How to be a Quick Change Artist

10.30.2007 | 8:23 pm

An Angry and Somewhat-Incredulous Note from Fatty: Little by little, I’m getting to the bottom of the confusion I talked about yesterday. It may yet shape up to be an amusing story, or at least it would if it didn’t avoid tumors. Basically, this comedy gold will involve my wife travelling today (Tuesday) to the orthopedic specialist only to find that the orthopod (as we in the business call them) wasn’t in that day. At all.

The neurologist had told Susan she was scheduled for today, but had actually scheduled her for Thursday. Furthermore, when he told us yesterday that he and our oncologist had agreed that it was more important that Susan go to the orthopod than do chemo that day, he did so without actually consulting our oncologist. Also, he failed to send the crucial MRI results to our oncologist today, in spite of the fact that I specifically told him this was the most important thing he could do for us.

Um, we won’t be going back to that neurologist anymore. Nor to the orthopod he recommended, mostly because he recommended him, but also because this neurologist somehow managed to recommend the orthopod that was further away than any other in the county. I’m guessing they’re golfing buddies, seeing as how that neurologist and the orthopod have adjoining offices in this town that is a 70-minute drive from ours.

OK, Fatty, take a deep breath. Take another. Okay, better take a third.

A Much-Less Angry Note from Fatty: I’ve got a new article published at “How to be a Quick Change Artist.” You can read a preview of the article below, or read the whole thing by clicking here.

How to be a Quick Change Artist
As a cyclist, I am used to sudden, intense bursts of effort. I know how important it is to be prepared, steel myself, and then make that all-out-dash that can result either in victory or — if not done properly — abject humiliation.

I am talking, of course, about changing clothes in a public parking lot before a ride.

Why Change at the Parking Lot?
I have perfectly good reasons for why I change into my riding clothes in a parking lot. Specifically, I do this because I don’t want people at work to know that I am blowing them and their group lunch invitations off in favor of some saddle time. In the name of stealth, I leave the office in my work clothes, and I return in my work clothes, too.

It’s possible, I suppose, that I leave a few clues. For example, when I leave the office I’m carrying a couple water bottles and a large sports bag full of clothes, helmet, and shoes to my truck, which has a bike locked in. Then, two hours later, I return, smelling terrible, with dried mud on my arms and salt formations on my face. Depending on how the ride went, there’s a reasonable chance I’ve got a little blood seeping through the knees of my pants, too.

But I’m sure nobody’s figured out what I’m doing when I leave on those long lunches.

My lunchtime rides usually begin from one place, whether I’m riding road or mountain bike: the parking lot of the city zoo. On one hand, this is very fortunate, because this large, open, high-traffic parking lot is unlikely to attract thieves.

On the other hand, it is a large, high-traffic parking lot generally full of children. A man caught undressing here at the wrong moment might be . . . shall we say . . . misunderstood.

Click here to continue reading “How to be a Quick Change Artist” at

PS: Tomorrow’s Halloween (or, when most of you read this, today’s Halloween), and I’ll be out Trick-or-Treating with the twins (one will be dressing as nurse, one will be dressing as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz).

They have taken months to settle what they will be for Halloween, with their decisions changing almost daily. Strangely, though, they have been absolutely certain of what they want me to be, and have been for since early Spring.

And the truth is, I love their costume idea. It’s brilliant. It’s hilarious. It has nothing to do with bikes, which will catch everyone off-guard. And as far as I can remember, I have not ever seen anyone dressing as this supremely recognizable character for Halloween, ever.

Here I am:

Merry Halloween!


Doctor of the Year

10.29.2007 | 9:49 pm

A warning from Fatty: I am extremely pissed off today, and don’t plan to pretend I’m not. If you’re looking for something non-bilious, you’re going to need to look elsewhere.

Today, Susan had an appointment with the friendly neighborhood neurologist. This was a followup to the MRI she had last Friday, which was recommended during the neurologist visit she had last Tuesday, which was in turn a followup to the EMG test she had the previous Wednesday on the advice from the neurologist . . . okay, at this point I lose track of the dates.

The point is, today’s appointment was the latest in what has now been established as an ongoing pattern with the neurologist. He meets with us, recommends some tests, then we have a followup where he recommends some more tests.

That’s the visit-by-visit pattern. There is also a pattern within each visit: we arrive on time, and then wait for 1.5 hours. I am not exaggerating, even a little bit. I think we are not supposed to realize that a full 1.5 hours has elapsed between when we arrive and when we see the doctor, because the doctor uses clever tricks engineered to make us think things are happening, even though they’re not. For example:

  • 45 minutes: Sit in waiting room.
  • 20 minutes: Sit in examination room.
  • 5 minutes: Talk with Doctor’s assistant, who asks questions. I assume that this information is communicated to the Doctor, although I am not certain, since the Doctor always begins by asking the exact same questions.
  • 20 minutes: Sit in examination room. Some more. Five minutes before he comes to talk to us, the Doctor will come and get Susan’s file, to “review” it. I put “review” in quotes because I would be happy to bet large sums of money that this is in fact the first time he has considered Susan’s case since the last time he saw her.

After our 1.5 hour wait, we are rewarded with no more than ten minutes of the Doctor’s time. During this precious ten minutes, he gives the evaluation and a recommendation for tests I knew he would give . . . and in fact asked for weeks ago. Because, unlike him, I have the power of the Internet and am moderately curious, and can therefore use symptoms and observation to come up with a diagnosis.

But I do not say anything like this, because I know that, sooner or later, he’s going to help. Somehow. In some way other than the one trick he’s shown himself capable of so far: prescribing pain medication.

And that leads us to today.

Today’s Appointment
We waited our usual 1.5 hours today. It’s a good thing Susan’s very comfortable sitting in a chair for that long, and that we don’t have kids to take care of, and that I don’t have a job I’m missing, or this would be very uncomfortable and inconvenient. I’m not upset, because I know that this kind of delay is just an anomaly – if you define ”anomaly” as “something that happens every single time.”

OK, I promise. No more talking about the waiting.

The neurologist comes in, sits down, and tells Susan that the reason she’s in so much pain and her left leg has lost so much mobility is because the tumors on her pelvic bones are growing, so much so that her pelvis is in danger of fracturing. Susan probably should avoid walking altogether, and it would be a good idea to have an appointment with the oncologist.

He wishes her good luck — using these exact words: “Uh, good luck.” He says maybe we should set up a followup appointment in six weeks or so, though he does not say why.

And then he’s gone. Two minutes, beginning to end.

For some reason, it occurs to me: “Well, at least his next appointment won’t have had to wait quite so long.”

On the way out, neither Susan nor I make a move to the desk to set up a followup visit. Later, we will both acknowledge this was intentional.

After the Appointment
As we drive home, I call the oncologist’s assistant — I have her on speed dial, because she’s the one person in the medical community who returns my calls, every single time. I tell her what we’ve learned, and ask her to make sure to get the information from the neurologist, because we’re going to need to see the oncologist tomorrow and figure out what — if anything — we can do.

The oncologist’s assistant assures me that this is a bump in the road, not the end of it.

Then, while we’re still driving home, the neurologist’s assistant calls Susan. “I’ve set up your appointment with the orthopedist,” she tells Susan.

“What?” replies Susan. The doctor did not mention setting up an appointment with anyone, and certainly not an orthopedist. Plus, the time being set is 70 minutes away from where we live, and at the same time Susan would be having chemotherapy, and, hopefully, talking with the Oncologist.

The Neurologist’s assistant calls back in a few minutes and says that the Neurologist has talked with the Oncologist and they both agree it’s more important that Susan see an Orthopedist than go to chemo.

To recap, our new situation is now as follows:

  • Two doctors have agreed that a visit to a third doctor is more important than Susan going to get chemotherapy, which is — we thought — was pretty much the most importhant thing she could do each week.
  • Neither doctor has bothered explaining to us why this is so incredibly important — or even relevant – and neither was available to talk today.
  • Because Susan will be going to the Orthopedist instead of the Oncologist, she won’t be meeting with the Oncologist to talk about a course of action to fight the tumors that are — in spite of the chemotherapy — growing inside Susan.
  • So not only don’t we know how bad this is and what to do next today, but we won’t know tomorrow either.

I’m sure it’s unreasonable of us, but this causes us some distress.

Kenny Makes Me Mad

10.28.2007 | 9:29 pm

Back on August 26, I posted that my good friend Kenny, while riding alone on his mountain bike, had crashed, breaking his hip.

For those of you too lazy to do the math, that’s pretty close to exactly two months ago.

So, guess what Kenny (and Brad and Botched and others) have done a couple times this past week?

Here, I’ll give you a hint:

Yep, Kenny’s riding again, two months after busting his hip. Well, actually “two months” isn’t right either, because he’s been riding on the road for a couple weeks already.

He just couldn’t help himself.

I’m pleased to announce, in any case, that because Kenny has been off the bike and basically unable to walk, that I am quite a bit faster than he is.

No, that’s not true. Even after having been off the bike for a couple months, Kenny’s still fitter and faster than I am.

Kenny is the nicest mutant you will ever meet.

Wherein I Learn a Cool New Trick With My Camera
As I’ve mentioned a few times, I’ve been riding with my Canon TX1 in my jersey pocket lately — it’s turning out to be a great camera / camcorder for biking.

While reading the manual Friday night (yeah, sometimes I read tech manuals for fun), I found out about the “Continuous Shot” feature, where you can just hold down the trigger and the camera takes a picture every quarter second or so.

That, I thought, would be awesome for mountain biking.

Here’s my first whack at using it:

OK, it’s possible that doing a continuous shot of Brad stretching out wasn’t the most exciting possible use of this feature.

The next couple of tries were better, though. Here’s Brad flying down a rocky section of the trail:

And Kenny zooming down a nice stretch of wet leaf-covered singletrack:

I dunno, folks. He looks kinda tentative to me.

Oh, and here’s me. Same stretch as Kenny, about a minute later. I’d like to call your attention to my quads in the second image. Click on the photo to see it at higher resolution if you need to.:

“Oh no,” I can imagine some of you saying. “Fatty’s going to start always showing dozens of images where one would suffice.”

No, I’m not. I just wanted to do a little show and tell here. I’m excited about my toy.

But I do have to say that I like what this Continuous Shot feature on my camera implies for my pics. I’ve never had a great sense of “moment” with my photos. With this feature and an 8Gb card in the camera, I don’t need to be a great photographer. I just have to keep the lens open and my finger down on the trigger.

I won’t be able to help but get the great shot at least once in a while.


10.26.2007 | 8:00 am

I have owned a lot of bicycles in my time. How many? Well, enough that I intended to actually start today’s post with “I have owned XX bicycles in my time,” but every time I try to count, I get lost somewhere along the way.

So we’ll stick with: I have owned a lot of bikes.

Each of these bikes has had one thing in common: they were good, workman-like bikes. Bikes I could and did (and do) treat roughly, without much in the way of regard for the paint job.

Take for example that sexy new Waltworks / Twin Six Custom Stock I talked about earlier this week. Well, currently that bike is in the back of my truck with three rides worth of dried mud on it. Drivetrain’s still good, though, so I have no intention of cleaning it anytime soon.

The Ibis Silk Carbon road bike I have? Drivetrain’s clean. Definitely some grime on the underside of the downtube.

Hey, they’re bikes. Whether I’m riding on the road or dirt, I fully expect the bike to get dirty, and for the paint to get chipped.

And that is why I will not allow myself to get a Vanilla Bicycle.

I found out about Vanilla Bicycles via a comment on this blog, actually, just a few days ago. One of you were talking about how you just got one. So of course I went to take a look at what this bike manufacturer I had never heard of has to offer.

And then I spent ninety minutes, just looking at the photographs.

I mean, I’ve always thought lugs were kind of cool, but I have never — until now — spent ten minutes just drooling over a photograph of them.

And apparently, I’m not the only one who’s doing some serious drooling over Vanilla Bicycles. The website mentions there’s currently a four-year wait list.

That is quite a while.

You know what, though? Four years isn’t that long. I could wait four years for a bike this beautiful.

Excuse me, I need a moment to myself while I look at this dropout.

Okay, I’m back.

So, while I was looking at this website, poring over the works of art Sacha White — the sole builder for Vanilla Bicycles — creates, Dug IM’d me. “Have you been over to the Vanilla site?” he asked.

“I’m there right now,” I replied. We then IM’d for the next twenty minutes over what kind of bike we’d have built — we both gravitated toward a SS road bike to keep the look as pure as possible — and what kind of color schemes we liked best and what kind of upgrades we’d want.

The consensus was that if you’re going to wait 4+ years for a bike, you may as well get your ultimate dream frame. And since you’re going to spend a whole lot of money on it no matter what, you may as well not pinch pennies anywhere: get the polished dropouts. Get the polished, hand-carved lugs. Get the polished “Vanilla” script.

Hey, why not? You’ve got four years to save up for it.

The Problem
Here’s the thing, though. I couldn’t have a bike like this. If I bought it, I wouldn’t ride it. I’d be afraid to. What if I crashed it? What if it got stolen? What if the bike had ordinary wear and tear?

I couldn’t bear it.

I’d leave my ultimate dream bike at home, safe. Probably hanging on a wall, with track lighting pointing toward it. I would then ride one of my other bikes, one that could be replaced (and which are in fact quite regularly replaced, which I’ll talk about next week) without my feeling sad or bad about it.

The Questions
I expect that some of you readers do in fact have bikes that are works of art — whether they are Vanilla Bicycles or some other gifted bicycle maker. I’d like to ask you the following questions: Do you ride it? And if so, how? Are you able to somehow put aside the worry that you could lose, damage or destroy your bike?

I’m not being facetious. I really want to know how you do it.

And, for the rest of us, I have another question: What other small bike manufacturers are out there making mind-blowingly beautiful bikes? Let’s see some links.

I may never own one, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to look.

PS: As a couple commenters have noted, Bike Snob NYC and I have some weird synergy going on between our posts today. Be sure to take a look at what he has to say.

Back in Fat

10.25.2007 | 8:43 am

Here are a few facts about my life as of late:

  • I’ve been stressed out because of Susan’s cancer and her decreased mobility
  • I’ve been stressed out because of work
  • I eat when I’m stressed
  • I’ve had time to ride maybe twice or thrice per week
  • When I’ve been riding, I’ve been taking it easy
  • There is between fifteen and seventeen pounds of “Fun Size” candy bars in my house
  • Days are shorter and colder, and comfort food sounds better than raw greens and fruit
  • The shorter, colder days also cause me to feel like climbing into a cave and sleeping until March. Oh, also I have this strange urge to swat salmon out of the river.

You’ll be surprised to find, therefore, that I’ve started gaining weight. Just like I do every autumn.

Warning Signs
When I was working off the weight for Leadville, I knew I’d never stay in the 140s. Too much work. So I knew I wouldn’t be able to wear the Medium sized jerseys forever.

I no longer even contemplate the Medium jerseys, and the Large jerseys are getting a little tight.

For some reason, there are particular pants in my closet that I no longer want to wear. They just aren’t as comfortable as they used to be. And I’ve reverted to my old habit of leaving shirts untucked. Strange.

How much do I weigh? Well, I have a pretty good idea, but not because I’ve actually been weighing myself. Oddly, I find myself scale-averse at this moment in time. Let’s just say that I’d be surprised if I’m still in the 150’s.

The Plan
Usually, when I start gaining my winter weight (always well ahead of winter), I get angry at myself, even as I help myself to a second carne asada burrito (extra cheese, add guacamole, thanks).

I’m doing something different this year: I’m embracing my fat.

No, not literally.

I’m accepting the fact that it’s been a crazy couple of months. I haven’t had the time nor willpower to stay light, and while my work life has calmed down (I completed the document that was giving my conniptions, and am happy to announce that I have not been fired), my desire to break the world record in fish taco consumption has not.

So I’m giving myself a pass. I’m going to eat what I want, when I want, all the way through Fall Moab (November 9 – 11).

On Halloween, I will gorge on candy — heavy emphasis on 3 Muskateers, Milky Way, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. It will be a spectacle. You would be amazed.

While at Fall Moab, I will prove, once and for all, that nobody can eat more bratwurst than I. This is my superpower, folks, and I’m going to show it off a bit.

Then, on November 12, I’m going to start a Winter riding and dieting plan. I will begin eating right. I will begin riding consistently and according to whatever plan my coach, Robert Lofgran, gives me.

Except for on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.

In other words, by the time the new year rolls around, my weight should be right around 200.

Hey, we should have a guessing game around my weight. Knowing what you know now, what will be my weight on January 2nd?

I’ll give a Fat Cyclist T-shirt to the person who guesses closest.

PS: I apologize to each and every one of you for making AC/DC’s “Back in Black” the earwig you’ll be living with for the rest of the day.

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