What I’m Doing During My Time Off (Warning: Navel Gazing Ahead)

10.31.2006 | 9:06 am

Hi, Fatty here. Yeah, I know I said I wasn’t going to do any writing for a while, but I am perfectly comfortable with the idea of breaking promises.

When I decided to take my first extended break since I started this blog, the reason I gave was that I was (disproportionately) grumpy at what seemed to me an increase in commenting snark aimed in my direction.

But that was really only a small part of why I wanted a break. The bigger reason was that I had — for the first time since I’ve started writing this blog — run out of ideas. I’d sit down to write, and have nothing to say about biking.

That freaked me out.

The biggest reason I felt I needed a break, though, was that I felt like “Fat Cyclist” was at a sort of crossroads. I saw four choices.

  • Keep on keeping on. Do I keep doing what I’ve been doing for 18 months (write something funny about biking every weekday, more-or-less), pretty much forever? That didn’t sound appealing.
  • Good night, everybody. Do I shut the blog down, and focus my writing efforts on writing a book or for print magazines? Well, I like the idea of writing a book and writing for magazines, but I don’t really think writing “Fat Cyclist” and pursuing other writing efforts are really mutually exclusive.
  • Cool it. Do I go to a “once a week” model, posting every Monday? Nah. That’s lazy, and you’d all fall out of the habit of visiting here.
  • Counterintuitive option. What if — instead of doing the same thing, or not doing anything at all, or doing less, I really ramped up “Fat Cyclist” into something bigger?

The more I thought about it, the more I decided I liked the idea of turning Fat Cyclist into more than a blog.

FatCyclist.com Now Under Construction
So, for the past few days, I’ve been spending a moment here and there to write down ideas and install software for www.fatcyclist.com. Here’s what I’m thinking the site will have.

  • The blog. That’ll be on the home page. I’m happy to say that my “idea list” (a Word doc I keep with a bullet list of things I want to write about on my blog) now has a nice buffer of 15 items. So the writer’s fatigue thing should be over.
  • Comments. I know a lot of you readers don’t currently comment because it’s difficult to sign up with Microsoft’s Live Passport. I’ve (for now) set up my blog at www.fatcyclist.com to not require registration. Just type and post. If spam or abuse gets to be a problem, I’ll rethink that later.
  • Fatty’s Forum. I’d like to be able to have ongoing conversations with you guys, and the comments zone is kind of a weak way to do that, so I’ve got a forum at www.fatcyclist.com/forum. Please register and post something there, because it’s currently entirely empty.
  • Epic Rides Library. Long before I ever did the “Fat Cyclist” blog, I maintained a little website called “Epic Rides,” where anyone who wanted could contribute stories about long, difficult bike rides they had taken. I loved writing and reading those stories, so I’m going to make that part of the Fat Cyclist site, too. Start thinking about (and writing) your stories.
  • Training / Weight Loss Bets and Competitions: One way I’ve been able to force myself to stay on track with diets and training is by having a bet or competition with other people. I think that’s probably the case with others. So I’m planning on having an area on the site where you can either compete with me or with other Fat Cyclist readers to see who meets their goals.
  • Stuff to Sell. I’m thinking of selling T-Shirts, stickers, jerseys, and other stuff like that. I haven’t actually started getting any of that produced, yet, though. Soon.
  • Ads-for-Schwag: I’d like to put some ads on my site. Not to get money, mind you (though I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to money). I’d like to do barter-style advertising, where small companies can advertise on my site in exchange for giving me stuff which I can then give away as competition prizes.

I’m just getting started, but the site’s now live. Leave a comment and tell me what you think of this idea.

Oh, and I’m no longer feeling fragile, so feel free to be honest.



10.20.2006 | 5:25 pm

A Note from Fatty: Today’s excellent story comes to you from frequent commenter Born4Lycra. I have to say, I am really enjoying all the stories you readers are sending in. Thanks for covering for me! I believe I will make "Readers’ Stories" a regular part of Fat Cyclist once I come back.

I’m wondering if anyone can offer any insight into what happened to me today…and help me avoid what might happen later today.

The Dilemma
I innocently accompanied Dave, a good mate and work colleague to a nearby bike shop (Mike Turtur Cycles Main North Rd Prospect SAust), merely to window shop while he inquired about various bikes across the Pinnarello, Orbea and Olmo range. He went to get prices and possibly buy, while I went for something to do and to spend my lunchtime surrounded by bikes, as well as maybe pick up a few tips, ideas, prices, and so forth for future reference.

My friend’s single, well paid, and loaded. I’m married (happily) and am a proud dad with limited resources.

So why did I leave the proud owner of a new Orbea Venta limited edition 2007 model, while he is still trying to make up his mind between studying, athletics, cycling, golf and soccer?

Love at First Sight
It’s true: I have always hankered after an Orbea — preferably bright orange. You know, the kind of bike that looks fast even when leaning against the wall at the coffee shop. Of course it will look slower if I am in the picture, but I’m willing to live with that.

It’s true: my own bike is close to the bottom of the range of Avanti’s and probably needed updating. However, it was not in my plans to happen this year let alone this day.

Dave and I walked into the shop and Greg Turtur made his way straight for me. So how did Greg know I was vulnerable? Was it the drool? The audible sighs? Or was it just that I looked like a buyer? Regardless, Dave faded into the background – gathering information quietly — while I am directed straight to my fantasy on wheels (which has only been on display for 3 hours).

There were tell tale signs that the purchase was going to happen.

  • I went through the bike fitting process. Only for future reference, of course. 
  • They through me a brand new pair of Euskatel knix to wear during the fitting. Once they were open and used, I may as well keep them. Wow. Thanks!
  • The whole setup was my size. Just lower the seat 15mm and it’s done. Surprise, surprise. 
  • True love. There were heaps of bikes, yet I only had eyes for this one.
  • I bought my wallet with me. Inexplicable really because I usually don’t take it anywhere. No cash in it, just ID.
  • Yes the bike was obviously available for immediate delivery. I could be riding it tonight.

Token Objections
Sure, I tried to resist. Here’s how it went:

Me: "I really like it but I obviously don’t carry that sort of cash around."

Greg: "No problem, your word is enough for us."

So now, suddenly, I have an Orbea Bike. Somehow, the fact that it’s not orange doesn’t matter.

So back to my original problem: how did this happen? And more importantly, how I can tell my wife this tale I have just told you?

Utah House Passes Bill to Rename Hog Hollow Trail

10.19.2006 | 5:52 pm

Salt Lake City, UT (Fat Cyclist Fake News Service) – The Utah House of Representatives met in special session today and overwhelmingly approved a measure that will rename a popular mountain biking trail in the Alpine Area.

Currently known as “Hog Hollow” the trail is to be renamed “The Hollow” when the bill becomes law. The measure is expected to pass the Senate and be signed by Governor Jon Huntsman no later than November 15.

The measure is an attempt by the Utah Legislature to end what has become one of the more bizarre chapters in recent Utah history. Once virtually unknown outside of northern Utah County, the site began attracting attention worldwide when internet savvy cycling enthusiasts wrote about it in their web logs. Some of these authors (known as ‘bloggers’) referred to the area as “Hog’s Hollow” which touched off a firestorm of debate and bickering among cycling aficionados, area educators and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Most of the bloggers were just making an innocent mistake.” stated Rep. Elden C. Nelson (R-Alpine), who authored the bill. “The real trouble began when people who knew better would deliberately goad those who are a little too uptight about spelling and punctuation marks. That’s when things got out of hand.”

The contention reached crisis proportions when a Draper resident—known only as Doug—was arrested at the Hog Hollow trailhead for brandishing what appeared to be a giant metal apostrophe and threatening bodily harm to any cyclist who dared to say “Hog’s Hollow” in his presence. “We knew we had to take action,” Nelson said, “or somebody was bound to get hurt.” Doug is also suspected of releasing several dozen wild boars into residential areas in Alpine and Draper.  He could not be reached for comment.

Ironically, this is not the first time the area has been embroiled in a struggle for its name. Early Mormon Pioneer and polygamist LaVerle Willey Hoaglund originally owned most of what is now Hog Hollow. Hoaglund, who settled in Alpine in 1849 under the direction of Brigham Young, was affectionately nicknamed ‘Hogg’ by his seventeen wives.  Personal journals of Alpine residents and most Utah County newspapers referred to the area as “Hogg Hollow” until the early twentieth century.

In 1906 Lehi schoolteacher Thelma Thistlebloom successfully mounted a campaign to rename the area Hog Hollow “as to quell the rampant ignorance and lack of refinement in the community, especially among the children who cannot spell even the simplest of words.” Three of the four representatives who voted against the present bill—LaWanna Lou Shirtlift (D-Ogden); LaVar Christiansen (R-Sandy) and DeMar Bud Bahmann (R-Cedar City)—are descendants of Hoaglund.

In an effort to end the current controversy, legislators first considered “Swine Hollow” but faced considerable resistance from Alpine residents. “Piggy Hollow” was also considered but lawmakers feared it would raise the ire of the Jim Henson Company. Though “Pig Hollow” had popular appeal and ample legislative support, it did not resolve the apostrophizing issue. “But nobody is going to muck up ‘The Hollow’ with an apostrophe,” said Nelson. “Only an idiot who’d spell ‘moron’ with an ‘a’ or write ‘loose’ when he means ‘lose’ would be stupid enough to that.”

Jeff Alexandre (R-Provo), the other lawmaker who voted against the measure, isn’t so sure. “The bill makes it clear,” said Alexandre, “that the area shall be named ‘The Hollow’ and shall be manifest in all printed form as such and without deviation. It won’t be long until a renegade blogger types The Hollow or THE HOLLOW and that whole pack of rascals will be at it again.”

PS from Fatty: Today’s fake news comes to you from "KeepYerBag." Good stuff, KYB! By the way, I’m now very glad I’m taking this break from writing; I’m finding these entries are a breath of fresh air here. If you’d like to submit something to be posted here, send it to fatty@fatcyclist.com.

PPS from Fatty: If you want to read something I wrote today, I’ve posted a new review at RandomReviewer.

Congrats to the Jack Mormon Militia!

10.19.2006 | 2:27 pm

In a couple hours, I’ll post a funny fake news piece a reader submitted, but first: the good folks at Granny Gear Productions have acknowledged that the Jack Mormon Militia is in fact the overall winner of the 24 Hours of Moab.

Nice work, Kenny, Chucky, Josh, and Kevin!

The Granny Gear people have a great explanation and apology posted on their site; read it here. I applaud them for owning their error and committing to not have it happen again.

The Jack Mormon Militia

10.18.2006 | 4:16 pm

A Note from Fatty: For a couple weeks, Fat Cyclist stories will be coming from you, the readers. If you’ve got something you’d like published in this blog, send it to fatty@fatcyclist.com. Today’s story –an excellent writeup of last weekend’s 24 Hours of Moab race, comes to you courtesy of my good friend Kenny, owner of Kenny’s One Hour Photo.

My team (four men, all on rigid singlespeeds), the Jack Mormon Militia, went to Moab with one goal: to see how high we could place in the overall. Last year we placed seventh. We hoped that we could improve on this, with the right conditions.  

Run, Josh, Run
The race started out great.  We had the newbie, Josh Wolfe, do the Le Mans start. It was a good way to break him into the race. It’s a crowded run in a rutted, rocky field about 500 yards around a bush and back to your bike.   You end up starting your lap out of breath with a nose full of dust.

It turned out to be a good call, because Josh did well in the run and was on his bike fifth out the gate.  He passed everyone but Nat Ross on the climb and kept his lead until the slight downhill section, where he got passed back, because of the singlespeed, by a lot of the faster solo riders and duo pros. He turned out a 1:12 and we were in tenth place.  

Get My Name Right
Chuck, the second to go, went out with a mission to do the fastest lap for our team and set the tone for the rest of the race. 

The announcer was making a big deal about Nat Ross leading the race and the solo category.  He was talking about the fact that Nat likes to lead the race for the first couple of laps and then settle into a 24 hour pace.  I knew the first guy to come in would be in Gary Fisher gear, but it wasn’t going to be the factory guy. Here’s how events unrolled:

Announcer: “And here he is Nat Ross coming thru on his second lap in the lead.

Chucky: middle finger. 

Announcer:  “Wait, Wait….that’s not Nat Ross..that’s Cameron Chambers”  (who wasn’t even at this race). 

Chucky: another middle finger. 

Announcer: “Hold on a sec.  278…that’s the Jack Mormon Militia, Charles Gibson on a rigid single speed, tearing it up with a 1:10 lap time.  That, my friends, is a superior athlete!”   

Not Bad for a First Try (Ha)
Kevin Day from Ogden was the third to go out.  He rode a 1:15.  He later admitted to me that this was his first ride on a rigid single speed bike. His chain fell off 5 times, because he was riding with a cog that he took off of an old cassette.  (Those of us who ride singles know that doesn’t work.)

What was amazing to me was that this was his first ride on a single speed bike, his chain fell off 5 times and he still did a 1:15 lap.  He got passed by one kid from a junior team from Boulder, sponsored by their channel Four news.  This team was amazing. They were kids, 16-18, and super fast. 

Kenny the Boat Anchor
Being the slowest guy on my team (Editor’s note: ??!??!), I elected to go last.  Secretly, I had done the math, and if all went well that would give me 3 day laps and 2 night laps.  In my old age, my night vision isn’t what it used to be. 

I felt great on my first lap.  The course was fast, not too sandy and I came into the tent in first place with a couple of minutes to spare. I did a 1:12. 

At this point the announcer was throwing out all sorts of crap. I think I heard him say that my 1:12 lap on a single was the equivalent of a 50 minute lap on a geared bike. I wish.   

All Hell Breaks Loose
Josh had another 1:12 lap and all of a sudden we had a gap of about 7 minutes on the channel four team, in second. 

That’s when all hell broke loose. 

It started to rain.  Then, it started to pour. Then, it started to flood.  I’ve heard of the desert flash floods, but I’ve never witnessed one first hand.  There was seriously 2 feet of water on the dirt road in front of our tents.  Chucky was out on his lap, the first night lap, when all this started. He said he saw a guy ride into a puddle and then just disappear into a giant rut. 

At an hour thirty, Chuck rode into the transition area, holding his light in one hand, because the bracket had broke off.  By the time he made it up to the road in front of our tents, the two foot river had subsided to only a foot.  

Kevin did another 1:30 lap in the harshest of conditions. That’s when they called the race.  They let everyone finish their lap and they said that they would start again at 7 in the morning.

Yes, that’s right: We were leading the race by 11 minutes over second place and they stopped the race.  I’ve done so many endurance races in harsh conditions and never have they even considered stopping the race.  I’ve always felt that an endurance event, is just that, enduring. Enduring weather.  Enduring harsh conditions.  Enduring your fitness.  Enduring bike issues. It’s never too wet or too cold if you are prepared with the right clothes and the right gear. 

Everyone signs the waiver. Let everyone make the decision whether they are prepared to endure. 

So after they got everybody off the course, for the next 12 hours, the powers that be tried to figure out a way to restart the race. 

The rain went away. 

The rivers went away.

The course was prime, but no one was on it.  

They said it was taking so long, because they were trying to figure out the fairest way to get everybody back riding. 

Genius Restart
What they actually did, I can’t understand how they felt like it was fair and why it took so long to make the decision.  They subtracted every team’s last lap added 14 hours and somehow came up with a start time for each team.  There were 4 teams with 7 laps.  We were one of them.  The faster teams spent one and a half to two laps in the bad conditions. 

They let the slower teams go out first.  Our start t
ime was 11:33 am, only 27 minutes before the end of the race.  They were starting riders at 9:00, and the first place team, my team, they had decided in the fairest way possible to send out at 11:33. 

To be perfectly clear: They let the fifth, sixth and seventh place teams start out more than an hour and a half before we could even start riding. Which meant that they could catch up to us and pass us before we could even get back on the course. 

And that’s what happened. 

As a team, we decided to make a statement with our fastest lap.  I knew I could only do this with my team’s help.  We’d all just been sitting around for 14 hours waiting to ride, so we decided we would do the lap together as a team. 

I went for it.  It was all or nothing. 

I had only done one lap so far and it was the day before. My team rallied behind me, literally giving me pushes on the hills and drafts on the flats and descents. On the big sandy hill that everyone walks up Kevin and Josh took turns carrying my bike to the top. I tried to jog up, but I was feeling pretty hammered. 

I started to recover a bit on the top rolling section and was spinning hard on the flats.  We must have been some what of a spectacle, four guys in blue, riding single file on single speed rigid bikes, hammering thru the rocky sand stone drops and ledges. Josh was yelling out occasionally, “YEAH ….Jack Mormon Militia!” 

I was starting to feel really sluggish as we came to the last climb out. My team mates would yell out encouragement as they saw me starting to fade.   I was pegged, but finished hard thru the camp and into the timing tent.  I jerked down my jersey zipper and ran my time card across the sensor.  1:09:17

I’ve probably done close to 50 laps around that behind the rocks 24 hours of Moab course.  That was and always will be the most memorable. 

I’m not sure how the standings are going to work out.  At this point we’re sitting fourth.  I heard they’re planning on giving us the win and calling the race as of 8 o’clock, when they shut it down.  If they do, it will be the first time a single speed team has won the overall. 

That would be cool.

(left to right: Kevin, Chuck, Kenny, Josh)

PS from Fatty: If you’d like to let Granny Gear Productions (the promoter of 24 Hours of Moab) know your views on who won this race, you can reach them via email: heygranny@grannygear.com. Be clear, be polite, and tell ‘em Fatty sent you.

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