A Note of Explanation from Fatty: A few weeks ago, I was forwarded one of the best email messages I’ve ever read. It was so angry. It was so confidently outraged. It was so full of righteous indignation. It was a full-on textual one-two punch, followed with a kick to the groin and a blackjack to the frontal lobe.
After reading this email, I was overtaken with the urge to write similarly angry letters. I wanted to knock some heads together. Hurt some feelings. Kick some butt, burned bridges be damned.
Furthermore, I wanted to post these letters on my blog.
Here’s the thing, though: I just couldn’t do it.
When push came to shove, I couldn’t force myself to engage in a frontal attack. I’m too
much of a pansy nice of a guy.
So instead, I decided to do the opposite of open hate mail. I’m going to write some love letters. Not just letters of appreciation, but gushing, heartfelt, downright embarrassing proclamations of my undying devotion.
By way of rules, I am keeping it simple for myself.
- I will write love letters only to companies and people who make / do something I really like.
- I will feel free to exaggerate my devotion to whatever degree I feel necessary in order to make my point.
- If an exclamation point can possibly be used as the sentence-ending punctuation, I will.
I will then send these letters to the organization or person the letter is intended for 48 hours before I post it to my blog. If I get a response worth publishing, I will include it along with my letter.
And if I get an offer for sponsorship or advertising, I will do a little dance.
With that, let’s begin.
Dear Clif Bar Representative,
I love you with all my heart. Well, not you as a person, though I am sure you have many excellent qualities. What I love are your Clif Shot Bloks.
They are the best endurance cycling food in the whole world! And if there is intelligent life on other planets, I hereby challenge them to bring forth the best endurance cycling food they have to offer and see how it compares. For I do not believe it will be as good as Clif Shot Bloks.
Yes, that’s right. I’m so confident in the quality and deliciousness of Shot Bloks that I’m ready, right this instant, to go toe-to-toe with alien beings to defend your honor! I’m that committed.
I’m sorry, I’m already getting a little bit off-track. I did not mean for this letter to be about interplanetary sports food competitions. I meant it simply to be a letter telling you that I love Shot Bloks, and I’m willing to shout it from the rooftops!
Clif Bar Representative (Oh, how I wish I knew your name!), I love riding bikes. Road bikes, mountain bikes — it doesn’t matter to me, as long as I can get out and be in the saddle for three hours or more (sometimes much, much more: I frequently do 100-mile or longer mountain bike races!). And when I’m riding, I need fuel.
For more than ten years, I searched for a perfect cycling fuel (to be perfectly honest, though, my search has not been nonstop; I have taken several breaks and have at times lost interest in the search altogether). I wanted Something that was easy on the stomach! Something that I could eat hour after hour (after hour after hour), without being repulsed by the flavor or texture (this requirement, by the way, eliminates most every energy gel out there)! Something that’s easy to carry, doesn’t require ten minutes of chewing for every bite! Something that goes down fast.
Shot Bloks are that something. I can eat a packet of them, every 40 minutes, indefinitely — or at least for 20 hours, which is what I did when racing the Kokopelli Trail last year. That’s 200 calories every 40 minutes: a nice, constant flow of calories going to my legs.
But I do not wish to make it seem as if I love Shot Bloks only because they are an easily-consumed source of on-the-bike calories! Far from it! I also like how easily I can open the package. I can tear open a package of Shot Bloks using nothing but one hand and my teeth, meaning I hardly have to slow down to eat them. Although — I must confess — I’ve accidentally torn the top of the package completely off a few times and lost it to the wind, which has, truth be known, made me feel guilty. I don’t want to be a litterbug!
Here’s a thought, Clif Bar Representative: Maybe you could look into a kind of packaging that opens with one hand, without tearing, and leaves the packaging in one piece, so racing cyclists would be able to take maximum advantage of your brilliant, delicious energy food without adversely affecting the environment.
Really, that’s my only complaint.
I hope you don’t mind my asking a question, Clif Bar Representative. That question is, "How did you do it?!" It would never have occurred to me to make a gummy-bear-like energy food. It just wouldn’t have ever entered in my brain, and I think about stuff like this all the time.
For example, I just spent twenty minutes trying to think of another energy food substance that would work just as well as Shot Bloks. But I got nothin’.
I guess that’s why you’re the ones with the successful energy food company, and I’m the one buying stuff from you, right?!
Still, I’d love to know what the origin is of Shot Bloks. Please tell me.
Oh, I actually have another suggestion, based on an experience I had last year while racing the Leadville 100. I was eating your Margarita Shot Bloks (the ones with extra extra extra sodium) pretty much constantly, figuring that with all the sweating I was doing, the extra sodium would do me good.
But then I had a problem.
I ate eaten so many Margarita Shot Bloks that the inside of my mouth started to feel like it was pickled leather — you know, the way the inside of your mouth feels when you gargle saltwater or accidentally get a mouthful of ocean water? And my stomach rebelled; I actually had a gag reflex any time I tried to eat another Margarita Shot Blok, and had to throw the remainder of the open package away, in order to avoid barfing outright!
I hope I’m not grossing you out or hurting your feelings or anything.
Long story short, I switched over to the Cran Razz flavor (my favorite flavor, by the way) and was just fine from that point forward, though I cannot to this day look at the Margarita Shot Blok package without getting a little twinge.
I’m just thinking maybe you might want to put a suggestion on the back of the Margarita flavor saying, "Don’t eat these as your only food source; mix them up with another flavor!"
Or something like that.
Although, now that I think about it, I’m probably the only person who’s ever been goofy enough to eat those Margarita Bloks as his only fuel source for several consecutive hours during a race, aren’t I?
I’m such an idiot sometimes.
Anyway, back to why I love Shot Bloks. I’ll bet I’m not the first person to tell you that these things are delicious just as a snack! Yes, it’s true. More than once I’ve gone to the cupboard to get something to eat, thought about what I want, and the answer is, "Shot Bloks!"
I tell you what: that has never been the case with a Power Bar. Probably for anyone. Ever.
Because, let’s face it, Power Bars taste like Kellogg’s Frosted Cardboard.
But I don’t want to start trashing your competitors. I’m guessing you guys are above that kind of thing anyway. Hey, when you’re at the top you can afford to take the high road, right?!
Anyway, I keep several packets of Shot Bloks in my car’s glove compartment, as a snack for when I am on a long drive, or for when I arrive back to my car — ravenously hungry — from a long mountain bike ride.
By the way, once Shot Bloks get really cold — like below 40 degrees (F), they become really hard to chew. I don’t think they’d be the ideal food for an Arctic expedition.
Luckily for me, I have no plans whatsoever to head to the Arctic!
I’ve kind of rambled on a bit, but I appreciate your taking the time to read my letter. Let me conclude by reiterating my main point. Shot Bloks are the greatest. Thanks for making them!
Elden (The Fat Cyclist)
Emily, a representative of Clif Bar & Company, responds
Emily, a customer service rep at Clif Bar & Company, responded to my email within 36 hours, with what is clearly not a form letter.
Thank you so much for your great email. I am so glad to hear that you are such a fan of our Shot Bloks. Though, I’m sorry to hear that your experience with the Margarita flavor was as unpleasant as it sounded. We certainly understand that not all of our flavors are for everyone.
Having many avid athletes around the office and in the kitchen definitely helps us to understand what active people need and want as far as sports nutrition is concerned.
We certainly love hearing from our consumers and are so grateful you took the time to let us know your thoughts about the Clif Shot Bloks. I have logged all of your suggestions and can assure you they will be shared with everyone.
Your suggestion for environmentally sound packaging is a great one and we are consistently challenging our suppliers to come up with the safest way to store our preservative-free energy food without adversely affecting our planet.
I would love to send you a few Bloks (not Margarita :)) as a thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.
If you’d like just reply to this email with your preferred mailing address and I’ll send those your way.
Again, thank you so much for sharing your feedback.
Final Thoughts from Fatty
I have, of course, sent Emily my address. When I get the Shot Bloks, I will make them part of a giveaway.
Having completed this experiment, I have a number of questions (and that number is 5):
- Was my idea of writing a no-holds-barred, gushing, raving fan letter worth trying (and publishing)? Or did I just come across as a butt-kissing lunatic?
- Would you like to see additional love letters to cycling-related companies and / or people? And if so, who?
- What do you think the odds are that I can convert this into a full-on Clif sponsorship?
- Do you suppose Emily showed my letter around the office, asking, "Is this guy for real?"
- On a scale of 1-11, using only prime numbers, how shameless am I?
One of the nice things about the Bloggies contest is that, for a couple weeks, several non-cyclists will visit my site.
So: Welcome, non-cyclists.
As a non-cyclist, I am certain that you have many questions about the strange subculture that has grown up around riding bicycles. Likely, you have been so put off by the pungent smell and crazy eyes of cyclists that you have not dared ask those questions.
I don’t blame you. I, too, avoid cyclists whenever possible.
I have, however, been immersed in the world of cycling long enough that I think can both anticipate your questions and answer them to your satisfaction.
Why do cyclists shave their legs?
I give a detailed answer here, but there are in fact two answers. first, there’s the answer cyclists would have you believe: "We shave our legs in order to clean gravel out of our legs when we fall, and to make it easier for the masseuse to give us a good post-race massage."
Unfortunately, this answer is a lie.
The honest reason cyclists shave their legs is very simple: vanity. We’ve worked so hard to get the legs we’ve got; we want to show them off.
Here, I’ll show you what I mean. These are my legs, on the same day, before and after shaving. The photos are not Photoshopped or otherwise retouched.
A hint of quads, buried beneath a thick winters’ coat
OK, I’m flexing so hard my knees are about to explode, but you still get my point.
Why do you wear those clothes?
Cyclists wear tight lycra shorts with a "chamois" — which is French for "diaper-like item that is supposed to keep your butt from being rubbed raw, but doesn’t" – sewn in. The lycra’s job is to keep the chamois in place. The lycra’s secondary job is to make your package fall asleep from being compressed into one place for hours on end.
Cyclists also wear a polyester zip-up "jersey," a shirt designed to quickly evaporate all the sweat from your upper body, while expertly retaining the stink the sweat creates. Modern jerseys are so well made that they will smell terrible after even one use, and will never release that smell.
Fun fact: The proper way to dispose of an old jersey is to call the local HazMat team, which will properly discard said jersey at the nearest nuclear waste facility.
What’s going on with your shoes?
Really dedicated cyclists never want to be separated from their bicycles, and so have invented special shoes that actually snap on to their pedals. Like ski boot bindings and skis, except for nobody wears ski boots attached to skis in rush hour traffic.
The idea behind these special shoe/pedal combinations is to let cyclists transfer as much power as possible from their legs to their bikes, pulling up on the cranks as well as pushing down on them.
The practical effect is that when cyclists come to a stoplight, there is a 70% chance they will not be able to detach their shoes from their pedals and will fall over sideways. If you ever witness this, be certain to take pictures or hopefully video; there’s nothing quite as memorable as a cyclist wrestling his bike as if it were a rabid badger. You and your family will treasure these images for generations to come.
Sometimes when I’m in my car and pass a cyclist, I get an urge to either shout at the cyclist, honk, or throw a beer bottle. Is that OK?
You bet it is. All we ask is that when you yell at us, you shout slowly and clearly. Even as often as it happens, I have not yet once understood the actual words automotive passengers yell at me as they go by.
I must confess: I feel I am a poorer man for missing these messages.
What’s the point of cycling? I mean, you’re just turning your feet around in a circle. How can you call that a sport? How can you even call that "fun?"
Most cyclists wrestle with this question their entire lives, without ever coming close to the answer. The best I can offer is something a wise man once told me:
"Life is pain. And cycling hurts. A lot."
Why do you ride in groups? And why do you wear matching outfits?
We ride in groups because we like to imagine that our silly outfits don’t look as silly in a group as they do individually. We wear matching outfits to avoid the likelihood that we’ll otherwise look sillier than one another.
It’s a vicious cycle, and must be broken.
I have met three recumbent cyclists in my lifetime. All three were angry and had beards. Why is this?
A recumbent bicycle is a bicycle that lets the rider sit in a reclining position, rather than in an upright position. "Bent" cyclists, as they like to call themselves, are angry because they are convinced their way of doing things is absolutely correct, but nobody cares or wants to join them.
Nobody wants to join recumbent cyclists, ironically, because recumbent cyclists are so angry.
Recumbent cyclists all have beards, by the way, because they are all also Marxists.
I’ve noticed that road bikes have "drop bars" that curve down so you can grip them much lower than you otherwise would. What What is that low position for?
Cyclists almost always put their hands on the topmost part of handlebars. The sole exception is when they are pretending they are Lance Armstrong. If you see a cyclist riding with his hands "in the drops," so to speak, you may be assured that he (or she) is conducting a narrative about how he (i.e., Lance Armstrong) is dropping the competition, putting them in a spot of bother, and otherwise forcing them to unpack their suitcase of courage.
I apologize for the weird metaphors. Your cycling friends got them, I promise.
I often hear about doping running rampant in cycling. Are there any clean cyclists out there?
Is cycling all you think about?
No. I also think about eating. And I dedicate a fair amount of time to thinking about eating while cycling. And to what I will eat after I finish cycling. And to how long I have to wait after eating before I can ride.
One of my neighbors is seriously into bike riding and has asked me to join him for an easy ride. Should I go?
Under no circumstances. By "easy ride," he means that he intends to take you on a four hour tour across three mountain passes. He will ride just a little bit faster than you the entire time, using body language to urge you to keep up. Within two hours your lungs will be burning, your heart will explode and you will wish for death.
Worst of all, he will not realize the misery he has put you through and will tell his riding buddies that he thinks he’s got you "hooked."
I hear that bike saddles make you impotent. Is that true?
I don’t know. This numb sensation I’ve got down below won’t go away, so it’s difficult for me to find out.
I’m interested in getting into shape and think a bicycle might be a good way to do it. How much money do I need?
You’re in luck. Bikes are relatively inexpensive. You just need a few things to get started: a bicycle, a helmet, bike shorts, bike jerseys, bike socks, bike shoes, floor bike pump, extra tubes, seat bag, tire levers, CO2 cans, CO2 adapter, lube, water bottles, bike rack for the car, bike gloves, bike glasses, energy bars, energy drinks, bike computer, plus a few other accessories.
The great news is all of this together shouldn’t cost much more than a typical Lexus.
You weren’t serious about those other blogs in the Sports category being China-based, lead-infested sweatshops, were you?
No, of course I wasn’t. Except for Deadspin, which is a Gawker.com-owned site. Gawker really is a blog sweatshop.
I have another question. May I leave it in the comments section?
Yes. Yes you may. I might even answer it. I’m that generous.
PS: A few weeks ago, I mentioned a strange blog, which I would have named "What if Eeyore were a Human?" but which is called by its writer, So Very Alone. To my amazement and chagrin, it managed to capture a finalist spot in the Bloggies category I was gunning for: Best-Kept Secret. To tell the truth, I have no idea whether Harlan would like winning a Bloggie, but I think it’d be fun to find out. When you’re voting for me (or Jill), go vote for him, too.
Around Christmas time, I hit an important personal landmark: I finished gaining back all of the weight I had worked on losing during the Spring and Summer of 2007 (Warning: photographs of pasty-white middle-aged male in that link).
Since I had been diligently working toward this objective for several months, I regarded this as an important accomplishment.
I recall that it was the day after Christmas that I said to myself, "OK, now I’ve had my fun. It’s time for me to get serious about losing weight and getting ready for next year’s racing season."
And I have said something like that pretty much every day since, for close to a month now, without losing a single pound.
OK, to be honest, I’ve gained another few pounds since Christmas.
"How," I’m certain you’re asking yourself, "is it possible for you to tell yourself, in all earnestness (because I promise you that I am oh-so-earnest), every single day, that you’re going to get back to an athlete’s diet, and then gain weight?
I’m glad you’ve asked.
How to Lie to Yourself
The truth is, I’ve got an elaborate system that lets me tell myself, for any given moment, that now is not quite the right time to get started on a diet — that any efforts I make right now will fail, whereas the efforts I will make at the next point on the horizon are just perfect.
This system, I’m sure, is entirely unique. Which is to say, I’m positive that those of you who, like me, fight the losing battle (Ha, "losing battle," get it?), will not have a similar system already in place, and so are therefore trapped into rigorously observing your diets, because you just can’t find a good excuse.
Well, I’m here to help. I personally guarantee you can have diet-postponement success identical to mine with the following easy 5-Step Program (copyright 2008 Fat Cyclist Enterprises, all rights reserved):
- Realize you don’t have the right kind of food on-hand. Really, you had planned to eat nothing but egg whites, wheat bread and grapefruit for an entire calendar year, but you forgot to go to the store last night, but it turns out that you don’t have any of those things on hand. What to do?
- It’s OK, because it’s early in the day. It’s a well-known fact that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that anything you eat early in the day doesn’t make you gain weight, because you’re going to work that off during the day. It’s the afternoon and evening calories that you have to watch out for. Therefore, the doughnut, omelette, and batter-dipped, deep-fried Twinkie I’m eating are fine, as long as I don’t screw up for the rest of the day.
- I’ll exercise a little extra when I get home. The great thing about having a heavy lunch — apart from the wonderful siesta it brings on — is that it gives you great motivation to really work out when you get home from work / school / whatever. You’re going to need that energy; better fuel up.
- Well, it’s too late to do anything about it today. OK, so you were feeling kind of hungry when you got home from work — strange the way you can still feel hungry just a few hours after a big lunch — and so you grazed around the kitchen for a while — you know, the way you eat whatever’s front and center in the fridge and pantry. After that, you didn’t exactly feel like exercising. And now suddenly you realize: you’ve blown today. You ate heavy for breakfast and lunch, then had a snack instead of exercising. May as well call this day a loss and plan on doing better tomorrow.
- This is my last hurrah. You know what you should do? You should go ahead and live it up a bit tonight — eat pizza for dinner, have some chips and dip for a snack, then maybe a bedtime bowl of cereal. You’re accomplishing three important things by doing this. First, you’re getting it out of your system. Second, you’re getting rid of that bad food so you won’t be tempted by it tomorrow. And finally, you’re drawing a line in the sand. Tomorrow morning you’ll be able to look back and say, "That was it. That was the last time I’ll eat like that for the next year. Maybe eat a little extra, just because you’re angry at yourself. As you know, that will erase the appeal of food for the foreseeable future.
A Note from Fatty: I’ve got a new column in BikeRadar.com today. You can read a preview below, or click here to read the whole thing.
I’m very disappointed in cycling clothes. Now, I don’t have a problem with the way they look – I suppose I’ve become comfortable with the inevitability of garish colours and circulation-restricting shorts.
No, my problem with cycling clothes lies in their function. Or, more specifically, in their lack thereof.
Consider, for a moment, what you demand from your bike. Every single part needs to be extremely light and strong, while interacting with other parts, withstanding multiple forces, absorb incredible impact, and perform other near-miracles of physics with every turn of the cranks.
As anyone who’s ever ridden a truly nice bike can testify, your bike can make you a better rider. Instantly. Meanwhile, all our clothes do is prevent us from being naked.
And don’t give me any of that nonsense about wicking anti-microbial seamless chamoises, either. That’s all marketing nonsense and you know it.
I think it’s time we expect as much from our cycling clothes as we do from the bikes we ride. Which is why I am happy to propose several new products I will soon be developing.
Do your current bike shorts bind into your waist, creating an appalling “muffin top” effect? In the place where your six pack should go, do you sell beer by the barrel?
My friend, SuperShorts are for you. Oh, sure, many bib shorts have a girdling effect, but that’s just an afterthought. With SuperShorts, we use the strongest elastic money can buy, guaranteeing you an instant 3″ girth reduction, or your money back.
But that’s just the beginning of what these shorts will do for you. The upper body of the SuperShorts has been contoured and shaped so as to make it appear as if you had rippling pectorals and abs, instead of 15 pounds of flab.
That’s right: not only will these shorts help you not look fat, they’ll actually make it look like you have seen the inside of a gym.
Cyclists love their jerseys. Is this love due to the awful colours, the way the jerseys stink no matter how vigorously you wash them, or the way they cling to you in the most unnatural way possible? It’s hard to say. One thing is certain, however. Those jerseys aren’t doing everything for you they should be.
The Nutra-Jersey will change all that. Observing that your bike jersey has more contact with your skin than any other piece of clothing, we have infused a variety of nutrients into the fabric of the jersey itself. As you wear it, the power of osmosis will deliver your chosen fuel directly through your skin. Like a nicotine patch, but much, much bigger.
Click here to continue reading “Cycling Clothes: The Next Generation” over at BikeRadar.com.
If you read my blog using an RSS feed, you may not have yet noticed, but as of Friday afternoon, Fat Cyclist has a new design. Check it out, if you’d be so kind.
If, on the other hand, you were looking at the site Friday afternoon or evening, you probably noticed all kinds of weirdness happening here for a few hours. That was me screwing around and breaking stuff.
Anyway, I owe a big "Thanks!" to a couple of guys I work with in my day job: Taylor for doing an awesome new design, and Jason for making the design work in WordPress. Thanks, guys!
I Need More Pictures
Right now, the image you see in the banner is the best picture that’s ever been taken of me (clicking picture pops to larger version):
As you can see in this picture (note that the liquid latex is literally exploding out of my flattened front tire and my unfortunate center of gravity), my day is about to get much, much worse here.
It’s a cool picture, but I don’t want to have it as the banner photo in my blog forever (it’s just too painful).
Which is where you come in.
If you’ve got a great cycling-related photo — one that works even if you’re looking at a wide-but-short view of it — email a link to the photo to me. It needs to be at least 760 pixels wide and 190 pixels tall, but don’t worry about cropping, sizing, or otherwise formatting the photo.
Please note: send me a link to the photo. Do not send me the photo itself — my inbox will fill up way too fast. If you don’t have a place on the web to put your photos, you might want to try Flickr.com, which is free and works really well.
And now, for a bunch of miscellaneous things flopping around in my head right now.
Fight Cancer, Win a Bike
About a week ago, I pointed out that you can win a chance at winning a Marin Hamilton 29er townie / mountain bike, simply by making a donation to the Lance Armstrong Foundation and forwarding the confirmation to me.
A bunch of you have sent in your raffle entries, which I hugely appreciate.
If you haven’t donated yet, though, you still have time. You’ll be doing something good and important, and you’ll have a much better chance at winning a bike than you would in most raffles. Click here for more information, OK?
Tomorrow, finalists for the Bloggies awards are announced. I confess to being nervous and hopeful. Provided I am a finalist, expect me to harangue you nonstop for your vote for the next ten days or so.
My Favorite PowerPoint Slide, Ever
I already mentioned in today’s entry that a couple of the people I work with spent their own time to help me out with the great new blog design you see here today.
There are other reasons I like where I work. And one of them is the PowerPoint Slide you see below, which the VP of Sales in my company actually included as part of his presentation in a company-wide meeting last week. Click the image below to see a larger version, so you can read the graphs:
I received an interesting question from Scott yesterday, who mistakenly thought I might be able to provide a reasonable, lucid, and possibly even correct answer. It is as follows:
Suppose you have 2 bikes with the same gear ratio (say an 85), but the gearing is different (53×17 vs 48×15). Will the 53×17 be a harder gear to turn than the 48×15? This is an ongoing discussion between a couple different cyclists in my neighborhood.
I personally have no idea what the answer is. Anyone got an actual answer?
PS: BotchedExperiment had a copy of the followup photo after my spill.
That’s Dug, by the way, running over to see if I’m still alive.
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