed my laptop. Writing was making me anxious. Not panic-attack anxious, mind you (But ok, sure…). Just… bored. Stressed. I felt empty. And the things I was saying felt not only increasingly bitter, but trite and repetitious. And to be yet another bitter, trite, and repetitious male voice in the world, moreover the world of cycling, felt… dumb. And I already felt dumb enough most days. No need to compound that.

But dumb or not, I missed it. Missed the catharsis. The exercise and practice of pairing words and playing with syntax, finding a way to express a feeling or idea in a way I couldn’t or wouldn’t say it otherwise. Even if I had to circle and repeat that idea a million times before I was “happy” with it.

From time to time, I’d try to put something back out there and rekindle some pep or verve or momentum. Perpetually editing an endless, irrelevant draft. Or I’d publish part-one of a three-parter that ended before part-two. It felt silly. Vain. Useless. Lot’s of “why am I doing this again?” Less a maudlin social media pronouncement ala “Hey everybody I’m taking a break from this platform for my mental health but I desperately need you all to know that and validate it and still please pay attention to me because what if I disappear and none of you even notice oh my god oh shit I’m nobody I’m nothing oh god” and more “Ugh. I don’t feel particularly smart or together these days and I’m not happy with these words right now, so what if I just… don’t?”

But the problem with “don’t” for too long is that it can be hard to eventually “do.” Hard to get back into anything even remotely resembling a groove. Writing, like drawing, or so many other outlets, is also an exercise, and when you stop doing it, you lose some of that adroitness and fluidity of expression (in whatever amounts you may possess). So it can be disheartening to start up and flounder. But then… if I can successfully re-train myself to drink water and take vitamins and brush and floss every night … I can do this. And just like brushing or flossing, you don’t have to make a big fucking deal about starting to do it. Sure, you can wait until Monday because only psychos start cultivating healthy routines on a Wednesday, but there’s no need for a “Hey everybody, I know I haven’t really been active in this bothering-to-take-care-of-my-fucking-teeth platform lately, but now I am and I really need you all to know because otherwise why am I doing it oh god oh shit I’m nobody oh god”

(Wait. Is that what I’m doing right now?)

Anyway, One of my absurd self-imposed stumbling blocks to getting back to writing was the very concept of a “blog.” A blog? Like… Flemish For Poseur? Like… Brickhouse Racing? Team JRA? Team Robot? Team Dicky? Somehow it felt more dated than a zine. Do people still make zines? Like… at Kinkos? Do people even still read? Would they read this? Should they read this? Aren’t I supposed to be Youtubing or something? But a blog? With a URL of “blogspot?” Isn’t that like having a Myspace page? Or an email address that ends in aol or hotmail? Is that even legal anymore?

btw, yes, people do make zines. And they occasionally just surprise me with a giant box full of them
(thanks, bud)

So I latched onto this idea of having a website. Something more “professional.” The rough equivalent of me needing to clean my room or arrange these pens before sitting down to study. As if that would be the impetus I needed to get motivated and really ” do it.” Would it still just be a fucking blog? Of course. I don’t even know how to do anything else. But it would be very grown up. Because it’s a website. Not a blog.

So here it is.

Will I update it semi-regularly? Sigh, that’s the plan. Shit, I might even upload some videos or something. Put out a podcast with my goose-honk of a voice interviewing some no-longer-relevant icon from what is likely the-worst-ever-era-of-cycling. (Even though Stevil took the name REVOLTING for his podcast and I’m still peeved with him for it.) Does it pretty much look the same as my old blog, but arguably worse? Maybe. Look, I’m no hacker. Computers are hard.

Am I still empty inside? My left foot is tingling. Does that count as feeling?

Am I still bitter? Yes, but I’m also salty, so there’s nuance.

Am I still trite? I mean… “it is what it is.”

Let’s see what happens.