Desert Island, Desert Island Bike

02.8.2006 | 4:02 pm

Is there a more hackneyed conversation starter in the world than, “If you could bring only one _______________ to a desert island, what would it be?”

The answer to that question is, of course, “no.”

But I’m going to ask it anyway.

If you could bring only one bike to a desert island, what would it be?


First, the Island

If I’m going to a desert island, I get to stipulate the island’s terrain. So I pick an island that is mountainous. It is forested on the south side, while it is truly desert-like on the north side, with lots of sandstone.

Deer and goats live on this island, and they have been busy for centuries walking the same routes. Insta-trails! Also, for some reason, the goats like to frequently walk the perimeter of the island, which is much less technical and rolls pleasantly.

The daily high temperature is 68. The daily low is 62.

It rains for half an hour each day, enough to keep the trails from getting dusty.


Now, the Bike

There’s no bike shop on the desert island — for some reason, while it is the absolutely most perfect place in the world to bike, nobody rides there — so I want a bike that is super-reliable. Let’s make it a singlespeed. In fact, let’s make it a fixed gear. And I want to be able to do both technical mountain biking, and spinning.

So let’s make it a cross-style bike, with extra clearance for big fat mountain bike tires (while there are no bike shops on the island, I do get to bring as many kinds of tires as I like, and the island has the magical property of bikes never getting flats or wearing out their tires. Or — what the heck — of needing chain lube) when I want them.

The material? Titanium. Doesn’t corrode. Bombproof when well-made.

Oh, and it’s set up for panniers, so I can go collect coconuts and go on goat-hunting expeditions and stuff.

Basically, this is the bike Matt Chester’s going to build for me someday. Now all I need is to find the island.

On this bike, on this island, my riding style would have to change. I’d gain all kinds of new skills as I learned to ride technical terrain on a fixed-gear bike. I’d become stronger as I climbed on a singlespeed. I’d generate massive endurance as I rode my perimeter course (which is exactly 100 miles long).


The Banjo Brothers Bike Bag Giveaway: Your Turn

What’s your island? What’s your bike? You saw these questions coming a mile off, didn’t you?


Today’s weight: Today I weigh 170.8 pounds, meaning I need to lose 1.6 pounds in the next 48 hours, or give up the jackpot.


What Would You Do?

02.7.2006 | 4:09 pm

Today, I have some purely hypothetical questions. Purely.

  • What would you do if you were a mountain biker who generally relied on your riding friends to find the best trails to ride on — and then you moved to a new place, where you don’t have any riding friends, and you don’t know the area?
  • What would you do if you heard from neighbors that there’s a network of mountain bike trails within a mile of where you live? Would you go check out that network of trails?
  • But what if the neighbors who told you about the network of trails also said those trails weren’t very fun? And since, judging by these neighbors, their idea of a trail that is fun wouldn’t exactly tax you, would you bother checking out the trail?
  • And how about if, when you first moved to this new area, you had twin two-year olds, a new job at a highly-competitive company, and a wife with cancer? Would you make the time to check out that trail? Or would you more likely just barely manage to get any time riding in at all, usually in the form of bike commuting?
  • Now suppose that more than a year and a half has gone by. Your twins are now four, your wife has been cancer-free for almost a year, you’ve got a Dahon Flo you need more experience on in order to write a review for Cyclingnews, and it’s the first sunny day in what feels like a century. Oh, and you’ve also taken the day off work to watch the kids because your wife has a cold — but the kids are now at preschool for a few hours and your wife is taking a nap. Suddenly, you remember that trail network you’ve still never looked at. Should you go ride it?
  • Assuming that you decided that you should go ride that trail, suppose that for the first 200 yards, this trail is gravelly, boring doubletrack going alongside a neighborhood catchbasin. Should you keep going?
  • Imagine that you figure that as long as you got suited up and got the bike out you may as well see where this boring trail leads to. Furthermore, imagine that the trail suddenly takes a hard right onto steep, wild, butt-behind-the-saddle singletrack. Would you be surprised?
  • Consider now for a moment that you discover that why the neighbors don’t like this trail network is not because it’s too easy, but because it was too twisty and technical. Further consider that as you ride along in the middle of February, you are boggled at how much trail there is, and how good it all is. How many times would you kick yourself, and how hard?
  • Having found a terrific mountain biking park containing miles of beautiful forested singletrack within a half mile of your house 20 months after you moved to aforementioned house, would you wonder out loud to yourself if you can even legitimately call yourself a mountain biker?
  • Imagine if, after you’ve been riding for about 90 minutes, the sun starts to go down, so you have to head on home, even though you’ve only ridden maybe a quarter of the trail network. Would you be dying to go back and ride more of it as soon as humanly possible, if not sooner?
  • And finally, the big question: which emotion would hold greater sway: irritation and embarrassment at yourself for having taken forever to find a great mountain biking network right out your front door, or elation at the newfound knowledge that you have a great mountain biking network right out your front door?

Oh, and one last question: how would you feel about weighing 171.4 pounds and having a jackpot you will be giving away on Friday unless you get your act together?


PS: My “Pro Cycling Teams Unveil 2006 Hair Strategy” article has been published in Prudently, they edited out the Levi Leipheimer before-and-after section. Anyway, if you liked the excerpt I published here a couple weeks ago, you’ll probably like reading the whole thing (the converse is also true). Click here to read it now.

Lance and Sheryl Split: Cycling World Dutifully Professes Shock, Sorrow, Disappointment

02.6.2006 | 4:46 pm

AUSTIN, TX (Fat Cyclist Fake News Service) —  Members of the Discovery Cycling Team claim to be saddened by the news released to People Magazine last Friday, that Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow have broken off their engagement.

Said a racer who wished to remain anonymous, “I am deeply sorry for Lance and Sheryl, and send them my best — albeit anonymous — wishes during this difficult time for them. I am also deeply sorry that this means OLN’s coverage — if it even covers the Tour de France, now that Lance is gone — will have to be about the race and riders, instead of hobnobbing on-camera with some pop star who has exactly two interesting songs in her entire catalog.”

Said Johan Bruyneel, Directeur Sportif for Team Discovery, “Lance and I are very close, and so it breaks my heart to know that he and Sheryl are no longer together. And while part of me is relieved that we won’t have the security nightmare that comes with having both a biking and a rock celebrity touring with us, not to mention the way they’re always demanding a better room, asking for organic vegetables, bringing their entourage and near-infinite quantities of luggage from city to city, and….”

Bruyneel paused to collect his thoughts, then continued. “Um, as I was saying, I’m very disappointed Sheryl won’t be along for the Tour this year.”


Armstrong’s Publicist Reacts

“Lance is very careful to separate his personal relationships from his professional life,” said Armstrong’s spokesperson. “Take, for example, his first book, It’s Not About the Bike. Why, he barely mentioned his (now former) wife in that book. And with Sheryl, he’s been very private about that relationship all along. You hardly even knew they were together. I mean, it’s not like he went on Oprah and proclaimed his love for Sheryl there or anything.”

“So,” continued the publicist, “when Lance and Sheryl ask we respect their privacy during this difficult time, it’s of course quite reasonable that you do so, since they have never, to this point, beaten you over the head relentlessly with the fact that they’re dating by appearing on TV constantly together and having photo op after photo op together and writing, producing and performing love songs about each other and doing these strange combo bike ride / soft-rock concert events that scream, ‘We’re one of the most public couples in the entire freaking universe!’”

“They have always been private people,” the publicist concluded. “Please let them continue to be private during this difficult hour.”


Ullrich’s Sympathies

Jan Ullrich, whom Armstrong has consistently identified as his greatest TdF rival, also conveyed his regrets. “As a racer who has also struggled with relationship difficulties, I can understand how difficult a time this must be for Lance,” said Ullrich. “What I cannot understand is how he always manages to have his breakups in the off-season, even after he’s retired from racing. Man, that guy is truly disciplined.”

“I must ask, however,” continued Ullrich, “Why couldn’t he have had that breakup late last June?”


Every Cyclist In The Universe Comments

Cyclists throughout the world did their level best to express something besides ambivalence about Armstrong’s breakup. According to every cyclist currently living, “Armstrong’s a great racer, but he’s no longer racing. I actually don’t care even a little bit about whether he marries or not. In fact, the only way this shocking revelation could be interesting to me would be if Armstrong decided to fill the hole in his life with another TdF. You think he might do that?”

“No, that’s just silly,” the collective cycling universe said to itself. “Armstrong would never tease us in that way. He’s not the kind of guy who would say, ‘Maybe I’ll race this year, maybe I won’t.’ Or, ‘I’m retired, but maybe I’ll come out of retirement. No, no I won’t.’”


Movie Implications

A spokesperson for Sony Pictures, which is producing the Lance Armstrong Movie, said that this turn of events does not impact the planned film at all.

“We’re going with the film just as we always have,” the studio representative said. “In fact, in some ways this event gives our next steps some clarity. We had planned to combine the Kristin years with the Sheryl years, kind of blurring the two people into one. This now makes better sense than ever.”

“The only way we’ll tweak the generic wife / girlfriend character is,” continued the spokesperson, “we no longer plan to give her a name, or any speaking lines. Considering that this film won’t be out for at least another eighteen months, I think that’s the prudent course.”

“We have yet to decide,” finished the spokesperson, “Whether to pixelate her face.”

# # #


Today’s weight: 171.6. Hmm. That’s not the right direction. I need to step things up.

Pro Cycling Teams Unveil 2006 Hair Strategy

02.6.2006 | 9:50 am


Click for larger imageMallorca, January 22 (Fat Cyclist Fake News Service) – Cycling enthusiasts around the globe reacted extremely positively to the January 22 T-Mobile team presentation, wherein the 29 members of the men’s team and 10 members of the women’s team were announced.

More importantly, however, T-Mobile also took this opportunity to reveal Jan Ullrich’s new hairdo.

“This hairdo represents the significant investment we have made in Ullrich,” said team manager Mario Kummer. “These curls have been scientifically designed to be loose enough to blow elegantly in the wind as he attacks on mountain climbs, but not so loose that they unravel under the intense pressure of a gruelling time trial. They are long enough to look cool, but not so long that they will poke out of his helmet and look clownish. They have been demonstrated in wind-tunnel tests to be the most aerodynamic curls known to man.

Continued Kummer, with evident pride: “His curly, highly moussed locks clearly state, ‘I am the team captain. You must ride in support of me, and in support of my hair.’ I only wish that we had thought of this hair before last year’s Tour de France; perhaps we could have kept Vinokourov in check. You will note,” the manager pointedly concluded, “that this year Andreas Klöden does not have such a hairdo.”

Team Discovery Channel reacts
Johan Bruyneel, directeur sportif of Team Discovery Channel, lost no time in preparing his team’s response to the new threat Ullrich poses. “Acknowledging the brilliance of Ullrich’s new haircut,” said Bruyneel from the Team Discovery Solvang camp, “I have tasked one of my most seasoned riders, Viatcheslav Ekimov, to counterattack with a new hairstyle which I myself have designed.

“As you can see,” said Bruyneel at a hastily-arranged press conference this past week, “Eki’s hairstyle is still short up top and on the sides, so as to not interfere with his riding. In the back, however, his hair is considerably longer, and now nearly touches his shoulders. I firmly believe this haircut will effectively neutralize Ullrich.”

Others, however, are not so optimistic.

“It’s a mullet,” said Lance Armstrong, who remains actively involved with Team Discovery Channel operations. “Bruyneel has sent Eki to chase down Jan with a freakin’ mullet. No way is that going to be enough.”

“I’m just glad that I’m retired,” said a concerned-looking Armstrong, pensively running a hand through his (rather pedestrian) close-cropped hair. “I mean, I’ve always said that Ullrich was my greatest opponent. With that new hairstyle, well, I don’t know.” Armstrong paused for a moment, weighing his words. “To tell the truth, I don’t think I could compete with that.”

Tour teams scramble
Reacting to the Ullrich hairdo bombshell, pro teams are now quickly putting their own 2006 hair strategies.

Team CSC has announced its intention that all team members will grow the same haircut: a short, spiky style, with frosted tips. “We train as a team, we race as a team, and we will now style our hair as a team,” said team manager Bjarne Riis.

Euskaltel-Euskadi is staying tight-lipped about its own Tour de France hair strategy, although rumours gravitate around a specially designed new hair follicle designed especially for the team. If these rumours are to be believed, the Euskaltel-Euskadi team will be sporting hairdos up to 15% lighter and 10% more fashionable than comparable hairstyles.

Lampre-Caffita and Bianchi-Liquigas have each extended Mario Cipollini lavish offers to come out of retirement. Regarding these offers, a spokesman for Cipollini said, “While Super Mario has not ridden his bike in several months, I can assure you that his hair is every bit as glorious as it has ever been. If he so chooses to come out of retirement, I can assure you that he will not disappoint.”

Phonak, in an act of desperation has hogtied Floyd Landis and shaved off his goatee. “Look, nobody has ever liked Floyd’s goatee,” said a source close to Phonak, on the condition of anonymity. “And now with that new look Ullrich’s got, we were put in full-on damage-control mode, man. That scruffy thing had to go.”

Team Gerolsteiner is perhaps in the most desperate straits of all, as evidenced by this photograph:

Ullrich: Ready to Ride
Ullrich himself has approached the subject of his new haircut with his usual modesty, “It is an honour for me to wear this very fashionable hairdo for T-Mobile, and I hope to do it justice with my riding. I believe that with training, focus, and the support of my team, my hair and I will emerge victorious in this year’s Tour de France.”

Axioms and Epiphanies

02.2.2006 | 7:37 pm

Bob and I took off early from work to go complete the ride we had flatted out of last week. You see, Crop Circles is just part of an incredible little network of trails in Renton, WA. The other three, Tapeworm, Parasite, and Mr. DNA, follow the same trail philosophy: squeeze as much trail as possible into the smallest possible space.

The result? An incredibly twisty trail where you are almost always entering or exiting a hairpin turn, climbing or descending a short (but steep) hill, threading your handlebars between close trees, riding over roots and logs, or working on one of the constructed moves.

It was glorious.



Until yesterday, I was ambivalent about the idea of having human-constructed moves as part of a ride. I mean, aren’t the moves that occur naturally good enough? Do we really want to turn a beautiful trail into an eyesore?

Now, however, I am firmly in favor of building cool little moves into trails — owner permission permitting, of course.

This change of heart happened when I swallowed my fear and rode up and over a see-saw. The board is about nine inches wide and about eight feet long, with the fulcrum about eighteen inches high. As you ride up the first time, you naturally think that the board will tip as your body passes the fulcrum.

It doesn’t.

You keep riding up, wondering when it’s going to go. Then, just about as you stall out, the board tips suddenly. Wham! In an instant, you go from pointing straight up to rolling straight down.

It was a rush. Bob and I rode the see-saw at least a half-dozen times each. That slow…slow…slow…FAST feeling never got old.


A Clean, A Crash, And A New Term Defined

Next up, riding up and over a very narrow series (three inches or so) of slats, nailed together on a board and leaning on a log — like a very skinny ladder. Then you go down the other side on a similar series of slats.

I only tried this move once, because I cleaned it on the first try, much to Bob’s amazement.

Alas, the story does not end there.

I brought quite a bit of speed into this move, figuring it would be easy to keep the straight line necessary if I had momentum. This was correct, but it meant that I was going pretty fast as I came off the last slat. Unfortunately, I had not scouted out the rollout for this move, and it turned out to be a rooty ledge drop with a sharp right turn.

I endoed spectacularly.

I instinctively grabbed for a tree branch as I was in the air. This was a bad idea, since I grabbed with my bad shoulder — the one that dislocates just for the hell of it. I heard a “snap,” which, I thought as I flew, was a good thing, since a full-on dislocation sounds more like “SKRROPP.”

You know how there’s a spot on the inside of your knee that if you hit, hurts much worse than it ought? Sort of the knee-equivalent of your funny bone? Well, as I continued my brief flight, that’s the part of my knee I banged hard against my top tube.

I stayed on the ground for several minutes, rocking back and forth, willing myself not to scream and waiting for the pain-induced nausea to subside.

This gave Bob time to think.

“You have just experienced,” Bob said, “what I term a ‘Peak Confidence Event.’ (PCE)” Bob went on to explain that a PCE is what happens after you crash and suddenly find yourself very timid on all moves for the rest of the ride. It is mathematically impossible for your confidence to return to the level it was at just before you crashed.

Bob speaks the truth. It’s a good term for a mountain biking axiom. PCE: Make a note of it and integrate it into your lexicon.

Thank you.


More Moves

Eventually, I felt good enough to ride again, though gingerly. There were more fun constructed moves ahead of us, and I had to decide whether to try them. I figured that PCE or no, I would at least give them the three tries allotted me.

There were several bridges and curvy ladders made of slats, most of which were not difficult. There was a two-foot high stack of logs tied together that looked forbidding. Bob gave me an excellent tip: it’s easier than it looks. Bearing that in mind, I just rode over it.

There was a 10-foot-long log. I cleaned it on the first try. There was an uphill ledge followed by a pair of logs. I missed it on my first and second try, but then — hooray — cleaned it on my third. It was at this point that I coined an axiom of my own: When doing a three-try move, it is best to get it on the first. Failing that, it is better to get it on the third try than the second, because it’s more dramatic. If you get it on the second try, really you’re just demonstrating that it wasn’t that hard of a move to begin with and you should have gotten it on the first try.

Bob and I are not only extremely excellent riders, we’re very, very smart.


Thank You, Dahon

The Dahon Flo I’ve been riding was a dream this whole ride. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so confident on a bike (at least, until the PCE). It’s not just a good bike for travelling; it’s one of the best mountain bikes I have ever ridden. Who would have ever expected that from a break-apart bike?


Moment of Pride

There is one slat-type bridge that I would not have thought I’d clean. That’s because you have to wheelie up to it — about 20 inches, I think — using a single log as a ramp, then heave your rear wheel up onto it and continue riding a nice straight line, so you don’t fall off the side of the one-foot-wide bridge.

I got it on my third try.


One Last Epiphany

I could write tons more about yesterday’s ride, which reminds me of why I write this blog. I need to spend more time riding, or this blog is going to start getting very boring.


Banjo Brothers Bike Bag Contest

For today’s Banjo Brothers Bike Bag Contest, you must do two things:

  1. Tell me of a bike-related epiphany you have had. Or failing that, describe a biking axiom.
  2. Guess my weight.

There will be two prizes: One for the best epiphany / axiom, another for the person who comes closest to guessing my weight, which will — once again — become a daily feature starting tomorrow, along with the Fat Cyclist Weight Loss Sweepstakes.


Bonus Additional Reading About Yesterday’s Ride

Today, Bob wrote an excellent Top 5 about yesterday’s ride. Read it now.

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