I Sing the Bicycle Electric

05.8.2007 | 5:13 am

A Note from Fatty: Thanks, everyone, for your votes yesterday, and thanks even more for your comments. Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • We’ll definitely do a jersey.
  • Considering the number of votes, the color of the jersey, and the fact that the money from this will go toward fighting breast cancer, we should have a women’s-sized version of the jersey.
  • We will tweak the design slightly from the mockup in yesterday’s post.

The Twin Six guys and I are working on it and will have something to show soon, along with info on how to order.

Plus, don’t be surprised if you can round out your look with matching socks.

OK, on to today’s post. This one’s a special request. Mine. I asked my friend Bob (of Bob’s Top 5 and Random Reviewer fame, now blogging without the constraint of a theme at Bob’s Web Log) to describe what it’s like to own and ride — in public! — an electric bike.

I Sing the Bicycle Electric
Fatty may have a large fleet of bikes – two road bikes, a mountain bike that folds up to fit in a suitcase, a single-speed, and one of those fixed-gear bikes that you ride in a velodrome – but does he have an electric bike? I don’t think so. For that matter, Botched, Brad, Kenny, dug, Rick Sunderlage (not his real name), and the rest of Fatty’s riding buddies have this in common – they fail to own an electric bike.

I have one.

I know what you’re thinking. You admire me. That’s perfectly natural, as long as you don’t get carried away with your envy and try to negotiate by violence.

I know what else you’re thinking: How does an electric bike work? It’s elegant in its simplicity. First off, this is not a moped – an electric bike cannot propel itself. It helps to imagine a bike with an enclosed drive train that houses magic ferrets. When you start pedaling, the ferrets are shocked into action, and they begin running on their little treadmill that generates extra power. The 5-speed bike includes 3 self-explanatory battery settings, which I’ll explain parenthetically: Off (no power), On (full power), and Lo (econo-mode).

If you’re riding on a flat street, you can cruise along at 13-14 mph for about 3 hours with minimal effort. If you weigh 300 pounds, you could ride 5 miles on a flat surface without breaking a sweat. If you’re going up a steep hill, you have to put in a little more effort — but not much more — and you can climb faster than all but the strongest riders. In fact, it’s kind of embarrassing to ride up past decked out roadies over the West Seattle Bridge, especially when you’re wearing overalls and carrying a parasol, like Mary Poppins.

Next question: How is the electric bike helping you, Bob, to train for the 100-mile mountain bike race in Leadville? Answer: It’s not. Riding the electric bike 10 miles to work gives me about the same amount of exercise as going on a brisk 20-minute walk. But when I’m getting over a cold, or when I’m physically drained from having had vigorous sex with a batch of wood nymphs, the electric bike is a nice commuter alternative.


  • You can’t go much faster than 15 mph. Once you hit 17 mph, the battery automatically stops generating power, for safety reasons.
  • The bike isn’t built for aggressive pedaling. If you’re nearing a green light that’s about to turn yellow, you don’t really have the option of accelerating. And if you want to push it really hard going up hill, you just end up riding past your power supply, if that makes sense. But there’s more to the fact that you can’t go fast. I get the feeling that if I mash the pedals really hard, I’m going to break something.
  • Maintenance may be a problem. I work close to a store in Seattle that sells nothing but electric bikes, so whenever there’s a problem – like when I mash the pedals too hard and break something – I can just take it into the shop. I’m not sure what I’d do if I lived in a place like Utah, other than complain about liquor laws.
  • If you’re on a hilly ride, the battery lasts only about 90 minutes. I have to bring the charger with me to work so that I don’t lose power on the way back.
  • There’s something odd about riding an electric bike. You feel goofy and other-worldly.


  • Comfortable and easy to ride, like a beach cruiser.
  • Excellent commuter bike for someone who wants a mild workout without having to take a shower.
  • Good “gateway” bike that can help your out-of-shape friend or spouse get addicted to a stronger bike.
  • The roadies don’t acknowledge you. No head tilt, no hand wave, not even a finger wave. The homeless guy with the shawl made from a sleeping bag will wave at you, but he waves at everyone.
  • There’s something cool about being on an electric bike. You feel pampered and other-worldly.


Pink Lemonade

05.4.2007 | 8:38 pm

Lately, A lot of people have been asking me how I’m doing. The honest answer is, I’ve never been worse. My wife doesn’t react well to narcotics (which we found out after getting the 100-capsule bottle of Lortab), so she has to choose between being nauseated and hardly being able to move — her hip, ribs, and shoulder hurt like hell.

I understand that in another week she’ll be even more drained and sore, thanks to the radiation. After which we get to start the chemo.

Question to others who have had a loved one go through chemo: do you find yourself wishing you could try chemo just once, so you could understand what they’re going through?

I find myself buying all kinds of presents for the kids, stuff way out of the range of what I should be spending, because I’m hoping to distract them. But my eleven-year-old (the one who notices everything that ever happens)comes up to our bedroom, crying, late at night, telling us he can’t go through this again.

Stuff shouldn’t suck this much.

The bright spot in all this, though, is the massive outpouring of kindness that’s come our way. People who I’ve always thought of as great friends have turned out to be extraordinary friends. Hundreds of you have commented in my blog. Dozens of you have privately emailed me, offering us emotional and material support (I’m sorry I have not yet replied to a lot of you; for what it’s worth, I’m also leaving a lot of work email unanswered).

The Twin Six guys have contacted me, too. They had an idea. “What if we did a pink version of the Fat Cyclist jersey,” they asked, “to show support for your wife and raise some money to fight breast cancer?” They went on to explain that they wouldn’t make a dime with this — all profit would go to whatever cause(s) I see fit.

Here’s what the jersey would look like:

I asked Susan what she thought. She was touched and a little embarassed. So here’s what I’m thinking. $5 from each jersey would go to Susan to buy jewelry supplies, which Susan says she will use to make cool stuff to give to Fat Cyclist readers. The balance will go to the best breast cancer research foundation I can find (I’ll get BotchedExperiment to help me figure that out).

Truth be known, though, my head isn’t on exactly straight right now. I have no idea whether this is a great idea or not. So I’m going to put it up for a vote. Let me know if this is something you’d like to do.


PS: Weather providing, tomorrow I plan to do a solo road century: up and over Suncrest as many times as necessary to go 100 miles. Extremely demanding, completely mindless. Sounds good to me.


05.4.2007 | 8:11 am

A Note from Fatty: Today’s post comes to you courtesy of Al Maviva. I’ve never met Al in person, but consider him a good friend. Also, I’m pretty sure he is insane.

All riders talk about crashing like it is some random event. “Hey did you hear about Joe going down at the Church of the Gnostic Irredentist Parking Lot Crit Training Series? I’m surprised. He rarely crashes.”

But we all know that’s a lie. Joe is either crashing, or always on his way to crash, if he’s anything like any of the rest of us. Maybe it will take him a week or three weeks to get to his pre-ordained crash. But he’s about to crash, whether he knows it or not. It’s not a case of if, but when.

Going fast, suffering, and more than anything painful crashes, define road biking, along with their lesser brothers, the bonk, expensive gear, and Eurotrash-looking guys with shaved legs. If you don’t crash once in a while, you just aren’t riding much, and you darn sure aren’t racing.

Do you want to know the hell of it? You may not be able to do anything about it.

Most of the crashes I have been in, could not have been prevented. Wrong place, wrong time, BANG! SKREEEEEEEEELLLL! Down goes Al. Down goes Al! You want examples?

I was on a hot group ride recently and hit a patch of black ice, or maybe just some goop in the road. Bam! I used an excellent tarmac scrubbing pad to remove some dirt, excess skin, fat, muscle and hair off my arms and butt, and it happened quicker than I could blink. I know it was quicker than a blink of the eye, because before I could blink, I noticed my water bottles, frame pump, sunglasses, and dignity bouncing down the road. I was doing nothing wrong – but like Nietzsche, cycling is beyond right and wrong. Right and wrong is irrelevant. Henri Desgrange’s appetite for suffering and freshly ground meat must be sated.

Another time I was on a fast group ride with my club. I low sided, wheels going out from under me on a beautiful piece of smooth tarmac, as we rounded a curve. Everybody circled around and looked at the road to try to figure out what caused it… but nobody could find any flaws in the road surface, and the guy behind me said I was riding fine, hadn’t done anything wrong. But I know what happened… The road decided it didn’t want to sit there under me any longer, so it dropped me.

And racing… don’t even get me started on racing crashes. Unlike most crashes, which are at some level self-inflicted, your friends and enemies often inflict crashes on you in racing. Last year, for instance, I was in this flat crit where we were positioning ourselves for the field sprint (which would start 800 meters up the road, but in a flat race nobody is going to get away, so everybody wants to be somewhere between about 3rd and 10th before the hammer drops. Everybody was going all out, but everything was cool… and all of a sudden the guy next to me goes over his front wheel. I believe he may have inadvertently ridden over Henry Desgrange’s disembodied handlebar moustache. I was a little in front Tarmac Chewing Boy™ and doing almost 35, and thought I was clear, but he actually passed me on the way down. I guess he didn’t want anybody to get to the all-you-can-eat asphalt buffet ahead of him. The next thing I know, there I am at the bottom of this enormous pile of broken bikes and moaning (and in one case screaming) riders, wondering what I ever did to deserve it. Then it struck me: I got on the bike that morning.

I was doomed from the start.

No Escape
Sure, you can briefly duck the Reaper’s playful rabbit punch, but that just gives him a chance to wind up and pummel you with an enormous roundhouse. So if you find yourself going down, it’s best to brace for impact, and take your medicine. Nothing you can do, no penance, no prayer, no bike handling drills or nutritional supplement, can get you off the Purple Path of Pain.

For example: I was racing in a neighborhood crit where the streets had these enormous new granite curbs installed. The field was huge, it was early in the race, nobody was dropped, and we were all packed in tightly between the curbs.

Everything then unfolded in about three seconds.

Near the front, a bunch of helmets just disappeared and we heard The Noise. I rode to the left of the crashed-out meatpile, riding shoulder to shoulder with three guys, literally in contact for about 10 seconds as we pedaled along and leaned on to each other, and got clear. The riders on the other side of the divide had a tougher time. They tried to go to the right, between the meatpile and the curb. Unfortunately, they were too close together, all half wheeled, so each guy’s back wheel overlapped the next guy’s front wheel.

The end result was mayhem, with each man taking out the bike behind him in what appeared to be some infernal domino match. A bunch of guys went upside down, up over the curb as their tires hit it. The coldest move I saw came from two guys near the back on the right, who were riding shoulder to shoulder. They somehow got a little tangled up. As they passed the meatpile, the one on the inside (closest to the meatpile) decided to disengage himself by pushing the one on the right toward the curb. Of course there was no room, so the guy on the right got curbed, drifted along with his tires scrubbing the curb for a second, then BAM up and over it, launched like a missile.

Yes, once Henri Desgrange, sitting on his Brooks saddle in hell, has issued a decree that you must crash, it is unavoidable and I recommend you do not resist.

Anybody else feel their crashing is pretty much a matter of destiny?

Come Ride the White Rim With Dug

05.2.2007 | 9:42 am

Dug carried his camcorder as everyone rode around the White Rim last weekend, and compiled them into a great slice-of-the ride, wish-you-were-here video for me.

It’s one of the nicest things anyone’s ever done for me.


Part I

Part II

PS: Today’s weight: 158.6. And yesterday I did my B7 time trial, with a time of 14:44 — about 4:30 faster than my first TT. My current B7 score is 92. So, for those of you who might think I’m giving up: this competition is not over; it’s just heating up.

Many things happened on the White Rim Trail and these are some of the highlights

05.1.2007 | 1:03 pm

A Note from Fatty: Today’s post comes from Dug, who has an alternate take of last weekend’s White Rim ride. I love epic ride stories. I can hardly wait for the video.

By the way, B7 Challengers, it’s now the beginning of May, which means it’s time for you to go to the forum and post your monthly weigh-in and TT. I’ll be doing my TT today after work.

I have quite a bit of video I took of RAWROD 07, but that will take me a few days to edit. I haven’t even watched the raw footage yet, so I don’t know if it will be worth posting. If it is, I’ll get it to Elden this week for your viewing pleasure. Mostly I took the camera as a way to show Elden we missed him and wished he could have been there.

Here’s a quick re-cap of the day—108 miles, 100 of it off-road, about 12 hours, temperatures got over 90 degrees, no clouds, very little wind, 50+ riders, 3 sag wagons, a few casualties, and overall, just a fantastic ride.

Some highlights:

Bry and the Tapeworm
Bry Christensen told a story about a 16 foot long tape worm that involved Spain, rubber gloves, his wife, a tickling sensation in the bum area, and a very, very large mason jar. I simply cannot tell more without gouging my own eyes out with a Pez dispenser.

A Ride with a View
At Potato, um, Bottom, about 20 miles or so into the ride, just after the first nasty climb and subsequent downhill, we passed a campsite where the occupants looked like they were either just arriving or just getting ready to leave. Regardless, the five or six strong female posse in the group gave me and the small group I was riding with a, er, um, a sports-bras-up-salute.

I skidded to a stop and searched my pockets for any spare singles, but couldn’t come up with anything. Probably just as well.

Not for Sale
Turns out, Mike Young is a very nice, sociable person. He arrived Friday night, hung out, accepted good natured ribbing with aplomb, rode his little heart out, hung out after the ride in a tremendously sociable manner, and took his leave.

It also turns out, Mike Young cannot be bought.

Friday night, I offered him $100 to spend the ride at the back of the pack. No dice. And at the halfway point in the ride, during lunch at Murphy’s Hogback, I offered him $500 to ride in the back third of the pack. He just smiled and went about his business. At the front of the pack, where he belongs (Mike is a top ten finisher at Leadville). A doctor, a scholar, an athlete.

The Terrible Lightness of Being Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson is the friendliest person in the world. He is also a good natured stoic. During Leadville last year, Lee flatted 52 times, and still finished the race. During White Rim this year, Lee lent his truck as the caboose sag wagon. The driver of the caboose (not Lee) got lost within a mile of the start, and Lee had to drive another sag wagon back to find his truck, thus missing out on riding the first quarter of the ride.

Lee blew out a tire early in the ride, he bent his derailleur hanger, and he cracked his frame. Undeterred, Lee simply borrowed a bike from someone else roughly his size (which is not an easy size to match, since Lee is an ex-NFL football player (well, a punter anyway)), and finished out the ride.

Serena Warner: Insane, Immortal
Serena Warner, despite being a triath-A-lete, is my hero. We got to Musselman Arch, after roughly 80 miles of some of the roughest riding Southern Utah has to offer, in 90 degree heat, and Serena put her bike on the truck, pulled out her running shoes, and ran the next 10 miles, up the Shafer switchbacks, 1500 feet.

Sometimes I think triath-A-letes are a little funny in the head.

I Suffer
Brad browbeat me into trying to climb the Shafer switchbacks on my single without stopping. I’m not sure why I agreed to the attempt, but about three fourths of the way up, I turned what I thought was the last really hard corner, slipped on a dusty rock, and fell of the bike. I’m pretty sure I blacked out for a minute or two, cuz when Rick S. and BotchedExperiment came around the corner and found me, I was mumbling, wild-eyed, and very dirty. No worries though, I took an IQ test when I got home, and I’m still well above moron.

Rick Suffers More
Rick Sunderlage (not his real name) thought that rather than climb to the top of Kenny’s new FJ at lunch to get his own energy drink powder, he would just use Kenny’s powder from the back of the vehicle. The moral, as always—NEVER RUB ANOTHER MAN’S RHUBARB!

Well, maybe that’s not it.

The moral might be, don’t change horses mid-stream. At the very least, the moral is, dance with the one what brung ya. Later in the day, Rick’s quads cramped so bad we could see his muscles shift from just above his kneecap to around the back of his leg, like an alien organism fleeing a hot needle. This could be its own sport. (Rick also had some butt blisters, but I don’t want to get into that, because I do not have photographic evidence, alas.)

BotchedExperiment: Liar
BotchedExperiment is a sandbagger, a shark, like Newman in The Hustler. He’ll be lucky if he doesn’t get his hands broken in a pool hall someday. All day Friday he was talking like he was going to die, like he’d never ridden more than 30 miles on a mountain bike, like he was some silly newbie. Then he went out and nailed the damned thing. Made us proud.

And a little mad.

Brad Keyes
looks pretty good in tighty whiteys. Not a lot of guys can sit around post 108-miles off road, drinking a beer, wearing nothing but little tighty whiteys and a cowboy hat. Turns out, Brad is one of those guys.

I took half an Ambien when I went to bed the night before the ride, knowing getting to sleep first was going to be key. I didn’t go to sleep, so I grabbed the other half in a panic. I may have been slightly affected the next morning.

Jilene Mecham does more than just occasionally sing opera during very long mountain bike rides. Turns out she rides hard and fast, is generally just a terrific person. Plus, after 80 miles riding in the hot sun, when you spray Jilene with cold water, she makes a vaguely familiar sound. Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, I think Madeleine Kahn sounded like that after she met the monster in Young Frankenstein. It’s now a sound I’ll never forget.

 A huge shout-out to Kenny Jones—pro racer, large trip organizer, and all around nice guy. Thanks Kenny. Also, Friday night, Rick S., Dan, and I slept in my tent, and about 10 feet away, Kenny slept out by the fire under the stars. About midnight, Dan and I woke up at almost exactly the same time, and independently blurted to the night air:

“Is that a bear?!”

“Is that a wild animal?!”

On the other hand, Kenny snores good and hard for about 30 min, and then settles down and goes quiet. I do not. Once I’m asleep, you either better be, or you better have ear plugs. One ear plug and your finger just won’t cut it.

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