How to be an MTB Purist

11.16.2007 | 6:43 am

A Note from Fatty: I’ve got a new article posted on BikeRadar today. You can read the preview below, or click here to go to the complete article.

For years, cyclists thought the road to mountain biking superiority was paved with body armor and motorcycle-like shocks. It’s only recently that mountain bikers have realized that this war of escalating suspension is unwinnable. If you have five inches of suspension, I can get a bike with six. And then you’ll get a bike with seven.

This way madness lies.

The answer to this MTB one-upsmanship? Go the other direction. Trendsetters in the mountain bike scene are now rejecting derailleurs, suspension, and lightweight materials in favor of old-school cool.

The problem is, rigid, steel, single-speed bikes already over the place. What’s left for the trend-setting retro-grouch to do?

I’m glad you asked. There are still plenty of ways you can shun technological progress to impress your friends. Just follow these simple tips:

Go Hardcore
OK, fine. You’ve shunned carbon fiber and even aluminum in favor of good ol’ fashioned steel. Good for you. But you know, as long as your bike is made of hollow tubes, you haven’t really embraced the material. For your next bike, go with solid steel. Demand that your frame weigh no less than 40 pounds. Ideally, you should have your frame cut out of a solid block of iron, or poured into a bronze mould. Imagine a steel bike with no welds. Beautiful.

But don’t let it end there. Are your tires really filled with air? You may as well fill them with helium, you weight weenie. If you really want to convince your friends that you’re after a pure, simple experience on your bike, you’ll cut out all the complex gymnastics required to keep a tire inflated, and will go with a solid rubber tire — like the kind wheelchairs use, but with more tread.

Just think: no more tubes, no more rim strips, no more pumps, no more flats right in the middle of the road. And all at a weight penalty of only six pounds of rolling weight. Per wheel.

It’s totally worth it, though, because you’re keeping it simple.

Click here to continue reading “How to Be a Mountain Bike Purist” at



11.15.2007 | 9:18 am

I don’t like to think about my bike chain. It’s just too unsettling. While the rest of my bike is made of big, solid pieces (except my spokes, which I also don’t like to think about), the chain — the part of the bike that is responsible for transferring all the power from my (massive and well-defined) quads to the dirt — is made of plenty-six thousand teeny tiny pieces. You’ve got the figure-8 pieces, the cylinders that go between, and a teeny tiny pin — thinner in diameter than a human hair — that holds each link together.

When you consider the near-infinite number of moving parts in a given bike chain (plenty-six thousand, as I’ve already made clear), it’s not surprising that this is the part of the bike that requires the most maintenance and is the second-most-likely part of your bike to fail. What’s surprising, really, is that the bike chain works at all. Ever.

Oh, and since I know you’re going to ask: the part of the bike that is most likely to fail is the tire. Which is not much of a surprise when you consider that a bike tire is a piece of soft, easily punctured rubber containing pressurized air that constantly rolls over sharp rocks, broken glass, porcupine quills, and razor blades.

Seriously, it’s amazing we ever get out of the driveway on these things.

Anyway, back to chains.

Chains are Evil
By and large, I am able to successfully avoid thinking about the physics of the bike chain. I just pedal, and the bike goes forward. End of story.

I think the chain resents this taken-for-granted status. So, from time to time, the chain will break.

Here’s the thing about the way chains break, though: they never do it at a good time. They never break while you’re coasting downhill, or riding along, seated, on the flats.


Chains always break while you are climbing — most likely in a tricky, technical move or in a bunch sprint – cranking as hard as you possibly can. And you are standing. With your face over the front wheel, chest over the stem, and crotch over the top tube.

That is when the chain decides it’s had enough.

With an almost inaudible “ping,” one of the pins lets go. At which point all of the following happen simultaneously:

  • Your chest gets core-sampled by your bike stem
  • You get crotch-filleted by your top tube
  • One of your knees crashes into stem or handlebar
  • One of your calves gets gored by your pedals
  • Your face gets a tire burn
  • Your chain gets sucked into your drivetrain

Oh, and if you happen to be lucky enough to stay on your bike when this happens, it will be because the bike has sensed you are on a 40% incline or are in the middle of a ledge move, and now have no way to go forward. At which point, gravity is more than happy to show that it’s not such a “weak force” after all.

Chains are Psychic
Do you want to know the very best way to ensure your chain will never break? No, it’s not to clean and lube your chain at regular intervals. No, it’s not to replace the chain before it stretches beyond a certain point.

The best way to ensure your chain won’t break is to carry a chain tool and an extra link or two when you ride.

I have never, in my whole riding career, ever had a chain break when I was carrying the stuff I needed to repair a chain. I have, however, had chains break seven times (that I can remember) when I wasn’t carrying a tool.

The only possible cause? Chains are psychic, in addition to evil.

For those of you getting ready to comment with stories about how you’ve had chains break while you were carrying a tool, I have the following to say: they do this to maintain plausible deniability. Have you never watched X-Files? Sheesh.

Chains are a Psychological Mess
Answer this set of questions, if you please:

  1. Which part of your bike requires the most frequent maintenance (cleaning, lubing)?
  2. Which part of your bike is most likely to damage another part of the bike (e.g., score your chainstay)?
  3. What is the part of your bike is never regarded as beautiful or elegant?

The answer to all three questions is, of course, the chain. And it knows it. I think the chain has an inferiority complex (it’s ugly and gets dirty), compounded with a superiority complex (it knows it’s the part that makes the bike go), compounded with good old-fashioned insecurity (it’s always demanding more attention, and complains loudly and incessantly if you don’t give it that attention).

And they leave a gross-looking mark on your calves.

PS: Unholy Roleur seems to be having problems with chains, too and has an excellent post about trying to buy a new one.

Travis Ott, Fisher / Lemond Brand Manager, Responds to Me

11.14.2007 | 7:05 am

Good News from Fatty: Susan’s oncologist visit went really well yesterday. The PET scan shows that Susan’s pretty much clean in all the places a PET scan can look. When Susan gets her hip replaced, they’ll take a bone tissue sample to see whether the chemo’s been effective there, too. Provided everything’s good, Susan will get to go off chemo. By Spring, Susan should be feeling good, walking around without crutches, and growing hair. How awesome is that? (Answer: very awesome.)

A Note from Fatty: Last week, I published an open letter to Travis Ott, Brand Manager for Fisher / Lemond. I did not really expect a reply.

But check out what I found in my email inbox yesterday. A letter from Travis, which I will here publish in its entirety.

From: Ott, Travis
To: Fatty
Sent: Tuesday, November 13, 2007 12:17 PM
Subject: RE: Partnership with

Wow.  I have never been more simultaneously flattered and scared at the same time.  Well done. 

So Fatty, (I hope it’s OK for me to call you Fatty) I have to admit that I’ve never been the recipient of such blatant, but well-natured, extortion.  Again, well done.  But enough of the niceities.  I have something you want and you’re clearly ready to deal.  So here’s how it’s going to go down:

Your list of terms is out the window.  I’ve watched enough crime capers in my day to know that you always reject their first list of demands.  So here’s the new terms, and these are not negotiable.

I will provide you with:

Bike. One (1) Gary Fisher Superfly in the size you specify.  Stock spec.

One Season.  You get the bike for 3 glorious months of smooth carbon-y, big-wheeled goodness.  After 3 months you box it up and send it home to the mothership in Waterloo, WI.  Be patient with delivery.  There’s a lot of people who have thrown down money already and are waiting for their Superfly to show. 

But before I send said bike you need to fulfill the following conditions:

Brent Hulme’s Dirty Laundry.  I like Brent.  Solid guy.  I probably owe him a favor.  So rather than punching Brent, I will require you to do Brent Hulme’s dirty laundry for one week.  You will post pics of his laundry on your blog as proof of completion of this task. 

Good Karma. You need to take four kids, age 12 or younger, mountain biking for the day.  Take them to the local trail.  Teach them how to ride.  Play trail guide.  Be patient.  Pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.  Have a great time.  Get them stoked on riding.  Turn them into life-long mountain bikers. Then blog about it on your site and provide photographic evidence.  I want to see you, the kids, and a daily newspaper with the date in the pictures. 

Ad Love. Think about it.  If I yield to your demands without putting you out somehow, I’ll have every blogger in the known blogosphere demanding bikes from me the next day.  And I’m way too lazy to get everyone bikes. 

So I need to make an example of you.  (Sorry Fatty.)  You mentioned that you already have a small personal fleet of Fishers.  You also offered some sweet ad placements.  Let’s combine the two elements.  I’d like to see a banner ad campaign of you and your Gary Fisher bikes for one month counting down the days until you get the Superfly.  The banner ads should run for 1 month and be non-rotating (i.e. permanent) and above the fold. 

Once you have the ride, you’ll cheerfully provide:

Editorial.  Detail on your blog in witty prose and pictures all your epic rides on the Superfly.

Trail Work.  I would like to see you and your Superfly putting in 8 hours of trail work with your local mountain bike organization.  Photographic evidence and snappy musings on your blog as proof. 

This may sound pretty demanding of me.  It is.  But c’mon, it’s a $3,000+ bike, that was nearly sold out before we shipped the first one.  So here’s some more conditions:

If you think the price here is to steep and you’re going to blow it off, I’ll gladly extend this same offer to the first of your readers who agrees to and can meet all of the conditions above. 

Also, you’ll post my full response here unedited.  Keep all the typos and bad grammar.  If it’s not posted or edited in any way, the entire offer comes off the table. 

It’s a sweet bike.  I hope you take me up on this offer/challenge. 

Later Fatty,

Gary Fisher & LeMond Brand Manager

Fatty Responds: I’m in. So in.

Fall Moab 2008

11.13.2007 | 11:23 am

A Note from Fatty: Susan and I went to see the bone tumor specialist yesterday. He didn’t have a recommendation on how to reverse the cancer in her bones, but he did have an answer on what we need to do to get Susan walking again: a hip replacement. Left side. So we’ve got that scheduled for December 5.

Today, Susan and I will be going to her oncologist to figure out what the next steps are as far as fighting the cancer itself.

Thanks to everyone who keeps sending positive comments and email. We really appreciate them. Among the email I got yesterday was this photo from Caren.

She’s just back from the 3-day San Diego Breast Cancer walkathon, where she raised $12,500 — an incredible amount — to fight this disease.

I’ve never met Caren, just like I’ve never met most of you. The fact that so many of you go out of your way to support Susan and me like this is both touching and mind-boggling. Thank you.

An Update on the ”Get a Grip: 1-Week Weight Loss Challenge:” There are now 39 people entered in the 1-Week Weight Loss Challenge, with donations toward fighting cancer totalling $775.00. And just so you know, the Stunt Diet is working great. I’m down 2.8 lbs already. Yes, really. I fully expect to lose 7 lbs by the end of this competition, which will put me in great position to gain it all back (and a little bit more) the following week.

Fall Moab 2008
The thing about Fall Moab 2008 that will stay with me the longest is…the stink.

Four guys, after three days of riding and no showers, will do that to a vehicle. Seriously, I really have no idea how I’ll ever get my truck to smell not-disgusting ever again.

Also, I’ll remember it as the event that forced me to admit that camping can be pretty great.

We set up camp by a defunct windmill right off the Gooseberry Mesa trail, which is outside Hurricane, Utah. And when I say “camp,” I mean real camping. Tent (for some of us anyway — the wealthy and priviliged class among us stayed in Rick’s camper), no water, no facilitites. Which meant we had the area to ourselves — a good thing, considering the topics of the loud conversations that would happen around the campfire at night.

Some of the topics included (but will not be attributed nor recounted, to protect the very, very guilty):

  • Dangerous Liaisons: One of us had, at a young age, been pursued by a wealthy widow who claimed she had had a dream that they were to be married.
  • Revenge: As a teenager, one of us worked for a lawn care company. After being pelted with rocks throughout the summer by children in a trailer park, that one of us revenged himself on his last day of work by writing obscene words in the kids’ lawn with RoundUp.
  • Scary: One of us has a wife who has been threatened by the Mafia.
  • Ew. One of us has had his balls waxed, and looks forward to doing it again.

In addition to the almost surreal conversation, we had extraordinarily good food. I don’t know if it’s a function of being hungry after riding for the afternoon, or if it’s the open flame, but the brats we made were the best thing I have ever eaten.

That is not hyperbole, and I’m pretty sure others camping with me will back me up on this.

We boiled the brats in beer (with an onion chopped in) in a Dutch oven, then grilled them over a wood fire. And then we ate them on Kenny’s homemade bread.

Yes, Kenny makes and bakes his own bread. And it’s incredibly good.

We chose last weekend as the date for this trip months ago. It was a rare piece of luck that it just happened to be perfect weather for pretty much the whole trip. We rode a short section of Gooseberry on Friday, followed by Little Creek Mesa on Saturday, and then rode more of Gooseberry on Sunday.

I’m not sure there’s a more beautiful place in the world. You wind your way through tight, narrow trail, junipers and giant boulders on either side of you. It’s like being in Land of the Lost, but the set’s better designed. Here’s Bob coming out through one of the narrow canyons:

and here’s a nice shot of Dug, riding singletrack on Gooseberry. Massive exposure (i.e., certain death) is eighteen inches to his left.

As usual, I was by far the worst rider of the whole group. I’m often caught between thinking I need to find a worse group of friends to ride with, and being glad I have talented riders for friends, so I can see what’s possible on a bike.

Part of what they can do that I can’t, I think, is twist out of a bad fall. Case in point: check out Corey showing his cat-like grace:

Step 1: wheelie onto the ledge.

Step 2: Hop your back wheel up.

Step 3: Find out you don’t have enough momentum to keep going forward.

Step 4: Start rolling backward.

Step 5: Start bailing out. Look like you’re going to flip over backward and land flat on your back.

Step 6: Execute mid-air splits. I recommend clicking this image to see the larger version, so you can see the expression on Corey’s face.

Step 7: Touchdown.

Step 8: Tuck bike back under you in one fluid motion and…

Step 9: …Ride away as if it were no big deal.

Bob on a SingleSpeed
Bob borrowed my Rig for the weekend, to see what it’s like to ride a 29″ singlespeed.

I think it’s fair to say he loved it. I also think it’s fair to say that Bob rode his heart out, cleaning stuff he maybe wouldn’t have even attempted earlier.

I tell you what: there’s something special about riding a rigid 29″ SS. It makes you better than you were.

Check Bob out:

Going up…

…and coming down.

The kid’s on fire.

I bet you anything he’ll want to buy this bike from me. Now I’ve got to figure out what a reasonable price is.

A few things worth noting:

  • We’re getting old: Kenny had to be careful during this trip; he’s recovering from a broken hip. My shoulder’s messed up. So is Dug’s. Brad often complains about how his goiter is acting up.
  • I was a very boring person to be around: I loved being around my friends this past weekend, but could never shake all the stuff that’s worrying me. I was quiet, didn’t laugh at others’ jokes as much as they deserved, and was very tentative on the bike.
  • We’re all very handsome men: Let’s end with the obligatory group photo (pops to larger version):

A Thank-You, An Announcement, and a Preview

11.12.2007 | 8:33 am

I don’t have a ton of time to write today or tomorrow, so I’m hoping that Bob will follow through on his promise to be the one to write up Fall Moab 2008.

Why not a ton of time today? In just a few minutes, Susan and I are heading over to see a bone tumor specialist to figure out what our next steps are. So you’ll understand why there won’t be a lot of comedy in today’s entry; I’m distracted and anxious.

That said, there are a few things I want to say today.

Thank You
Last Friday, we had a stair lift installed. Check it out:

Now Susan doesn’t have to use her crutches every time she wants to go up and down the stairs. Big relief.

This thing wasn’t cheap: about $3500. But thanks to everyone who has bought Fat Cyclist jerseys, t-shirts, or socks, we were able to pay cash for it.

So, next time you wear your Fat Cyclist gear, think about it: you’ve had a measurable part in making Susan’s life safer, easier, and more comfortable.

Thank you very much.

(And an extra-large thanks goes out to Twin Six, who has spent a lot of time and money on all of this gear without making a dime.)

Today’s the first day of the “Get a Grip” One-Week Weight Loss Challenge, brought to you by the fine folks at Ergon Bike Ergonomics. At this moment, so far 27 people (including me) have signed up, and have donated $810 toward fighting cancer as their entry fee — three times as much as the minimum donation required.

I tell you what: I am just blown away by the generosity of the people who read this blog.

If, by the way, you were thinking of reversing your Autumn slide into fatness by entering this one-week weight loss sprint (and in the process donating to an important cause and possibly winning some really cool grips), it’s not too late. Read this post, follow the directions, and get started. Right now.

Over the weekend, I filled a 4Gb card with photos and videos of my friends at Fall Moab 2008. Here’s a series from the first day.

He calls himself BotchedExperiment. I call him insane.

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