Wherein I Geek Out and Buy Myself a Present

12.17.2006 | 8:06 pm

A Note From Fatty: Congratulations to SpikeBlue, the lucky winner — by random drawing from nearly 80 comments – of five boxes of Matisse & Jack’s Bake-At-Home Energy Bars. SpikeBlue, email me your address and which combination of flavors you’d like, and I’ll hook you up. 

And if I might say, while I chose SpikeBlue’s comment randomly, I don’t think he could have been any more right about what he chose as the best thing he’s eaten: a ripe peach. When I read his comment, it occurred to me: the best food I’ve ever eaten while on a ride was also a peach. A group of us were riding the Kokopelli trail on an incredibly hot day. Kenny’s parents-in-law met us at Dewey’s Bridge — about 60 miles into the ride — with our lunch and a surprise: a large bowl of fresh peaches, peeled, sliced, and chilled. I really don’t think I have ever eaten anything so delicious. I think everyone who was riding with me that day would agree.

Show and Tell
Last Friday afternoon, I was doing a little Free-Associative Internet Research (some would call it aimless web surfing), when I stumbled across the Oregon Scientific ATC-2000: a self-contained, single-piece, waterproof camcorder that retails for $130.

I did a little looking on the web, and here’s what I found out about it:

  • It’s made with cyclists in mind. It comes with hardware for mounting on both your helmet and handlebars.
  • It’s simple. It’s powered by two AA batteries, records to SD cards (you can find 2Gb SD cards for around $35 now), and transfers via USB.
  • It holds a bunch. A 2Gb SD card will hold about two hours of video and sound.

Instant Obsession
For years, I’ve thought that it would be fun to have a helmet cam. I’ve never bought one, though. Too many cables, too expensive. Except this thing is cheap. And it doesn’t have any cables at all.

So I started thinking about what it would be like to be able to show everyone on my blog what it looks like to ride up Tibble. And to ride down Mud Springs. And to ride down Joy. And to do my commute up and over Suncrest. And to ride the halfpipe in Moab. And to slalom down the Alpine Loop. And — and this is what put me over the top — to march up and ride down the Columbine Mine section of the Leadville 100.

I thought about how it would be cool to just be able to reach up and press a button when I want video of what I happen to be riding.

Then I looked a little more and found that you can buy this helmet cam for $99 at mountaingear.com.

And shipping is free.

So I ordered one.

Well, actually I ordered two, cuz it’s been a long time since I’ve bought Rocky a Christmas present, and he’s almost as much of a gadget geek as I am.

What I Don’t Expect
I need to keep reminding myself that this thing costs only $99. So I don’t expect to get great video quality. And I don’t expect it to last forever.

I don’t expect it to replace my regular camcorder — the one my wife is getting me for Christmas — for family video and for higher-quality ride videos. Something this cheap isn’t going to create archival-quality video, right?

Here’s the thing, though. The cheapness of this thing isn’t just one of the reasons I bought it. It’s the primary reason I think I’ll be able to ride with it. That is, when I’m carrying a nice camera on a ride, I tend to be careful, because I don’t want to crush the electronics. With a $100 helmet cam, though, I figure that it’s no more expensive to replace than anything else I’m riding with.

Also, if it turns out that this was a terrible idea and is a miserable helmet camera, for $100 I can shrug it off and live with the mistake.

Although I really really really hope this is as cool in real life as I’ve made it out to be in my head.

Anyone Else?
So, have any of you already got one of these? Do you like it? Got any tips or ideas on how to mount it so it doesn’t wobble (reviews I’ve read say that the included mounting hardware isn’t very sturdy)? Got a suggestion for a helmet that will stay nice and snug when this is sitting on top? (Helmet manufacturers: I’m still waiting for a helmet with a universal clip built in on top, suitable for either a light or camera)

Does anyone else think the idea of a $100 helmet cam is as cool as I do?


Chamois, Schmammy

12.15.2006 | 7:59 am

A Note from Fatty: It’s not too late to enter the contest to win 5 boxes of the (very delicious) Matisse & Jack’s Bake-at-Home Energy Bars. How do you enter? Just by leaving a comment to this post.

I have three simple questions, and I’d like you to answer them honestly.

  1. When you ride, do you wear bike shorts with a chamois?
  2. Did you ride with a chamois when you were a kid?
  3. What’s changed?

Of course, I have a pretty good idea of what’s changed.

  • Your saddle’s gotten smaller: That 12g sliver of carbon you sit on just isn’t that comfortable.
  • You’ve gotten bigger, so you’ve got more weight pressing your butt against the saddle.
  • You ride longer, and so are on your bike long enough to get sore.
  • You’ve gotten older, and notice things like an achy, sore butt more than when you were a kid.

Here’s the thing, though. I think there’s a fourth reason we’re all riding with chamoises (or whatever the plural of “chamois” is — I’m sure someone will help me out here): We’re wearing chamoises because we’re suckers.

The Case Against the Chamois
I’ve been buying bike shorts with a chamois ever since I started riding seriously. And since I’m generally comfortable on my bike, that chamois must be doing its job, right?

Or is it possible that because I’m wearing a chamois, my butt has simply never been toughened against the saddle? That I’ve never developed the hiney-calluses that would identify me as a truly hardcore cyclist?

I wouldn’t be asking this series of deep, meaningful questions if wearing shorts with a chamois was a pleasant experience. But it’s not. You know it’s not. Here are the chamois side-effects I am aware of:

  • They make you look dumb. Wearing a chamois makes you look like you’re taking measures to combat your incontinence problem. Which is fine, I suppose, if you’re actually combatting an incontinence problem. But I’m not. As far as you know.
  • They make you look even dumber than that. Under the proper circumstances, a chamois can give you a funky cameltoe look. Even if you’re a man. Especially if you’re a man. Ick.
  • Once you’re off the bike, there’s nothing grosser-feeling in the whole world. You know what feels nastier than a soggy-with-sweat chamois as that sogginess turns cold? Nothing at all, that’s what.
  • They are perfect for colonizing bacteria, fungi, and other gross things. Anyone who’s ever left a chamois on for more than fifteen minutes after a ride knows the consequences. New strains of bacteria, that’s what. I am convinced that the end of the human race will have its humble origins in a chamois that a cyclist left on for just a little too long.

Seriously, When Do You Need a Chamois?
Now, I’m not so naive as to say that a chamois is unnecessary in every situation. However, I do think that I at least have been wearing shorts with a chamois when completely unwarranted. Here are some typical rides and my new assessment of whether they require a chamois:

  • Commute into work: My ride into work lasts 1:05. I don’t need a chamois for a ride that short.
  • Singlespeed ride: You’re off the saddle so often, you don’t need a chamois for the singlespeed ever.
  • Three hour training ride: You need a chamois for the first half of the year, then need to transition away from the chamois.
  • Endurance ride (5+ hours): Yeah, you can use a chamois. Pansy.

It’s time to question the chamois. Time to toughen up our butts and feel the bike the way it was meant to be felt — without the falsity of an insulating pad.

Who’s with me?

Win 5 Boxes of Matisse & Jack’s Bake-at-Home Energy Bars

12.13.2006 | 9:44 am

I love to eat. I love to ride my bike. Strangely, though, I don’t love to eat while I’m on my bike.

It’s strange, when you think about it. There’s nothing in the world I enjoy eating more than a peanut butter and honey sandwich. Seriously, I believe that may be the best food in the world. But when I’m riding, all the pleasure goes out of eating that sandwich. It becomes fuel, and nothing more. The same thing goes for Snickers bars. And for cookies.

Even after a dozen years of riding, I still don’t understand why this is true.

I have tried to find something I really, really love to eat while biking, because I figure if I can find something I look forward to eating even when on an endurance ride, I’ll have eliminated one of the big problems of endurance riding. Here are the things I have tried:

Campbell’s Soup-at-Hand Chicken and Stars Soup
Let’s at least start with my one moderate success. A few years ago it occurred to me that since I have such a hard time eating while riding, maybe soup would do the job. At about the same time, Campbell’s came out with these single-serve pop-top wonders. When you’re on the trail, for some reason you don’t care that the soup’s just body temperature. It tastes good — your body craving that 890mg (!!!) of sodium, I think.

At only 60 calories / 10g carbs though, it’s not going to exactly power you for the rest of the day. And the packaging’s awkward. Maybe for Leadville this year, I should just fill my camelback with soup (pureed first, so it won’t jam up in the drinking tube).

Turkey sandwiches
A turkey sandwich is a perfectly balanced meal. You’ve got your grains, your meat, your vegetables (dill relish), and your dairy (mayonnaise). The only thing better than a good turkey sandwich is a peanut butter sandwich. But, like a peanut butter sandwich, a turkey sandwich crushes to an unrecognizable form when it’s been compressed by your jersey pocket for two hours.

Meanwhile, the mayonnaise is busy converting itself into poison.

Plus, there’s the problem that while on the bike, a turkey sandwich just doesn’t taste good. How can this be?

OK, I admit I haven’t ever tried eating Spam while on a bike. You’ve got to admit, though, it’s an intriguing idea. Plus, by bringing this up I can now relate the following anecdote:

About seven or eight years ago, I thought it would be funny to try to put together a team of Sport-level racers, sponsored by Spam. We would be Team Spam. So I wrote to Hormel with a proposal, telling them that if they would pay our entry fees and design a Spam jersey for us, I would become the single most passionate advocate of Spam in bike racing history.

I would provide Spam samples at every race I went to.

I would have my Honda Civic painted to look like a Spam can.

I would send them entertaining race reports they could put up on their website (nowadays, I would have proposed a racer’s blog, but this was before blogs).

Hormel sent me a form letter saying they get a lot of requests for sponsorship and can’t sponsor everyone. So that was the end of that. I’ve been thinking lately, though, that I should do more with this idea. I.e., I should start putting sponsorship requests together for very unlikely companies, then see what happens. At the very worst, I’ll have some fun proposals to share with you when they don’t work out. At the best, I could wind up with some very unusual and entertaining sponsors on the upcoming Fat Cyclist jersey.

Clif Bars
I’m going to come out and say it: I like Clif Bars. I eat them recreationally. But when I’m on the bike, I can only barely choke them down.

Gels / Shot Bloks / Ensure
These aren’t real food, so don’t count. Plus, it’s not like I ever find myself a-hankering for a Gu. Strangely, though, after drinking an Ensure, I have a powerful urge to yell at kids to get offa my lawn.

Contest Time! Win Matisse & Jack’s Bake-at-Home Energy Bars
OK, these I like. They’ve got a problem, though: these are especially good hot out of the oven. What are the odds they’re going to last ’til the next time I go riding?

Want to see what I mean?

You can win five boxes of these energy bars by entering today’s contest: Tell me about the best and/or worst thing you’ve ever eaten on a bike.

And, meanwhile, may I please make a recommendation? Christmas is coming, and these energy bars are on sale. Five boxes costs only $25 and gets you free shipping, and they’d make a great, affordable present for a cyclist you know.

I especially recommend the Chocolate Chip flavor.

A Baker’s Dozen Tips on How to Be a Very, Very Popular Blogger

12.11.2006 | 2:37 pm

A Note from Fatty: Hey, be sure to take a moment and check out the latest partner in my Ads-for-Schwag program: Matisse & Jack’s Bake-at-Home Energy Bars! As you may recall, when they sent me a couple boxes to try out, my friends and I loved these bars. I asked them (the makers of the energy bars, that is) to join the Ads-for-Schwag program, and they’re in! Be sure to watch for tomorrow’s contest; it will be your chance to win five boxes of what I would have until now considered an oxymoron: delicious energy bars.

As one of the world’s most popular bloggers (currently ranked 133,370 according to Technorati, and rising fast!) I often get email from people who wish that they, too, could be an awesome, popular blogger that everyone loves and wants to emulate. “How do you do it, Mr. Fat Cyclist?” they ask. “How can I, too, be an an awesome, popular blogger that everyone loves and wants to emulate?”

It’s a worthy question.

Most world-class, A-list bloggers would never reveal the “secret sauce” that makes their blog stand apart from the rest. That is because most popular bloggers–unlike me–are mean people who hate you very much.

I, on the other hand, am happy to share my wisdom with the little people (When I call you, my readers, “little people,” by the way, I am not referring to your size, but rather to your importance, relative to me).

Here, then, is everything you need to become a very, very popular blogger. Just like me.

  1. Find a niche with a large potential audience. No matter how excellent of a writer you are (I am an excellent writer, by the way), no matter how engaging your topics (extremely engaging, in my case), your audience is limited to the universe of people with the same interests you have. With that in mind, I chose “cycling” — the most popular sport in the United States — as my topic. I then carefully avoided unnecessary topical restrictions by cross pollinating “cycling”–an extremely intense physical activity–with “fatness,” the result of being a couch potato. With all my bases covered, how could I lose?
  2. Come up with a name that you’ll be proud to tell people about. Once you are a famous and very, very popular blogger, you will — no doubt — want to tell your friends and family (along with complete strangers, if you can find a convenient way of bringing it up) about your blog. So be sure your blog isn’t named something that sounds foolish and embarrassing. Astutely, I named my blog “Fat Cyclist,” and am happy to report that telling people my blog name never ever ever results in awkward silence, confusion, or expressions of sympathy.
  3. Base the name of your blog on a clever pop culture reference that’s certain to be around for a very long time. I’m certain that you, like most everybody, realizes that I launched “Fat Cyclist” right about the time that the very popular Showtime television series “Fat Actress” came out. As you no doubt know, I was leveraging the massive popularity of the television show as a catalyst toward my own success. (I’m sure season 2 will be coming out any time now.)
  4. Keep your posts nice and short. Get right to the point. Your audience doesn’t have a lot of time to read, and won’t put up with long, rambling introductions that amount to nothing more than extended throat clearing. Note, for example, how I wrote a mere six paragraphs before getting to this list.
  5. At some point, get really offended at some trivial thing someone does and have a prima-donna-ish fit. Make veiled references to ending the blog altogether. Sulk for a week or so, then come back to the blog and act as if nothing ever happened.
  6. Monetize. As you become popular, you’ll have a chance to advertise. This is what I have done, and now I am rich! I don’t want to brag or anything, but I am pretty close to the point where my Google Ads will pay for my hosting costs next year. I haven’t quit my day job yet, but hey. I figure it’s only a matter of time before I can become a truly full-time blogger.
  7. Be really funny. People love jokes! Especially puns!
  8. Talk a lot about your friends, acting as if they really existed. As a blogger, you very likely don’t have any actual friends. And since you spend all your time blogging, you probably aren’t going to make any, either. What’s the solution? Make up names for pretend people, and then talk about them as if you’re the best friends ever. I, for example, have made up Dug, Bob, Brad, Kenny, Rick, Dan, and another Rick (If these people were real, don’t you think at least one of them would have a less whitebread name?).
  9. Don’t blog about blogging. Nobody’s interested in hearing your advice about blogging. Luckily, this rule doesn’t apply to me.
  10. At some point, completely lose the original point of the blog. If, for example, you create your blog to shame yourself into losing weight but then find that people are willing to stick around even when you’re not talking about losing weight, it’s perfectly OK to stop talking about losing weight at all. Even, hypothetically, if it’s winter and you are currently packing on the pounds at an unprecedented rate.
  11. From time to time, blog about topics that use terms that will bring inadvertent search result traffic. I, for example, get considerable traffic from people who are interested in concocting their own ephedrine stacks. And from people who are interested in Levi Leipheimer (just think how pleased Levi must be that my fake press release is currently both the fourth- and eight-most popular result on a Google search of his name).
  12. Never embarrass yourself. Your dignity is your most important asset. If you start writing about things that expose your flaws–even if those flaws tend to be startlingly common–your readership won’t respect you. Instead, write about your successes and conquests. People love to here about other peoples’ triumphs, and won’t roll their eyes and think you’re an especially vain blowhard at all.
  13. If you get desperate, do a list. Once in a while, you won’t have anything useful to say. When this happens, put together a loose collection of barely related thoughts and post that, calling it a “Top 10″ or “Baker’s Dozen” or something like that. Nobody will call you out on your sloppy, lazy post.

Entertain Me

12.7.2006 | 11:28 am

You know what’s a really good TV show to watch while you ride your rollers or trainer? 24. I’m currently in the middle of Season 2, and have Season 3 all ready to watch as soon as I’m done. (For those of you who care, I watched the first season five years ago when my twins were infants. My wife and I would record episodes and then — during the 3am feeding — watch the show as we fed the girls. My memory of that season is, um, vague.)

There’s a problem, though. Robert Lofgran — my trainer — has me doing around two hours on the trainer/rollers each day, which equates out to three episodes per workout (because, blessedly, there are no commercials on the DVD version of the show). Which is to say, a season of 24 isn’t going to last me very long.

So after I exhaust Seasons 2 and 3, I can get myself Seasons 4 and 5. No problem. That doesn’t exactly get me through the winter, though, does it? Which brings up a question: what should I watch next? I’m thinking of getting a NetFlix subscription and need recommendations for good videos to fill my queue.

Wait a second, though. I don’t want you to start posting your ideas quite yet. You see, I have very stringent trainer/rollers video watchability criteria, and the only suggestions I want must conform to these exacting requirements:

  1. No subtitles. I like foreign language films, but not when I’m on the rollers. Every few seconds to make sure I’m not drifting off one side or the other.
  2. Must not require my full attention every single second. When I go into the red zone, I seem to lose the ability to comprehend English. Moving pictures stop conveying meaning and become nothing but colors. The whole world contracts into just a couple simple things: My legs and my lungs. So intricate plots may not be a plus.
  3. Must be action-packed. I have noticed that my cadence sags when a show goes into a long, heartfelt, dialogue scene. Sad, tender scenes are even worse. I’m not saying I want a movie containing nothing but fistfights and car chases, but I’m not saying I would be adverse to such a film, either.
  4. Martial arts sequences a definite plus. I remember the last time I got serious about using the indoor trainer; I watched every single Jackie Chan movie they had. Jackie Chan movies are awesome for watching while exercising.
  5. Must not star Kevin Costner. I’m sorry, but I simply cannot abide that guy. At all. In any film. Seriously, I cannot think of any films he has been in that I’ve enjoyed. (Except perhaps A Perfect World, but I think that was because Clint Eastwood negated the Kevin Costner effect.) Of course, I haven’t been to any of his recent films because I’ve learned my lesson, but I haven’t seen any previews that make me think that I should reconsider. 
  6. The movie cannot be entirely inane. I once had the clever idea of renting a bunch of Jean Claude van Damme movies based solely on the certain knowledge that the fight sequences would be stellar. The problem was, in between the fight sequences, all van Damme movies slam to a halt while the poor sap tries to act. And then I feel embarrassed for him for trying to do something he is simply unable to do (act), feel embarrassed for the director and scriptwriter for their utter failure to execute a film that tries to be something it’s not (i.e., it’s not anything but a series of kickboxing matches), and — worst of all — become embarrassed for myself for having selected this video.

So, with these unassailable criteria in mind, what should I watch while riding the rollers/trainer this winter?  

PS: If you happen to have a really excellent collection of cycling videos — road and/or mountain — you’re willing to loan me for the Winter, I’d be willing to offer some serious preference points toward the next giveaway (I’m not yet sure who will be the sponsor of the next giveaway or what they’ll give away, but I will say that there are two new potential sponsors I’m talking with, each of which would have some pretty excellent prizes to give.).

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