An Open Letter to “Champion: Official Supermarket of the Tour de France”

06.23.2005 | 2:14 pm

Dear Champion SuperMarket Chain,

Yesterday, I got my Guide to the Tour, a supplement to Velonews magazine. I’m pretty sure this guide is simply a translated version of the Tour Guide published in France, ads and all.

Champion, I am pleased that you are supporting the Tour, and pleased that you are the Official Supermarket of the Tour de France. Alas, since I don’t live in France, your ad never had a chance of getting me to buy anything, so you may want to reconsider how you spend your ad dollars next year. Still, If I ever go to France, now I know where to get my official Tour groceries, and that’s something. I guess.

That said, Champion, I feel I must tell you that your full-page ad (see below) in this guide has creeped me out unlike any ad I have seen in recent memory.

I submit the following reasons for why:

  • The adult male appears to have had a frontal lobotomy. He’s looking into space and has a slack-jawed, lopsided grin. I’m confident the only reason we don’t see drool is because it has been photoshopped out. He does not make me want to buy groceries.
  • The adult female is wearing the strangest baseball cap I have ever seen. No, calling it a baseball cap is inappropriate, for it is clearly a spotted turban with a bill. Also, the expression on her face leads me to believe she is screaming for vengeance, which I believe is the main reason the cyclist looks so scared. She does not make me want to buy groceries, but she does make me want to buy life insurance.
  • The female child being held by the adult female is, I believe, a witch. Her concentrated expression and the way she is making a hand gesture while looking directly into the eyes of the (again, terrified) cyclist leads me to believe she is the instrument that will effect the vengeance her mother wants so badly. Also, the sleeve of her t-shirt puffs out as if it were inflatable. Perhaps this is a flotation function prepared against the likelihood of angry villagers trying to drown her?
  • The cyclist has the largest, most terrified eyes I have ever seen. He knows these people want him dead, and probably also realizes his bike is tilted so far up and to the left that there is no way he will not keel over onto his side. His terror is so great that he has forgotten to be embarassed by the fact that he’s tucked his jersey into his shorts.
  • The leftmost male child looks wistful, perhaps because he knows that his sister is placing a pox on the cyclist.
  • The rightmost male child is the only person in this photo who looks like he’s actually cheering at a cycling event. However, due to his position, orientation, and where he’s looking, he’s clearly not cheering at this cycling event. I notice, furthermore, that his left sleeve is big and puffy, in a manner similar to the way his sister’s puffs. I do not believe this child is a witch, so am now reconsidering the t-shirt-as-an-emergency-flotation-device theory. I now, instead, believe that this is how French children carry their cigarettes.
  • The smallest male…child?…dwarf?…mannequin?…undead zombie?…is the real crux of the problem with this ad. His head is massive, and looks 40 years old. It is also expressionless. Like most of his siblings, he’s evidently got either a life vest on under his t-shirt, or lots and lots of cigarettes rolled up under the short sleeves. This person makes me want to avoid your supermarket at all costs. In fact, he makes me afraid to go outside at all.

Champion, please believe me when I say that every single person in the United States would be better at producing ads for your supermarket than what you’ve got here. Give one of us a call; we’d be happy to help.

Kind Regards,

The Fat Cyclist



06.22.2005 | 7:07 pm

Yesterday, I was all effusive about Summer Solstice and how nice it was to be able to ride to work in shorts and short sleeves. So of course I was rewarded with a rainy commute home, and what looks like a storm brewing on the way in today. Not to mention the fact that it’s once again cold enough that I had to wear tights and a long sleeve jersey on the way in.


Still, the weather was decent enough that I got up early and had a good ride before heading out to work. Issaquah / Fall City Road is my new favorite road in the whole world.

Here, Have Another Eclair

Yesterday, my manager at work (hi, Matt!) said he’s interested in getting a road bike. So for lunch, we went to the closest bike shop and looked around. Amazing what you can get for <$600 now. Then he said he’d buy me lunch at a Malaysian restaraunt as a birthday present. Mmmm, chicken curry. Afterward, fat and happy, I felt like I was ready for a nice little nap.

Then, when I got home last night, my nine-year-old son had out pretzels and Cool Whip. Now, before you wrinkle up your nose, please consider that dipping pretzels into Cool Whip is a brilliant and simple study in complementary foods:

  • Pretzels are salty, Cool Whip is sweet
  • Pretzels are crunchy and rough, Cool Whip is fluffy and smooth
  • Pretzels are room temperature, Cool Whip is…well…cool
  • Pretzels are a baked simple carbohydrate, Cool Whip is a completely synthetic mix of chemicals not found in nature, which manages, ironically, to be colored as pure as the driven snow. How many food coloring additives do you suppose it takes to make something pure white?

These complementing contrasts underscore and augment each other, making for an irresistable taste treat that the whole family can enjoy. How could I not eat a half bag of pretzels and half tub of Cool Whip? I guess we’ll never know, because I did.

And that’s when it hit me: people I know — my manager, my son — are trying to sabotage my weight loss efforts, in a transparent and nefarious plot to collect on the Fat Cyclist Sweepstakes! Well, now I’m on to your little plot, and I will defeat you! After I have a few more of those pretzels with Cool Whip.

All of which leads up to…

Today’s Weight: 174.6. I’m headed back in the right direction, but I have to be vigilant. Obviously, there are ne’er-do-wells who would love to see me fail.

Hooray for Summer Solstice

06.21.2005 | 4:31 pm

You get far enough North, and Summer Solstice (the lightest day of the year) really means something. Mainly, it means that it’s light before 5 am, and doesn’t get really dark ’til around 10.

And, finally, today it was warm enough — even at 7am — to go riding in shorts and a short-sleeve jersey. Only those who bike commute every day can appreciate what this means: I didn’t have to wear my cold-weather bike clothes for the ride in while packing my warm-weather bike clothes for the ride home. As a bonus, it’s now warm enough that I’m wearing shorts and a t-shirt to work, which further reduces messenger bag bulk — it felt practically empty for my ride in today.

In short (and for once, today’s entry will be short, because I’m on deadline) between me being a few pounds lighter, my messenger bag being a few pounds lighter, and not having the extra bulk/constraint of tights and a long sleeve jersey, I felt like I flew up the hills on this morning’s ride, and motored on the flats at what seemed like double my usual rate (but was probably more like 1 – 1.5mph faster).

Today’s weight: 174.8. No big surprise to the weight gain here. I was stupid-dehydrated for the weigh-in yesterday so I could make weight. Plus, I pigged out on pizza last night. ‘Course, I’m now in the scary position of needing to lose ~3lbs by next Monday. Please pass the grapefruit and lemon-water (thanks to Matt Chester for the lemon-water tip; worked like a charm)….

Note to Dan Henry: You Rule.

06.20.2005 | 7:25 pm

Nick and I rode from my house to Tiger Mountain via Snoqualmie Falls on Saturday morning, a great little 42-mile ride with quite a few good climbs. I have learned a few things:

  • I am an idiot. We stopped at Snoqualmie Falls, where we took pictures with our camera phones. Moments ago, thinking I had successfully uploaded those photos to my computer, I deleted them from my camera. It’s a shame I didn’t check to make sure the transfer went well, though, because it didn’t. Those photos are gone, daddy, gone. Q. What’s worse than a fat gadget geek cyclist? A. A fat gadget geek cyclist who doesn’t know what he’s doing.
  • I am not the only idiot. Part of the ride we were on overlapped the Flying Wheels Summer Century the Cascade Bicycle Club puts on each year. As we continued on, though, we kept seeing riders who had evidently missed the (very obvious) course markers and were now trying to reconnect. One guy in particular seemed in bad shape — he was on a tricked out time trialist bike, but, even though he had only gone 25 miles, was completely whipped. And he was 10 miles off course. And he was furious at the event organizers. Which made me think: any time you have open registration for a popular event, you’re bound to have a few people who are unable to follow course markings, no matter how clearly placed. And some of those people will be unable to take responsibility for their mistake. This epiphany led to the following Mental Note to Self: Never become a race / event organizer. This is followed by another Mental Note to Self: Always express appreciation to race / event organizers, to counteract the idiots who — alas — fail to realize they are, in fact, idiots.
  • I learned a new term: "Dan Henry". I am lucky enough to live close to a road that borders on the rural. This road acts as an artery to a number of country roads, which are of course great for cycling events. Until Nick told me on Saturday, though, I didn’t realize that the course markings — spray painted circles with directional arrows coming out of them — are called "Dan Henry’s." Now, I’ve noted before that I’m tentative when it comes to exploring different roads and trails, the result of which is that I wind up doing the same ride over and over. Well, this morning I decided to follow the Dan Henry’s for the Flying Wheel course — partly out of curiousity as to whether there was justification for all the lost souls I saw on the road last Saturday, and partly to see what other roads are good for cycling near where I live. And I am so glad I did. The road took me along a number of farms, through rolling, twisting woods, through Carnation, and up Issaquah / Fall City Road, which is incredible: wooded, twisty, climby. So the 30 mile ride I meant to do this morning before work wound up being a 50-miler, and I discovered that I live in a much more beautiful area than I previously thought. Tomorrow, I think I’ll follow the John Henry’s for the Tour de Cure route (and I’ll make sure I sign up to do these events next year, to avoid Poacher guilt). I need to get myself a map of the area and start figuring out how all these roads interconnect.

Today’s Weight: 174.0. This was the most concerted weight-loss effort of my life. I’m not sure that subsisting on grapefruit and lemon-water for a weekend is really the smartest way to drop weight long-term, but I had money on the line. So now the jackpot goes to $100, and I’ve got to lose another 2 lbs this week, this time without resorting to drastic measures (if at all possible).

How to Size Up the Competition, Part II: The Bike

06.17.2005 | 6:13 pm

Anyone who’s ever gathered at a start line knows that there’s an awful lot of sly bike inspections going on. But gauging the quality of the cyclist based on what he’s riding isn’t limited to start lines. You can do it practically anytime — looking at bikes on car racks and looking at bikes people are riding as you pass / are passed are two common times. Today, let’s take a look at how you can quickly size up the competition, just by looking at what they ride.

  • Reflectors: This is the absolutely most obvious way you can be sure someone’s not serious about cycling. If he’s left the reflectors on his bike, he’s clearly not considering the extraordinarily deleterious (wow, I just used "deleterious" in a sentence!) effects on his speed the weight and poor aerodynamics of the reflectors will have. (
  • Drivetrain: The drivetrain is a good indicator of the person’s riding style:
  • Shimano = all about the efficiency and reliability. 80% chance that the rider also drives a Japanese car. High likelihood that the rider will be a good tactician and a a smart rider.
  • Campagnolo means the rider cares all about the history of cycling and the passion of cycling and will fly into a fit if you do not profess an undying love for Eddy Merckx. This person corners with passion. He climbs with passion. He descends with passion. He attacks with passion. And when you beat him, he will throw a raging fit.
  • SRAM: This person isn’t interestedd in beating you. He’s interested in doing his own thing, man. If you suggest working together, he’ll look at you like you’re from Mars.
  • Singlespeed means that he no longer cares about winning, or at least wishes to project the image that he no longer cares. He’s jaded, like James Dean on a bike. OR it’s possible that he is bringing enough game to the ride that he’s confident he can beat you even without the benefit of technology.
  • Wheels: Everyone talks about wheels as if they’re the biggest factor in how fast you go. Let me tell you a secret: your wheels aren’t going to make you any faster or slower. They’re not going to change the quality of your ride. So, if you see that your competition is riding with very expensive wheels, don’t worry about him being faster than you. Instead, just make a mental note that this person is gullible and that you’ll probably be successful at selling him NuSkin products later.
  • Frame: A brand-new frame says more about your opponent’s income than about his ability on a bike. It could mean he’s new to biking. It could mean he just nailed a sponsor. It could mean he wore his previous bike out. However, a well-worn bike says a lot about the rider. If it’s well-used and well-maintained, count on a tough race. If the frame is a couple years old but still looks new, your competition is more likely riding a New Years’ resolution — one that didn’t work out — from a couple years ago. If he’s riding a frame that’s several years old and still in good shape, you know you’re racing a lifer. If the rider looks strong, be ready for some serious competition.
  • Pedals: Better to have them than not. Okay, I can see I’m running out of steam here.
  • Today’s Weight: 176.8. Oh, this is not good. This is not good at all. I’m still going to try to hit my goal for the week, but doing this over the weekend that has both my birthday (Saturday) and Father’s Day (Sunday). Which means somebody’s probably going to win that Fat Cyclist Sweepstakes on Monday.

    Bonus yuck: Riding to work today, I very nearly rode over a fresh frog roadkill. Thing is, it wasn’t splatted/flattened. Looked like it was just asleep on the road. Big as my fist and bright green. You don’t see stuff like that in Utah.

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