I had a pretty extraordinary Summer, bikewise. I got down to the lowest weight I’ve been since high school, I got faster than someone with the nickname “Fatty” has any right to be, and I did about as well in races as a middle aged guy with no genetic gift or pharmaceutical enhancement could hope for.
And now I’m feeling guilt.
Any of you who have dedicated yourself to cycling knows that it comes at the expense of something: either your job or your family (or a little bit of both). And since I report to the CEO of my company (not because I’m a corporate bigshot, but because I warrant micromanagement), sluffing at work for six monthw wasn’t an option.
Now I’m trying to make up for it.
The thing is, it’s not like I have a massive amount of time at the end of a workday. Of course, I can easily do stuff with the boys later at night – they like video games, I like video games. We all like trash-talking while we play video games. We’re all set.
The twins, though, now that’s a different matter. I’m not opposed to the way they play, but I simply cannot keep up or make sense of it. I think it’s a twin thing; they’re always doing very imaginative role-playing, and I think half of the communication about what’s going on happens via the psionic beam that connects them.
Plus, I just feel weird playing with stuffed animals. I’m just too macho for that.
But I’ve found a solution: a bike trailer:
(This is not my actual trailer; it’s an image I found on amazon.com. The real trailer has a chain, and the wheel has spokes. I find the distance from the hub to the rim stays much more consistent that way.)
Rather than going out on a ride by myself now, when I get home I give the twins turns riding with me.
So, yes: I’m making up for spending too much time on the bike by…riding my bike.
It has been a huge success.
When I first started taking the girls out riding, we just rode around the neighborhood. And that was enough, for a while. Especially if we went and got a snow cone as part of the ride.
But that got boring.
So, just as an experiment, I took one of the girls out to Lambert Park, a little slice of singletrack heaven about a half mile from where I live.
I expected a little bit of whining, maybe some complaining, and almost certainly a crash.
Instead, I have found the girls’ new favorite thing to do in the world. I am not exaggerating. If I ask them what they want to do, they will say “Go mountain biking!” every single time.
My victory is complete.
Riding a bike on the dirt with another person trailing behind you changes the ride experience. For one thing, the bike’s a lot longer. And it’s a lot heavier. Both of those things are pretty obvious, and not much of a surprise.
I have learned other things while riding with my twins, though.
- Be vigilant: Have you ever thought about how your center of gravity shifts when you turn around to look at something behind you? I hadn’t, until now. One of the girls in particular loves to look around while we ride, which means I need to keep both hands on the grips at all times to correct our balance.
- Be impressed: As I mentioned, one of the twins likes to look around while we ride together. The other one – to my amazement and delight — likes to stand up and hammer. Whenever we get to a hill and I stand up to pedal, she does too. When we reach the top, she always wants an assessment — could I tell how hard she was pedaling? The truth is, mostly I just feel like the rear end of the bike is wrestling with the front end of the bike when she pedals, but that’s not what I say. I say, “Are you kidding me? You were making us go so fast I almost had to use the brakes!”
- Be cool: I have a rule for myself when I’m riding with the girls: they’re in charge. If they want to sing while we ride, I sing along. If they want to stop and look at the deer bones, that’s great. If they want to scream on the downhill…well, actually, I do enforce a “no screaming” rule, but I do allow yelling. I don’t think they get the difference.
- Nothing is scary: At first, the girls called some of the twisty, downhill singletrack (Rodeo and Lambert’s Luge, for those of you who know Lambert’s Park) “scary.” I’ve been calling it “exciting” and “crazy” when they do, trying to get them to think of downhill riding as fun instead of threatening. This seems to be working, because the “crazytrack” (crazy + singletrack, apparently) is now a mandatory part of every single ride.
- You don’t spin out: This one’s just kind of wild. You know how when you stand up on an uphill climb you’re more likely to spin out? Well, if you have 70 pounds of weight (50 pounds of kid, 20 pounds of bike)pulling down on the seatpost, you can stand up and pedal to your heart’s content. Your rear wheel stays planted.
- It’s easy to become the most popular guy in the neighborhood: After the twins have their turns, it’s pretty common for their friends to be hanging around the front yard, hoping for a turn on the crazytrack, too. My response: “Sure, kid, you can have a turn. Remember, though: no screaming, never let go of the handlebars, and go have your parents sign this waiver.”
- The bike turns sharper than you’d expect: Since the clamp that connects the add-a-bike to the seatpost pivots, the bike actually becomes articulated when you do sharp turns. Which means hairpins aren’t the problem I thought they would be. And the girls have never complained about brushing against the brush or trees. It’s all part of the game.
By the time everyone who wants a turn has had a turn, I sometimes have been riding for 2.5 hours. They’d want to keep going, but it gets dark a lot earlier now.
I have no idea if pulling an extra 70 pounds for two hours qualifies as good training. I generally don’t feel particularly cooked afterward — I’m never going full-tilt, and the climbs aren’t very steep or long — so I suspect not. But I am getting out on a bike, and I am brainwashing my girls into loving what I love.
I have, in fact, started hatching this fantasy: What if — at age 57 — I crossed the finish line at the Leadville 100 accompanied by my twin daughters?
That would rule.
And it seems like I might be getting some traction with that idea. A few days ago, I was telling the twins about how their cousin — Kellene and Rocky’s youngest daughter – is shaping up to be a real cross-country track star. I asked, “Would you like to be a runner, like your cousin?”
“No, dad,” said one of the twins — the one who likes to stand up and hammer on the climbs. “I want to be a mountain biker, like you.”
I don’t believe I have ever been so happy in my entire life.
PS: I wanted to get some pictures of the girls riding, but that’s nearly impossible, since I’m on the bike with them at the same time. So here are a couple shots of them hiking to Timpanogos Cave with me a couple weekends ago (yes, on Susan’s birthday. One of my gifts to Susan was several hours of peace and quiet). Also, I’m posting these pictures because I hardly ever remember to send pictures to my family members, so figured I’d take care of that right here, in the (almost certainly somewhat wrong) assumption that my family actually reads this blog.
Beginning of the hike — leaves are changing.
One of the weird things about having identical twins is their teeth seem to fall out in the same order, and within days of each other.
“Act like the cave’s really spooky,” I said. These, evidently, are expressions of fear.
Really, the girls didn’t like the actual cave that much. What they loved was the hike to and from the cave. Especially climbing the rocks.
As far as I know, I’ve never talked with an editor at Bicycling. I don’t have an “in” with them. So the fact that they graciously featured the “WIN” Fat Cyclist Pink Jersey on the cover of their October issue was a wonderful surprise.
Apparently, though, Bicycling isn’t satisfied with merely being cool. Nosirree. They had to go for the double whammy. Check out Steve Madden’s “With the Editor” column in the November issue:
And here’s a closeup of the part they wrote about the “Win” Special Edition Pink Fat Cyclist Jersey.
Susan and I would give up everything we own to not be going through this cancer ordeal. That said, the silver lining has been considerable.
Back when Susan was first diagnosed, BotchedExperiment told me that there’s a demonstrated correlation between the amount of emotional support cancer patients get and how well they respond to treatment — which was part of why he was the one who engineered that big “Get Well Card” extravaganza a couple months back.
And now, this. This kind of support from the Editor of Bicycling — and by extension, from the whole magazine — is similarly excellent.
Meanwhile, We have received so many pictures of so many of you wearing this jersey, and that kind of support is huge.
What’s my big insight from all this? That, given the chance, most people are really, really good.
Oh, and also that deep down, guys like to wear pink.
This Saturday: The Josie Johnson Memorial Ride
Hey, if you ride in the Salt Lake City, Utah area, come do something good for cycling this Saturday. Bicyclists of all interests and abilities are coming together to promote bicycle safety and remember Utah’s cycling accident victims.
The ride is named after Josie Johnson, an avid cyclist killed on September 18, 2004, hit from behind while riding up Big Cottonwood Canyon (one of my favorite lunch rides, by the way). The memorial ride is dedicated in Josie’s honor to raise community awareness for bicycle safety.
Event organizers call on bicyclists and motorists to increase safety both during and after the ride. Bicyclists are encouraged to be considerate and abide by traffic law. Motorists are urged to control their speeds, watch for bicyclists when turning at intersections and pulling onto the roadway, and give bicyclists the legally required at least three feet clearance when passing.
Riders will meet at Sugar House Park at 10:30 am and ride to Mill Hollow Park in Holladay. Get more info at www.josiejohnsonride.com.
A Note From Fatty: My second weekly BikeRadar piece has just been published. It’s called “How to Justify Your Next Bike.” Here’s a preview:
We cyclists are simple folk. We don’t need much to keep us happy. Really, all we need are clear skies and a road or trail to make us happy.
And a helmet, of course. And gloves. And shorts with a special antimicrobial chamois insert. And form-fitting shirts. And very stiff-soled shoes, preferably Italian-made. And specialty sports drinks, with an incomprehensible combination of carbohydrates, proteins, electrolytes, and a lemon-lime flavoring that for some reason makes one think of furniture polish.
Oh, and we need bikes. More specifically, we need another bike. Always. And that means we need to pay for another bike.
Now, it’s not the paying per se that’s difficult. We can always find a way to get the money we need for bike stuff â€” take a second job, sell a kidney, money laundering, whatever.
What’s difficult is justifying the expense of yet another bicycle, whether it be to our wives, our parents, or to our own nagging conscience.
Sometimes we fail in our justification, and then where are we? We’re in the Purgatory of No New Bikes, that’s where we are. That’s a bad place. A bad, bad place. We should never have to be in that place.
And if you will follow the following techniques, you will never be in that place again.
Click here to continue reading “How to Justify Your Next Bike” on BikeRadar.com ….
I wouldn’t call the number of bikes I have in my garage “stupid.” I prefer to call it “plentiful.” And maybe “plentiful” is too strong a term. I mean, it’s not like I have a bike for every occasion. I don’t have a BMX bike, for example. Nor do I have a cross bike. Nor a full-suspension mountain bike.
When you think about it, I’m a pauper, bikewise. But I’m getting away from the point I want to make. Which is: my paucity of bikes notwithstanding, generally I have a bike or two ready to roll for any biking occasion.
Last Saturday, however, very nearly turned out to be an exception.
First off, mountain bikes were out of the question, since I messed up my right shoulder again last Friday (I had picked a bad line and rolled off a narrow ladder bridge into a ravine, cleverly stopping my fall by putting out my right hand).
That’s OK, though. It had been a while since I had been out on the road bike. So I started topping off the tires, when I noticed a bulge in the rear tire. There was a big tear in it, and I didn’t have a replacement. Bike shops wouldn’t be open for a couple hours.
Briefly, I was flummoxed. I was all dressed up, with no way to go.
And then I saw the track bike.
Ah yes, the fixie. It had been a long time since I had ridden the fixie. I’ve hardly been out on it at all since moving from Washington to Utah, in fact. The roads are just too hilly.
But you know, I’ve wondered a few times what it would be like to try to climb the Alpine Loop on my track bike.
Well, now seems like as good a time as any to find out.
It is natural, of course, for me to assume that your life revolves around my adventures and exploits. Even so, I don’t expect you to immediately know / remember what climbing the Alpine Loop on my fixed-gear bike implies. So let me help you:
- The Alpine Loop is a road climb I can do right from my house. It is a ten mile climb, ascending nonstop from 5000 to 8200 feet. In short, it is a ten-mile, 3200 foot climb.
- The Bianchi Pista is a very inexpensive — but still surprisingly cool-looking track bike. “Fixed gear” means that it doesn’t have a freewheel, which means you cannot coast. If the wheels are turning, you must be pedaling. The gear ratio on my Pista is 48 x 16, which is about the same as if you are in your big ring up front and in the middle sprocket of your cassette in the back.
In short, I had given myself quite a challenge.
I put a water bottle in my jersey pocket (track bikes don’t usually have water bottle cages), swung a leg over and began the ride. I was surprised at how quickly I became reaccustomed to not being able to coast; the fixie style of riding came back to me right away.
I was not surprised at how hard this ride was. There were very few moments where the pitch of the road eased up enough that I was able to sit down.
Please Notice Me
The sky was overcast and threatening as I climbed, which meant the temperature was nice and cool. I was disappointed, though, to find that the threat of rain had evidently scared away all cyclists.
Why was I disappointed to not either pass or be passed? Simple. I desperately wanted to casually point out to someone — anyone – that I was climbing the Alpine Loop on a 48 x 16 – geared track bike.
No luck. I had to suffer slowly up the mountain without the benefit of being able to have the conversation I had mapped out in my head:
Me: How’s it going?
Other rider: Not bad. I can’t believe you’re passing me. I’m a semi-pro, you know, and am going full-tilt.
Me: (modestly) Well, I can’t really control my speed. Just gotta turn the cranks over at the speed they turn over, you know.
Other rider: Holy smokes. I just noticed — you’re riding a fixie! Up the Alpine Loop! What kind of gearing is that?
Me: Yeah, my regular road bike had a mechanical. Didn’t want to miss out on a ride. The gearing’s 48 x 16, or something like that.
Other rider: Hey, that’s a really nice jersey. Are you the one they call the Fat Cyclist?
Me: Yeah, that’s me.
Other rider: Can I have your autograph?
Me: Sure. I keep a permanent felt-tip marker with me at all times for just this sort of occasion.
Entertaining myself with these kinds of thoughts, I made it — slowly, painfully, to the summit. Unheralded.
I rode around the parking lot at the summit a few times, hoping someone would get to the top and notice me. In this I was disappointed.
Oh, I Guess I’m Not Done Yet
As a testament to exactly how far into the future I was thinking when I began this ride, it was only when I was actually at the top of the Loop that I considered what a total lack of fun it was going to be to do the downhill portion of this ride. I do have a front brake fitted on the bike, but I still had to pedal the whole way down, and so would not be able to go the usual 40+mph all the way down.
Oh, also it started raining. Hard.
So, cold and wet, I simultaneously braked and pedaled down the slick, wet road. The track-style handlebars aren’t made for resting your hands on the top of the bars — there are no hoods. This, combined with the very close, steep geometry of the track bike meant that a lot of my weight was on my arms, so my hands went numb, which was just as well, because that way I didn’t notice how cold they were anymore.
It probably goes without saying that I no longer was much interested in having a conversation about how I was riding the Alpine Loop on a fixie, since I now just felt like a fool.
Recently, I wrote an extremely insightful piece of satire, wherein I projected that the USADA would not finish its deliberations — which have been going on since Spring — in 2035.
Can anyone truly call it a coincidence that just five days later, the hearing closed, and that we now have a verdict (one which Floyd isn’t too happy with)? No, of course it’s not a coincidence.
Clearly, my influence over the cycling community is immense. Don’t cross me. I’ll make you suffer.
Now, I’m not trying to imply anything here, but I can’t help but wonder: If Floyd had worn a Pink Fat Cyclist Jersey when he raced the Leadville 100, do you think it’s possible the outcome might have been different?
So, Is Floyd Innocent?
Since I am clearly a very important, influential, and informed person in the cycling community, I’m positive that you want my opinion on this whole mess.
So here you go. My actual opinion. I’ll stop kidding around for a minute.
My natural tendency is to believe that most people have good motives most of the time. So I believed Tyler is / was innocent, and I’m inclined to believe Floyd is innocent, too. I sure hope so, because Stage 17 in the 2006 TdF was the most inspiring race in modern times.
Innocence aside, I think that Floyd made a strong case that the lab failed in its job to provide unimpeachable results. Strong enough to provide reasonable doubt. Which means, as far as my sense of justice is concerned, that he should not have been found guilty.
So, is Floyd innocent? I think so. Should he have been found not guilty? yes.
I am, of course, interested in your opinion on this matter. As long as you agree with me.
PS: Has anyone seen Tyler lately? Is it maybe time to file a missing person report?
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