How to Ride with Your iPod

09.20.2006 | 5:42 pm

I have, in times past, talked about how I never ride with an iPod. How I intended to never ride with an iPod. How I simply did not comprehend why anyone would want to ride with an iPod.

This was before I got an iPod.

Since then, I have reversed myself. Hey, I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong. And — luckily for you — I have quickly become one of the world’s foremost authorities on proper bike / iPod use and etiquette.

Hence, today I present a clear and simple set of rules and guidelines on the proper way to use your iPod whilst on a bicycle.

Where to Put Your iPod
To simply say you should put your iPod in your jersey pocket is to be both insipid and asinine (By the way, I was once called this very thing — insipid and asinine — on a call-in religious program on the radio. Considering that I had called in pretending to have a serious question and then started quoting Frank Zappa lyrics once I got on the air, I daresay it was a pretty accurate assessment. Hey, I was 15.). After all, you’ve got to consider which jersey pocket. And you’ve got to consider the possibility of a messenger bag or backpack.

Hence, these guidelines:

  • If you’re wearing a jersey and no pack: the iPod goes into the pocket of your "bad" hand. Ie, if you’re right handed, the iPod goes in your left pocket. If you’re left handed, the iPod goes in your right pocket. That way, when you go to adjust volume or skip songs, you’ve still got your better hand controlling the bike. It’s a matter of priorities.
  • If you’re wearing a pack: the iPod goes in the pack. Find a playlist you can live with for the whole ride (or shuffle, or whatever), put the iPod on "hold" so it doesn’t switch off or randomly skip and volume-adjust on you, and go. Stopping your bike to fish around in your pack so you can change songs or move to another playlist is strictly forbidden.
  • If you’re neither wearing a pack nor wearing a jersey: Start wearing a jersey, for crying out loud. You’re a sweaty, stinky mess in that t-shirt, and you’ve got no viable place to put the iPod. And don’t start telling me that the armband thingy works, because it just looks dumb. Stop it.

What Headphones to Use
There are two kinds of ears in this world: ears that work with the cheap, tinny cheesy earbuds that come with an iPod, and those that don’t. I have seen people who seem to have custom-designed ear flanges into which the iPod earbuds nestle comfortably. My ears are of the latter sort, which means that the included earbuds fall out of my ears constantly. Indeed, I believe my ears actually repel the earbuds. It’s as if the earbuds are magnetized to the positive pole, and my ears are, too.

For people whose ears do not work with the standard earbuds but who are loathe to get expensive surgery to make them do so, I recommend the Sennheiser MX75 Twist-To-Fit In-Ear Stereo Sport Headphones. Basically, these suckers cam into your earlobes, so that special machinery is required if you ever want to extract them again. But they don’t pop out while you’re riding. I really wish they weren’t acid green, though. 

When to Sing Along With Your iPod
When Billy Idol’s "White Wedding" comes on, you’re going to want to sing along. Or at least you’re going to want to sing along if you’re me. Which I am.

And that’s fine (to sing along, I mean, not to be me, although I further assert that it’s OK for me to be me), provided you observe the following rules:

  • There must be no buildings visible in any direction
  • There must be no people visible in any direction
  • There must be no easily-startled livestock in any direction
  • If you are riding with another person (or worse, with multiple people), you must make it clear that you are either singing for comic effect or that you understand you are a goober.

Note that the above rules do not apply if you are going faster than 30mph. At that speed, the wind whips your voice away, effectively putting you in an isolated, soundproof chamber in which it is OK to sing your heart out. At speeds of 50mph or greater, it’s in fact a good idea to sing, because it will lend you courage.

Exception 1: Males cannot sing along with any female vocalists, ever. And especially not in a falsetto. Show some dignity, man.

Exception 2: Nobody at all ever gets to sing along with Whitney Houston. Or with Celine Dion. You may, in fact, wish to have these artists removed from your playlist, because they suck very badly.

When to Leave Your iPod at Home
Is it always appropriate to bring your iPod on a ride? No.

  • When You’re Racing: If you need music to keep you entertained and engaged while racing, you’re not racing hard enough. And you’re not able to hear me yell "on your left!" as I rip by you at roughly twice your speed because you are twiddling with your volume control. Leave it at home, pal.
  • When You’re Riding with One Other Person: To bring an iPod when you’re riding with one other person is just rude. I mean, I’m taking time out of my valuable day to ride with you, riding at roughly half my normal speed so you can keep up, and you’re listening to music, making it impossible for you to hear the very interesting stories I have to tell. What, precisely, is the point of us riding together, might I ask?

The Two-Pause Rule
If you are wearing your iPod and someone you are riding with starts talking to you, you are obligated to press pause. As a courtesy, the person who is talking with you is obligated to start over so you can hear what s/he has to say.

If, two minutes later, someone (doesn’t matter who) starts talking to you again, you should be aware that this is a chatty group of riders and it’s time to turn off your iPod for the rest of the ride. The person who is talking to you has the obligation to start over so you can hear her/him, but s/he does have the right to roll her/his eyes.

If a rider has to start over while talking to you a third time on a ride, s/he has the right to yank the headphones out of your ears and throttle you with them.

The Oblivious Rider Rule
If you either cause a wreck or nearly cause a wreck in a group because you were wrapped in your own little world of audio and couldn’t hear warnings or traffic, the only way you can hope to save face is to immediately crush your iPod as a sign of contrition, then never ever show up at a group ride with an iPod again.

Additional Rules
While I am the final authority on the rules of riding with an iPod, I am not an unreasonable despot. I therefore welcome your suggestions for additional iPod / cycling rules to be integrated — at my discretion — into the final draft of this document, which every cyclist shall be required to memorize, as well as carry a copy on a laminated card.

PS: What to Buy Me
You know, people often say to me, "Fatty, your blog has brought untold joy into my life. I really wish I could somehow give you a gift, as a token of my appreciation." Well, you can. I really want the new iPod Shuffle. I think it would clip onto the front zipper of a jersey beautifully.

Of course, I only need one of these. Well, OK, really I need two, because my wife wants one, too. But once a couple of you have bought me these, the rest of you are going to feel left out. Don’t feel bad, though. You can always send me iTunes Gift Certificates (send them to, please).

I shall now go sit in front of my computer, watching as the gifts pour in, as I’m sure they most certainly will.


Local Cyclist Attacked: Exclusive Interview

09.18.2006 | 1:54 pm

This post has been moved to

Catching Up With the Vuelta

09.15.2006 | 4:12 pm

An interesting thing happened when Floyd Landis went from Ultra-Hero to SuperGoat after the 2006 Tour de France:

I stopped caring about pro cycling.

No, it wasn’t an act of defiance, or a boycott, or a statement. I just really stopped caring. I stopped following the races, stopped wondering about who would be transferring to which team, stopped reading about all the doping scandals.

I just lost interest.

Why did I lose interest? I think it has to do with why I also don’t follow pro baseball, football, basketball, or any other sport: I’ve got nothing in common with the players. They’re living in such a different world, with such completely different motivation for doing what they do, that I just don’t relate to them. Which is to say, I used to think that pro cyclists and I had a lot in common — hey, we’re just the same, except you’re 20x faster than I — but it turns out I was wrong.

The Vuelta Thus Far
And so, with my newfound apathy toward the pro side of cycling, I have completely failed to follow the Vuelta. I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone in this.

And you know what? That’s just not fair. I shouldn’t take my malaise out on what is, after all, a Grand Tour. Never mind that the most recent winners of all three of the Grand Tours have been implicated in doping scandals (Heras, Basso, Landis), making it so you never really know who won what anymore. It’s still a great race.

So, as a public service to all my readers who have neglected the Vuelta, I have gone back and thoroughly researched this year’s Vuelta. I hereby provide the following recap, so you can be more diligent in following this exciting race to its exciting conclusion:

  • Carlos Sastre started out with the leader’s jersey, then gave it to Thor.
  • Thor held onto it for a couple days, until the race turned uphill. Then Danilo Di Luca got it. Then Thor got a stage win — finally — but didn’t get the leader’s jersey back. Sorry, Thor.
  • Alejandro Valverde won a stage, and some kid from Slovakia who’s evidently Discovery’s great new Grand Tour hope — now that everyone realizes George Hincapie isn’t — but who I have never heard of before now, took the leader jersey.
  • The leader’s jersey is a delightful golden color, which is also known as "yellow."
  • Hey, Vino won stage 8. Awesome.
  • Hey, Vino won stage 9, too. That’s also awesome. You know, now I wish I’d have been paying more attention. I think I could get behind this Vino character. Until I find out he’s doping, anyway.
  • By stage 10, Valverde’s in gold. Gold, baby. Gold. He might’ve been in it before stage 10, but I can’t be sure. He stays in gold until stage 16. That’s a long time in gold.
  • On stage 14, David Millar won a stage, which either proves he can win clean. Or that he’s better at cheating now.
  • On stage 17, Tom Danielson — Discovery’s other Grand Tour hope — won the stage and Vinokourov took the leader’s jersey. Hey, nice work, Vino.
  • On stage 18, Vinokourov extended his lead by a smidgen, and today, everyone stayed put.

So there, now you’re up to speed. I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait to follow this race more closely for the next several days. Except for during the weekend, during which I won’t have time to post. Apart from that, check back here often for your daily Vuelta update!

Oh, it ends this Sunday? Okay, never mind.

Which Superhero Would You Ride With?

09.13.2006 | 5:28 pm

This post has been moved to

Dug’s Lotoja Ride: Special Snarky-Comments-By-Fatty Edition

09.12.2006 | 5:43 pm

An almost ridiculously special note from Fatty: Since, last week, I made the last-minute decision to not do the Lotoja ride/race/doohickey, choosing instead to do a big mountain bike ride, it seemed appropriate that today I would post both Dug’s writeup and mine, telling the tales of two distinctly different rides.

The problem is, I don’t have much of a story to tell. Kenny, Brad, and I did 38 miles / 8000 feet of singletrack around the Alpine Loop. All of us were strong the whole day. Nobody bonked. Nobody crashed. The trail was in excellent condition. The weather was perfect and the changing colors of the mountain were beautiful.

The most amazing thing about this ride, actually, was that at two different places during the ride (once on the Ridge trail, and once on the Provo River trail) a couple of riders/Fat Cyclist readers recognized me, thanks to the fact that I was wearing my Reeses Peanut Butter Cup jersey. Which is, to tell the truth, too big for me nowadays, but it is bright orange, which is reassuring during hunting season around these parts.

The End. Of my story, anyway. But Dug’s got himself a nice, long story, which has considerable drama in it. I planned to publish it, unmodified, for your reading pleasure, until I actually read it. Then it occurred to me: Dug likes to include obscure literary and pop-culture references. Dug likes to use subtext. Dug likes to use subtle literary devices.

In short, Dug’s story needs some plain-English commentary, to make his meaning clear. Helpfully, I have done so, embedding my friendly and useful comments throughout his story.

You’re welcome, Dug.

Dug’s Lotoja Story
My story of Lotoja has two heroes, and I’m not one of them. [Note the dramatic tension immediately created in this story. Who are the heroes? Why doesn't Dug consider himself heroic? Did he do something contemptible? I must read more! -FC] Lemme esplain. No, there is too much, lemme sum up. [Surprisingly, Dug doesn't seem to realize that he could have simply backspaced over the "Lemme esplain" sentence, rather than retracting it. -FC]

It went like this:

1. I finished.
2. I finished faster than I expected to.
3. The weather was perfect.
4. If not for my brother in law, Rick S., I almost certainly would have quit half way.
5. Justin Jensen is the toughest cyclist I’ve ever met in my life. [Here, Dug employs a literary device known as "foreshadowing." Right now, we don't know who Justin Jensen is, nor why is the world's toughest cyclist, but we suspect that we will know by the end of the story. For now, we have to guess: will he demonstrate his ability to crush walnuts with his bare hands? Will he bench press 400 pounds at a rest stop? Will he wrestle a bear? Stay tuned and find out! -FC]

Lotoja is a road race, 206 miles and almost 8,000 feet of climbing, from Logan, UT, to Jackson Hole, WY. The first 50 miles or so are mostly flat, the next 50 or so cover three mountain passes, one after the other, and the last 100 miles are constantly rolling, with no passes or significant climbs. I don’t know if that adds up to 206 miles, and I don’t care. [Here, Dug is demonstrating that he is 1) not concerned with petty things like mileage; 2) world-weary and disaffected; 3) too lazy to go to the website to get his facts straight. -FC]

Of course, when I call Lotoja a race, that really only applies to about 10 guys. Just like at Leadville, or 24 Hours of Moab, the Boston Marathon, or whatever “race” you like to do, 90% of us are just riding to see what we can do. That goes double for Lotoja. As for me, I have a LifeList, a check list of things I want to do. Climbing Mt. Everest is NOT on the list. But Lotoja was. I have now crossed it off. [Am I the only one who wants to know what remains on that list? And why isn't Mt. Everest on it? What have you got against Mt. Everest, Dug? -FC]

I ride a lot with my brother in law Rick S., and with Elden. All of us signed up for Lotoja. Elden bowed out last week in favor of doing an epic mountain bike ride with Brad and Kenny, and, not least, in favor of not hanging out with me and Rick and our wives for 3 days while we got all cuddly. He chose wisely, I’m thinking. [Middle-aged people acting like newlyweds is gross. I wanted no part in this spectacle. And by "this spectacle," I am using a literary device called "foreshadowing." -FC]

Rick rides with a bunch of other guys who live nearby, some of whom have done Lotoja before. In fact, Rick, Adam, and Tony all finished last year when half the field dropped out due to a freak snowstorm. [Yes, it was actually snowing freaks. -FC] Justin drove support for them, and John rode Lotoja the year before. All of us started together at 6:54 am in Logan. All of these guys are younger than me, and faster than me. I fully expected to ride most of the day alone. [Hey, we all ride alone. Except if I'd have come along, you would have had me as company the whole day. "Make your choice," I said. "Me or your wife." Imagine my dismay when you chose her company to mine! -FC]

I don’t want to go on and on [Too late! -FC], so I’ll break this down into 3 easy parts.

Part One: This Is Fun! [Just in case anyone missed it, Dug is using that exclamation point ironically. -FC]
Lotoja starts a field of 1,000 racers, and we start in waves of 50 riders. The opening 35 miles run across table top flat farmland, shrouded in fog on back roads. Our group, the 5200s, started fast, and accelerated from there. On the other hand [What other hand? You haven't given me the first hand yet! -FC], when you’ve got 10 or 15 really antsy fast guys at the front of a 50 rider pack, sitting in is pleasant, and you feel invincible [More foreshadowing, this time at multiple levels. Is everyone in this pack truly invincible, or shall one or more fall? What shall be the cause of their presumed fall(s)? I am at the edge of my seat. Very nicely done. -FC]. We caught the wave ahead of us within half an hour, making our pack almost 100 strong, moving at a brisk ["Brisk?" There are around 25 million adjectives in the English language and you chose "brisk?" -FC] 25-30 mph.

So here’s the lesson for Part One: It’s really really (really really) hard to re-catch a large group moving fast when you stop to pee. I mean, REALLY hard [OK, I'll bite: How hard is it? -FC].

But we did. [Hey, I thought you were going to tell me how hard it is to catch a large group. I am disappointed. -FC]

We pulled into the first feed zone at 32 miles feeling fresh, spry, confident. My feelings of dread I had been experiencing all week began to fade. So go ahead and cue the creepy, ominous music already. [This is a variation of foreshadowing -- evidently the only literary device Dug's chosen to use today -- called "explicit foreshadowing," where the author doesn't just hint at what's to come, but actually comes out and says, "here's a hint that something's coming up." And about time, too. -FC]

Part Two: This Really (Really Really) Sucks
Somewhere around mile 40 the route began to roll, and roll up more than it rolled down. And sometime before the road really started pointing up, many of us stopped for another pee break. This time Justin and I got caught with a little too much liquid in us, and our proverbial, um, items in our proverbial hands, and the chase back was fairly intense. For a bit there, I thought I had seen the last of my friends. But Justin is a giant of a man (literally, he goes about 6’3’’ and easily over
200 lbs), and in the giant draft created by his slipstream, I managed to regain contact. Whew. [Say, that Justin guy is tough. I can hardly wait 'til he wrestles the bear! -FC]

Unfortunately, I regained contact just as we started the longest climb of the race.

Now, I’ll be the first to say, I’m half the man I used to be, and I’m old and under-prepared. But all I do is climb. I live at 6,000 feet, every ride I do has by definition at least 1500 feet of climbing, usually more like 4,000. [By "definition," Dug means "necessity," because he lives at the top of a mountain with a 1500-foot descent on one side and a 1700 foot descent on the other side. So every ride ends with one of those two climbs. Just thought I'd clear that up. -FC]

But as soon as the road tilted hard up (I first used my lowest gear, and not just any low gear, but a 27, at mile 53), I felt like I was dragging a loaded dogsled behind me. [This is a simile. Dug didn't really have a loaded dogsled behind him. He's just getting older and hasn't trained properly. Glad I could clear that up. -FC]

You would think during a race with a thousand participants in it, you could never be alone. Well, I climbed alone. [I think I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: we all ride alone. -FC] Long stretches of not seeing anybody. And once I headed down the backside, I descended alone, and even rode about 5-10 miles of valley alone before I got swept up in a very large group [OK, I'll bite, again: How large was it? -FC], where I could finally get some shelter. [Like a yurt? -FC]

As I rolled into the feed station between the first and second climbs, where Kim was waiting for me with chicken-and-stars-ready-to-eat soup and V-8 [Seriously, V8? Forget Justin. You're the toughest cyclist in the world if you could ride with V8 jostling around in your stomach. I'm getting queasy just considering the combination of soup and V8. -FC], I found Rick S. waiting for me. The S is for Saint. And Superman. [It occurs to me that if he was that great of a guy he would never have left you in the first place. -FC] I was grateful, and not for the last time [Hey, more foreshadowing! You've got a lot of foreshadows to live up to now, pal. -FC]. He had summited quite a ways ahead of the rest of the group, and let them roll on without him from the Montpelier feed station and waited for me. I’m getting all weepy just thinking about it.

Rick and I rode together over the second climb (not nearly as bad as the first, but still, kryptonite enough for me), and as we approached the third and final major climb, I realized that when Rick had described these climbs, he only talked about the final steep pitches. The climbs were really closer to 10-20 miles long, when you count the long, but relatively mild approaches. Telling me a 15-mile climb is really only 4 miles long, just because only the last 4 miles are over 8% is like that guy in Poltergeist who moves a cemetery, but only moves the headstones. Very bad things are bound to happen. [I'll bet you weren't thinking those "superman/saint" things about Rick Sunderlage (not his real name) at this point, were you? -FC]

I’m pretty sure I was passed by over 50 people on the climb to Salt Creek Pass. And I’m also pretty sure the only two reasons I reached the summit alive are:

First: When Kim and Rachelle (Rick S’s wife) drove by me on the way to the top, Kim was hanging out of the passenger side window screaming encouragement. Remember that scene from The Sure Thing, when Daphne Zuniga gets a citation for driving with the load not properly tied down? It was like that. Thanks babe. [So, does your wife know you wrote a story for my thousands of readers that includes a mention of her baring her breasts? -FC]

And second, yup, again, Rick S. was waiting for me at the top. Had he not been there, I am certain I would have ridden straight for the car and gotten in, leaving my bike in the road. I wanted out of the Tunnel of Pain. But how could I quit when Rick had let the group go ahead once again in order to shepherd me onward? [OK, I'm not going to poke fun here, because we're starting to get to some pretty darn good storytelling. -FC] (Not to mention Kim risking prosecution for her moving violation).

I was at mile 110 in a 206 mile race, completely cooked, and, coincidentally, already farther in one day than I had ever been on a road bike [Dug is using "coincidentally" ironically here, folks. He realizes there's no coincidence. -FC]. Ever.

But the next 94 miles were flat or rolling. And with Superman pacing me, anything was possible [I know that you were using Superman as a metaphor for Rick Sunderlage (not his real name), but it occurs to me: I wouldn't want to ride with the real Superman. His cape would always be snapping behind him, making it hard to draft. -FC] So, once more into the breach, dear friends, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers. [Readers: This is the second movie reference that I'm aware of, and we can assume that there are more to come. It's best to just pretend they aren't happening. Above all, don't encourage him, or he'll just do more. -FC]

Part Three: Gonna Make It
So we did about 50 miles of very fast flat and rolling terrain, until we were finally maybe a mile or so from the final feed zone in Alpine Junction. All I’m thinking is that I have one more chance to suck down some ready to eat soup, another V-8, and load up on another raft of Shot Blocks. And suddenly, everything changed. We came upon the other four guys we started with on the side of the road, Justin bleeding badly from his elbow, someone holding his bike, on which one side of the handlebar was dangling from the bar tape at the bend. [Holy crap. -FC]

Riding in a large fast group has its downside. The speed does not really remain constant, despite everyone’s best intentions, and so if you don’t pay attention, even for a second, and you touch wheels, um, well, that’s bad. [Yeah. Really bad. -FC]

Earlier in the race, before the big climbing, on a slight uphill, someone in the front dropped their chain, and the resulting “chain” reaction was felt all the way to the back. I remember seeing one guy toward the back swerve sharply to the right to avoid the massive slowdown, and careen down the embankment and over the bars into a ditch. Life in the peloton. [You're going to get back to Justin eventually, right? -FC]

Now it was our turn. The slowing in the front came just as Justin reached for a bottle, and he crossed wheels with Adam. Justin went down hard, breaking his collarbone and handlebar. [Again I say: Holy crap. -FC] Tony, riding on Justin’s wheel, ran right into Justin, and fell hard on him and his bike, but was miraculously uninjured. [Perhaps because he just landed on a 200-lb guy, instead of on the road? -FC]

Of course, Justin’s race was over, and he got in the car with his wife to meet us at the finish. [Naturally. -FC]

Oh, wait, nevermind, that’s not what happened. Justin put his bike in the small ring up front, hardest gear in back (since there was no way to shift while riding, what with the handlebar dangling by bar tape), mounted up, and away we went. Seriously. 45 miles to go. [Well, whaddaya know. You weren't kidding about him being the toughest cyclist in the world. -FC]

Justin got two flat tires in Snake River Canyon, and we had to change his flats for him since his arm was hanging uselessly at his side. I tell you we changed his flats for him, not because it was a chore, but to underscore that HIS COLLARBONE WAS BROKEN IN TWO PLACES AND HE HAD NO SKIN ON HIS ELBOW. [I know I've said this before,
but: holy crap. -FC]

The fact that I had lost (that loving feeling) every scrap of feeling in my taint and left hand became less and less important. The fact that every time the road tilted upward I struggled to remain in contact with the guy with the broken collarbone was simply spurious. I had spent the day riding with Superman (Rick S.), and now, apparently, Batman decided to make an appearance. I am a boy among men. [Now how am I supposed to tease you when you're teasing yourself? -FC]

As we passed Jackson Hole and made our way across the 12 flat, easy miles to Teton Village and the finish line, I’m pretty sure Justin started going into shock. But after 11 hours in the saddle, and the finish line so close you could hear the crowds, there was no way in hell he wasn’t crossing with all of us together. He scrapped and clawed, and we all rode across the line together, in just over 11 hours. Kim and Rachelle had arranged to have Dominos Pizza waiting for us. Kim, I love you babe. I now revise my count, FOUR heroes that day, Kim, Rachelle, Rick S, and Justin. [You've got one warped scale for heroism, man. Either crash out hard and finish the race anyway, wait for you at the top of sundry mountains, or bare your breasts and buy a pizza? -FC]

And Now?
Well, now I can cross Lotoja off my LifeList. Done and done.

You know, I am tired, but I am not beat up in the way a Leadville beats you up (with apologies to Justin and that guy who went down into the ditch). I can walk normally, I actually want to ride my bike this week.

One thing though. I love Shot Blocks and all, they probably saved my life. But I’m pretty sure this morning, I excreted an entire, whole Shot Block, intact [You're supposed to chew them. -FC]. You’ll be happy to know I let sleeping dogs lie. [Um. Ew. -FC]

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