How Pro Cycling Teams Can Get Back On Solid Financial Footing

06.17.2009 | 12:26 pm

A Note from Fatty: After yesterday’s post, Ben from Arriva contacted me saying they’d like to donate 5 sets of the Arriva headphones for me to give away in a contest to raise money for Team Fatty’s LiveStrong Challenge. Very cool! The contest will be tomorrow and will be a 1-day raffle, so be certain to check in for tomorrow’s post.

Another Note from Fatty: My friend — and Team Fatty member — Adam is doing a Princeton Tec Bike Light giveaway to raise money. Learn how you can win a very nice light setup for your bike here.

You know, every time I see Levi Leipheimer or Lance Armstrong ride in their signature turquoise, navy blue, lemon-yellow and white Astana jerseys with the impossible-to-decipher glyph on the chest — is that a bird carrying a sun? — I can’t help but think to myself, “You know, some day I think I’d really like to go visit Kazakhstan, or perhaps, should I be given the opportunity, purchase some Kazakh-produced consummables. Such as oil. Or perhaps wool.”

Similarly, when I see Robby McEwen execute a perfect sprint while sporting his Silence-Lotto kit, I can’t help but want to burn through a few bucks on state-sponsored gambling. But strangely enough, I really want to do so quietly.

And when I see someone from AG2R go by, I always think to myself, “Hey! Someday I should find out what AG2R means!”

Team Columbia-High Road makes me want to visit Columbia. Using a high road.

You see what I’m getting at here? The current pro cycling team sponsors are going about things all wrong, and pro teams are going after the wrong kind of sponsors. As a result, sponsors are defecting and teams aren’t getting paid.

Luckily for everyone, I am here to help.

Recommendations for Sponsors

In days of yore (specifically, 1820 – 1948), it was enough for a company to sponsor a cycling team simply to get name recognition. To proclaim to the world, “A company named ‘Milram’ exists!” And eventually, people would find out that ‘Milram’ makes dairy products, and is not, as one would first suppose, “Marlin” spelled backward, and wrong.

Since then, a few things have changed. Like TV has been invented. And other stuff, too, like cheese in an aerosol can, although that is not germane to this conversation. In any case, most people now recognize that it is a good idea to not just announce your existence, but to also proclaim what it is you do, and maybe even get specific about a particular product or service you would like to emphasize at the moment.

Let’s consider a few examples of companies that might be good pro team sponsor candidates, and how they might get good use out of their marketing dollars.

Hersheys: Even as a child, I hated parades. Floats did not interest me. Marching bands grated on me. Horses pooping on the street grossed me out. The only thing I liked about parades was all the free candy tossed my way. That I could get behind. Hersheys should sponsor a team, with their jersey design in Hersheys brown, and their helmets specially shaped to look like the iconic Hersheys Kiss. And then — as part of the sponsorship contract — riders should be required to carry a couple of bags full of Hersheys Kisses in all their training rides and races, which they would toss by the handsful out to the crowds. Oh, and also they should start making better-tasting chocolate, or when Team Hersheys races in Europe, the crowds will throw the chocolate right back at them.

Ikea: If Ikea sponsored a team, they should first make a bike that ships in a flat box, and can be assembled and maintained using nothing but a hammer and a hex wrench, as long as you follow the instructions exactly. And they should call the bike “Mjolk” or “Bladdo” or something like that. Oh, and the team could make a point of eating Swedish Fish as their main on-bike food.

Playgirl Magazine: This one’s easy. No team jersey, just shorts. And cyclists must be at least 80% as good looking as Cipollini. Maybe they could get the Assos guy to ride for them.

Fiber One: Every cyclist knows the value of taking a good dump before an important ride. Seriously, I cannot think of a better sponsoring team product tie-in than this one. The focus for the members of this team would be a little bit different than other teams. Which is to say, Team Fiber One members would be required to look relaxed and happy wherever they go, whether on a training ride or in the middle of a bunch sprint.

Microsoft / Apple: These two companies should each sponsor teams, and then ignore every other racer, instead focusing on constantly attacking each other. Microsoft bikes and kits should be incredibly versatile and useful, but require advanced degrees to get beyond basic functionality. Apple bikes would be fixed-gear and stamped from a single piece of aluminum, because that would look simple and elegant.

And they would cost $40,000.

Once they see the inevitable success of this model, other companies would scramble to climb aboard the pro cycling sponsorship bandwagon. NBC could have its Fall lineup — or a Very Special Episode of Chuck — advertised on jerseys. Martha Stewart could have bric-a-brac hot-glued onto bikes and helmets, as well as color-coordinated seasonal outfits to die for.

Sony could have a team that uses bike technology similar to — but intentionally incompatible with — every other team. Donald Trump could have a team that does whatever he wants, regardless of whether it makes any sense whatsoever.

And Oprah and I could co-launch a pro version of Team Fat Cyclist.


How To Listen To Rock and Roll Whilst Riding a Bike

06.16.2009 | 10:38 am

A Note from Fatty: The contest to win one of two copies of Windows 7 from my good friend Nick ends this Friday. And to make it more interesting to people who may not live to upgrade their operating systems (although Nick has a difficult time imagining how such a person could exist), Nick’s expanded the prize list. Now, two winners will get to choose from any of the following:

  • Windows 7: Whatever flavor you want
  • Office (Mac or PC): Whatever flavor you want
  • Wireless Laser Desktop 6000 V3
  • LifeCam NX-6000
  • Any three Microsoft games for Windows: Halo 2 PC Vista, Halo PC, Rise of Nations Rise of Legends PC, Shadowrun PC Vista, Viva Piñata PC, Zoo Tycoon 2 PC, Zoo Tycoon 2: Extinct Animals X Pack PC, Zoo Tycoon 2: African Adventure, Gears of War PC, Flight Simulator X Acceleration Pack, Flight Simulator X Deluxe, Fable The Lost Chapters PC, Dungeon Siege: Legends of Aranna, Age of Empires III PC, Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties, Age Empires III: WarChief English PC

To enter the contest, just donate any multiple of $5 at Nick’s LiveStrong Challenge page. For every $5 you donate, you get another chance at winning. I’ll select and email the winners this Friday at Midnight.

Hassle-Free Rock and Roll

Before we begin, can we agree to not make this an argument over whether it’s a good idea to listen to music while riding your bike? I know the pros. I know the cons. Nobody is going to be persuaded.

But the fact is, some of us sometimes listen to music when we ride. And I’m pretty sure that — for those of us who like to rock and ride, I’ve got what comes close to being an ideal solution.

200906160946.jpgThe Foundation: The Second-Generation iPod Shuffle

First, you’ve got to start with an iPod Shuffle. The second-generation one, not the newest (third-generation) model. Why? Because the second-generation Shuffle is a perfect combination of form and function — you can get to all the controls just by feel, even with gloves on. It’s tiny enough that it’s never gets in your way, and even the low-end version with just 1Gb (this is the version I use, by the way) holds more songs (200+) than you’ll ever get through before the battery dies.

The third-generation Shuffle, on the other hand, seems like it’s a joke article from the Onion. No controls, at all on the main unit? Teeny tiny controls on the headphones? The same headphones which are the most likely part to break on the Shuffle itself? And the controls are so small they’re hard to work with normally, much less when you’re wearing gloves and are on a bike? And the controls are hard to even get to because before you can use them you have to capture them as they sway back and forth on your headphone cable? This is what they’re replacing the 2nd-generation shuffle with? Really?

OK, sorry. I seem to have started ranting. And using a lot of question marks.

Anyway: you’re going to need a 2nd-Generation iPod Shuffle. That’s going to run you $45 or so.

The Magic Part: Arriva Headphones

I wouldn’t be doing this post at all if my big revelation were “Hey, use an iPod Shuffle!” ‘Cuz, well, a lot of you have probably heard of iPods before and may not need my help with that.

The reason I’m doing this post is because Arriva headphones are pretty much the most perfect thing ever for cyclists. Check them out:


Confused? Don’t worry, it will all make sense in a moment. Your Shuffle docks right onto the headphones, like this:


Then — because the headphone cables are springy, you just pop the headphones on and the iPod rests at the base of your skull, beneath your helmet, like this:


And — since everyone asks me this — no, they don’t dig into my neck or pinch when I ride.

What I Love About the Arrivas

There are two big things I love about these headphones.

  1. No more cables. With this setup, I have no cables at all dangling from my ears and helmet, and I don’t have to hassle with routing the headphones under my jersey and to my iPod — whereever the iPod happens to be clipped (or pocketed).
  2. Incredibly easy access. With the iPod positioned like this, I always know exactly where it is — it doesn’t budge even during mountain bike descents — and can quickly and easily get to the controls. Obviously I never can see the controls, but since the Shuffle’s volume and Next/Previous buttons are raised in a ring around the Play/Pause button, I don’t need to see anything. Even with my gloves on, I have no trouble at all operating this thing.

So those are the main benefits — the compelling reasons, as far as I’m concerned, to get one of these. There are a few other things I like, too:

  • I can hear what’s going on around me. The Arriva headphones are springy, and when you bend them, they retain that bend. I’ve now got my headphones so they’re positioned just outside my ears, not nestled deep inside. So I can hear my music, but — unless I’ve really got the Shuffle cranked up — I can also hear conversations and noise around me.
  • They’re comfortable. It took a few rides for me to get these headphones bent just right, but now I don’t even feel them when I ride.
  • They’re cheap. $35, free shipping. Not bad at all.
  • They work with helmets. I had never seen anyone use the Arrivas with a helmet before and so I wasn’t sure whether they’d work with the Roc-Loc head gripper thingy at the back of helmets. As you can see from the photo above, there’s no interference at all.

What I Don’t LoveIMG_1798.JPG

I personally have no problems whatsoever with these headphones, but I can imagine that some people might. Here’s what you may not care for:

  • You will be assimilated. From the front, the Arrivas are darn near invisible. But you’re a cyclist; hardly anyone will ever see you from the front. From the side and back, these headphones make you look like you’re joining the Borg Collective. But really, would being part of the Borg be so bad? I hear the job security is great and they have a terrific benefits package. And don’t get me started about their retirement plan and 401K matching: wow! Anyway, if you’ve got a style issue with these headphones, there’s nothing I would even try to say to convince you to go with them.
  • They don’t sound great. At their best, these headphones sound pretty good. But if you are an audiophile or even a music snob, the sound quality will disappoint you. Hey, I’m not a music snob and even I could tell that the sound quality on these is not the best. But they’re $35 headphones with specialized equipment from a small company in Telluride, CO. I didn’t expect these to sound awesome. For my listening while cycling needs, pretty good is good enough.
  • They are utterly defeated by wind noise. At least for me and the way I have these headphones positioned, when I’m on a road descent, I can’t hear the music at all. I think this is partially because of the fact that I keep the earbuds themselves pretty far out of my ear, but also because of the way the cable goes in front of your ear — that’s bound to create some wind noise of its own. With the Arrivas, I turn off my music before I turn downhill.

Additional Info and a Question

Size Stuff: I puzzled and worried over whether I should get the Small or Regular-sized headphones, and finally decided on the Small. That turned out to be a good call. For comparison, I wear size Medium helmets.

If you do get the wrong size, the Arriva site says they’re good about exchanges. But I haven’t tried that out, so can’t vouch for how easy it really is.

Judgment Call from You: I kind of enjoy writing about stuff I use when I ride, and wouldn’t mind doing it more. But obviously that’s not what I started out doing with this blog. Let me know whether you would get sick of me writing these review-ish pieces once a week or so.

Full Disclosure: Since I’m starting to get free stuff sometimes, I figure I should let you know when I get stuff for free. In this case, I paid retail for the headphones on the Arriva site, and they don’t know I’m writing this. I don’t think that changes the way I feel about something, but who knows. In short, I have never had any communication at all with the Arriva folks.

Short version: I’m glad the 2nd-generation iPod Shuffle is still around, because combined with the Arriva, it’s the best cycling / music solution I could ever hope for.

REVISED Editorial from Christian Prudhomme, Director of the Tour de France

06.15.2009 | 9:39 am

Dear M. Prudhomme,

Today, as part of my carefully-planned annual “get all wound up about the Tour de France” ritual, I spent several minutes browsing the official Tour de France website. As part of my intention to be a well-informed Tour de France (TdF) consumer, I of course read your editorial, linked from a prominent place on the home page.

You are to be congratulated, M. Prudhomme, on successfully writing the single most boring thing I have ever read. As a point of reference, I have also read the first two chapters of my wife’s copy of Twilight, and your editorial was even more boring than that.

Seriously. It was very boring.

As a (very famous and beloved) cycling blogger who was once a computer magazine editor and before that a professional technical writer, I feel I have the experience to “punch up” your editorial to make it less…well…unreadable. And also, I have taken the liberty of adding in a few interesting thoughts you might have included if you hadn’t been so singlemindedly focused on writing the most boring thing that has ever been written.

My edits are easy to follow, M. Prudhomme. Additions are in red. Deletions are in strikeout.

I look forward to your posting this revised version on your site.

Kind Regards,

The Fat Cyclist

Christian PrudhommeEditorial: 2009 Tour de France: This Time It’s Personal!

Beyond the prestige associated with the Principality, the Tour Start from Monaco was an immediate landmark attraction: being located in the south-east, it provoked the most intense curiosity as to the envisaged route and favoured audacity in the elaboration of the course got me an absolutely awesome new car. Prince Albert was all like, “Hey, start the Tour here in Monaco, and I’ll make it worth your while.” And I was like, “Can I have a new car?” And he was like, “Sure, what kind?” And that’s when I knew two things. First, that the Tour would start in Monaco. And second, that this went over way too easy and I should have asked for more than just a car.

Still, the Tour’s got to start somewhere. And I am still trying to decide on what kind of car to get. Maybe a nice Peugot 206.

Just kidding!

The objectives of the race designers nevertheless remain exactly the same: to provide a varied terrain, in terms of both sport and aesthetics, in order to fire the imagination of champions – except Lance Armstrong – and to somehow find a way for a Frenchman to win. , enthusiasts, and to stimulate interest and suspense throughout the event.

This year, I believe I have succeeded in this noble trifecta of objectives, by instituting the following changes:

  1. The published course is no longer valid.
  2. The starting line, time and route of each stage of the new course is secret.
  3. To obtain the location and route for the new course, racers simply had to do the following, without coaching or warning:

    • Sing the French National Anthem
    • Provide a certificate of birth showing France as your native country.
    • Eat several snails.

The beginning of each race stage should be exciting indeed!

More important than any of that, though, is one overarching consideration: Lance Armstrong must not win. He must be stopped at any cost. Toward that objective, I have put the following additional new rules in place:

  1. If you are from Texas, all carbohydrates are henceforth considered dope.
  2. “Random” drug tests may be conducted during the actual stage. Specifically, the “Doper Cycle” may pull over anyone he wants to at any point along the course and administer a drug test. The racer must wait on the side of the road until the results of the test are confirmed. I should also note that results may appear to take some time, since the doping lab keeps banker’s hours and are not, sadly, open at all on weekends.
  3. For every TdF a given rider has won, he must add 1Kg to the overall weight of his bicycle. Except on climbing stages, where the rider must add 2Kg per TdF win.
  4. If you are from Texas, all water-based drinks are henceforth considered dope.
  5. Team Astana shall be considered “on probation” during this Tour, and as such must ride this year’s Tour unsupported. No mechanical support. No food or water handoffs (that’s all dope anyway). Also, all Team Astana riders must keep their tires’ air pressure at or below the special upper limit of 32psi.
  6. If you are from Texas, your chamois is considered dope.

The French riders hold the key to the July performance, but the stage is set for a dream of a landmark finale, exactly twenty years after the most extraordinary final in the history of the Tour.

Really, it’s too bad only a very small group of individuals knows the location of that stage. Well, too bad for some people, anyway.

Hence, never, in over one hundred years, has a mountain been so close to Paris. Trust me, it was not easy nor inexpensive to have a mountain relocated. It turns out that UPS will move anything if you’re willing to pay the overage charges! And what a mountain, twenty four hours (or perhaps twenty two or thirty six hours; I choose not to say) before the Champs Élysées: the Giant of Provence, the Ventoux! Thanks to this mythical climb, unique in its genre, not only will the suspense be maintained; it will increase in magnitude right up to the gates of the capital. Too bad (for most people and especially for one person) it’s no longer where it used to be.

Prior to this, the 2009 Tour will have proposed a “big blue” style start to the race (even I have no idea what that means, and I wrote it!), with a first week delightfully concentrated around directly through the Mediterranean sea, from Monaco to Barcelona via Prague, accompanied, on the way, by evocations of Van Gogh and Dali. Because I know that what cycling enthusiasts really love in their race coverage is evocations of dead painters. It will have marked the return of a top-flight athletic exercise, the team time trial, and confirmed the absence of bonuses, decided upon last year. Second place will sometimes be declared first place, at my discretion.

It will have put Marseille and its Vieux Port in the limelight, along with the beautiful Annecy and the very swanky resort of Verbier, in Switzerland, but also, at the heart of the countryside, Vatan, in the Indre, and Saint-Fargeau, in the Yonne, the smallest commune in the 96th edition of the Tour; given that the Tour, a magnificent popular celebration, is committed to one and all, far and wide, in our towns and in our countryside. Blah blah blah blah blah.

Oh, and I’m also asking Versus to bring back Al Trautwig. I love that guy.


Director of the Tour de France

PS: Team Fatty crossed $300,000 raised for the Lance Armstrong Foundation today! Congratulations and a big thanks to everyone for working so hard. – FC

Following Jill

06.14.2009 | 11:08 am

giantjill.jpgLike many (but nowhere near as stalky as some), I love following Jill Homer’s giant treks / races / adventures.

Well, as of Friday, Jill is on another cycling quest: she’s riding the Great Divide as part of the Tour Divide race: 2,745 miles of self-supported racing along the Great Divide.

It’s huge. Bigger than huge, really. It’s huge-errific.

I know a lot of my readers also read Jill’s blog (and some of her readers read mine), so to make it easy for all of us, I’ve put a set of links in my blog’s right channel (right under my LiveStrong Challenge tracker) to make it easy to track her progress.

Jill’s a remarkably talented person: a strong rider, gifted photographer, and great writer. I strongly recommend tracking her race with an almost (but not quite) Dicky-like obsessiveness.

Question of the Weekend: Cumulative Snot Volume

06.12.2009 | 12:03 pm

Today I’m pleased to announce a new feature, running on Fridays at, which I call “X of the Weekend.” Actually, the X is just a placeholder. It’s not really called “X of the Weekend,” it’s called “(Something) of the Weekend,” where the “X” or “Something” is replaced with something else. And whatever it is, it’s of the Weekend.

For example, the “something” (or X) for this weekend is a question. And the question is as follows:

“How much snot have you wiped on your gloves, expelled out your nose, or otherwise dispensed of during the course of your cycling career to date?”

It’s an intriguing question, and not at all disgusting. (It can’t be disgusting, because this is a family-friendly blog, and family-friendly blogs don’t have disgusting things on them. QED.) I found myself considering this question this morning as I rode with Mark up American Fork Canyon (see Mark’s delightful account of the ride here). It was a cold morning, which meant my nose was running extra-efficiently. And since I am unable to do the “Snot Rocket” (I have small nostrils, so any time I try the Snot Rocket blowout, my eyes pop out of my skull), I wipe the snot on my glove, then wipe my glove on the side of my shorts.

So. Over the course of this fifteen years of riding, about how much snot have I wiped on my shorts?

Let’s look at the data.

  1. Let’s suppose my threshold for wiping my nose on my glove is constant.
  2. Let’s further suppose the threshold for that volume is 1/8 teaspoon.
  3. Let’s additionally suppose that I wipe my nose an average of twelve times per ride (I wiped my nose a counted 22 times today, but today was cold. Twelve seems like a responsibly realistic number).
  4. Let’s posit — because I’m tired of supposing — that I ride my bike four times per week throughout the year. This is a good conservative average, since I generally ride my bike six times per week during the good weather, and much less often when I have to use the rollers.
  5. Let’s assert that there are 52 weeks per year. Let’s also assert that the extra day or two ignored by this 52-weeks-per-year assertion have been very naughty and deserve to be punished.
  6. Let’s assert that I have been riding for fifteen years. Exactly.

Now let’s do the math:

(12 snots x 4 weekly rides x 52 weeks x 15 years) = 37,440 snots

This total, naturally, needs to be divided by 8, since there are 8 snots per teaspoon. Based on this, I am pleased to report that in my cycling lifetime, I have wiped 4,680 teaspoons’ worth of snot on my cycling shorts.

Admit it: you’re impressed.

Now all we need to know is how many teaspoons are in a gallon (which I’ll convert to liters because I know some of you haven’t yet converted over to the non-metric system), because nobody — certainly not me — can wrap their heads around the idea of 4,680 teaspoons.

I will be back shortly. I am going to fill a gallon jug with water, using a teaspoon.

OK, I’m back. Using the empirical method — and not by just doing a search — I have found there are 768 teaspoons in a gallon.

Hence, in my fifteen years of cycling, I have wiped 6.09 gallons (23.03 liters) of snot onto my gloves, and then transferred said snot onto the side of my shorts.

This is absolutely my most impressive cycling accomplishment of all time.

Assignment: Taking into account the length of your cycling career, individual snot-wipe/blow volume, frequency of snot-wipe/blows, and ride frequency, please report how much snot have you produced and either applied to your shorts, gloves, jerseys, or distributed onto the road (or in Dug’s case, blown into a fine mist that hits everyone in a twenty-yard radius).

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