Very, Very Scientific Experiment

03.23.2009 | 10:09 pm

The pictures






My Truck Is Stinky

03.23.2009 | 11:39 am

I am not a person who concerns himself with appearances. I’m 43 years old (almost), balding, portly, have no fashion sense at all, and was never good-looking to begin with.

So I don’t worry about how I look, and I don’t mind that a lot of people think my truck — a Honda Ridgeline — is odd-looking, too. This is the best vehicle I have ever had: it’s comfortable, it’s roomy, and it lets me easily hold four people, our stuff, and our bikes for a biking road trip.

Unfortunately, however, my truck stinks.

Many Culprits

Naturally, upon detecting that my truck stinks, my inclination is to remove the source of the smell. Sadly, however, it is not that simple. You see, the stench that emanates from my truck is complex. It’s a multitude of things, all of which are intensified when the weather’s warm, and all of them are bike-related.

Helmet, gloves, shoes, shorts and jerseys: If you are a cyclist, you almost certainly have a bag in which you carry your riding gear. So here’s an interesting experiment: Put your head inside that bag and inhale — through your nose, no cheating — deeply.

Once you wake up, go put that same bag — still containing all your riding gear — in the oven and set the temperature to 140 degrees.

No, your significant other won’t mind. Why would s/he?

Let it bake for half an hour, then go open the oven and breathe deeply. You have just accurately simulated the primary smell component of my truck after it’s been sitting in a parking lot all day.


Tubes: Have you ever smelled a bike tube? You haven’t? Go do it, right now. I’ll wait.

[Waits for five minutes]

Surprised, weren’t you?

By itself, that smell’s no big deal. But of course, that smell isn’t by itself. It’s just a part of the stew of stink in my truck.

Lube: I always keep a bottle of Dumonde chain lube in my truck. And of course by “keep,” I mean that there is never a moment in which somewhere in my truck, a bottle of Dumonde is not leaking. And that stuff, in addition to being about as industrial-grade as lube can get, has a sharp odor to it. Basically, Dumonde chain lube smells like a flick on the nose feels.

Go ahead and flick yourself on the nose. I’ll wait.

The Bike: You wouldn’t think a bike would have a smell. Especially a road bike, which is the bike I keep inside the cab; the mountain bikes have to ride coach.

But bikes do indeed have a smell, if you count the saddle.


Passengers: I am sad to report that many of my friends, after riding a bike for 2-14 hours, smell pretty bad. And it’s a dynamic badness with peaks and plateaus (but no valleys, alas). And while I theoretically could lay out towels and blankets and demand that everyone apply post-ride deodorant, I am not going to.

Which means that my passengers leave a little something behind.

Me: I’m just kidding of course. I make no smell at all. Ever.

The Solutions

So what does one do when the thing one likes best makes one’s vehicle smell like a cross between a locker room and a bike shop?

Well, there are several solutions, each of which I have tried. Sometimes together.

Rolling down the window. This works great, for as long as you have the window rolled down. And the folks in the back seat really really seem to love all that wind, too!

Those tree things you hang from your rear-view mirror: There are a number of problems with these. First of all, they smell nothing like a tree. Go smell a tree right now, then go smell one of those evergreen-shaped air “fresheners.” I’ll wait.

No, just kidding, I’m going on without you.

The second thing is that these little air fresheners may as well be giant neon billboards with the text “VERY STINKY AUTOMOBILE” flashing. Which, while undoubtedly an effective auto theft deterrent, is still quite embarrassing.

Incense / potpourri: There are almost too many problems to count with these two. First, it’s not easy to keep the incense lit when you’ve got the air conditioner going. Second, every time you stop, the potpourri spills out of its decorative bowl and gets all over the place. Third, I’m simply far too straight to use either of these.

Also, I freely admit that three problems isn’t really “almost too many to count.”

Citrus spray: This is in fact what I have started using to de-stenchify my car:


I’m very pleased at how effective it is. A quick spray around the cab — and a rather more direct and extensive spray at my passengers — leaves my truck smelling just like oranges, for about thirty seconds. Then it smells a little bit like sweaty oranges. Eventually, the smell levels off to orange-y sweat.

Which is still an improvement.

LiveBlog: Unboxing / Building the Superfly Singlespeed

03.20.2009 | 7:28 am

Soon — oh, so soon — I’ll be heading over to SLC Bicycle Co. to unbox and build (or rather, to have built) my Gary Fisher Superfly Singlespeed. The bike I’ve been thinking about for half a year.

Half a year is a long time. Long enough, one would suppose, to make final decisions about every aspect of the bike.

But there’s one thing I still haven’t made up my mind about: What should I do for the handlebars?

Here are my choices:


  • Titec J-Bar : The multitude of hand positions for this bar really interests me, and I’ve already found that I’m really comfortable with my hands at this angle. Since I like to brake with my middle fingers, though, I’m not exactly sure where I can mount the levers. Also — and I’m kind of ashamed to use this as a serious negative — I also find this bar to be very ugly. And those bar ends out front may prevent my bike from working with the truck bed fork mounts I’ve got in my truck — they’d bump up against the back of the cab.
  • On-One Fleegle Pro: Angled similarly to the Mary, but not as extreme, and lighter, too. ‘Course, I’ve got about thirty pounds of my own to take care of before I start seriously considering the difference in weight between handlebars as a deciding factor.
  • Bontrager RL Big Sweep: The sweep of this bar is very close to the Fleegle, and I’d say this is the lightest and nicest-looking bar of the bunch. Without the Fleegle/Mary-style bends, though, the bar comes back pretty far from the stem.
  • On-One Mary: I have this bar on both the geared Superfly and the Waltworks, and I love it on both. Which brings up the question: why am I even considering any other bar? Because I like to fiddle, that’s why.

Probably, I’ll try out all four of these eventually, but I’m still agonizing over which to go with first.

I’m interested in your recommendations.

LiveBlog of the SingleFly build begins around 10:30am MDT today! (Just three more hours!)

10:42: Here’s the box:


And here’s Troy, who’s building the bike:


And here’s the unboxing:


And now we’re set up on the workstand, ready to get started:


More in a few minutes…

10:56: Troy’s got the SLR saddle and On-One carbon fork on and is getting started on the Noir cranks.


These cranks are a thing of beauty.


The dropouts are, too.


Just so you get what I was like this morning. I was so anxious to get everything together and out the door, I very nearly forgot to bring the fork and saddle.

It’s still totally possible I’ve forgotten something equally important, but haven’t realized it yet.

11:07: For those of you who gave input on what handlebar I should use, thanks. I’ve made my decision, though it was pretty much by default. I didn’t want to go with the J-Bar as my first setup, and both the On-Ones require a shim (which is not in stock) to work with the stem I’ve got. So I’m going with the Bontrager SL-Big Sweep.

Though I would like to call out that Brent at Twin Six emailed me with an interesting option for future consideration.

11:45: Mark (SkiBikeJunkie) just joined me here to say nice things about my bike. Which, I might add, is an invaluable service.

The handlebar’s on, and the tires are mounted with sealant in.


Mike Curiak did a fine job with these wheels:


It’s all coming together.

11:52: I have decided on a 20-tooth cog, instead of the 18-tooth cog that comes with the Chris King hub.

Because I am a big fat pansy, that’s why.

12:25: The fork’s cut down (with a little extra up top for tweakage reasons), the handlebar’s on. Troy’s working on the front brake right now.


This thing is beginning to look a lot like a bicycle.

1:16: The shop’s really busy right now — everyone’s coming in during their lunch hour to get bikes fixed up for the weekend — so I’m just hanging out while Troy helps other folks.

1:17: Hey, this is interesting: The Team Fatty jersey pre-order last week raised $13,296 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Not half bad!

2:21: Something’s was weird with the anchor bolt on the cranks — it stripped before it even got tight. Luckily, Troy has another one on hand and is going to try again. Then I’ll take another photo.

2:29: Troy just let out a whoop; the second bolt worked fine. Here’s how the bike looks so far:


Oh, and I especially like this:


Avid, Fisher, Chris King, and Surly: all getting along together just fine. And in a few minutes, there’ll be an SRAM chain on there, completing the bike company porridge.

2:57: Getting darned close.


Now we just need to get the saddle positioned, get the bottle cages on, and…I’m going riding on my brand-new bicycle.

Anyone want to guess how much it will weigh?

3:11: Here it is! All built and ready to ride.


Annnd… here’s how much it weighs, as shown (i.e., with pedals, bottle cages, and everything else):


Yes, I am the proud owner of a sub-19-pound mountain bike.

Holy smokes.

I’m going riding!

Mister Helpful Directions Person

03.19.2009 | 9:33 am

A Note from Fatty: The Lance Armstrong Foundation is following up on the video I talked about yesterday by asking everyone to tell their “What would YOU say to cancer?” stories on video. Take a short 15-30 second video, upload to YouTube and tag it “LIVESTRONG + Cancer + Sucks.” They will mark their favorites and post them in the LiveStrong blog in the “Supporter Videos” section.

It feels like Spring is here, and just a little (very little, if you look at the date) early. Shorts and short sleeve weather is so wonderful after a long weather of riding on the rollers. It’s warm enough, in fact, that yesterday afternoon after work I headed over to Corner Canyon to get on the dirt and see how much of the trail is open.

Judging by the number of people on the trail, I was not the only one glad to get outside and on the dirt. And a lot of the folks were there for their first time — or at least the first time in a long time.

Luckily for them, I was out there, ready to lend my expert assistance to anyone who needed to know anything at all about the trail system.

Why? Because I love stopping and talking with cyclists and talking about the trail. For I am . . . Mister Helpful Directions Person!

The Unfortunate Anti-Superpower of Mister Helpful Directions Person

As an eager and friendly superhero, I — Mister Helpful Directions Person — actively seek out cyclists (and hikers, and even people who hail from Equestria) who are stopped on the trail, looking this way and that. “Aha!” I think to myself. “A cyclist (or hiker, or Citizen of Equestria) in probable need of information! I shall stop and see if I can lend assistance!”

As a careful and friendly superhero, however, I do not want to offend, nor to give out unwanted, unnecessary advice. So first, I stop and chat.

“Isn’t it great to get outside and ride after a long winter?” I ask. I am not surprised, of course, to find that most everyone agrees that it is in fact good to get out on one’s bike. Very few — okay, nobody — have replied with a rude comment like, “Actually I hate riding and am out here only because I have done evil and must be punished.”

“Isn’t this trail network incredible?” is my follow-up question. This, you see, is my clever way of letting the other person that I do, in fact, know this trail system like the back of my hand. How else would I be able to assess its incredibleness?

Some simply agree that it is, in fact, remarkable to have miles and miles of excellent singletrack tucked right into what is otherwise a residential area.

Others, to my delight, pick up on my subtle hint and ask, “So where does this trail lead to?”

And that is all the permission I need to explain:

“Well, follow this trail for…I don’t know, between half a mile and two miles. Then there will be a really hard climb, or at least it’s really hard if you’re on a singlespeed and out of shape. Umm, there’s a couple of stream crossings you should be aware of before you get to the next intersection, which you will go right through.

“Wait, hold on. I was thinking of a different trail there for a minute. There aren’t actually any stream crossings you have to worry about, and you do have to turn at that intersection, except there are a couple forks in the trail before that intersection where I think you follow the main trail.”

And that intersection’s actually a fork. I think there’s a fiberglass trail marker there, or at least there was two years ago. I think someone stole it last year. It doesn’t matter though, because you’re just going through that intersection. I mean you’re turning left.”

Even as I talk, I realize: I am giving terrible directions. The look on my hapless direction recipient’s face confirms this, big time. His eyes glass over. He nods, but it’s clear he’s stopped listening and is now just waiting for me to stop talking so he can go figure out the trail for himself.

The Real Mister Helpful Directions Person

I give terrible directions because when I’m riding — or doing anything else for that matter — I don’t think about stuff in such a way that lends itself to good directions. My thought process runs more along the lines of, “Hey, a stream! Look, there’s an interesting bug. I wonder what it’s called? This trail is fun. My legs hurt. I’m not doing a very good job of turning even circles. There’s an intersection, I wonder what would happen if I turned left instead of going right? Hey, a stream!”

You see my problem?

Dug, on the other hand, has an actual genuine superpower: His head has a GPS and a to-scale topographical map of the Intermountain West inside his head.

I believe this was caused by a freak accident involving Dug, a tourniquet, a broom closet, an electrical storm, a nearly-empty bottle of hand lotion, and a personal computer. There was also a cheese grater nearby, but I remain unconvinced of its relevance.

The fact remains: once Dug has been on a trail, he can give precise and perfect directions. Furthermore, he somehow knows how trails connect together, what the exact distances are from one point to the next, and recalls landmarks exactly.

You should hear him give directions to strangers encountered on the trail. “Go two hundred forty yards, during which time you will pass eighteen coniferous trees on the right side, not including saplings. Once you pass a boulder — it looks like a giant potato, has moss growing on the south side, and has a radius of fifty-four inches at its widest point, you can’t miss it — an intersection gives you the options of going to either of the following: Persimmon’s Doom on the left, Shimmy-Jimmy Doo-Whop on the right, or continue straight to intersect with Cashmere Nightmare in one-point-three miles.

Yes, we have oddly-named trails around here. But that’s not my point. My point is that when people get directions from Dug, they often abandon their previous route, asking if Dug will be their leader from that point forward.

Unfortunately, Dug is mean-spirited and spiteful, and hence as likely to answer with a chop to the solar plexus and spin-kick to the nose as a “sure, come ride with us.”

Which, of course, is why I always carry an extensive first-aid kit, which I waste no time in using.

Unfortunately, I am almost exactly as good at administering first aid as I am at giving directions.

PS: UPS has some really good news for me today: my Superfly Singlespeed — which I have been nonstop obsessing over since last August — has arrived at SLC Bicycle Co. LiveBlog of the unboxing and build begins tomorrow (Friday) at 10:30am MDT.

I’m so excited.

What I Would Say to Cancer

03.18.2009 | 11:02 am

A couple of days ago, the Lance Armstrong Foundation put out a video: “What Would You Say to Cancer, Given the Chance?”

I’ve watched this a couple times now. It’s a powerful video. It wasn’t until afterward, though, that it occurred to me: the premise of the video — talking to cancer as if it were a person — should feel contrived and odd to me.

But it doesn’t.

Because — probably like a lot of people who’ve been affected — cancer doesn’t feel like a disease to me. It feels a lot more calculating and sinister than that. And to tell the truth, I’ve had internal monologues not too different from what the people in this video were saying, where I told cancer what I think of it.

Today I’m going to try to write some of these things down.

What I Would Say to Cancer

I think I would start by trying to make cancer realize how badly it’s hurt Susan, has hurt our children, and has hurt me. It started by taking one of Susan’s breasts, then went on to take her energy, and then one of her hips, then attacked her ability to walk, breathe, and even think. And while the cancer is quiet for now, we know it’s far from finished.

“Why would you want to do that?” I would like to ask. “Why would you attack someone like Susan? She hasn’t ever done anything to invite you in. She isn’t old. Her kids need her. I need her. Why are you doing this?”

Just because I know the question doesn’t have a good answer doesn’t mean I can’t ask it.

On that LiveStrong video, a lot of the people wanted to challenge cancer to a fight. I have to admit that this part of the video scared me. We’ve already tried fighting. If I could talk to cancer, I would really like to ask for a truce. A cease-fire.

I’d be willing to trade or negotiate. If I could beg for that truce, in fact, I would. “You’ve proven your point. If we agree that you’re the winner, will you stop now? Or if you still want something else, can you take it from me instead?” I honestly can’t think of many limits of what I’d trade.

I would want to tell cancer that it has changed me. I’ve always prided myself on my sense of humor and the ability to find absurdity everywhere. But cancer has made it hard for me to be funny. In fact, I think I’d tell it, every time I succeed in being funny, cancer should know I’ve just given it the finger. Shown it that it can’t change me entirely: I am still me.

I’d tell cancer that it’s not just affecting the people it attacks. I’d tell it that our kids are hurting too. Susan hates not being able to do everything she’s always done for them, and I am not picking up all the slack that needs picking up. I worry every day that I am not a good enough father to take care of our kids the way they deserve.

I would ask cancer some questions. “Why are you so mean? Why are you so relentless? Why are you so sneaky? Why are you so arbitrary?” I’d tell cancer that it’s not just a villain, it’s a caricature of a villain.

I’d tell cancer that it’s gone too far. It’s attacked my wife, my father, my sister, my grandma, my father’s wife, and my mother’s husband. It’s attacked friends and people I’ve never met in the real world, but still care about.

So I guess I’d tell cancer it’s changed me in one other way: it’s given me a focus and intensity that I’ve never had before. I’m not a fighter, but in this case I am making an exception.

I’ve got a lot of friends, and we’re working together to help fight it. Sure, it’s just a little drop in the bucket, but there are a lot of us. And we’re all going to put our drops in the bucket. And someday that bucket will be full, and we will have beaten you, cancer. And that’s a good reason to do this.

Because I can’t bear the thought of my kids having to someday face cancer themselves.

Your Turn

Please use today’s comments section for what you would say to cancer.

PS: If you want to join Team Fatty for the 2009 LiveStrong Challenge, I’d love to have you. Just go to one of our team pages for Austin, Seattle, San Jose or Philadelphia and sign up. We’ve raised more money than any other team this year, but it’s really just a start. I’d love to have your help.

PPS: Thanks to everyone who pre-ordered a Team Fatty jersey or bundle last week. By doing this, you helped Team Fatty raise more than $10,000 in the fight.

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