Ask Andy Hampsten. Seriously.

06.21.2006 | 11:45 pm

Andy Hampsten rules. Consider:

  • He’s won the Giro d’Italia.
  • He’s won the Alpe d’Huez stage in the Tour de France.
  • He’s currently got a sweet business leading bicycle tours of Italy (for the three people in the world [mom, dad, wife] who happen to remember, back when I wrote books for a living I almost always used a fictional bike touring company for my example documents).

So when the chance to ask interview him via email came up, of course I jumped at it.

Now, though, I’ve got to figure out what to ask him. And I’d like some help. So, what would you ask Andy? I’ll pick the best questions, combine them with a few that I want to ask, and send them his way. Then, of course, I’ll post the interview in this blog.


Why Would a Giro d’Italia Winner Do an Interview with Fat Cyclist?

“How,” you may fairly ask, “is it possible that Andy Hampsten reads the Fat Cyclist blog and has agreed to answer questions for it?”

The answer is simple: He hasn’t read my blog. He’d never heard of me ’til I contacted him via email. He doesn’t have great internet access in rural Italy, and so has agreed—blog unseen—to the interview because I happen to work with a friend of his.

I suspect, just between you and me, that if he had read my blog, he may not have agreed to the interview. So yay for poor internet access in rural Italy!


How to Be Last

06.20.2006 | 2:51 am

Last Saturday was my 40th birthday ride, held—as is traditional—on Tibble Fork: Up Tibble, down South Fork to Deer Creek (Joy), up to the Ridge trail, Down Mud Springs back to Tibble, and then back down Tibble to the reservoir. Dug, Kenny, Brad, Sunderlage and Botched joined me for this ride. The weather was perfect, and the trail was in good condition.

Sadly (for them), Kenny and Dug were both injured. Kenny had broken his back on the mountain two days earlier (Botched and I puzzled over the right “broke back mountain” joke for the occasion, but neither of us ever really nailed it); Dug couldn’t lift his right arm higher than elbow level, due to a high-speed downhill endo earlier in the week.

And yet, I was the slowest guy of the group.

By a lot.

Fortunately, I kept my wits about me and therefore avoided the embarrassing mistakes usually made by the slowest guy in a riding group, and emerged at the end of the ride with my dignity intact—or at least kept my dignity as intact as a fat, balding, middle-aged guy wearing a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup jersey is likely to.

How did I do this? By remembering and observing the Three Rules of The Slow Rider.


Rule 1: Stay Back.

You would think that because you are the slow guy, you would automatically always be sorted to the back of the group.

You would think that, but you would be wrong.

Fast riders want to take pity on slow ones. Riding with the slow guy shows that they’re nice, for one thing. And it gives them a reason to rest for a minute. And, perhaps most importantly, it gives them a chance to look casual and comfortable—and maybe even just a little bit bored—while riding at the slow riders absolute redline.

As a slow rider, it is critical you deny them this opportunity. Decline all invitations to “go on ahead.” Remember, to consciously go ahead of someone who is faster than you is to accrue all of the following deleterious circumstances:

  • You have taken a position you have not earned.
  • You are now officially being baby-sat.
  • The guy behind you will have plenty of wind, and will want to use the extra wind for light-hearted banter. You, on the other hand, will have no such oxygen surplus.
  • Know that you will have someone right on your rear wheel, which means that if you have to put a foot down you make the other guy stop, too. Further, having someone right on your rear wheel isn’t exactly pleasant on its own merits, either.
  • Set yourself up to be the stumblebum in the story your good buddy will tell at the end of the ride about how easy this ride is when you don’t really push it, and how it’s sometimes nice to go out and ride easy, and that this is the first real recovery ride he’s had in ages.

So how do you decline the “after you” invitation? Simple. Use these words: “No, you go on. I’m riding sweep today.”

Do you see the beauty of that statement? By saying this, you are taking charge. You are accepting a mantle of responsibility—ensuring the safety of all other riders. And you are not admitting that you are slow just because you are fat and slow.

99.4% of the time, that’s all it takes. The other 0.6% of the time, you’ll be riding with some former (or—worse—current scoutmaster) who has some deep-seated, twisted need to take care of the group. This person will assert that he wants to ride sweep.

In this instance, it is within your rights—nay, it is your duty—to push the other rider into a ravine. Or, if that’s not your style, you can always trick them into going on ahead. You do this by stopping immediately after getting on your bike to pretend to twist a barrel adjuster on your rear derailleur. If they slow, just say, “go on. I’ll catch up.” Even though you won’t. Can’t.


Rule 2: Shut Up.

The most overwhelmingly powerful sensation you will have when you are the slowest rider in the group is shame.

The second most powerful will be a searing of the lungs.

The third most powerful—and the one I choose to talk about right now—is the urge to explain yourself whenever you catch up to the group, as they wait for you.

Picture this.

You ride up to the group. Clearly, they’re just chatting, waiting for you to catch up so they can continue on. Judging from how well-rested they all look, you sense that they’ve been waiting there for a while.

What’s your inclination? Why, to explain yourself, of course. To tell them how hard it is to do this ride when you’re so out of shape, or to apologize for being so slow, or to thank them for waiting up.

Do. Not. Do. Any. Of. Those. Things.

Instead, roll up to the group, smile, put a foot down, and join the conversation already in progress. Convey a sense of well-being. Exude peace and pleasure that you’re on your bike. Your entire being should tell your co-riders that you’re happy to be on the trail.

Hey, it’s not a race, after all.


Rule 3: No Excuses.

This is the most important rule of all: do not explain why you are slow. Everyone already either knows, or doesn’t know you well enough to be interested. Yes, you’re busy at work. Yes, you’ve had an injury. Yes, you’re middle aged, and it’s not as easy to unload the weight as it once was.

No, nobody wants to hear it.

Unless you’ve got a really good self-deprecating joke. In which case, bring it on.


Review of the Gel-Bot

06.16.2006 | 6:31 am

An Incredibly Special Note from Fatty: Today’s entry is excerpted from a brand-spanking new blog Bob (of the recently-defunct Bob’s Top 5), dug (of here and elsewhere), and I are launching: Random Reviewer. In it, Bob, dug, and I will review things. Yesterday, for example, dug reviewed the toilet plunger at his office. Today, I’m reviewing an innovative water bottle. Monday, Bob will review whatever he wants to. 

Sometimes we’ll review new stuff. Sometimes old stuff. Sometimes we may review experiences. Sometimes we’ll do head-to-head comparisons of primary colors.

It will all be, I’m afraid, quite random.

If you’re the kind of person who sets bookmarks, either one of these will do nicely:

And now, on with the review.


Review of the Gel-Bot 

I’m a big fan of the little guy. If there’s a David-vs-Goliath contest, you can bet I’m rooting for David. If there’s a movie about a loveable loser faced with an insurmountable task and impossible odds, I’m right there, hoping he’ll find a way to somehow prevail. If there’s a small business going toe to toe against a big business, I want the small business to magically defy the odds and come out on top.

Make no mistake: VerntureDesignWork’s Gel-Bot—a water bottle that also dispenses gel, depending on how many notches you pull out the valve—definitely fits this profile. So when the VentureDesignWorks guys sent me a Gel-Bot, I really wanted to give it a good review. Really, I did.

But I’m not going to. Sorry.


What’s Good About It

The most startling thing about the Gel-Bot is that it does what they say it does. You pour water (or whatever sports drink you like) into the main bottle compartment, and then squeeze a couple gel packs into the gel reservoir. Be careful about fluid/gel flavor dissonance: lemon-lime Gatorade and Choco-mocha Gu are not a happy flavor combo.

The gel reservoir will hold a maximum of 2.5 gel packs, which seems kind of dumb. Why not two? Or three? Why specifically design the gel reservoir to hold a fraction of a gel pack?

Wait. Sorry. This is the “What’s Good About It” part. Let me start again.

Prime the plunger, snap the gel cylinder gizmo back onto the bottle valve, wash your hands to clean off the gel you inevitably spilled on yourself, tighten the bottle top so you don’t get gel drizzling down your chin the first time you squeeze the bottle, and you’re ready to go. Except instead of taking you ten seconds to fill a bottle like it normally does, it took you three minutes and you realize the first time you do this that there’s no way you’re going to do this on a regular basis.

Sorry. I’m still in the “What’s Good About It” part, aren’t I? OK.

The first time I tried squirting some gel into my mouth, nothing came out. So I squeezed harder. Still no luck. Then I used my GI Joe Kung Fu Grip, and gel came out. So yay, the Gel-Bot works. You’ve just got to show the bottle who’s boss first.

Then, just to put the bottle through its paces, I pulled the valve all the way out so I’d get just water. No trouble whatsoever, there. As a standalone bottle, the Gel-Bot is excellent. It’s big (24oz) and clear, just like a bottle should be.


What’s Wrong With It

The thing is—and I’ve alluded to it before—the payoff’s way too slight for the setup involved. Any time you use this thing, you’ve got to:

  1. Take apart the four pieces of the bottle (bottle, cap, gel reservoir, plunger)
  2. Get out a couple gels
  3. squirt ‘em in
  4. Clean up
  5. Put it all together

I know for sure I’m going to lose at least one of those parts the first time I put it through the dishwasher. In fact, that plunger’s so small I don’t think I should put it through the dishwasher at all. It’s likely to get sucked up and disposed of, along with the cheerios and apricot pits.

What, you don’t leave apricot pits in your bowls as you put them through the dishwasher? Well, then you’re babying your dishwasher. Cut it out.


What’s Really Wrong With It

Sorry, but to learn what’s really wrong with the Gel-Bot–as well as what’s really, really wrong with the Gel-Bot–you’re going to need to finish the review over at

PS: Yeah, I’m blatantly using my existing blog to lend momentum to the new one I’m starting with my friends. But I’m only doing it because I care about you.

Wherein I Stand On the Brink of Middle Age

06.15.2006 | 7:37 pm

This Sunday (which is, coincidentally, Fathers’ Day), I turn 40.

Unfortunately, I’ll be on a plane to NY that day. Even more unfortunately, the silver lining for being on a plane that day just evaporated (or did whatever silver linings do to disappear).

For anyone who’s interested, though, I’m reintroducing my very favorite tradition in the whole world: riding Tibble Fork on my birthday. It’ll just have to be a day early.

Anyone who’s interested in coming along, email me. I’d love to have company.

It’ll be in the morning, but I haven’t figured out what time. I’m guessing it’ll be early-ish.


PS: Kenny Jones, the fastest, nicest guy in the world, will be doing the ride, too. This will be a good opportunity for you to ride with him and (possibly) even keep up with him. You see, yesterday Kenny fractured his spine while mountain biking. He coaches up-and-coming MTB-ers in Park City, and while doing so yesterday, hit a kicker and turfed it.

Compression fracture.

Kenny can still ride, but it hurts. A lot. I plan to use his pain to my advantage. I recommend you do the same.

One Day You Wake Up, And You’re Gay

06.14.2006 | 7:44 pm

An Extra-Super-Special Note from Fatty: As promised, Dug wrote a post for today. Enjoy!


When I first got into biking (we didn’t start calling it “cycling” until much later, we were way too grungy for that), I called road bikes “10 speeds” and thought of them as something kids used. I’d had a Fuji 10 speed as a teenager back in Minnesota, and used it to ride to work bagging groceries at Super Value and for my daily commute to the local park to play basketball.

I started riding for real around 1990, during the beginning of the American golden years, with Ned Overend, Julie Furtado, and Tinker Juarez. Yes, I know those people aren’t dead yet, and even still compete, but at the time they were the only names I knew in the professional cycling world. Lance Armstrong was a name some guys in the shop would mention, but usually only to say what a jackass he was and how he was all talent but no brains. But those dirt riders . . . well, let’s just say I almost named my first child Julie and my next two kids Ned and Tinker. I didn’t, but I thought about it.

You know how some people have lists of “possibles” or “exceptions?” As in, a list of famous people, where if you could, you know, have or do them, no repercussions, you would? My list in the early 90s began and ended with Julie Furtado. And no, I don’t have any Star Wars toys still in the box.

But the thing is, all the riding I did for the first half decade or so was on dirt. One guy in Provo who sometimes hung out at the shop (the shop went through some iterations, from Highlander, to Gourmet, to Franks, but it was the only shop I knew that had a “lunch” crowd, and regular time trials and derbys during the day, out in the aisles.), what was his name? He made pottery. Anyway, I remember once heading out for a ride and asking him if he wanted to come. He said he didn’t ride dirt, just road. He might as well have told me he was a mermaid. He did do pottery, after all.

Russel Wrankle, that was his name. Anyway, he said he hated having to drive to a ride, and on the road, he could just start riding from wherever he was. But to me, that just meant he rode more crap. Starting from home is just that much more crap, if it’s on the road. See, I used to ride any and all dirt. Buff and banked, rough and off camber, washboard, stunts, whatever. I just loved dirt. We would finish a trail that had been nothing but baby head rocks and 6-inch deep dust, and I would whoop and holler and say “that was just super, really, just super.” I actually bought a t-shirt from that store in Moab, that just sold red dirty t-shirts.

Do you see where this is going? You do, right? I now ride 80 or 90 percent of the time on the road, I shave my legs because I like how they look shaved, and I love the idea of just getting on my bike and riding out the driveway. And I don’t really want to ride dirt unless it’s primo dirt. I still ride about once a week on the dirt, but rarely alone, because dirt seems to me to be about riding with buddies. I mean, I like riding with people on the road too, but, well, I’m babbling now, aren’t I? Let’s just move on.

The very first road ride I ever went on was the Alpine Loop in Provo, 40 miles, 4,000 feet of vertical. I was on Jeremy’s light green Bianchi, with Mavic ZAP shifting. I LOVED it. You put your head down and climb hard until blood comes out your ears, and on the downhill, you get over 50 mph, pass cars, and get a rush that just doesn’t come on dirt. I bought a road bike very soon after that, did some local crits, and maybe a century or two here and there.

The transition has been long and slow. In fact, it only really occurred to me this morning that I was a roadie first, a mountain biker second. You know. As in “Letting the days go by . . . This is not my beautiful wife . . . How did I get here?”

But one day you wake up, and you know how to how tall Bettini is, and you’re surprised to find out Michael Rasmussen and Cadel Evans used to race on the dirt. I’m not sure how to feel about all this. Remember when Lance Armstrong was going to race some dirt for Trek? I was all excited, thinking, he’s going to be like one of “us.” Well now I think of him racing on dirt as being like one of “them.”

I will now light myself on fire.

But not until I get back from my lunch ride with Brad. We’re riding from Hogle Zoo, up Emigration Canyon, down to Little Dell, and up East Canyon and back. It’s my favorite ride in Salt Lake. I love the road. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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