A Note from Fatty: I’ve got a new article in BikeRadar today. You can read the snippet below, or click here to read the whole thing.
You want to be fast, don’t you? Of course you do. And you’re willing to spend large amounts of money to be faster, aren’t you? Of course you are. Otherwise, why would you be riding a bike at all?
Oh sure, there are a few of you out there who say you don’t care about being particularly fast; your goal is to have fun, or to see the outdoors, or get from point A to point B.
Pfff. You’re not fooling anybody. The only reason you’re saying those things is because you don’t know how to become faster.
Well, I can help. Through intensive research and market analysis (i.e., I made a list of ideas on a napkin during lunch yesterday), I have developed a premium brand of cycling components and apparel is exactly what you need to become the cyclist you dream of being.
It’s all very expensive, which should help you feel confident that it’s really, really good.
Here is a sneak preview from my Fall 2008 Catalog.
The trend among most cycling helmet manufacturers is to design helmets that cut through the air with a minimum of wind resistance. That’s all well and good if you’re trying to do your training with a minimum of effort, I suppose, but if you prefer to become a stronger, faster racer, perhaps you should consider my Ultra Large and Heavy Wind Dam Helmet.
Roughly the size of an extra-large beach ball, this helmet has been scientifically designed not to cut through the wind, but to block the wind. In fact, while you can order the perfectly spherical version of this helmet, we recommend the FS (Full Sail) version, which has a concave scoop in the front, guaranteed to make you have to fight the wind 40% harder during your training rides. We’re so confident in the wind-resisting properties, in fact, that if this helmet doesn’t make even the gentlest headwind feel like a frontal assault by hurricane force winds, we’ll refund your money.
But the training value of this helmet doesn’t stop with its wind-resisting benefits. Instead of using lightweight Styrofoam as its impact-absorption material, it uses low-viscosity oil. Just imagine how strong your neck, back, and torso — three areas usually neglected by cyclists — will become as you try to keep your head from lolling as you support the forty pounds this helmet weighs.
And then, imagine how light and agile you’re suddenly going to feel when you wear a normal helmet on race day. $385.99
HydroRetentive Shorts and Jerseys
While other cycling apparel manufacturers concentrate on lightweight, wicking clothes, We have designed a line of clothing that focuses on capturing and holding on to your perspiration, like a big cotton sponge. Your shorts will actually grow larger as you ride and perspire, imperceptibly resisting your efforts to an increasing degree as you ride.
Your new hydroretentive kit helps solve another heretofore-unknown training issue: cheating via on-bike weight loss. Normally, as you ride and perspire, you lose weight, so that by the end of the ride you may be as much as three pounds lighter than when you began the ride. This means that for a good part of the ride, you haven’t been riding with as much weight as you should be, which means your legs aren’t getting the workout they should.
By holding on to all the water you perspire during your ride, your new Hydroretentive kit ensures you’re getting as much of a workout at the end of the ride as you were at the beginning. Shorts: $320, Jerseys: $195.
Important Note: While these may look, feel, and behave like an ordinary pair of baggy cotton shorts and a cheap t-shirt, we can promise you that they are not.
Click here to continue reading "Premium Products for Guaranteed Go-Faster Results" over at BikeRadar.com.
Saturday morning looked perfect. No need for tights, no need for long sleeves. Finally — finally! — I was getting out on a road ride. Solo, with my iPod loaded with a mix of Boingo, Cake, Devo, Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and (above all) Social Distortion.
I was headed from my home out to Cedar Fort, a 50-mile out-and-back ride with very few turns and very little climbing.
My idea? Get into the cycling zone and lose myself for a couple hours.
But it didn’t work out quite that way.
Cue Ominous Music
Within a couple of miles, the wind kicked up, blowing Northeast.
I, naturally, was headed Southwest.
I decided, though, that this wasn’t going to ruin my ride. I’d just drop to a lower gear, put my head down, and keep going. A headwind was no big deal.
Except it wasn’t always a headwind. About half the time, it was a headwind/crosswind. It didn’t just want to blow me backwards. It wanted to knock me over sideways.
Before long, it had stopped being so much of a headwind as an uber-headwind. Like a hurricane, without the water. Or like a cyclone, but without the spinning. Or like a tornado, but without…um…I guess without the spinning again.
Tumbleweeds tumbled across the road. I made a game of dodging them, losing only once. I noticed a motorcycle was leaning hard to the left in order to go straight. I wondered how far I was tilting.
I was on a mostly flat road, pedaling at my absolute limit — in third gear. Then second. Then second, standing up…because there was no way I was going to be pedaling on a flat road in my granny gear, no matter what. I’ve got my pride.
I learned to adapt to what was the greatest danger of all — big trucks going by. The trucks themselves weren’t a problem, but as they passed, they’d briefly block the wind, and since I was leaning hard to the left, suddenly the absence of wind would have me shooting into traffic.
This ride was not turning out how I expected.
I Give Up
About five miles before my self-appointed turnaround spot (basically, the place where the road shoulder disappears), I decided I was just too tired. I needed to turn around and see if I could limp myself home.
So I waited for traffic to clear and then pulled a U-turn.
Instantly, I realized how powerful that wind was. Without pedaling, I shot up to 15mph.
And that’s when I understood why wind is such an awful opponent. You can’t tell how much it’s affecting you. Sure, you feel it on your face and chest and you know it’s slowing you down, but you don’t really know how much of your being slow is because of the wind, and how much of it is because of you just being slow.
Well, in this case, it turned out that it was pretty much all the wind.
I Un-Give Up
With the new knowledge that the wind was basically going to give me a free ride all the way home, I decided that I could make it to my original turnaround spot. And so I turned around again, slamming into the wall of wind and having to shift down to my third gear again.
Except it didn’t seem as bad anymore, because now I knew how hard the wind was pushing against me, and that I was still moving ahead anyways. And the important thing wasn’t that I was going slow, it was that I was going at all.
And then, finally, when I got to turn around and ride with the wind — top gear, 35mph on level ground — I really felt like I had earned it.
As an avid cyclist, you have no doubt noticed that you have become the go-to guy for everyone you know whenever they have a bicycle-related question. They will come to you when they have a flat tire and need a fix (and will express astonishment when you suggest replacing the tube instead of using a patch). They will come to you when they need to put air in the tire (and will be dismayed to find your pump doesn’t work with their kind of valve). They will come to you when their bike chain is so grimy and corroded that it has seized up, hoping you’ve got some WD-40 you can lube it with.
And, eventually, someone’s going to come to you with a request for help in purchasing a bike. This should be a flattering moment, because it indicates an enormous amount of respect for your opinion.
It should be flattering, but it isn’t. It’s incredibly frustrating, because they know so little about the arcane and wonderful universe of bicycles that they think a bicycle is just a relatively simple mechanical contrivance you can ride for transportation, exercise, and pleasure.
So, with their best interests at heart, you begin to ask them questions. Road or mountain bike? 26" wheels or 29"? Ever consider riding a fixie? Full-suspension, hardtail plus suspension fork, or fully rigid? Shimano, Campy, or Sram? Got a preference for pedals? Carbon, aluminum, steel, or Ti?
These are all good and important questions, as you and I both know. They are also questions which will send your friend into a blind panic.
You want to really help someone get into bikes? Ask them these three questions.
1. Where do you want to ride it? You’ll be amazed at the valuable information this intentionally vague question yields. You’d expect them to say "road" or "dirt," but they probably haven’t actually realized they need different kinds of bikes for different terrain. You’ll probably get an answer like, "Pulling the kids around the neighborhood," "To work and back," or "On hiking trails." Or probably all three. What they want is a hybrid.
I know, I know, hybrids are icky. But that’s what they want.
2. What made you want to start riding a bike?
A Note from Fatty: This post, rescued from my MSN Spaces archive, was originally published October 19, 2005.
One thing all cyclists — and nobody else in the world — know is that road biking and mountain biking are only distant cousins. They’re hardly related, really. Sure, both kinds of bikes have a superficial resemblance (though that’s disappearing, as many full-suspension mountain bikes have started looking more like motorcycles), but the way they work you out is different, the mood that makes you ride them is different, and the kind of fun you have is entirely different.
What I’ve been thinking about lately, though, is what I think might be the most telling difference of all: how you react to the unexpected is different.
The Treacherous Speed Bump
I’ve been riding the track bike a lot lately. Time will tell whether that’s because of the novelty of it or because fixed gear riding is going to be my thing, but for right now, that’s the bike I’m choosing when I have a choice (ie, when it’s not raining).
But I’m still making lots of mistakes.
There are some big speed bumps on the road through Marymoor park, which I go through on the way to work. On my regular road bike, I always stood up and coasted over those.
So of course without thinking about it, I tried to do the same thing on the fixie. But as I stood up, my crank stayed in motion, propelling me forcefully up and forward as the right crank rotated up. This happened, of course, as I went over the speed bump. This put me in a nose wheelie. On a fixie. At about 18mph.
In reality, the rear wheel probably was never more than six inches above the ground, but it felt like I was about to do a high-speed road endo. Luckily, I managed to sit down, and there was no traffic on the road, so my embarrassment was mine and mine alone to enjoy (until now, of course).
That’s not my only recent near-miss on the track bike. On short, moderate downhills, I’ve been trying to use my own power to keep the fixie’s speed under control. That’s worked fine.
When I tried to do that on a long, fairly steep downhill, though, I wound up going faster and faster — my legs weren’t able to exert reverse force quickly enough to keep up. Before long, the bike had my legs spinning so fast I started bumping up and down in my seat. I was close enough to out of control that I was afraid to move my left hand out of the drops even for the short time it took to grab the front brake. That was the only option, though, and I managed to bring the bike’s speed (and my legs) back under control before getting to the stoplight. Which I’m going to go ahead and call a good thing.
My closest call on a road bike, though, was when I was coming down the Alpine Loop one day. It was one of those rides where everything is going perfectly. You’re feeling fast, you’re nailing the turns, and your bike feels more like a part of you than a machine has any right to feel.
And then I hit a turn I didn’t expect. As I came out of a fast sweeping right turn, I expected the road to straighten. Instead, it turned sharply left. To the side of the road was gravel, then a steep bank that went down and down and down.
I was going about 35 entering the turn, and knew as I approached the apex there was no way I was going to make it. I locked up both brakes and — instead of high-siding like I should have — I skidded to a stop in the gravel. I got off the bike and walked around for ten minutes, ‘til the adrenaline shakes finally wore off and I could ride again.
Mountain Near Misses
The thing about mountain biking is, you have near misses all the time. On “Frank,” my closest mountain bike ride back in Utah, you start the ride by zooming downhill on ledgy singletrack, with a 50-foot drop six inches to your right. I’ve put a foot down to keep myself from falling off that cliff several times.
On Grove (another favorite mountain bike ride back in UT), you’re riding on loose shale with a steep, sharp slide 100 feet down to the river just one dab away at all times.
In Leadville one year, coming down the Powerline trail, I dropped my front wheel into an erosion trench and managed to clip out as I got ejected over the front of my bike. I’ll never know how I managed to land on my feet, but I did. Better yet, my bike came flying after me. I caught it, righted it, and kept on going. It was the most beautiful near-miss of my life.
The fact is, just about any time you’re on a mountain bike, you’re in a state of near miss.
The Big Difference
And that — I think — is the real distinguishing factor between mountain biking and road biking. When I’m on a road bike, I’m all about control. A near miss on a road bike represents a failure and is downright mortifying — not to mention terrifying.
A near miss on a mountain bike, on the other hand, makes you laugh. You seek the near miss out. Really, a near miss on a mountain bike means…well…that you’re out mountain biking.
A week from today, I’m heading down to Moab for Kenny’s annual epic RAWROD event. You know what this means? I’ll tell you what it means:
- Beer-boiled, grilled brats with mustard on Kenny’s homemade bread (yeah, Kenny makes his own bread, and it’s delicious).
- Hanging out with 40 or so friends
- An epic ride on sandstone for 100 miles
- Bright sun and beautiful scenery
It’s really one of the best rides of the year…and this year I’m terrified to go.
Let’s Begin With the Excuses
It has been an cold, windy, wet spring, which has followed on the heels of a cold, windy, snowy winter. And since I’ve decided this wasn’t going to be a big racing year for me, my motivation to get out and ride in bad weather has been…well, let’s say “weak.”
The degree to how far my fitness has collapsed (and to which my paunch has expanded) was brought home to me forcefully last Saturday and then again Monday. And then again today.
On Saturday, we had terrific weather, so a group of us set out on what was supposed to be a four-hour ride. Within an hour, I discovered that I am no longer one of the fast guys. I am also not one of the midpack guys. I am, however, one of the slow guys.
I will be more specific: I am the slowest guy.
Slow enough that people would ride for a while, then wait for me to catch up. And heavy enough that I noticed people were using the “Fatty” nickname without the irony I had become accustomed to. And — worst of all — weak enough that I made up an excuse to bail out of the ride early, so I wouldn’t have to climb Grove: “Sorry, I promised the kids I’d take them to the park.”
On Monday, I rode my bike to work: the 20 miles felt good. Riding home, however, was…problematic. Last year, I could do the 4-mile, 1500-foot climb in third gear, even carrying a fully loaded messenger bag.
Monday, I had to drop down to my granny gear for pretty much the whole thing. What’s worse, at one point I actually stalled out and unclipped, ready to stop and rest fro a moment. It was only at the last moment that I realized what an admission this would be — no longer able to complete a road climb I have done dozens of times before. I clipped back in and battled my way to the top.
Yesterday, I intentionally rode alone, because I couldn’t think of a single person who rides anywhere near as slowly as I do. And also because I didn’t want people to see how tightly my jerseys fit. I’m thinking of giving Twin Six a call and having them send me some bigger jerseys. You know, just ’til I lose a few pounds.
How I Will Get Into Extraordinary Shape In One Week
Am I the first person who has ever dawdled away the weeks and months when he should be training, only to find — with a week to go — that he is woefully unprepared for the event?
However, I have a plan that will help me still turn in a spectacular performance at the 2008 RAWOD. I will detail it here, so that you can adapt it for your own purposes.
- Train Like a Banshee. For the next week, I will train myself to and beyond my limits. I will ride hard every single day, and will do everything I can to get in at least five hours on the road each day. Some people might think that all I will accomplish by pushing this hard so close to a ride is ensuring my utter exhaustion before the ride even begins. To these people, I reply: “Pshaw.” Have they never heard the axiom “Better late than never?” And is it not indeed late? So is it not self-evident that it is better for me to train now than not at all? My logic is irrefutable, I think you will agree.
- Starve Myself. I have proven in times past that if I really set my mind to it, I can lose up to seven pounds in a week. In this case, I intend to lose weight by eating nothing but laxatives for the entire week. Thus will I arrive at the beginning of RAWROD hungry, weak, dehydrated, and probably quite light-headed. I would therefore like to ask my fellow riders, in advance, to please have the consideration to call Lifeflight when they see me passed out on the side of the trail, or — worse — gnawing on a cactus.
- Wear Tight Bib Shorts. I shall wear one of the most constricting pair of bib shorts I can find. This will serve two important purposes. First, it will hide — or at least reduce — my enormous stomach. Second, it will make it almost impossible for me to breathe. Hence, I again implore my fellow riders to take necessary action if they find me blue in the face, clawing feebly at my bibs…the instrument of my demise.
- Adjust Expectations. I plan to find ways to tell everyone I know my sad, sad story, hopefully conveying an impression of nobility and self-sacrifice, when the reality is that I am nothing but a lazy slob who’s been unwilling to ride except in perfect weather. With any luck, people will take pity on me and drop twenty minutes from my finish time.
- Cajole Myself. I have mastered a little-known technique in endurance cycling that always produces terrific results. I call it the “Internal monologue of disappointment.” Whenever I approach a difficult climb or feel tired, or otherwise fall short of the kind of cyclist I wish I were, I simply talk to myself. My favorite phrase is, “Please, just this once, can’t you be strong? Can’t you push yourself past your comfort level and give yourself something to be proud of?” I should probably point out that I do not like my interior voice very much.
Oh, and one other thing: I will also eat lots of avocado sandwiches. Those things are delicious!
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