I, the Fat Cyclist, confess the following:
- I confess I very nearly did not ride my bike in to work today. It was cold and grey outside, and my resolve wavered. I stalled and puttered around for ten or fifteen minutes, digging around in my head for a really good excuse for why I should drive in today. I couldn’t find one. Once I got biking I warmed up and was happy I did bike in. I’m surprised at how often that happens, really: If I just ignore the "I don’t feel like it" impulse and get on my bike, within a mile or two I do feel like it.
- I confess I sometimes flex my legs in front of the mirror, trying to find ways I can simultaneously show off my quads and calves. So far, I cannot find a way.
- I confess that when walking in public, I sometimes consciously push off with my toes to show off the definition of my calves. As I type this, I realize how vain it sounds. I am a peacock. A chubby peacock. Besides, it probably makes me look like I’m prancing. I’m a prancing chubby peacock.
- I confess to being bothered when Dug posted a comment saying he wasn’t coming back to the blog. Dug is part of the composite reader I have in my head when I write entries for this blog. Further, I confess to being relieved when, five minutes later, Dug came back to the blog. Welcome back, Dug. Churl.
- I confess I wear bib shorts when biking not because they are more comfortable, but because they hold my belly in. The fact that they’re more comfortable is a nice side benefit, though.
- I confess to sitting in front of the computer for most of last Saturday watching my statistics, transfixed by the unbelievable number of visitors to my blog. I know most of them came out of the same curiousity that brings them to a freak show, but still.
- I confess to reading every news item that comes my way about pharmaceuticals being developed that will someday give me effortless thinness. If I could be thin without dieting, I would. I would eat burritos every day, and a big bowl of cereal while watching the news every night. Mmmmm, carne asada. Mmmmmm, Golden Grahams.
- I confess that I am prone to exaggeration. There is no single entry in this blog that is entirely honest. Not even this one.
- I confess I deleted one of the confessions I wrote in this list. So you can’t say, "The Fat Cyclist has no shame." I’ve got some shame.
Today’s Weight: 167.2 lbs
(MONDAY AM UPDATE: James Scott is the winner of the bracelet contest with his guess of 4901 — the total pageviews count from yesterday was 4818. James was only off by 83. Nice work!
There will be more chances to win. In fact, I’ve already got something in mind….)
Here’s a fun idea for a lazy Sunday blog entry: how about we have a little contest?
What You Can Win
My wife is really getting into making jewelry. One of my sisters (no, not the one with the really great blog, and not the really great artist one and not the one who’s a bigshot captain in the Air Force who’s about to go to Afghanistan. The other one. The extremely successful photographer one) mountain bikes and asked her to make a bike chain bracelet. So my wife bought a bike chain, took it apart (she is now much more comfortable with a chain tool than I am), and made my sister a bracelet. She liked the results so much she’s started incorporating links into more of her work. Here’s a bracelet she made yesterday:
Beside the bike chain, it’s sterling silver, with a number of different gemstones. A very cool gift for yourself (if you’re a woman) or (if you’re a man) for a woman cyclist you know.
How to Win It
Just post a comment with your guess of how many pageviews this blog will get today. Be sure to include your email as part of the post, so I can get back to you if you win. Yep, it’s that easy.
Why am I doing this? Well, as an excuse to show off how cool my wife is, of course.
To keep people from guessing ridiculously high numbers, bear in mind: the traffic I got yesterday was really abnormal. Today is much more sane. As of when I write this (11:20am), I’ve had 2092 pageviews.
(Update: The contest is now over — see top of post.)
If more than one person guesses what turns out to be the winning number, the first one who made the guess wins. Of course if nobody guesses the winning number, the closest guess wins. Ties go to the lower, earlier guesser.
Part II of "Endurance MTB Socialising" Now Posted on Cyclingnews.com
The second half of the story I wrote about people’s thoughts while riding the Leadville 100 for Cyclingnews.com has now been published. Read Part I first, then read Part II.
Today’s weight: Seriously, does anyone weigh themselves on Sunday?
I went on a small group ride today — just two other guys, Bret and Eric. The ride demonstrated a weird social dynamic in cyclists: we gathered together to do a ride none of us wanted to do. Specifically, we were climbing “The Zoo,” a three-mile brute of a road up Cougar Mountain.
The other weird thing I observed was myself: I knew this was a group ride, and that the right thing to do was ride as a group. But I couldn’t help myself. I kept pushing the pace, kept seeing if I could find my inner alpha male. I managed to make it to the top first — barely — completely fried. I was pleased with myself: I had meted out my effort nicely, and had emerged victorious. “Hey,” I said to myself, “the Fat Cyclist may have a gut, but he’s also got legs.”
And that brings us to a word of caution: be careful when you ride with people who are demonstrably 95% smarter than you. Ie, Eric’s a widely-respected computer language guru, I’m known for being fat and riding a bike.
Witness a snippent of conversation Eric and I had:
Eric: “I thought leg strength would be the limiting factor for me today, but it turns out aerobic capacity was the real inhibitor.”
Me: “I gotta hurl.”
Why is that important? Because while I was engaged in a one-move show of brute force (climb this hill fast, then feel free to blow up), Eric was engaged in a chess game. When we got back to the bottom of the hill, Eric said, “I know a great little loop that starts here — are you good for another 10-12 miles?”
What could I say? We started on the loop, and I held on the best I could. And for what it’s worth, Eric was right: it is a great little loop. But he cleaned my clock. After we split up, I soft-pedaled home just fast enough to avoid having pedestrians pass me.
I bet you anything, though, that Eric would claim it was just a friendly ride — no tactics at all involved.
Update: To be clear — all three of us finished the climb, and within a few minutes of each other.
My Cyclingnews.com Story Is Posted
Back before I raced the Leadville 100, I pitched a story to my favorite cycling website, Cyclingnews.com. You can get the long version of the idea here, but basically I was going to bring a voice recorder with me on the race and record my conversations with other racers — let them tell the story of this big ol’ endurance race (100 miles on a mountain bike, 12,000 feet of climbing, all at an altitude between 9000 and 12,600 feet).
Well, I finished writing the story last Thursday and sent it in — and now it’s posted! Click here to read “Endurance MTB Socialising, Part I.”
Part II — hey, it’s a long race and I tend to ramble — should be posted tomorrow; you can bet that I’ll link to it in tomorrow’s blog entry.
A big “thank you” goes to Steve Peterson, who let me use his beautifully-done photographs in this story. Thanks also to the guys at Cyclingnews — I’ve read their site for years and years; it’s a blast writing for them now.
Pull the Trigger, Matt
My friend Matt and I went road bike shopping yesterday afternoon. We went to three different shops, and both of us finally gravitated to the Specialized Allez — in a great-looking powder-coated black. I’m astounded at how much bike you can get for under $1000 now. Matt says he’s close to making a decision.
Do it, Matt. All the cool kids are riding bikes these days. You want to be a cool kid, don’t you?
Today’s weight: 161.4 lbs. — but that was after the bike ride today, the final hour of which I had no water whatsoever. In other words, today’s weight has no bearing on reality.
Bonus “What’s Your Story” Amazingness: For those of you who have wondered what happens to your blog traffic when you’re featured on MSN’s What’s Your Story page, well, it’s kind of astounding. Thursday and Friday didn’t seem too out of the ordinary — I went from my usual 2000 or so pageviews per day to around 3500 per day. But today — wow! I just crossed 50,000 pageviews for the day and it’s only 1:30 in the afternoon. Thanks, everyone, for stopping by!
About fifteen years ago, Stuart convinced me to buy a mountain bike. He described the rush of speed, the incredible trails close by, and the challenge of climbing. I was getting tired of rollerblading (yes, really) to stay fit, and so bought a Bridgestone MB5. It cost $350 â€” which seemed excessive at the time â€” and called Stuart to take me on a ride.
I should have known better.
Stuart took me to the top of Squaw Peak, an incredibly steep, rutted, dusty, loose, downhill, primarily used by ATVs. Then he took off down it.
I stood there for a moment, looking into the abyss. Then I sobbed a bit, took a deep breath, and headed downhill.
I made it down the first ledge. Made it past the first switchback. Made it over the first jump.
It was the second jump that got me.
I am told that I hit the jump, flew over the handlebars and landed square on my noggin. I am told that horseback riders found me lying in the trail. I am told that eventually Stuart came back up the trail and took me to the hospital, while I jabbered on about how I couldn’t remember my own name, didn’t know how I got where I was, and had a very bad headache. I have to believe what I am told, for I have no recollection of the next six hours.
I didn’t get back on that bike ever again. Eventually it was stolen, and I’ve never been so glad to have something stolen in my life.
Try, Try, Again
Five years later, another friend, Dug, convinced me to buy another mountain bike â€“ this time a Specialized Stumpjumper, for $800 â€” which seemed excessive at the time. When he took me out on my first ride, we went to a dirt road. It was steep in spots, forcing me to get off and walk, but I was able to ride about 75% of it on the first try. There was no downhill on that first ride â€” nothing that posed a crash-and-burn risk.
I was instantly hooked. I remember talking with my wife all the rest of the day about how I had found what I wanted to do, that I was never going to ride my rollerblades again (yes, I was still rollerblading five years later).
Every day for the next month I went out to the trail Dug had showed me, until I could ride the whole thing without putting a foot down.
Is it much of a surprise that climbing became the most important part of bike riding to me, or that it still is, ten years later?
I don’t know anyone who has turned more people into cyclists than Dug. In fact, a few years ago, we started calling him “Shepherd,” because he had built up such a big flock of cycling followers. Which is not to say that Dug’s a wonderful person. Depending on his whether he needs something from you he is one of the following:
- Snide, mean-spirited, impatient and irritable
- Cloying, saccharine, and sycophantic
But he’s a remarkable bike evangelist.
A couple years ago, Jeff told me that he wanted to try mountain biking. We talked through dozens of different bike options until he settled on a bike he liked â€” a full-suspension Trek Fuel.
Conscious that this was my chance to give him a great first impression of mountain biking, I picked out one of my favorite easy trails. Not too much of a climb, no frightening descents, nothing very technical, lots of places where you can bail out.
Jeff had a miserable time.
The trail was too narrow, it twisted and turned with numerous blind corners, and there was a nasty, deep, rocky ravine on the left â€” which he tumbled into.
To his credit, Jeff wasn’t a baby about having a bad wreck on his first ride, like I was. He’s caught the bug, and is riding more and more. He’s even shaved his legs and bought a road bike.
What Have We Learned?
I write all this as a reminder to myself, because this weekend I’m taking a friend to look for bikes. Once he’s found a bike and is ready to take it out for a spin, I will remember the following:
- What I consider an easy ride is not an easy ride.
- What I consider slow is not slow.
- What I consider an easy climb is a hard climb.
- What I consider a fun downhill is terrifying.
- What I consider a short ride is a long ride.
- If I give him more than 2 or 3 tips on how to ride, I’m a dork.
- If I take off to show how fast I am, I’ve completely blown it.
I don’t know any cyclist who doesn’t get excited at the prospect of bringing a convert into the fold. The trick is remembering to share it on the new guy’s terms.