I was all alone. It was a sunny Saturday morning, and I was all alone.
Why was I alone? Because The Hammer was in Boston, getting to run some marathon or another with her friends, in the pouring rain.
They ran the whole thing together (3:54:44), by the way, thereby earning finishing medals and space ponchos:
But enough about them. This story is about me. And I was alone. And I needed a big ride, because I have some racing to do this summer.
So I called The Hammer.
“Hey,” I said, “You know how I promised I wouldn’t go out on any road rides by myself?” (A lot of us around here are on edge about road cycling because a local woman was recently killed while on a ride.)
“Yes,” The Hammer replied.
“Well, it rained here yesterday and so there’s no way I can go on a long mountain bike ride today.”
“And?” The Hammer replied, though she knew perfectly well where I was headed.
“And so I’m going to go ride around Utah Lake right now, and I don’t have anyone to go with me.”
“Well,” she said, “Dress brightly.”
I said I would, and suited up in the new Adobe kit, which I consider to be very bright.
Though now that I look at it in a picture, it occurs to me that it’s actually mostly black, with some bright accents.
By the way, I don’t work for Adobe, but a lot of my riding buddies do, and I like to blend in. Plus, buying the Adobe kit gave me a chance to try out a lot of the DNA-made gear, to see how it fits and feels.
Which is one of the reasons why I strongly recommend you load up on the 2015 Fat Cyclist gear. This is the best-made, most comfortable line I have ever had.
In particular, the bibs are a steal at $124.95, the long sleeve jersey is the best I’ve ever owned, and — I know this is a little weird, but believe me, it’s true — the socks are fantastic.
And of course, the race-fit short sleeve jersey (fits a little close, size up if your jerseys are usually right on the border of too small) is amazing for warm weather riding, and will be one of the lightest, coolest jerseys you’ve ever owned.
OK, end of advertisement. Back to the ride.
Audiobook Fatty Loves
I used to ride alone all the time. Since The Hammer and I got together, however, it’s a very rare ride that I’m alone. And a five-plus hour ride alone…well, it’s been a really long time since I’ve done that.
But I had an idea. Well, a couple ideas, actually.
First, I decided I was going to go hard on this ride. I was going to, in fact, do this entire ride in under five hours. Now, I knew from experience that from door to door, riding around Utah Lake is almost exactly one hundred miles. It just works out that way. That meant I was going to try to average — without drafting and including any stops (for water, to pee, for stoplights) — 20mph for five hours.
Not impossible, but definitely no slouching allowed.
Second, I decided I’d listen to an audiobook during the ride. Maybe it’s a sure sign of advanced aging, but I get tired of listening to music pretty quickly.
But I didn’t have an audiobook I was really excited about, so I turned to Twitter, asking for recommendations. The first reply I got was this:
Shelly should write elevator pitches for a living, because that grabbed me. I downloaded the book to my phone while I checked the pressure in my tires (I love how it’s that easy), put my Jaybird Bluebuds X on, and was ready to go.
For food? Well, that was easy. Six Gu gels and two packets of chomps, each packet representing about 100 calories.
I then filled all three bottles with Carborocket 333 (my current favorite flavor is grape). And yes, I mean three bottles: I used the BackBottle as my third.
With all this on board, I figured I had a good chance of not needing to make more than a single stop (refill water and pee, probably) during the whole hundred mile ride.
I started my audiobook, started my Garmin, and started riding.
And immediately got sucked into The Martian.
Great premise. Great story. Great characters. Great reading by the narrator. Just…great.
It was exactly what I needed, because riding around Utah Lake — while fantastic exercise — is not especially scenic. Usually, in fact, I can hardly wait for this ride to end.
Not this time, though. This time the energy of the book translated to energy in my legs and I happily hammered away. My body on a bike on the shoulder of the road, my mind with Mark Watney, stranded and trying to survive on an impossibly hostile planet.
The miles and hours flew by. I rarely checked my GPS (I’m back to a Forerunner 500; the 510 died) to see how long I’d been out or how far I’d come.
Every half hour my GPS beeped, reminding me to eat. I grabbed a packet at random, knowing that I’d included only things I like.
Whether I’m reading a good book or watching a good movie, I get completely absorbed. My sense of time compresses.
Without me really noticing it, fifty miles flew by.
Riding With Racer
I saw a cyclist coming toward me, wearing the Racer’s Cycle Service kit.
It was Racer.
I waved as we crossed, then looked over my shoulder to see if he was stopping. He was, so I turned around too, figuring we’d talk for a moment and then continue on our respective rides.
Instead, he said he’d turn around and join me on my ride for a bit.
Which I don’t think has ever happened before; most of us cyclists kind of have our rides set in stone.
For your convenience — and because I understand that kids these days are all about the multimedia blog experience — I have re-created and narrated our encounter using the Strava Flyby tool.
Feel free to watch that as often as you like.
We rode along together, shouting above the strongish wind. In the twenty or so years that Racer has worked on my bikes, we’ve actually ridden together maybe half a dozen times, so I was really glad he was willing to change his plan to suit my ride.
In fact, I was so happy I didn’t even mind pausing The Martian. At least, not very much.
Then a gold Lexus buzzed by us on the deserted road, his rearview mirror barely missing us, not moving over even an inch (and certainly not giving us the three feet required by law.)
After passing, the driver stuck his arm out of his window, held his hand up high, and flipped us off.
My blood began boiling, instantly, angry for a number of reasons, including but not limited to:
- That my wife almost got to give me an “I told you so” about riding my road bike alone (though I was no longer alone)
- That anyone on a deserted straight road would endanger two strangers’ lives.
- That anyone would even own a gold Lexus.
Then Racer laughed and waved at the guy in the car. “No point in being angry,” Racer said.
Headwind of Doom
With sixty miles behind me, I still had two bottles full of Carborocket. I considered just skipping past the park where I had planned on refilling my bottle.
But the day was warming up. I’d be drinking more. So we pulled over, I made it clear to Racer that this needed to be a quick stop, and I filled a bottle.
We kept riding to about my seventy-mile mark, at which point Racer peeled off and I was on my own again. I put the headphones on again and started my book, eager to see how Mark Watney was managing (surprisingly well, except when he wasn’t).
And then, for the final twenty miles of the ride, I battled a headwind. A brutal, relentless headwind, against which I had no chance of maintaining a speed of 20mph.
In fact, 18mph was not easy.
Nor was 17mph, now that I think about it.
I brooded, considering how unfair mathematics could be to me. I had been riding 20mph or faster for hours. And now, with just a fifth of the ride to go, a headwind was going to take that coveted sub-five-hour century away from me.
Unless I can really pour it on, I thought. And I poured it on. Which had two noticeable effects:
- I sped up to 19mph. Which you may have noticed is still not quite 20mph.
- I exploded into a thousand pieces.
I dropped back to a more reasonable speed, suffering as best as I could. And I can suffer well. Magnificently well, in fact.
Oh, how I suffered.
I started watching my GPS, making more and more refined estimates as to what my total distance would be when I arrived home, as well as my final time.
And I started getting excited.
No, not because it looked like I was going to finish my ride in under five hours. I could tell I was going to miss that mark by about ten minutes or so. The stoplights in Provo combined with the headwind I was suffering from now really had done a number on my average speed.
However, it did look like I was about to do something I have often thought about, but never actually witnessed:
A Natural Century.
Now, let me tell you what I mean by “A Natural Century,” because I really don’t know if anyone else thinks about this. As cyclists, we like to do rides that end in round numbers, and the century — 100 miles — is one we wind up doing a lot.
But those centuries never wind up being exactly 100 miles, do they? They’re a little under, or a little over, even if you ride out exactly fifty miles, then turn around and retrace your route.
And if you do a circuit, getting exactly 100 miles becomes even less likely, unless you add spurs and subloops and a ride around the block at the end to make your ride total the magically round 100-mile number.
So I’ve often wondered: Is there such a thing as a Natural Century, where all of the following are true:
- You start and finish at the same place, preferably home
- You go in a single, sensible loop, preferably around a mountain or a lake. Not an arbitrary set of roads, but a ride that that can be said to be around something or somewhere
- You don’t add spurs or other gimmicks to massage the total distance
- The ride comes out to be 100.0 miles. Not 99.9, not 100.1.
I didn’t really think there was such a loop…but Racer had guided me on a slightly different set of roads than I usually take for part of the ride, saying they are less-trafficked, though not making the ride any longer. And now, as I got to the roundabout that meant I was entering Alpine, Utah, it looked like…well, it looked like I was going to pull into my driveway within a tenth of a mile of a Natural Century.
I watched the distance on my GPS count up. This was going to be close.
I pulled into my driveway and:
99.9 miles. Oh, so close.
I plugged my GPS into my computer, it uploaded to Strava, and:
According to Strava, I had in fact just ridden the mythical, impossible, perfect Natural Century. And with an uncanny darned-near-perfect moving time of 5:00:33. Though I don’t take much stock in that; it’s not a sub-5 century unless the total time, not moving time, is sub-5.
Which left me with a question, as yet unanswered: which number should I believe?
Though to be honest, at the moment I didn’t care all that much. I just wanted to get back to my book.
Let’s imagine, for a moment, that you are a mountain biker. For many of you, this will take very little imaginifying, because you are in fact a mountain biker.
And while we’re imagining, let’s go ahead and throw on this further supposition that you’ve got a knack for this mountain biking, which you’ve enhanced with years of experience.
You’ve become quite discerning.
Let’s imagine, now, that you, as a mountain biker, somehow get paid to ride mountain bikes. To try out lots and lots of mountain bikes and wheels and component combos.
In other words, we are imagining that you are Jake Pantone of ENVE, whose title is something like “Director of Marketing”…but whose title might more accurately be “resident cycling savant and product genius.” (if you want to see what he looks like, check any of ENVE’s “How To” videos, like the one on cutting carbon handlebars.)
After a while, as Jake Pantone, you start to form a pretty clear picture of what a perfect mountain bike might be.
Which gave me an idea: I should ask Jake what bike he would get and how he would set it up, if he were the one to win the “Buy Gear, Make a Donation, Win the Ultimate ENVE/Specialized Dream Bike and Vacation” contest.
And I’m glad I did ask. Here’s what he said:
The Enduro 29er is considered by many the best all-mountain/enduro bike ever made. Paired with our components…I’d have to agree.
“Wow,” I thought. “I’ve never even considered that bike.” See, I tend to think inside a pretty narrow slice of the mountain biking universe: very light hardtail XC racers. And the Enduro is more of an “anything, anywhere, anytime” machine, which Specialized describes as the “world’s most advanced all-mountain machine.”
Here’s the color I’d go with:
It also calls it a “155mm trail slaying rig,” but I’m opposed to using the word “rig” on principle; a frame that retails for $4000 is not a “rig;” it’s a marvel of technology and engineering.
Anyway, I was a little bit startled that in answering my question, Jake didn’t say which ENVE wheels he would pair up with this frame.
So I asked.
“M70 all the way,” he replied — referring to the ENVE M70 Thirty 29 wheelset, which is light enough for climbing, but tough enough to take pretty much any bumps you can throw at it.
Jake elaborated that he’d get Chris King hubs on this wheelset, and that he’d add the ENVE DH Bar (ENVE’s video on how they tested their DH bar is worth watching) and a 40mm MTN Stem.
This would be, according to Jake — and I am quoting here — “a super cool bike.”
So here’s the good news. When (it’s important to think “when,” not “if” for these kinds of things) you win this outrageously cool contest, I’m going to put you in touch with Jake at ENVE, and — whether you choose to build up this particular superbike or some other superbike — Jake will give you advice on which wheels and components from ENVE he’d recommend.
Just think of it as an added perk to winning the contest.
As to whether you take your trip out to ride in Santa Cruz or at Gooseberry, well…you’re on your own for that particular decision (though I’d be happy to weigh in and further muddy the waters, if you’d like.)
Still a Good Deal
Recently, I told you (and only you) that this particular contest is an especially good one to enter, due to the fact that it has somehow managed to fly under the radar. This in spite of the fact that:
- You could win an extraordinary bike. Really, an impossibly wonderful bike. Any Specialized S-Works frame, with any ENVE components, and a top-end SRAM drivetrain.
- You could win an extraordinary trip. Go to Gooseberry Mesa! Or to Santa Cruz! With Dave Thompson and me! So awesome it warrants the use of a near-infinite number of exclamation points!
- Even if you don’t win, you can still get really great gear. Unlike many of my contests, in this one you can enter by buying 2015 FatCyclist gear, and the full price of your purchase is included in the drawing.
- You’re making a big difference. This is a fundraiser for World Bicycle Relief, which makes an immediate and massive difference in a person’s life every time they give away a $147 bicycle. This bicycle means being able to stay in school. It means a greater range for job opportunities. It means being able to reach patients in need of health care.
Since then, this bike and contest have raised a total of just over $15K. Which is good…thought it’s still way below the value of the prize.
So if you’re a contest nerd (like I am), I’d suggest that if the entries in are below the value of the prize in the contest…well, that’s not a bad contest to get into. In which case, hey: make a donation.
And if you’re the kind of person who likes to get maximum value out of your dollars, well, considering the fact that your Fat Cyclist Gear purchase automatically gets you that gear (the best-made gear I have ever offered, no less, at a great price), entry into this contest, and makes a donation to World Bicycle Relief…well, that’s kind of hard to beat.
A lot of stuff comes to me in the mail. I’m not complaining; I’m happy to try things out. But as I’ve mentioned before (and mention anytime someone emails me, asking if they can send me product to review), I don’t wind up writing about a majority of the things that come my way. I write only about things I love and think are really worth sharing (or, much more occasionally, things I hate so badly that I feel like I need to warn the world about them).
Today, there are three things different companies have sent me, all three of which I’ve been using, all three of which I love, and all three of which I think the world needs to hear more about.
Bike of the Moment
Before I talk about these cool products, though, I’d like to introduce you to a little feature I’m going to be including from time to time in my blog during this next couple weeks: “Bike of the Moment.”
You see, my fundraiser where you can buy FatCyclist gear or make a donation to WBR in order to win the ultimate dream bike and vacation is still going on (get details here, buy FatCyclist gear here, and make donations here).
And it occurs to me that it might be interesting for me to propose, from time to time, what insanely nice bike you might actually build.
I thought I’d start with the bike I intended to build for myself, before I had an attack of conscience and decided I’d make it a fundraising prize instead.
And that bike would be a Specialized S-Works Crux Disc. This is such an incredibly versatile, strong and light bike, you could (and should) use it both on-road and off. For racing cyclocross (or the Crusher in the Tushars) or for touring.
I would start with the amazing S-Works Crux Disc Frameset (valued at $3500):
And then I would add the incredibly light and strong ENVE SES 3.4 Disc Clinchers. These wheels are aero and light enough to be road wheels, but plenty strong enough for offroad use. And these disc-specific rims are lighter than the rim brake version.
A complete wheelset retails for $2900 – $3050, depending on your choice of hubs (I’d go with DT 240, but that’s just me).
Between this frame and these wheels, you seriously have the foundation of a bike you could take on pavement, on dirt roads, or CX races.
The ENVE awesomeness wouldn’t stop with wheels, though. I’d add the ENVE Compact Road Bar and Stem. And in fact, I have exactly these on my own road bike, and they are perfect.
Then I’d go on to SRAM for the drivetrain. As someone who has completely fallen in love with SRAM’s 1×11 drivetrain philosophy on mountain bikes (The Hammer and I are both riding with XX1 drivetrains), Force CX1 is the perfect choice.
I’d love to build this bike. Have it for myself. But instead, you get a chance to win it — or any other combination of Specialized S-Works level frameset, ENVE wheels and components, and SRAM drivetrain and components.
You just need to buy gear or make a donation for a chance to win (get details here, buy FatCyclist gear here, and make donations here).
Oh, and don’t forget: besides getting this outrageous bike, you get a trip to get it fit for you and then go riding it.
Are you beginning to see the possibilities?
Stuff Fatty Loves #1: The BackBottle
I’ve been riding (and loving) the Cannondale Scalpel this season. There’s just one (seriously, just one) problem with this bike — and a lot of other full-suspension bikes — though:
There’s space on the frame for only one bottle.
For long races like the True Grit Epic, I’ve worn a Camelbak. But I don’t really like wearing those, especially for medium-length rides, where I need more than one bottle, but don’t want to feel like I’m going out on an expedition.
So sometimes, I’d been riding with a bottle in my jersey pocket. Which basically sucks. In the center jersey pocket, the bottle presses against your spine, bouncing around and being annoying in general. And it’s not easy to reach back and put it back in, either.
My solution to this problem has been, thus far, to whine about it from time to time.
Brian Davis, the guy who invented Fix-It-Sticks, had a different solution: the BackBottle. [Full Disclosure: he sent me one, unsolicited, at no charge.]
I was a little skeptical, but went ahead and used it on the six-hour mountain bike ride I wrote about yesterday.
And it is wonderful. Seriously, it is amazing. The flat back of the bottle, with the two ridges, sits securely in my middle jersey pocket, never banging against my spine. The arrow-like bottom of the bottle makes it incredibly easy to push the bottle back down into my jersey pocket, one-handed.
Except for when I needed it, I forgot it was even there. And that includes when I was doing standing climbing. And it includes when I was bumping along downhill. It just disappears.
Honestly, it’s a brilliant solution to an irritating problem I’ve lived with on lots of long road rides and mountain bike rides — when I’ve wanted to bring three bottles instead of two — not just when I’ve had a single-cage bike.
I have one concern with this bottle, and that is with the cap:
The valve is of the cheap, plastic-on-plastic variety — the kind that starts dribbling after a few uses. Also, the cap is a lightweight rigid plastic, and caps like this usually start warping after being through the dishwasher a few times.
It’s also a narrower cap than others I have, meaning I can’t mix and match bottles and caps. If this cap is lost or breaks, the bottle becomes garbage.
Now, none of this has happened yet (and maybe it won’t), but I would be really surprised if this cap doesn’t prove to be the weak link with the BackBottle. So the only item I’d put on my wish list for this great bottle idea would be a premium cap. I’d gladly pay more for a bottle like this with a cap like the Specialized Hydroflo (or better yet: I’d love it if the BackBottle had a mouth size / thread match for the Hydroflo.)
Still, this isn’t going to be a bottle you use every ride; it’s going to be your special-purpose bottle, and as such you probably won’t wear it out as quickly.
And it’s only $12, so definitely worth getting, which you can do at BackBottle.com.
Stuff Fatty Loves #2: Native Hardtop Glasses
For years, I’ve been riding with Oakley Jawbones for my glasses. And I like them a lot. They’re comfortable, it’s easy to swap out lenses, and they vent well.
But their lenses…well, I wonder if anyone has ever pointed out to Oakley that their (very expensive) lenses seem to get scratched simply by being in contact with air.
So when Native Eyewear asked me to try out a pair of their glasses, I said, “Sure.” When they asked me what I wanted, I said, “Surprise me.”
They sent me a pair of their Hardtop Ultras, which I’ve been wearing on both road and mountain bike rides for the past two months or so.
And they have surprised me.
For one thing, they’ve surprised me by being incredibly light and comfortable. What they call the “Flex Metal” nose piece turns out to be incredibly adjustable, making these glasses stay on better than just about any I’ve ever had.
They’re polarized; long days in the saddle in bright sun (such as when I raced the True Grit Epic) didn’t leave my eyes aching.
Best of all, the lenses don’t scratch anywhere near as easily as my Oakleys. I’ve been riding with them for two months now and the lenses have no obvious marks on them; this has never been the case with any pair of Oakley lenses I’ve had (and I’ve had a lot).
Here’s The Hammer and me from last weekend; I’m wearing my Hardtops:
The Native Hardtops aren’t especially flashy glasses; they don’t call attention to themselves. You can decide for yourself whether this is a plus or minus. For me, it’s a plus.
They’re light, they’re comfortable, they’re durable, they work. And the price is good at $129.
I have a lot of sunglasses, but lately I find that I’m reaching for the Native Hardtop Ultras for every single ride.
Stuff Fatty Loves #3: Dog Ears
I love Garmin GPSs and how easy they are to mount on your bike. But I’ve had a couple of those mounting tabs — little plastic “ears” that secure the GPS onto your mount — snap off, just from use.
And the day after the True Grit Epic, while The Hammer and I were out riding with a group, The Swimmer crashed into The Hammer…snapping both the tabs off her Garmin 510 in the process.
Which I was very excited about, because a few weeks earlier, a little startup in Utah — called Dog Ears — had sent me a DIY repair kit for Garmin mounts.
These aluminum mounting plates ($19.95) go over the broken mounting tabs.
And while I’m generally a little bit nervous about fixing anything myself, I decided to give it a try. Further, I did it on camera (originally I broadcast this live on Periscope, which is why the video is in a portrait instead of landscape orientation).
Here it is:
After the video, I put in the screws and let the thing dry overnight…and The Hammer’s GPS has been just fine ever since.
If you’ve got busted tabs on your Garmin GPS, Dog Ears is a fast, easy, cheap solution. And since the new tabs are aluminum instead of plastic, I’m hoping they’ll be a lot less likely to ever break off again.
I love that I was able to fix something, and I love that this fix was easy and did the trick.
An “I Have a Lot of Notes Today” Note from Fatty: This is just a note to say that I have quite a few pre-story notes today. But I also have a story. And also, every one of my notes is worth reading. So do.
A “Sign Up for Something You Should Sign Up For Anyway and Maybe You’ll Win a Free Bike” Note from Fatty: I’m a big fan of The Feed, a service that makes it easy to get the energy food you want for cycling at a good price, at the right frequency, with excellent guidance. And right now, they’re having a contest where if you give them your email address, they’ll enter you in a contest to win a Cannondale SuperSix EVO Hi-MOD road bike. This is a serious road bike, with a value of around $7500. It takes roughly thirty seconds to enter, so you should. Click here.
A “Hey, Read This” Note from Fatty: I believe I am Janeen McCrae’s (aka The Noodleator) biggest fan. I have in fact recently begged her to start writing for Fat Cyclist. She declined, politely. So for now we’ll all have to be happy with whenever she writes something in her own blog. Which she has. “Tour de Tree: Groundhog Day Edition” is a wonderful ride report about an incredibly bad idea for a race. Click here to read.
A “Yes the Contest is Still Going” Note from Fatty: I’m not going to browbeat you today about the WBR Fundraiser I’ve got in progress, except to assure you that, yes, it is in progress. And also that you should enter it. And even more also that upon entering this contest, you will be doing a lot of good for people who need it. Read here for details.
Let me start this story with a rare piece of honesty: it centers around a boast I will make.
More honesty: I shouldn’t care about the event around which this boast is made.
Still more honesty: I do care. Deeply.
And now for the story.
More often than not, The Hammer and I ride together. It’s been that way for the five-plus years we’ve been together, and I love it.
It’s rare that anyone joins us for our rides, because when The Hammer and I ride, to most people it feels like we are training. Even when we’re just — truly and honestly — just riding along, recreationally.
As it so happens, The Hammer and I like to kind of flog ourselves to within an inch of our respective lives when we ride our bikes recreationally.
So, as I said, not many people ride with us more than once.
But my niece Lindsey and her fiance, Ben, have been riding with us. Mostly, this is because The Hammer and I are wonderful people to converse, ride, and otherwise be with.
It’s also possible that Lindsey and Ben are planning to race the Leadville 100 this year, and are looking to their elders for experience and wisdom and stuff.
Though I kind of doubt it.
Regardless, out of the three most recent Saturdays, Lindsey and Ben have been riding with us twice: the first time on a long road ride, and last Saturday, on a big ol’ long tour of most the trails of Corner Canyon.
Here the four of us are, being smiley and adorable together:
Seriously, folks, is there anyone in the whole world who takes selfies as well as I do?
We were there to ride together. Just ride together. To put in a bunch of miles at a good solid pace.
And that is, no kidding, what we did. Except on the downhill sections, where I needed to show that I was the boss.
Why? For several very excellent reasons, none of which I choose to reveal at this time. But I guarantee that it was not because Ben is half my age and looks to have about twice my fitness and I thus felt like I needed to prove something to him.
No, that was not the reason at all.
Anyway. We rode up Jacob’s Ladder, down the other side. Down Ghost, across Rattler, over to the BST and blah blah blah blah blah. Seriously, I don’t know why people (by which I mean me) write detailed lists of the names of the trails they rode. It means nothing to anyone except locals. Here’s the Strava of the ride, however, which makes it plain that our main objective in this ride was to diagram a triangle wrench:
And also, to go up and down a lot, and to carefully avoid ever going on an even reasonably flat trail:
These are very good objectives. Very good indeed. But as the day went on, I noticed that — more and more often — our ride broke up into two groups: The Hammer and Lindsey riding together and talking in the back group…and me riding out in front of Ben, with him scant inches behind me.
Which I interpreted in a certain way. A much different way than I interpret this same distance when on a road bike. See, when someone is right on my tail on a road bike, I interpret this as good riding technique: drafting and conserving energy, so that I can pull over sometime in the next thirty seconds and trade places.
On a mountain bike, however, when someone is right behind me, I interpret it as a challenge.
“You want to come around?” I asked. The gentlest form of a call-out.
“No, this is a good pace,” Ben replied.
Which would be fine, except I was going out of my way to ensure that it was not a good pace. More to the point, I was gradually ramping up my effort, trying to crack him.
Hey, I’ve finished Leadville in 8:18 before. He’s on record as wanting to finish it this year in 10:30. I should be able to crack him easily.
Except Ben wasn’t cracking. He was staying on my wheel, our respective better halves no longer anywhere in sight (they were happily chatting about weddings, not to mention racing LoToJa together this year). I was, with Ben’s help, proving the old maxim that there is no such thing as two men riding together. You get two guys on bikes, and it’s a race.
Anyone who says otherwise is just trying to disavow the incontrovertible fact that he just lost a race.
Which brings us to my plan: to prove to Ben that I am the alpha male, once and for all, in the Maple Hollow spur: a one-mile grind of a singletrack climb.
The four of us regrouped at the turnoff that marks the beginning of the Maple Hollow climb, where I assured the group that I was done pushing it for the day, and that we should just get to the top.
A lie, and everyone knew it. If by no other reason, by the way I didn’t make a faux-courtesy show of asking if anyone else wanted to lead out. I led out from the sound of the gun, heard in my head…and, judging from the way he immediately grabbed my wheel, heard in Ben’s head too.
This climb, I didn’t make a show of just riding along. No. I stood up, using singlespeed climbing tactics, even though I was not riding a singlespeed. Big gear, low cadence, edge of agony. Use your whole body to power up the climb.
Ben stayed right with me, as I expected him to.
I listened for a very particular sound. But it wasn’t there.
I went harder.
Ben stayed with me.
I listened for that sound. Still not there.
So I went harder. Listening, listening.
And then: there it was. The sound I had been straining my ears to hear:
I swear, that is the correct phonetic pronunciation for the sound I was listening for: the ever-so-slight sound a brand-new Shimano XTR drivetrain makes when you shift up the cassette one single gear.
It’s not a loud sound. But it is a distinctive one. And it is incredibly significant. In English, this sound translates to, “I need to go just a little bit easier.”
It is, in short, a flinch.
It was my cue to gut myself. Which I did. I gutted myself with what I like to describe as “joyful alacrity.”
And thus did I vanquish Ben and prove…well, nothing.
But one last piece of honesty here: I would — and probably will — do it again.
Every single time.
Which may be why it’s so rare that anyone wants to ride with me.
Hey, Fatty here.
I’m in Austin this week, doing work things, working as workers work when they’re at work. As proof of this, I offer a photo of the colossal, inseparable wad of keys (2), key fobs (2), key rings (3) and pieces of garbage (1) the Hertz company makes me carry around as punishment for having rented one of their cars:
I do not show this as a sly way to ask for your pity. No, wait. Actually I do.
(Pssst. Hey you. Stick around for a minute. I’m going to try to bore the rest of the readers away to another page, so it’ll be just you and me.)
So. Anyway. With me being in Austin, and my bikes being in Utah, there’s not a lot for me to write about today.
So maybe you should just head on over to Red Kite Prayer or Bike Snob NYC or something. I like those sites. In fact, I think I’ll go read them right now. You should too.
OK, is everyone else gone? You’re the only one who stuck around?
I’m going to tell you something, and it’s really important you don’t tell anyone else. (But first, I’m going to quit using these “whisper italics.”)
Early this week, I launched what I consider to be the most ambitious fundraising contest I’ve ever launched. Your choice of the best version (S-Works) of any Specialized frame — arguably, in many cases, the best in their class. Your choice of the best wheels and cockpit in the world — anything from ENVE. Your choice of the incredible SRAM drivetrains and brakes.
And a fitting and vacation — Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, or Utah — to get used to this amazing bike you’ve won.
Basically, I asked myself, “What would completely make people’s heads spin around, forcing them to have no choice but to sign up for this contest? What would be so compelling they wouldn’t be able to help but buy all kinds of gear and make a contribution to WBR to boot, just so they’d have a chance at winning?” And then I asked people and companies to help me build that contest. And they did.
And here’s the good news for you, and you alone (since you’re the only person reading this): so far, the WBR contributions and Team Fatty Gear purchase numbers have been…moderate.
I’m not saying they’ve been bad, mind you. Hey, $7K+ worth of contributions in the first 48 hours of a contest is something most fundraisers would be happy to boast about.
Of course, most fundraisers aren’t showing off a prize that would retail at $15 – $20K (depending on what bike and wheels you choose, as well as where you travel and where you’re flying from).
But see, that’s a good thing. For you. And for you alone. Because I have this idea, which I’m going to drop into whisper italics for, just so nobody overhears:
Buy the gear you want and / or make a donation, and then don’t tell anyone about it.
And I won’t tell anyone, either.
Because right now, considering the hugeness of the prize and the relative moderate number of purchases and contributions made, this is quite possibly the best bet you’ll ever get on winning a mindbendingly incredible prize.
Not to mention you’ll for sure make a big difference, thanks to the work you’re helping WBR do.
Not to mention the handmade Italian cycling gear you’ll be looking (and riding) so dashing in.
You’ll be doing something good for the world, wearing a really great-looking FatCyclist.com jersey, and…just maybe…getting the most outrageously perfect-for-you bike you can literally imagine.
Just keep it to yourself, OK? We wouldn’t want to wind up having this thing go big.
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