So You Want to Be a Cyclist? Part II: Lifestyle Changes

01.27.2009 | 12:09 am

Welcome back, prospective cyclist! Yesterday you learned what you need to own in order to be a cyclist. Today, you will learn how you need to behave. For, as you will soon find out, in order to be a true cyclist, you cannot simply ride your bike.


To be a real cyclist, you must make it your entire life. Here’s how.

Step 1: Decide Why You Ride.

As someone new to cycling, perhaps you think that the reason you might want to ride a bike is to get outdoors, see the sites, and get some exercise all at once. And this would be a fine reason to ride a bike, if it weren’t completely wrongheaded.

To be a cyclist, you don’t ride your bike because it’s fun. That kind of riding is what we call “junk miles” (I’m not making that up.) and is frowned upon by real cyclists.

Let me be perfectly clear: Riding a bike to enjoy yourself is not an acceptable reason to get on your bike.

You need to train. And that means having a goal. For your convenience, I have several acceptable cycling goals listed below. Feel free to adopt two or more as your own:

  • Race Across America (RAAM): An exercise in pain and sleep deprivation
  • 24 Hours of Moab, solo. This means you ride your mountain bike in a 12-mile sandy loop as many times as you can in 24 hours. That sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
  • The Iditarod: A 350-mile (or more, if that seems too easy) race across the Alaska tundra in the middle of Winter. The person who survived this race says it’s awesome.
  • The Tour de France: Don’t just slum it, like most of the riders. Make a point of winning a stage.

Step 2: Ride With a Purpose.

Once you’ve made your decision to make a race you life’s primary ambition, you’re all set to start training. Of course, many of you are new to this sport, so I’ll define this unfamiliar term:

Train (verb): To exercise according to a set schedule, with the dual objectives of becoming more proficient at that sport, and learning to hate the sport you are working so hard to become good at.

Oh, and there’s a side benefit, too. If you’re training, you’re guaranteed to be slated to do a set of road hill intervals the day all your friends want to go on a group ride. Or you’ll be having an enforced rest day all your friends want to ride an epic stretch of singletrack.

But all this training will pay off, and one day you will be the fastest and strongest rider of all the people who used to be your riding buddies back before you started training.

Of course, all this training is going to hurt. A lot. As a cyclist, you need to pretend to enjoy this kind of pain. You need to talk about “putting your head down and suffering up a mountain” in reverential tones. You need to act like being in self-inflicted, entirely recreational pain has taught you wisdom and has given you a certain self-sufficiency and quiet confidence.

And not that it in fact makes you seem kind of creepy.

Step 3: Eat Like a Cyclist

It’s not a well-known fact, but cyclists do not eat food. Instead, they consume synthetically-manufactured foodlike substances, engineered to deliver fuel to blood cells as efficiently as possible, without the inconvenience of being enjoyable to eat.

All cycling food substitutes are required by law to be — or at least taste like — one or more of the following:

  • An insoluble powder that tastes somewhat — but not quite — like Kool Aid with too much sugar mixed in. A handful of Cream o’ Wheat is usually mixed in as well, with the intent of settling to the bottom of the bottle, which is in turn required to taste like a pool filtration system (i.e., delicious!).
  • Glucose from an IV bag. But thicker. Much, much thicker. With raspberry flavoring.
  • Carob-Coated Rawhide

Step 4: Look Like a Cyclist

Like many tight-knit communities, cyclists want to identify with each other by looking exactly alike. This entails, first and foremost, shaving your legs. While others will claim there are other reasons for shaving their legs, cyclists know deep within their hearts it’s simply due to peer pressure.

Next, get a goofy tan. The tops of your legs and forearms should be dark as can be. The tan, however, should not extend to the back of your legs, nor beyond the jersey line.

And above all, you should have the reverse raccoon look, where all of your face except your eyes — where the glasses go — is deeply tanned.

Step 5: Prioritize Like a Cyclist

Here’s an interesting fact about cycling: once you get your legs into decent shape, you can go for hours and hours and hours without your legs really tiring out. That’s not true of most other sports.

So guess what? In order to get a challenging workout, you’re going to need about four hours per day. Except weekends, when you’re going to need about six hours.

This, of course, is something you’ll need to inform your significant other of, at some point.

Luckily for your family, it’s lots of fun to spend family vacation time traveling to a bike race and then sit on the side of the road for 2.7 hours until you whiz by, focusing on the road and nothing else.

It’s common courtesy, by the way, to pretend that you heard and saw your family as you rode by them during the race.

Step 6: Think and Talk Like a Cyclist

It’s all well and good to have chosen to be a cyclist, but it’s not enough. You have to talk the talk. Use the following guidelines when conversing with other cyclists:

  • Cars: You’re against them, especially when they do something that nearly (or actually) gets you injured. Never ever ever consider the possibility that you might sometimes be at fault.
  • Cars, Part II: You’re not against cars when you’re driving one to the trailhead.Furthermore, your bike rack is something you should have thought about as obsessively as the bike itself.
  • Other cycling disciplines: If you’re a road cyclist, regard mountain bikes as clumsy, inelegant toys. If you’re a mountain biker, shake your head in wonder at the fact that anyone would choose to mix it up with cars all the time. If you’re a trackie, try to puzzle out why nobody else you know wants to join you for a couple of hours of riding around and around and around on a banked oval. If you’re a recumbent rider, be sure to keep your beard well-trimmed, and please try to not be so angry all the time.
  • Other sports: Be unaware of them.
  • Doping: Despise it, unless you actually do it. In which case, act like you despise it.

There is, of course, more. And I’d gladly reveal it to you, but the fact is my trainer told me to keep my typing rate down to 35wpm today and to not spend more than an 85 minutes on the keyboard.

PS: Bloggies voting is still going on. My sister Jodi at Pistols and Popcorn (Best-Kept Secret category), my friend The Pioneer Woman (lots of categories), and I (Sports category) would all love your votes. Thanks!


  1. Comment by mikeonhisbike | 01.27.2009 | 6:56 am

    Great write up. You forgot the fact that ALL cyclists hate SUVs.


  2. Comment by buckythedonkey | 01.27.2009 | 7:14 am

    Morning Fatty! You’re up early (or is it late?). I’m loving this topic, although your line about doping saddened me because it is so damned true.


  3. Comment by Lizzylou | 01.27.2009 | 7:15 am

    Cars? Are you talking about those nasty evil cagers?

  4. Comment by Jamieson | 01.27.2009 | 7:27 am

    There is a dislike for all SUV’s except the Escalades done up in the lime green Rock Racing livery.

  5. Comment by cheapie | 01.27.2009 | 7:35 am

    hahaha. good stuff again.

    next you’ll have to introduce them to the pain cave and bonk town. and to terms like off the front, dropped, on someone’s wheel, in the lead group, chasing down the bunch, etc.

  6. Comment by Carl | 01.27.2009 | 8:21 am

    These last two days have to go down in history as two of the Fattest days!!! I’m sure that affectionately watching Susan make jewelry must have contributed. Great Job!!!

  7. Comment by FliesOnly | 01.27.2009 | 8:33 am

    The past two days should be required reading by all members of a bike club/team/group/etc. Great stuff.

  8. Comment by Andrew | 01.27.2009 | 9:04 am

    I still have an awesome double line tan on my left arm from a slog up a fire road in July. Two weeks later I tried smooth the hard line by lifting my jersey up a half inch and riding for 4 hours.

    Now I’ve got a pretty awesome tri-color tan going on. Awesome!

  9. Comment by Di | 01.27.2009 | 9:07 am

    It’s really funny – I’ve heard a lot of cyclists complain about SUVs – but most of them live in urban areas that usually get very little snow and they drive an hour to work every day.

    I actually use my SUV as an SUV – its necessary. It carries a lot of sport equipment and things for traveling that my car couldn’t carry (it was roomy, too). It also has 4WD and enough clearance for all the snow we get. Clearance is good.

    Fatty – you didn’t address cyclists who do multiple disciplines? Is this a faux pas? ;-)

  10. Comment by Al Maviva | 01.27.2009 | 9:16 am

    Junk miles are low quality fun rides?

    Holy crap.

    I thought they involved riding without pants. Y’know, showing your junk to air it out after having it cooped up in tight, slimy, smelly lycra chamois shorts for 10 – 18 hours each week.

    I guess that explains why the police show up at my office every time I’ve been out for an early morning recovery ride. Next thing you’ll tell me is riding recovery, er, junk miles, on my 5′ tall unicycle isn’t such a good either.

  11. Comment by KanyonKris | 01.27.2009 | 9:59 am

    I’m progressing well to become a true cyclist, but I’m hung up on the leg shaving. However, for Team Fatty I’m willing to break through this barrier, but I need your help:

    (Elden, sorry for the shameless plug, but since it’s for your cause I hope you’ll forgive me.)

  12. Comment by kiwi | 01.27.2009 | 10:00 am

    Sounds about right…..BUT low quality miles?
    Maybe cycling snob is a better way to put it?!

    The rest was funny!



  13. Comment by Rider 3 | 01.27.2009 | 10:03 am

    No one has plumbed the frightening depths of the cycling soul the way Fatty has. Is it funny because its true and it makes us proud or because we are bit uncomfortable seeing it in print?

    In either case, keep up the great work.

  14. Comment by Kendall | 01.27.2009 | 10:05 am

    What? There are other sports that require you to not be on a bike? Blasphemy!

  15. Comment by WheelDancer | 01.27.2009 | 10:20 am

    Well done again! I hope Carl’s comment about watching Susan in action is helping stoke your muse.

    I do have some concerns about your light coverage of cycling terminology and hope it will be corrected in future posts. When I returned to serious cycling after (too) long a break, I tripped over the lingo sometimes. One time narrowly avoiding great embarrassment.

    I was on a ride one day and was delayed in my start after the coffee break and as I zoomed up towards the front of the pack, I passed a pretty lady who asked if she could suck my wheel. Being single at the time, I thought I was in heaven until I realized that she simply wanted to draft me to catch up to the front group where she subsequently blew past everyone. She turned out to be a very strong rider who was just catching a rest while re-warming up after the break. I bit my tongue and didn’t respond with what was on my mind though riding was a little uncomfortable for a while there.

    So I hope you will continue your public service thread with a lingo guide.

  16. Comment by Jan | 01.27.2009 | 10:31 am

    Don’t forget about complaining how your legs hurt, but secretly liking the way they hurt, because that gives you an excuse to mope around the house all day after a long ride.
    Oh, and did I mention the blank cheque to raid the fridge when you come back from a [long] ride?

  17. Comment by Isela | 01.27.2009 | 10:35 am

    Yep, SUV’s are missing from the list…evil huge metal things. One of them almost ran over hubby when they were backing up–they didn’t see him because the darn thing is so freaking huge.

  18. Comment by Ron | 01.27.2009 | 11:00 am

    Nice work fatty.

    Just one correction. The Iditarod is a dog sled race. Maybe you meant Iditabike which is the cycling version? And its way more than 1000 miles.

  19. Comment by Clydesteve | 01.27.2009 | 11:07 am

    Elden, thank you for: “If you’re a recumbent rider, be sure to keep your beard well-trimmed, and please try to not be so angry all the time.

    We have a ‘bent rider in the office, and two snarky, but oh-so-true comments about recumbent riders in two days has been a lot of fun.

  20. Comment by Jorgex | 01.27.2009 | 11:23 am

    “Riding a bike to enjoy yourself is not an acceptable reason to get on your bike.”

    That’s so true! Hahaha

    Psst! I belong to a secret gang… -The “White Gloves Gang”- ;)

  21. Comment by tim | 01.27.2009 | 11:41 am

    these are brilliant fatty posts, am laughing out loud to myself. inwardly loling.
    thanks elden

    win SUSAN!!!

  22. Comment by Katie | 01.27.2009 | 12:27 pm

    I can’t wait to hear about the cyclist vocabulary that a newbie rider will need.

    Also, what about the glove tan? The pasty-white hands with tanned fingertips and arms?? (I actually got numerous comments at work last summer because of this; people exclaimed “What’s wrong with your hands??” in horror and surprise, thinking I had some horrible disease. Which I guess in a way I do.)

  23. Comment by Stacie | 01.27.2009 | 12:50 pm

    How about vans? Those suckers are just as bad and the dang SUVs!

    Love the posts, can’t wait for tomorrow’s!

  24. Comment by Steve | 01.27.2009 | 12:50 pm

    Well, I’ve been riding 4000 miles a year for the last 30 years but apparently I’ve never been a real cyclist. And quite frankly, I’m glad. I’ve found “real cyclist” to be a bunch of type “A” elitist snobs. I meet them on the road and they won’t even wave or say hello. Piss on all the real cyclists. I ride because it’s fun. I don’t train. I don’t shave my legs. And I will still be riding long after most of the real cyclist have sold their bikes on Ebay.

  25. Comment by Clydesteve | 01.27.2009 | 1:10 pm

    Umm Steve, buddy, take a look around this website, and you will realize that Elden, and indeed most of us are more like you than you think.

    Ever hear of sarcasm?

    P.S. You, don’t, by any chance, ride a recumbent, do you?

    Steve (a different one)

  26. Comment by John | 01.27.2009 | 1:18 pm


    Keep that beard trimmed…you seem a little angry. Lighten up! Great post.

  27. Comment by WheelDancer | 01.27.2009 | 1:19 pm

    Clydsteve: What???!! Fatty posts aren’t gospel?

    Say it isn’t so. I have been memorizing them and wallpapering my bicycle shrine (which takes up most of my living room) with them printed out on fine linen paper…

  28. Comment by Jill | 01.27.2009 | 1:19 pm

    Seriously, Elden, where do you come up with this stuff? You should start offering humor-writing workshops online.

    Ron, to clarify the Iditarod/Iditabike thing. Iditabike was the name of a race that followed the traditional Iditarod Trail until 2001. In 2002, new race organizers took over and changed the name of the race to the Iditarod Trail Invitational. Like the new race, the ITI was a bike, ski or foot race that offers a 350-mile and 1,100-mile distance. Only a couple dozen competitors have finished the full 1,100-mile trip to Nome in the entire history of Iditabike/ITI. Much more common is the 350-mile race to McGrath. Racers sometimes call the race “Iditarod,” although this does tend to confuse it with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The human-powered version is also called sometimes called the “Ultrasport.”

  29. Comment by dug | 01.27.2009 | 2:00 pm

    “I’ve found “real cyclist” to be a bunch of type “A” elitist snobs.”

    this is just precious. have you now? i can’t imagine why they wouldn’t want to hang out with you, you seem so fun.

  30. Comment by buckythedonkey | 01.27.2009 | 2:14 pm

    Ron, Jill’s modesty has prevented her from telling you that she completed last year’s ITI. Oh and her blog is brilliant.

  31. Comment by bikemike | 01.27.2009 | 3:23 pm

    it ain’t weird, it’s just a beard.

    new band name of the day “Alaska Tundra”

  32. Comment by Rightbehindu | 01.27.2009 | 4:05 pm

    Fatty, Last two days have been delightful. Thanks so much for the laugh.

  33. Comment by Clydesteve | 01.27.2009 | 4:35 pm

    Wheeldancer: Of COURSE Fatty’s posts are gospel! Even Jesus was sarcastic at times.


  34. Comment by justrun | 01.27.2009 | 6:08 pm

    “Other sports: Be unaware of them.”

    Haha! Love it!

  35. Comment by Tim E | 01.27.2009 | 8:38 pm

    Fatty, today was a great followup to a great post yesterday. And to keep it fun, when I clicked on the “I’m not making that up.” link, the ninth result of the search was…this post, with the link itself as part of the displayed text. How’d you do that??

    WIN Susan!!

  36. Comment by annette | 01.27.2009 | 8:44 pm

    Great “advice”.

  37. Comment by Miles Archer | 01.27.2009 | 8:53 pm

    Yeah, I know it’s off topic, but I just wanted to let you know I got my FC woolie jersey. It’s too nice to ride in.

  38. Comment by Larry | 01.27.2009 | 10:23 pm

    OK, I meet all the requirements of part I (yesterday) and then I get to part II and I’m doing OK until I get to subsection 3 of part two and I’m disqualified due to a HUGE intake of beer in my diet…

    it’s that incorrigable mountain bike side of me…

  39. Comment by Larry | 01.27.2009 | 10:25 pm

    … re: Beer from above post.

    count the RAGBRAI beer consumption on the roadie side of the ledger…

  40. Comment by Larry | 01.27.2009 | 10:28 pm

    OK, now I’m noticing that that beer factors heavily in my life regardless…

    …where did all these bikes in my garage come from?

  41. Comment by Larry | 01.27.2009 | 10:30 pm


  42. Comment by Cycling Cockney | 01.28.2009 | 4:31 am

    Why do you have to mention the beer!!!???

  43. Comment by Clericeric | 01.28.2009 | 8:51 am

    You made me wet my cycle shorts with these last two posts.

    I voted!

  44. Comment by gail | 01.28.2009 | 10:59 am

    Um, did I by chance miss the pre-quel on why anyone would even entertain the idea of becoming a cyclist in the first place?

  45. Comment by Ron | 01.28.2009 | 7:23 pm

    Very good, very funny, very true.

    However, my experience is that all of the training through the week, riding to and from work is all about the coffee. 10,20 30… men and women all sitting around in there lycra, bikes leaning on every wall or post available at the local coffee shop following that Saturday morning club ride/race.
    Ah yes, I want to be a cyclist.

  46. Comment by PatriotGirl | 01.28.2009 | 10:25 pm

    Found your site through PW’s site. Good luck to all you Bloggies.. Best wishes of comfort for you and your wife.

    I’m an NOT a cyclist nor do I want to be one… but I have 2 friends who are cyclists and I swear you must know them personally. They even did the Tour de France thing… I can’t believe your EXACT desciption!

    I look forward to adding you to my daily readings.
    Thanks for taking the time!

  47. Comment by Doug | 01.29.2009 | 8:02 am

    Don’t forget that February is the perfect time to work on your serious cyclist’s cold hard stare. Hours before the mirror now will help when the season arrives. Be ready to show up all those awful freds.

  48. Comment by Selwyn Figueras | 01.29.2009 | 3:13 pm

    What an awesome blog, you’re a superstar. I write on behalf of two fat men who recently got on our bikes and we are 100%, beyond redemption obsessed. Working on the acquisition of road bikes to complement our Hybrid/Mountain bikes… Once we’ve got our road bikes, we can restore the mountain bikes to full mountain spec. Great site and hoping the jerseys and shirts come back into stock soon… We will wear the FC gear in Gibraltar (British Colony on Southern Tip of Spain) and the surrounding area proudly. We’re also working on setting up our ‘Albondigas’ club (SPanish for meatballs!). Feeling the mixed bag re Susan pal, live strong guys!

  49. Comment by Websterious | 01.30.2009 | 2:26 pm

    Nice effort. You describe well the state of grace that is achieved when one’s wheeled velocipede evolves to be his or her personal spinning wheel atonement device.

  50. Comment by Si | 02.2.2009 | 9:00 am

    I don’t know how you find the time to do this blog but I’m so glad you do. Hilarious :)

  51. Comment by Suzie | 04.26.2010 | 12:31 pm

    Riding for enjoyment is as good an answer as any other.


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