The Universal Signs

01.9.2006 | 4:24 pm

[The following is a sneak-peek excerpt of a article I submitted this morning. — Fatty]


To the best of my knowledge (and I am a very, very knowledgeable person), there are only two universally recognized hand gestures. The first — the wave — is for “Hi.” The second — the flipoff — is considerably more intimate, as well as considerably less friendly.

As cyclists, we have a few more gestures, most of which are used when riding in a paceline. We can point out obstacles. We can tell a rider to take a turn pulling. We can say we’re turning or stopping.

And that’s about it.

Frankly, we need more. Much more. Hence, to facilitate communication, avoid accidents, and generally increase the opacity of cycling to outside observers, I hereby propose the following as Universal Cycling Hand Gestures:


The Magnanimous Flipoff

You know, not every grievance is equally bad. Sometimes, motorists do something that’s just annoying enough that you want that you want to call their attention to it, but not really bad enough to warrant a flipoff. This gesture says, in effect: “You may well deserve to be flipped off, and in fact most people would flip you off. But I am your moral superior, so I instead choose to forgive you.”

To perform the Magnanimous Flipoff, extend one arm so it’s easily visible, hand splayed, then wobble that hand up and down as if to say, “Your mental faculties are only so-so.” My guess is that the condescending nature of this gesture will make it be perceived as more infuriating than the original flipoff.


White Flag

You’re on a group ride. You’re not at your best today, though, and have been repeatedly spat out the back. Considerately, the group has slowed down each time, letting you rejoin the paceline, when all you really want to do is lick your wounds in privacy. You need a gesture to let the group know that this time, you’d really prefer they don’t hold back and let you catch up.

The White Flag gesture needs to be visible from a good distance away, for obvious reasons, so it needs to be large. Execute this gesture by repeatedly weaving left to right as you pedal. Let your head loll.

On second thought, scratch that. That gesture may be indistinguishable from how you were riding in the first place.

Instead, hold your right hand high in the air, with a big “Thumbs Down” sign to indicate: “I’m cooked. Don’t wait for me. Let me die in peace. Seriously. I mean it.”


I Only Seem Slow

Yesterday, you did intervals. Today, you’re supposed to spin along nice and slow, keeping your heart rate below 60. So you’re noodling along when some guy pulls even, gives you “The Look,” and shoots off the front. Of course, you’re tempted to counterattack: show this jerk who’s boss. But you don’t want to spoil your carefully designed regimen just for this guy’s benefit.

To indicate that the cyclist is passing you only because you are letting him, put your hand — the one the other guy can best see — in the air and do a slow “walking” motion with your index and middle finger. This gesture conveys the message, “I’m letting you go right now because it’s my rest day. Believe me, if I wanted to, I could attack and drop you in a hot second. Now be off with you, before I change my mind and teach you a lesson you won’t soon forget.”


New Paceline Gestures

Riding with a group in tight formation requires a high degree of trust. By working together, you’re all faster than you would be individually. And while there are already some perfectly good gestures for indicating debris and speed changes, those hardly cover the array of information you might want to convey.

  • Whoah, sorry I didn’t call out that pothole / rock  / broken glass we just hit: Sure, you try to call out every little obstacle on the road, but sometimes you just don’t see them ‘til too late. When this happens, give yourself a quick, visible kidney punch, to show that you’re aware you deserve to be smacked. If you just dragged the paceline through a really nasty patch of glass, you may also want to follow up with a quick rap on your helmet three times to underscore the point.
  • Hey, you’re surging every time it’s your turn to pull. Cut it out: I’m not sure why some people feel it’s their duty to try to up the pace for the first thirty seconds of each of their pulls, but I do know there’s one in every group. To let this guy know you’ve had enough of this nonsense, when he drifts by you on the way to the back of the line, punch your fist forward quickly, then pull it back slowly. Repeat a couple times. If this person continues to surge at the beginning of each of his pulls, stop punching the air, and instead actually punch the person the next time he drifts back.
  • Your complete and utter refusal to take a turn pulling has gone beyond annoying. It’s crossed the threshold of outrageous selfishness and will have permanent implications on your group ride invitation status unless you get your butt to the front now. Make eye contact with the offender and simply point your finger to the front of the line. Don’t do it unless you mean it.

Just the Beginning

Please, let me know how these gestures work out for you. I’ll be interested to know your experiences.

For myself, I intend to just keep flipping people off.


PS: Over the weekend, Cyclingnews published my “UCI bans pre-season team building events” piece. Click here to read it now.


35 Minutes in Hell

01.7.2006 | 12:48 am

Yesterday morning, I woke up to the sound of rain. No matter. I dressed to ride to work anyway. I stepped into the garage and heard the sound of rain more clearly. That’s OK. I checked the tires’ pressure and lubed the chain (I’ve been using Dumonde Tech with good results for wet weather riding), put on my bike shoes and helmet, and opened the garage door.

Then I closed the garage door, took off my helmet and shoes, hung up the bike, and drove to work. It was raining that hard.

If I hadn’t given myself a big ol’ passel of races I want to do well at this year, that would be the end of the story. But I’m serious about losing weight and gaining fitness this year, so I promised myself I would ride the rollers that evening.


Nice Setup

Back when I lived in Utah, I had gone to some lengths to set up an entertainment system for riding on rollers, with…um…mixed results. How times have changed. Last night I just took my big ol’ notebook computer — which comes complete with a 17” wide-screen monitor and a DVD drive — into the garage, set it up on top of a box, put down my rollers, and got down my fixie. I was ready to go.


35 Minutes in Hell

For my riding entertainment, I had selected A Sunday in Hell, a DVD about the 1976 Paris-Roubaix race, pitting Merckx against Moser, among others. The cover copy on the case said it was “arguably the best film ever made about professional cycling.”

“Moser against Merckx? Paris-Roubaix? Best cycling film ever made? Well, that should be a terrific film to get my blood pumping as I ride my rollers,” I thought.

Except it wasn’t.

Here are some of my observations about this film, or at least as much as I’ve seen of it so far:

  • The film spends more than 20 minutes before it finally gets the race going
  • The film gives waaay too much time to the early portion of the race, which is just a run-up to the pavé sections.
  • The jerseys back then were much more attractive than the jerseys of today. Simple, bold colors with stitched lettering.
  • The film is in love with the atmosphere surrounding the race, which is fine if you’re interested in watching old French women sitting on a blanket in the countryside, playing cards as they wait for the racers to come by.
  • The film is in love with the organization of the race, and spends plenty of time making you watch people hang signs, and watching racers sign in, and making you watch the race entourage go by long after the racers have passed, meaning you get to hear the bored-sounding announcer say things like, “And there’s the press cars…and there’s the doctor’s car…and there’s some more press cars…and there’s the sweep wagon, so called because it sweeps up bicyclists which have retired from the race.”

After 35 minutes of this, I couldn’t take any more. I expected the biking equivalent of a kung-fu movie, and instead got the biking equivalent of a BBC documentary.

Maybe A Sunday in Hell is a good film for cyclists to watch. But it’s certainly not a good film to watch while biking.

So what will I watch next time I ride my rollers? The 2003 Tour de France, of course — which I contend is really the most exciting bike race film ever. And since I’ve got the 12-hour DVD set, I’m all ready for lots of good roller sessions.

Or at least as good as a roller session can be, anyway.


Winner of the Banjo Brothers Bike Bag Giveaway

When I wrote yesterday’s entry, I was thinking of lots of lies cyclists tell. As I read through the comments, though, I realized that we’re much, much worse than I thought. We have serious honesty issues.

I had to go with Jimserotta’s entry, though, for a couple reasons. They were all lies I’ve either actually heard or have said, and for the sheer volume of these cycling lies:

Athletic cycling is awesome, really. Meet me at my place 7:30 Saturday and I’ll take you for a little spin and show you the technique. You’ll love it. We’ll just twiddle along for a while and maybe do some small hills to kind of get you used to what it’s like to climb correctly.

We’ll probably only ride for an hour or so. The pace will be conversational and you will really enjoy this. It’s not like what you think to ride a bike like the racers do. Oh, another guy I know is gonna be there too. He’s kind of a serious cyclist but he is reasonable and he’ll go at our pace. We’ll just go easy and air out the old lungs. You’ll be fine.

We might have to make a couple of small adjustments to your bike so it fits you better. It’s really cool that you are getting into the sport like this. I’m sure that the bike you got on deal will work well; there’s no need to drop big bucks on a really nice bike until you are sure you want to.

Oh, remember to not wear any underwear under your cycling shorts and please don’t tuck your t-shirt into your shorts either. I’ll explain on the ride. Bring a little something to eat, like a banana or some grapes or something……

Congratulations, Jim! e-mail me with your address and which size of seat bag you want.


Nice Legs, Kid

MSN Spaces has been nice enough to include content and pictures from my blog as part of a brochure they’re producing, and last night I had an envelope waiting at home for me with a copy of that brochure. As you can see, there are lots of pictures from my blog on the cover page of this brochure:


I wouldn’t mention this, though, except for one thing. If you take a closer look at the top right corner, two of the panels in the montage form a verrrry interesting effect:

Hey, that kid has some serious quads.

Oh, by the way, I was lying when I said that I wouldn’t have mentioned being in the brochure if it weren’t for that panel. I still would have found a way, because it gratifies my extraordinary vanity. Although I am beginning to wish I would have had the foresight to call this blog “The Handsome Cyclist.” As it stands, I get to live with the large text on the inside front cover of the brochure:

“Dave is an aspiring actor, Tom is a struggling father, Bill is a mad dad, Siobhan is a perfectionist, Kevin has a wife with leukemia, Ian is building a dome home, Susan helps injured kittens, Kenny is a quadriplegic, and Elden is a fat cyclist. (emphasis mine)

Or, in other words, “Here are a bunch of people nobly facing difficult circumstances, as well as one fat guy on a bike.”




01.6.2006 | 12:04 am

There are so many ways to lie. Exaggeration. Omission. Misdirection. Statistics. Intentional-but-cleverly-concealed logical fallacy. An anecdote, presented as a pattern. Misleading metaphors. And I’m just getting started (that’s a lie; I’m actually running out of steam).

I know all about lies. I have to, because I’m a cyclist. Hey, the two go hand in hand. If you’re going to be a cyclist, you’ve got to embrace certain falsehoods.

I have examples.


All You Need is a Bike and a Helmet

The Lie: One of the appeals of biking is that it has a very low barrier to entry. I mean, all you really need is a bike — which you can get at your local sporting-goods store or  big box store. Add a helmet for safety, and you’re all set.

The Truth: Well, first of all you’re going to at least need a pump and a patch kit, some lube, and some basic tools, or your bike won’t last very long, will it? Even beyond that, though: sure, you can get yourself a cheap bike, a helmet, and leave it at that. In which case you will never understand why people who love biking love to ride their bikes. No, if you want to really see what your bike-loving friends are all about, you’re going to need a nice bike, some good biking shorts, biking shoes, gloves, and a jersey. That will be enough for you to started. After a while, though, you’ll need to buy more bikes, for different kinds of riding. And you’ll want to upgrade your components. And you’ll want more bike clothes, for different kinds of riding weather. There is no end to bike consumerism. At all. Ever.


Biking is a Good Hobby / Way to Exercise

The Lie: Riding a bike is a good way for you to get outside and see the world, all while getting fresh air and exercise.

The Truth: When you start biking, you’ll notice things like the outdoors, and you’ll be glad for the exercise. Soon, though, it won’t seem like enough. You’ll start taking longer rides, because the short ones just don’t seem to work you out the way they used to. And you’ll start paying attention to the road or trail instead of the world around you. Before long, you’ll notice that in order to get any kind of workout at all on your bike, you need to go out for a couple hours. And you’ll ride the entire time looking at the road or trail, not even thinking about what’s off to your side. And you’ll want to start riding more and more often, on more and more extreme terrain. At that point, you’re no longer a biking hobbyist.

You’re a biking junkie.


You Can Save Time and Money by Biking to Work

The Lie: You can get to work faster and for cheaper by riding your bike than by taking your car. There’s nothing quite so rewarding as passing hundreds of crawling cars as you head to work. Then, once you get to work, you feel energized the whole day. Plus, there’s the nice side effect that you’ve combined your workout with your commute!

The Truth: OK, all of that’s actually true. But if you bike commute for long enough, you’ll start talking to your coworkers about it, gushing about how great it is, and how they ought to try it. You’ll go on and on an on. Coworkers will cringe when you approach. People will start avoiding you at office parties.


Cycling is a Great Way to Lose Weight

The Lie: By riding your bike, you can burn 300-1000 calories per hour at an aerobic level. This can greatly accelerate any weight loss program.

The Truth: This is an especially insidious aspect of biking, because you can be snared by either of two opposing — but equally vicious — traps:

  • Cycling begets hunger: If you ride your bike, you’ll get hungry. If you ride your bike more, you’ll get even hungrier. If you ride your bike for several hours, you’ll come home and eat everything in the kitchen. I have never done an epic ride in my life where I am not heavier the day afterward.
  • Endless loop: As you ride your bike and lose weight, you discover that you’re faster. So you start trying to lose additional weight in order to be still faster on your bike. As you become very thin, you find that you can climb with incredible ease. You are no longer riding to lose weight. You are losing weight to ride. Why is this dangerous? Consider the logical extreme of this cycle: Michael Rasmusson, winner of the climber’s jersey in the 2005 Tour de France.


You Get Used to the Saddle After a While

The Lie: Everyone’s butt hurts when they start riding a bike. After a while, though, you get used to the saddle and it’s no problem. Just use some of that chamois cream to avoid chafing.

The Truth: Everyone’s butt hurts when they start riding a bike. After a while, though, you get used to the saddle and it’s no problem until you get your first saddle sore, which makes the pain you suffered as a new cyclist seem laughable. And that chamois cream feels so creepy most people would rather have the chafing. At least, that’s what they think…until the chafing occurs.


Today’s Banjo Brothers Bike Bag Contest

Tell a bike-related lie. Believability is optional.


PS: Bonus Chest-Thumping Opportunity

Al Maviva, Rocky, and Big Mike have an interesting competition going on: track how much weight you lose and how much your time trialing improves. They’ve got wacky algorithms and whatnot to make it fair: basically, the person who improves the greatest percentage over their start time wins.

If you’ve been looking for a friendly competition to help you hold your feet to the fire, this seems like a good one. They’re limiting the competition to 25 people, though, so you’ll want to enter soon, if you dare enter at all. Check Al’s blog for details.

UCI Bans Pre-Season Team-Building Events

01.4.2006 | 3:32 pm

[The below is an excerpt from a new piece I sent in to yesterday. I'll post when the whole story is online.]

Paris, January 1 (Fat Cyclist Fake News Service) — UCI spokesperson Ririe Anderson today announced that effective immediately, all professional cycling team-building events are banned, pending the establishment of a suitable UCI oversight committee.

“These so-called ‘team-building events’ are distracting from the real purpose of professional cycling,” said Anderson. “Sure, it was actually kind of cool when CSC did that ‘Basic Training’ schtick a couple years ago. Then Discovery did their copycat ‘Hey look, we’re hardcore paintball ninjas’ photo op, and we all just rolled our eyes.”

“But now, pro cycling teams are going too far.”


Prison Break

Anderson is referring, of course, to the expensive, time-consuming, dangerous, and increasingly-flamboyant team-building programs other pro cycling teams have initiated. Team Phonak, for example, has revealed that for its pre-season team-building exercise, the directeur sportif one day told the team they were going to visit a famous landmark in San Francisco, CA, the now-defunct, but famously-inescapable Alcatraz prison.

What he did not tell the team, however, was that he would be leaving them there, and that it would be their own responsibility to break out and make their way across the San Francisco bay back to mainland.

“I was impressed with the team’s resourcefulness in escaping,” said Phonak spokesperson Brad Keyes. “I was also quite amazed at how fully they utilized the equipment they had at hand. Who would have thought that a multi-tool would be so effective at tunneling through cement? Or that a few bike tubes could be used as a passable raft?”

“This exercise also helped us recognize some of our team weaknesses in time to rectify them,” Keyes continued. “For example, there seemed to be some squabbling over who would captain the raft. There was also some concern among teammates as to what kind of message it sends to the world to drop off an entire cycling team at a prison.”


PS: The Banjo Brothers’ Bike Bag Giveaway will be tomorrow, ‘cuz we just barely finished one (you know, the one that I let run for about five days, due to holiday laziness).

A Great Relief

01.3.2006 | 4:06 pm

[Editor's Note: First, a warning. Today's entry is about peeing while riding a bike. If you find the premise of today's entry distasteful, you probably won't find the actual entry all that tasteful, either.]
[Another Editor's Note: Bob of Bob's Top 5 wrote the below entry; I, meanwhile, wrote an entry for him. I think Bob makes an excellent Fat Cyclist. In fact, I'd go so far as to say he's even fatter than I.]
Today was going to be the day that I peed while riding my bike. I know what you’re thinking: Why? In case I ever get called up to ride in one of the tours, that’s why. The last thing I want to have happen is to be riding for Team Phonak during one of the 6-hour stages of the Giro d’ Italia, only to realize that I didn’t know how to urinate while bicycling. I just know what would happen. I’d overhydrate and then try to hold it in. Soon, I’d drop to the back of the pack, clenched and sweating, and then I’d just let go. Riders would make fun of my soggy shorts, and I’d start crying.
No, I want to be ready.
But how do I go about this? On the bathroom wall of my favorite bike shop is a poster of a rider holding another rider’s seat; a third rider is holding the second rider, and the first rider is making a beautiful stream away from his bicycle. Getting help seems like a good option. Should I ask someone to hold the back of my seat? If so, what accent should I use? I do an OK breathless old man impersonation ("Young man, I’m about to soil my trousers. I need help!"), and my Spanish accent is OK, but I think the British dandy would be the best approach, given the awkward nature of the request. Oh, or maybe go back a few centuries to Elizabethan times:
"Good sirrah! I am ill at ease! My full bladder bespeaks a most disquieting pain, a pain at once nightmarish and exquisite. My body cries out to me as if bedammed for nigh this fortnight. Were that it were not so! Perchance thou couldst hand my seat whilst I heed the beckon of nature’s most insistent call. Prithee, answer man!"
No, I knew I had to be realistic. I wasn’t riding with a buddy, and I wasn’t about to ask a stranger to help me, accent or no. If I was to go through with this, I needed to do it alone. Besides, you know those urinal troughs in seedy downtown bars and old baseball parks? Those make me nervous, especially when there’s a line. No one wants to hear the guys muttering behind him: "How long has that guy in the green fleece been standing there? I don’t see a stream. Hey pal! What’s the problem? Maybe you should step aside and figure it out while the rest of us go about our business." This was going to be awkward enough without dealing with performance anxiety. I needed privacy.
I also needed some advice. So I went to the library. Ha! Just kidding. Here are the three rules I learned from the Internet:
Rule 1: Make sure you’re safe from legal repercussions.
Urinating in public may violate indecent exposure, public nuisance, and disorderly conduct laws. In some states, you can become a sex offender for urinating in public. You don’t want to have to knock on your neighbors’ doors and notify them of your status. It’s awkward.
Rule 2: Make sure you’re riding on a slight decline.
If you’re going too fast, you don’t want to lose control of your bike. If you’re going too slow, you don’t want to have to pedal midstream. You might as well just stop and get off your bike.
Rule 3: Learn the proper technique.
Extend one leg and rotate the opposite hip towards the extended leg. Free your member from the top or bottom of the shorts, and let it flow. Tap as necessary.
After doing my research, I decided it would be easy. It even looks easy.
Notice the varying techniques used by the cyclists. The Postie is using the over-the-shorts method, while the guy in the green jersey is using the under-the-shorts method. See how the right leg of his shorts is rolled up? Easy enough. I was all set. On the way into work, I found a nice, remote location with a slight decline and got ready to go. That’s when I learned one more rule to successful relief on a bicycle:
Rule 4: Make sure you really need to go.
The first time you try this, understand that Nature doesn’t just have to be making a polite house call, ding-dong. Nature needs to be banging on the door with an oak cudgel, shouting and threatening to breaks windows.
After work, I didn’t stop by the bathroom on my way to the bike cage, and I downed two bottles of water. I was good and ready. Almost too ready. After a painful twenty-minute ride through traffic, I finally got to a trail where I could get on with my business. I don’t want to go into the details of my experience, but let’s just say I learned two new rules:
Rule 5: Account for shrinkage.
You may not have as much capacity for extension as when you started the ride.
Rule 6: Once you start, don’t stop until you’re done.
It doesn’t matter if you think you see the lights of an approaching car or an oncoming cyclist. Stay committed. Otherwise, you’ll finish your ride with a soggy bottom.
And if You’re a Woman…
I have neither information nor advice for you. I’m sorry.

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