Hey, Let’s Go On A Ride

12.30.2007 | 9:58 pm

You know what’s stupid? It’s stupid that I have this blog about cycling, and you read this blog about cycling, and yet I’ve actually gone cycling with about 0.0001% of you.

That’s got to change.

This year, I’m going to set up some Fat Cyclist group rides. Like maybe something at Gooseberry. A Mount Nebo road ride. Maybe a Moab trip. I’ll give enough warning — and a reasonably honest appraisal of the difficulty — that anyone who feels like they want to be there, can be there.

Let’s start with a ride on New Year’s Day.

Kenny’s Second Annual New Year’s Day Squaw Peak Climb
Last year, a bunch of us rode the Squaw Peak road on New Year’s Day: click here to read about it.

It was a hoot. So we’re doing it again. Here’s where it is:

View Larger Map

Some Info You’ll Want
Cleverly, I realize I have so far given you almost no information you can actually use. For this I apologize. Here’s what you need to know:

  • When: January 1, at 10:00am sharp
  • Where: Squaw Peak Road, Provo Canyon
  • What to wear: Cold, cold, cold weather riding gear. Unless you’re Jill Up in Alaska, in which case, early autumn riding gear will do fine.
  • What bike to bring: Your mountain bike, with very low pressure in  your tires. Most of this ride will be on snowmobile track.

Last year we were able to ride up to the top. I understand that may not be possible this year.

I look forward to riding with you.

PS: I shall resume my regular writing schedule (ie, most weekdays) starting January 2. I hope you’re having as nice of a break as I am. 


Early Present

12.22.2007 | 8:23 am

A Note from Fatty: Yeah, I know I said I wasn’t going to post again ’til after Christmas. I don’t consider this a post. It’s too short to be a post. It’s a post-let, if you will, and should not be considered a post.

pump Yesterday, I got a box from Specialized in the mail. I hadn’t ordered anything, so had no idea what it could be. Or who it could be from.

It turns out that Walter T. took my Christmas wish list to heart and bought me a Specialized Air Tool Comp.

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it here, but my other floor pump is also a Specialized Air Tool Comp, and has been a reliable, no-maintenance pump for me for about four years.

The old one, of course, will now have a permanent home in the bikemobile; I shall never have be pumpless while on the road again. Which means that at some point — since I also carry three sizes of spare tubes in my bikemobile (road, 26″ mountain, 29″ mountain), I’m going to be the most awesome good samaritan-type for a stranded roadside cyclist ever.

This new pump, meanwhile, becomes the alpha pump and will live by my rollers during the winter, and in the garage by my bike rack during the summer.

Thanks, Walter!

Annual Christmas Letter

12.20.2007 | 1:39 pm

A Note from Fatty: For weeks, I have promised Susan that I would write a Christmas letter to send out to our friends and family. But while I — for some unknown reason — have no problem writing something each day for this blog, I have an incredibly difficult time sitting down and writing a letter recapitulating the year.

(Brief aside: could someone please explain why “recapitulate” means “to summarize briefly” when “capitulate” means “to surrender?” Thank you.)

Anyway, I figure that by now enough of you know me well enough that I ought to be sending you the Christmas letter anyway, so today’s post will do double duty.

And to those of you who hate Christmas letters: I apologize.

Dear Friends and Family,

2007 sucked. A lot.

Really, “sucked” is too weak of a word. “2007 sucked to the power of three” is more accurate. In the interest of brevity, let’s go with, “2007 sucked, cubed.”

This is not to say that nothing good happened this year. A lot of good things happened, and I’ll summarize them in just a minute. But the big thing that happened this year sucked (cubed), and I’m not going to pretend it didn’t.

Anyway, let’s get started with what happened to whom. I’ll lead with the lousy stuff, so we can finish on a positive note.

IMG_0731 copy Susan
Most of you know that Susan battled cancer back in 2004. We thought we were done.

We aren’t.

Early this year, Susan found out that her breast cancer had come back and had metastasized. Susan has done radiation, followed by six months of chemotherapy.

Meanwhile, one of the tumors in Susan had ruined her left hip so badly that it became difficult for Susan to walk. She started using a cane, then went to crutches. By October, Susan wasn’t able to get comfortable anywhere. We found an excellent surgeon — one who specializes in bone tumors — who did a partial hip replacement for Susan just a few weeks ago.

People mention — often — how tough and brave Susan is, and they’re absolutely right. Susan tells me, though, she would gladly turn in some of the bravery for less pain and the ability to walk without crutches.

The silver lining with all this is that we’re finding out exactly how good people can be. Our neighbors, family, and friends have taken us under their collective wing and picked up the slack left when a mom can’t get around. Meals, rides for the kids, people staying with us when we need some full time assistance — we’ve now been helped so much that we don’t even concern ourselves about ever paying it back. We just try to be thankful that there are so many good folks who are willing to make us their project.

Which leads us to Elden. Um, me.

I’ve been keeping a blog for almost three years, called “Fat Cyclist” (www.fatcyclist.com). It started as a place where I could tell jokes and embarrass myself into keeping my weight down.

When Susan’s cancer came back, I had to decide between no longer writing the blog (I seriously considered this), continue writing the blog as if nothing had happened (not really possible; I’m not very good at faking a good mood), or telling my readers what was going on.

I chose to tell my readers what was going on, which may have been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Fat Cyclist readers sent in hundreds of cards and gifts. Twin Six — a bicycle jersey design company — created a special “Fighting for Susan” edition of the Fat Cyclist jersey, splitting the proceeds between Susan’s expenses and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

People bought more than 600 of these jerseys — all of them we made. It even — amazingly — wound up on the cover of the most popular bicycling magazine in the country. Thanks to these people, when we needed to buy a stairlift — not cheap — we were able to do so with cash, and we’ve got money in the bank for when Susan’s well enough to go on a trip to Italy.

Every day, now, people reading my blog ask about Susan, letting us know that they’re sending prayers and good thoughts her way. It counts for a lot.

Oh yeah, I also rode my bike a lot and did some races.

And I have a really, really, really good job, with a boss that actively encourages me to keep my priorities straight — take care of my wife above all.

IMG_0401 Nigel
Nigel is fourteen now. He is as tall as I am, with a high likelihood of being taller than me by sometime next week. He has an outrageous sense of humor, coupled with an intuitive grasp of math and logic, all wrapped up in a heart of gold. And he can crush rocks with his bare hands.

I may have made up that last bit.

Nigel loves programming in Flash, creating increasingly interesting and fun games and animation. He’s capable of keeping a non-finite number of instant message sessions going with his friends, who are spread across the globe. This means Nigel likes to both get up early and stay up late, so he’s able to chat with and collaborate with his friends in Australia, Canada, and the fourth moon of Jupiter.

Also, Nigel’s kicking butt in school. But not literally.

IMG_0397 Brice
Brice, now 12, is incredibly smart, and — thanks to his love of reading — is his mom’s best friend. The two of them remind me of each other, the way they each have stacks of books piling up everywhere. They often read out loud to each other, and the rest of us find ourselves gathering around to listen.

Brice is in a gifted program at school. The technical term for this program is “My Child Thinks Your Child’s Honor Roll Program is Adorable” (MCTYCHRPIA). Brice finds the curriculum amusing, but not challenging.

Also, Brice will eat whatever we give him — the only child in the whole lot who doesn’t have some freakish “I hate any food that is not on my arbitrarily-chosen list of five strange-and-often-gross list.”

Brice has recently started playing the guitar, and is doing well at it. I, for one, am just glad he didn’t go for the flute (those of you who know me know I have a doglike sensitivity to high, piercing sounds).

I should also mention: Brice can move objects using nothing but his mind. He mostly uses this gift to tease the cat.

IMG_0420 The Twins
The twins — Katie and Carrie — are doomed to always be lumped together, at least in these letters. That’s only fair, though; they’re inseparable. No, wait. That makes it sound like they’re conjoined. They’re not conjoined. They just do everything together.

Including the way they lose teeth.

I don’t know if all identical twins work this way, but our girls lost their front teeth within a couple days of each other. In the same order as each other. Wild.

The girls love to draw. They are as talented as they are prolific. Every day, they wake up, go downstairs, and work through about half a ream of paper.

They are not, alas, tidy. With the volume of paper they leave about, our house is probably a fire hazard. Please, extinguish your smoking material before entering the Nelson house. Or we’ll all die.

The girls have also fallen in love with mountain biking, which makes my heart sing. Carrie has proclaimed she wants to be a mountain biker when she grows up. Katie draws pictures for me saying she wants to go mountain biking again soon.

If only they would eat something besides soup, yogurt, and peanut butter sandwiches, they would be perfect.

Oh yes, they’ll eat ice cream, too.

We’re looking forward to 2008. As soon as Susan can walk around the cul de sac using just a cane, we’re yanking the kids outta school and going to Disneyland. The kids have been great during this sucky (cubed) year; they deserve a vacation.

Hey, don’t we all.

Thanks very much to everyone for your continued friendship and familyship. Chances are, if we know you, we’ve been leaning on you.


Elden, Susan, Nigel, Brice, Katie and Carrie Nelson


PS: This will be my last post ’til after Christmas. Merry Christmas, and thanks for reading!

Meet The Bikemobile

12.19.2007 | 12:54 pm

Here’s something you may not know about me: after someone posts comments here for a while or I otherwise get to know them, I start considering what they might think of what I’m writing.

So, yes, sometimes I wonder what Al Maviva might write in the comment section. And I often wonder whether Dug will roll his eyes at a post where I talk sincerely about something.

Or, in the case of today’s post, I can’t help but wonder if Sans Auto and MinusCar will shake their heads in collective disappointment.

Because today, I am going to talk about how much I love my car.

Meet the BikeMobile
I used to be a car guy. I subscribed to several car magazines. I bought cars that were quick, balanced, and very fun to drive (Mazda Miata, Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX, Acura RSX Type S).

To a degree, that changed when I got into biking. I can’t remember if I’ve shared this story (the problem with being both middle-aged and having a blog where you write daily about a single topic for three years is that eventually you’re likely to repeat yourself and not remember whether you’re repeating yourself), but I actually sold my Eclipse to pay for my first serious mountain bike.

But I still love cars. It’s just that now I look for different things in cars. Which is to say, when I shop for a car, I do so asking myself, “Will this be a good car for biking?”

As of last February — yes, I’ve had this car for ten months and have been too embarrassed to talk about it until now — I have what I consider to be a cyclist’s dream car.

Here it is:


Yes, I drive a 2007 Honda Ridgeline. Also known — to me, anyway — as The BikeMobile.

Beauty in Capability
I fully expect at least half of you to be formulating your comments around the “Wow, that’s a weird-looking pseudo-truck you’ve got there.” And by all means, feel free to write them. I know it’s not the most elegant-looking vehicle in the world. I even know it’s not a very cool-looking truck.

The thing is, I gave up on looking cool a looooong time ago, and it’s hard for me to picture a more practical vehicle for a cyclist.

Let me give you a tour.

Indoor Parking
Here’s the back seat of my truck:


First off, this means I can seat five adults in my truck — four comfortably enough for weekend trips to Moab.

More importantly, though, the seat cushions flip up and out of the way in one step, giving me a wonderful place to keep my road bike secure and out of the weather:


It’s hard to tell from this picture, but I don’t have to do any bike disassembly to fit the road bike in there — it fits in easily, and in fact lives there, always ready for me to take a ride.

Oh, by the way: the floor mats are all rubber — hose ‘em off and put ‘em back in. Or — as is my practice — don’t hose them off and just figure that eventually you’ll get around to it.

A Place for My Stuff
So if I have a bike always at the ready, how about the stuff that goes with the bike — helmet, shoes, clothes, bottles, pump, drink mix, gels, Shot Blocks, lube, rags, tubes, spare CO2 cans, and tools? Yep, I’ve got a spot for that, too. Here’s the truck bed:


But that’s not where I keep my stuff. All that stuff has a permanent home down underneath the truck bed:


I admit: this trunk-under-the-truckbed thing is what sold me on the Ridgeline. I can — and do — keep all my biking junk in there, where it’s always ready and its magnificent greasy stinkiness doesn’t interfere with the sublime audio experience my passengers can expect from my premium sound system.

Too bad my iPod mostly has 80s music.

Fork Mount
And now we come to the DIY part of my truck. Yes, I actually got all brave and installed a couple of locking fork mounts right into the front of the truck bed. You can see them a couple pictures up, but here’s a closeup of one of them:


I took the front bed plate out, drilled holes, reinforced the back with metal plates, and then sealed it all with silicone caulking.

To my delight, these fork mounts are as solid as rocks. I can’t even describe how proud I am of how this turned out. Here’s how the whole setup looks when I’ve got a couple mountain bikes in place:


Road bike in the back seat, two mountain bikes in truck bed, and — as an absentminded middle-aged man, I cannot overemphasize how important this is — I can pull the whole thing into the garage without first removing the bikes from a roof rack. (Those of you who have heard the sickening crunch of a bike on a roof rack colliding with a garage entrance — destroying the bikes, the garage’s fascia, the garage door itself, and the car’s roof in one misery-filled moment — will know what I mean.)

As I said: Dream car.

Other Stuff
In addition to the bikes in the truck bed and back seat area, I can easily put a bike rack in the 2″ receiver hitch, letting me comfortably haul four mountain bikes, their riders, and all their gear. Or if I want to get nuts about it, I can put two more bikes on the roof rack, making it easily possible for me to carry seven bikes at a time.

Also, there are around 70 cupholders.

I Am Not A Car Salesman
Effusive Ridgeline gushing notwithstanding, I’m not really trying to get you to buy a truck just like mine. I know for a fact that Kenny loves his Toyota FJ Cruiser as much as I love my Ridgeline — and in fact, his FJ Cruiser is in some ways a better BikeMobile than my Ridgeline is (The FJ Cruiser is a wonder when off road; the Ridgeline is only so-so).

In fact, I expect a lot of us cyclist types have bought our cars with bike transport considerations as primary criteria. I’m very interested in how others of you have set up your own personal BikeMobiles. What do you drive? How do you carry bikes? What do you keep in the car?

Oh, and MinusCar, and SansAuto: again, I’m really, really sorry.

Test Your Bike Repair IQ

12.18.2007 | 12:06 pm

A Note from Fatty: I’ve got a story up on BikeRadar today. You can read a preview below, or click here to read the whole thing.

An important part of being a cyclist is knowing how to identify common mechanical troubles and knowing how they can be repaired, as well as how to give accurate information to bike mechanics, on the rare occasion you find one necessary. Take this handy quiz to help you identify how much you know about diagnosing and repairing common bike problems.

1. You hear a creak coming from somewhere in your bike. What should you do?

a. Immediately stop and call your bike mechanic. The bike is seriously damaged; any further riding will almost certainly cost thousands of dollars to repair.

b. Lubricate all moving parts with whatever chain lube is handy. You are bound to get the correct one eventually, right?

c. Ignore it. The squeaking is caused by friction, so it stands to reason that eventually that the two things that are rubbing against each other and making that infernal racket will eventually wear each other down, and the sound will go away, or at least subside.

d. Turn up your iPod. Hey, the sound went away!

2. Whichever thing you did in question 1 didn’t work. What do you do next?

a. Fix the bike yourself. You have tools and a bikestand, so you must be a mechanic.

b. Quickly admit defeat and meekly take your bike into the shop.

Click here to continue reading “Test Your Bike Repair IQ” at BikeRadar.com

PS: The cartoon that goes with it is especially awesome this time, but you’ve got to read the caption. Click here to see the cartoon.

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