Grievous Error

06.13.2006 | 6:49 pm

Last Saturday, I simply could not take it anymore. I had been back in Utah for more than a week, but had not yet ridden the Best Trail in The World, even though I now lived only six miles from the trailhead.

That’s just wrong.

So I got up nice and early (8:30am) and told my wife that hanging pictures, unboxing junk that we’ll never use, and mowing the lawn would all have to wait. It was time for me to go riding.

She was cool with that. My wife’s very cool. My wife is the wifely equivalent of Fonzie.


So Excited

I put my bike on the car rack and drove the six miles to the Tibble Fork trailhead. Yes, I drove six miles so I could go mountain biking. I was in a hurry. I suck.


As I paid for my season pass for American Fork Canyon, I was giddy. I’m guessing the Forest Service guy had never before met someone so enthusiastic to be buying a pass, but for me it was a big deal. It meant that I was home. If you’ve ever completely burned out on a favorite trail, stop riding it for a couple years and then come back. The joy of returning is unbelievable.


Let’s Ride!

So I parked my car at the Tibble Fork Reservoir parking lot, strapped on my helmet (more about this in a moment), rode across the dam, and started climbing.

The first thing I noticed was that the trail was a little wet.

The next thing I noticed was that the trail was becoming increasingly wet, and slippery.

The third thing I noticed was that the mud was rapidly collecting on my tires and in my drivetrain. The rain from the previous two days had soaked the trail to the point that even at the base, it was sloppy and unrideable.

What a letdown.


The Main Difference Between Utah and Washington

A quick aside, here: The second-most-noticeable difference between biking in Washington and Utah is what happens to helmet straps between rides. In Washington, the humidity is so high (ie, it’s always raining) that your helmet straps don’t ever really dry out. They stay soft and supple between rides. In Utah, on the other hand, helmet straps dry out instantly, stiffening to the point where they’re just slightly more pliable than fiberglass.

I bring this up because I now want to bring up the biggest difference between riding in Utah and Washington. In Washington, the trails are (almost) always wet, and often have standing water in low spots. You can ride on these muddy trails with impunity; the mud just falls off your tires, leaving no trace. This mud doesn’t gum up your drivetrain; it doesn’t turn your tires into chocolate bagels. It’s the cleanest mud you could ever imagine.

The mud in Utah is not quite so accommodating.

I, sadly, had forgotten this fact.

Which is to say, after climbing Tibble for thirty feet or so, I realized the trail wasn’t in good shape for riding and turned around.

I should have walked my bike down.

But I didn’t. I rode it back down to the trailhead. For thirty feet or so.

Just thirty feet.

Big mistake.

By the time I got to the trailhead, my drivetrain was completely caked in adobe-like mud.  My tires were big ol’ tasty chocolate bagels. The weight of my bike had increased by 72.3%. Approximately.


No Salvage

The problem with committing to riding Tibble Fork is that it doesn’t leave you with much in the way of plan B options if the trail isn’t rideable. By the time I got out of the canyon, an hour of my ride time had elapsed. If I wanted to do a mountain bike ride, I’d need to first clean my bike. That would take more time. If I wanted to do a road ride, I’d need to go home and get my road bike out. That would take more time, too.

So I went home and changed into my work clothes, and started work on the house. My ride was done.

Saturday’s ride took 80 minutes overall. I rode sixty feet, and jammed my bike up entirely with mud. I think it’s safe to say it was not the most bestest, epic-est ride ever.


Another Big Error

Here’s another interesting characteristic of the mud in Utah: it dries hard. By the time I get home this Saturday (I’m traveling for work through Friday), that mud will have transmogrified into something similar to concrete, albeit marginally stronger. It will have chemically bonded with the bike’s paint. This layer of mud will be strong enough to protect the bike from a nuclear blast, which is comforting, though—sadly—it will also render the bike entirely immobile.

Nothing that six hours with a hose and a toothbrush can’t take care of, though.



06.12.2006 | 6:58 pm

Oh, hi. I seem to have forgotten: I have a blog. I could make up an excuse for why I haven’t written, so I will. However, my lawyer advises me to be vague, and to be misleading on several key points. So:
It has to do with string cheese, a large box of matchsticks, an omelette, and a limerick. It’s important to note that the final line of the lmerick didn’t rhyme perfectly with the first two lines of the limerick, and that it was debatable whether it had the proper number of syllables. Ie, certain words seem to have semisyllables when used by people from certain parts of the US.
There. I’m glad I could clear things up.
OK, Here’s Who Gets Free Stuff
I wish I could give everyone who posted a message something. Which is not the same thing as "something good," but definitely "something."
Instead, however, I will give stuff to people who wrote something I might be able to use when I talk later today to advertising types about what it’s like to be a superstar blogger.
  • Dug: Who’s been kind enough to write blog entries for me while I’m travelling for work and during the move.
  • The Beast Mom: Because she’s well-grounded and rightly points out that the main idea of all this is to have fun.
  • Jsun: Mostly because I like the way he spells "Jason." It’s witty.
  • Barry1021 or 2010 or whatever: Just so he’ll leave me alone, hopefully.
  • KeepYerBag: For noting the quality of comments is a crucial aspect of the quality of the blog. I have more than once noticed that I can say any ol’ thing here and you guys will pick it up and run with it.
  • RovingBroker: For correctly noting that the primary thing an advertiser should look for in a blog is great content.

To get your USB Flash Drives, email me (use for right now; my fatty @ email address is not currently accessible) with your address. I’ll give the addresses to my wife, who is much more likely to package and send your drives than I am.


Which Reminds Me

If you’ve ever won a contest from me and I’ve stiffed you, please send me email (, telling me which contest and what you should have gotten. During my move to UT in particular, I haven’t been as vigilant about mailing stuff as I should have been. Good thing this isn’t ebay; I’d have a horri ble ranking.



I’ve been talking with a guy about having my blog do something kind of special around a big upcoming race (no, not the Tour de France). We’re close to nailing it down, and it should mean some of the coolest stuff ever on this blog — and the coolest stuff I’ve ever given away by a factor of about 50. And yes, I’ve done my math right.


More on this soon.



I will post again. I mean it. Oh, and Dug promises he’ll post sometime this week, too. He says he’s interested in writing something for this blog once a week or so. Yay, Dug!


PS: In four hours, I’m talking to advertising professionals about my blog. I shouldn’t be nervous, and yet I am.



Answer Me!

06.6.2006 | 5:43 pm

Just before I moved back to Utah, the good folks at MSN asked me to put on my favorite jersey and come get videotaped for some MSN Spaces promotion. So I did. I was a nervous, stammering, yammering, chattering, random wreck. It’ll be interesting to see whether the video director is able to salvage anything from it.

For your entertainment, I will post the video, once I get it.

MSN has also asked me to come to a conference next week, where I will sit at a panel with actual experts on blogging and advertising. There, I will do my level best to act like I know what I’m talking about. Sample quote I’m preparing: “Um, well, I write stuff about riding bikes, and make fun of ads, and make up news about bikes and stuff. Then I sit back and watch while the commenters make fun of me.”

That should be educational.

The nice thing is, Nichole at MSN gave me a bunch of cool stuff to give away, if you’ll just answer a few blog-related questions. I have six USB Flash Drives to give away, as well as three copies of Share Your Story: Blogging with MSN Spaces. And an MSN golf shirt.

This drawing is not random. I’m going to give stuff to people who have interesting, useful responses. If you can’t/don’t want to log in with Microsoft Passport, you can email your response to me.

Oh, and don’t feel like you have to answer all the questions. If you’ve got a great answer to one of the questions and don’t answer any of the others, you could still win stuff.



  • What do you like about What’s Your Story (where MSN features different blogs on a weekly basis)? What needs to be changed?
  • Yesterday, while looking for a close grocery store (still trying to get to know the area), I noticed a “Trek Store.” Evidently, a bike shop that sells nothing but Trek products. Does this seem incredibly wrong-headed to anyone else? I mean, when I go into a bike shop, it’s to buy the best bike stuff I can find, which may or may not be built by Trek. Does any self-respecting cyclist choose a brand before they choose the bike (or helmet, or whatever)? OK, MSN didn’t ask me to ask this question.
  • What do you think of the Volvo sponsorship of What’s Your Story? Have you ever clicked on one of the Volvo ads? Did you surf around?
  • Wouldn’t it be cool if Volvo gave me a car, and then another one to give away? (OK, MSN didn’t ask me to ask this question either, but I think it’s a really good question to ask.)
  • What makes for good advertising on blogs?
  • Do you blog? Why? What about?
  • Say the word “blogs” aloud, several times in a row. Doesn’t it start to sound stupid?
  • Do you jump around a bunch, reading a lot of blogs, or do you read a certain group of blogs?
  • How often do you visit your favorite blogs?

I’ll be traveling tomorrow, so you have two days to answer. Have fun, and good luck. Oh, and as long as I’m giving advice: always wear your seatbelt. Even when you’re on your bike.

I am Extraordinarily Persuasive

06.5.2006 | 10:36 pm

 If you ever met me in person, you would be struck by what a nice person I am. You would be flattered by the way I seem interested in the things you have to say. You would be amused by my interesting anecdotes. You would be impressed by the way I emphasize similarities between our points of view, while politely—yet openly and honestly—discussing our differences fairly and openly. You would tell your friends later what a thoughtful, friendly, intelligent (for I am very, very intelligent), and entertaining person I am. You would look forward to the next time we met.

And yet, I can get cranky.

If I don’t get out on a ride fairly often—three days off my bike is the outer limit—I stop being fun to be around. I stop chuckling at your stupid jokes, I no longer pretend that what you have to say is relevant, interesting, or important. I start saying the cutting things that occur to me. If you met me when I was cranky, you would think less of yourself by the end of our conversation. Much, much less.

By last Saturday, I had been off the bike for four days. Suffice it to say that I was no longer very nice. Further suffice it to say that I am capable of shooting flesh-burning laser beams out of my eyes, and was getting confused about whether it was really morally objectionable to use these lasers.

My wife (who has a permanent exemption from my crankiness, because I am [very, very] intelligent) understood what was going on, and made the following suggestion, in spite of the fact that we had both been working on unpacking boxes every waking moment since we have moved into our house:

“Why don’t you go on a little ride? It will help you get your balance back.”

In case I have not mentioned this before, my wife has a heart of gold.


One Hour

“Remember, though,” my wife caveated (yes, I just turned “caveat” into a verb). “There’s a neighborhood party at 6:00. It’s 5:30 now, so I don’t expect you to be there for the start. But I’ll have the kids with me and will need some help, so just go riding for an hour, OK?

“No problem,” I tell my wife as I suited up. “I’ll just ride up American Fork Canyon for 30 minutes, then turn around.”


Memory Does Not Serve

My house is a mildly rolling four miles from the mouth of American Fork Canyon, which is part of the Alpine Loop, my favorite road ride in the world. I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to do the whole loop, because it’s been close to three years since I’ve done this ride. Still, I figured just riding up to Tibble Fork Reservoir would be a nice little ride.

The thing is, though, either I’m in much worse shape than when I last did this ride (probable) or I didn’t remember how much of a climb it is from the mouth of American Fork Canyon to Tibble Fork. Regardless, by the time 30 minutes had elapsed, I hadn’t reached the turnoff to Tibble. “That’s OK,” I told myself. “With this being all uphill, I’ll be able to blast home in twenty minutes or less.”

So then I got to the Tibble Fork turnoff. Time to turn around.

“I don’t feel like turning around,” I said, aloud, to the squirrel roadkill I was passing.

“So keep going,” the squirrel carcass said.

Who am I to argue with a talking dead squirrel? Besides, I’d just go until Pine Hollow, and then turn around. I’d be a little late, but I knew my wife would understand.


I am Not Afraid

Every time I climb the American Fork side of the Alpine Loop, I puzzle over the question: which way is more difficult to ride the Alpine Loop: climbing the American Fork side (which is a more gradual climb, but never lets up), or the Provo Canyon side (which is blood-spurting-out-of-your-ears-steep for the first 2.3 miles, and then has easy intervals in between each steep pitch)? It’s not an easy question, and is, I expect, subjective: do you prefer long, steady climbs or short, steep climbs? For myself, I think the American Fork side is more difficult. Which is not to say I prefer the Provo Canyon side, because I like difficult.

And then, before I knew it, I was at Pine Hollow. Time to turn around.

And that’s when a thought occurred to me: If I turned around now, would it be because I needed to get home, or because I didn’t have the strength to go on? Was I just making an excuse, when the reality was that I simply no longer had the cycling chops to keep climbing?

Defiantly, I kept going. I’d prove to all and sundry that I could keep going. I’d ride at full intensity to the turnoff where you go right to go to Timpooneke campground or go left to continue to the Alpine Loop summit.

After all, my wife knew better than to expect me home in just one hour. Or an hour and fifteen minutes, for that matter.


Scientific Inquiry

I shifted into third gear, stood up on my pedals, and rode as hard as I could to the Timpooneke turnoff. I was interested to discover, upon reaching that turnoff that:

  • There were patches of snow on the ground. I was only a few miles from the summit. I wondered if there would be a lot of snow up there, or if the Ridge Trail would be rideable. That would be very useful information for mountain biking next week.
  • I still had gas in the tank. In fact, I felt great. Really, it would be a crime to turn around and go downhill when I’m climbing so strong. And turning around when I was so close to the summit? That would just be weak.

And after all, my wife and I have been married for almost eighteen years now. She knows me well enough that she’d understand that I couldn’t turn around, not now. Not this close to the top.


Big Finish

There’s a steep hairpin turn that signals you’re one mile from the summit of the Alpine loop. I always take that final mile at sprint speed, giving it all I’ve got. Through the pain of that effort, I kept thinking one simple thought: “It’s good to be home.” I circled once in the summit parking lot and then rode back home as fast as I dared. And while it had taken me an hour and a half to make it to the top of the Alpine Loop, it took only half an hour to get home.

I showered at top speed and hustled over to the party…where my wife was just leaving—the twins had been a pain, and my wife had had enough.

I was preparing to explain myself, how I just wanted to keep riding so bad, and that I need to train for my upcoming races, and how I’ve been doing nothing but working (knowing full well that my excuses were pretty lame), when my wife asked, “So, good ride?”


“Cool. Tell me about it later. Right now, though, let’s get the kids home.”

In case I have not mentioned this before, my wife has a heart of gold.

The One-Man Salute. Moon Gas. Tail Wind. The Gluteal Tuba. The Third State of Matter. Chair Air. Backdoor Breeze.

06.2.2006 | 5:01 pm

A very special note from Fatty: Today, I will write about farts. It occurs to me that not everyone wants to read about farts. I understand that. I respect that. I even sympathize with that.

And yet, today I will write about farts.

For those of you who prefer to read about something besides farts, please allow me to recommend reading the MinusCar Project today instead. It’s well-written and always has something thoughtful and interesting to say about biking.

Thank you.

And now, I shall now begin writing about farts.


The single most satisfying biological function one can perform on a bike is breathing. Here’s a fun experiment you can try to verify this assertion: while riding a bike, don’ breathe. Hold your breath until you think you’re going to explode. Keep holding it. Hold your breath until you think you’re going to die. Keep holding it. Hold your breath until blackness starts crowding the perimeter of your vision. OK, now feel free to breathe again. Isn’t that satisfying?

Farting, however, comes in a close second, satisfying-ness-wise. Here’s a fun experiment you can try to verify the truth of this assertion:

  1. First, try the “hold your breath” experiment described above, so you have a fair basis of comparison.
  2. Ensure that you are on a nice, long mountain bike ride. Something that will shake you up for hours on end.
  3. Eat several Clif bars. Or Powerbars. Or whatever.
  4. Force down extraordinary quantities of energy gel.
  5. Drink Cytomax (if you’re me). Lots and lots of Cytomax.
  6. Observe the beginning of a gurgling sound.
  7. Observe the building of pressure.
  8. Note that you begin to stand as you pedal from time to time, hoping you’ll fart soon.
  9. Try positioning your body in different ways, trying to straighten the path.
  10. Start fantasizing about farting.
  11. Finally, gratefully, fart. Cry a tear or two of joy.


Rick’s Story

Whenever my good friend Rick tells the story of the time he raced the Leadville 100, he talks about how prominently farting figured into his day.

“As the pressure grew, my stomach started bloating,” Rick says. “It became more and more difficult to ride at all.” Rick continues. “At one point, I got off my bike and laid down for a few minutes. It didn’t work.”

“I began making promises to all manner of deity, saying I’d be a better person, spend more time with my kids, start going to church, and stop stealing toilet paper from gas station bathroom. I would apply myself at work…if only I could fart.”

“Finally, it happened. I farted, loud and strong. The relief was exquisite. My stomach reverted to its previous non-distended state. It was the happiest moment of my life. I was able to finish the race, a big smile on my face.”

“True to my word, I have attended church every day since, and have become an excellent father. I have received several promotions and now am a vice president at a major advertising firm.”

“That fart changed my life.”


After the Ride

During the ride, a fart is truly welcome. Eventually the ride ends, but that doesn’t mean the effluvium flow comes to a halt. The problem is, long rides usually involve a car trip, both to and from the ride.

That return trip can be problematic. Farts become stinkier, though that may just be a perception thing, based on the fact that you’re no longer leaving them behind.

It can get pretty bad, because for some reason, everyone else’s farts smell worse than your own (by which I mean “my own”).

In order to minimize the effects of lots of already-stinky mountain bikers making lots more stink, I have developed the following rules of post-ride, in-car fart etiquette:

  • Make your intentions clear. Two seconds before release:  say clearly, “Fire in the hole.” You are allowed to interrupt conversation with this statement, because what you have to say is definitely quad one (important and urgent). If you have a different catchphrase, that’s fine. Just be sure everyone knows what the announcement phrase is. Above all, do not simply fart without any announcement, hoping that nobody will notice.
  • Take action. One second before release: If you have access to a car window, roll it down two inches. If you do not have access to a car window (ie, you have no seniority in the riding group and are therefore the poor sap who has to sit in the middle), you have no obligation. If you have access to a window when another announces he’s going to fart, you are obligated to roll down your window. It is important that all four windows go down a minimum of two inches.
  • Do not comment. OK, you farted. Fine. Let’s not dwell on it. And above all, please do not boast.
  • Back to normal. Once all effects have passed, roll the window back up.

To give you an idea of how well my riding group knows each other, we no longer have to do a separate “Make your intentions clear” step. Rolling down the window is sign enough.


In Conclusion

There. I’ve done it. I’ve written about farts and biking. I think I’ve made the world a better place.

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