The Shade Problem

09.3.2009 | 7:32 am

There are many good things about being a Beloved and Award-Winning Internet Cycling Celebrity, such as myself. There’s the adoration. The respect. The way a room goes quiet upon my entrance. There’s the realization that, when I am in a given public place — like a supermarket at 11:30pm, purchasing milk because I just barely realized that otherwise cold cereal will be a problem the next morning and that would be very very bad — I am quite likely the most famous person in that building.

It’s breathtaking, really, how awesome I am.

More wonderful than all the other wonderful things about me, however, is something which actually has very little to do with me. And that wonderful thing is actually two wonderful things. And those wonderful things are my legs.

Gaze upon them, if you will.


I know, I know. You are saying to yourself, “Are these truly legs of a man, or of a Titan?!” And I understand your awe. I really do, for I stand in front of a mirror daily, experiencing that same sense of wonder.

By the way, please pay no attention to the scabbiness of my right knee and the dry scaliness on both my kneecaps. What I want you to focus on is the fact that my legs are well-muscled (and very-recently-shaven, which goes to show you exactly to what lengths I will go to to get beautiful images on this blog). Those are strong legs. Climber’s legs. Cyclist’s legs.

And yet, perfectionist that I am, I am not satisfied. For I notice one important problem, which gives me untold sadness.

Namely, my quads — which are nicely tanned and (I think you will agree) almost unbearably sexy — are about thirty shades darker than my shins, which are pasty white.

To get the full effect, it may be helpful to have a side-by-side comparison of one of my forearms to one of my shins.


Now you understand my pain.

Also, I should point out that it was not at all easy for me to take this picture. To see what I mean, try holding your camera with one hand while taking a side-by-side shot of your other arm, all whilst in the middle of a deep knee-bend.

It’s not easy. But I did it anyways, for you. I go to great lengths for my art’s sake.

This leg-tanness dissonance, dear reader, is not intentional. I do not apply baby oil to the top of my legs, followed by SPF 3,000 sunblock to my lower legs. It will surprise you to know that I in fact apply the same strength of sunblock evenly, to all parts of my legs.

And yet.

Now, some of this tragic darkness discrepancy is due to expected causes. My quads, which are frequently somewhat horizontal when I am on a bike, are of course more directly exposed to the sun. So of course they’re going to be a little bit darker than my lower legs.

But I believe there is more to it than this.

I believe that my shins — and my calves, which you will have to trust are in no darker a condition than my shins — are milky white because of shade.

Specifically, because of the shade of my quads.

Yes, my quads are so daunting, so enormous, so downright shade-producing that no light gets past them, leaving my shins to believe it is midnight or perhaps the day of a solar eclipse, even when I am riding in the brightest daylight.

If my shins were plants, living through photosynthesis, they would have withered and died by now, murdered by my quads.

And what is tragic — really and truly tragic — is that I do not know how to remedy this problem. Oh, sure, I’ve brainstormed a little bit and have come up with some ideas:

  • Wrap electrical tape around my quads before each ride until they fade to the same near-transparent hue of my shins.
  • Apply that weird fake-tan lotion stuff to my shins.
  • Lay in the sun, baking myself to an even tan.
  • Get a full-lower-leg tattoo. Not of anything, just a nice even color wash tattoo the color of my quads in Summer.  

I do not find any of these methods entirely satisfactory, however, for the following reasons:

  • Electrical tape: If I were to wrap my quads, nobody could see them. And I don’t want to deprive the world of the sight of my quads; that would be cruel.
  • Fake tan lotion: I don’t think I could ever get a decent color match.
  • Traditional suntanning: I don’t think my shins would ever catch up.
  • Full lower-leg tattoo: Actually, I can’t think of any cons to this.

So you see, dear reader, that while my legs are indeed almost unimaginably wonderful, their very magnificence brings problems of their own.

Let that be a lesson to us all.

PS: Don’t even get me started on the freakishness that is my wrist-hand tanline:



When Bike Companies Go Good

09.2.2009 | 9:51 am

A Note from Fatty: The 2010 Fat Cyclist Apparel Pre-Order extravaganza is now over. Thanks to everyone who ordered something! If you missed the pre-order somehow, you’ll get another chance to order after everything comes in, all the pre-orders have been sent, and there’s been a reasonable amount of time for “settling” — exchanges, replacements, etc. — and Twin Six knows what their actual inventory is.

Win a Fat Cyclist Jersey: My good friend Bob Bringhurst is riding in the Washington MS150 in a couple weeks, and I’d like to help him raise money for it. So, if you’ll donate here – any amount at all — I’ll pick a winner at random and give him / her the 2010 Fat Cyclist jersey of your choice. This contest is for today only, so don’t put off donating. Click here to get started.

It was an incredibly bright spot in an incredibly difficult day. I came home from Susan’s funeral completely drained — cried out, tired out, and relieved I had survived talking at my own wife’s funeral.

And there was a box. From Shimano. A complete Dura-Ace Di2 group, and a personal, private note.

I simply couldn’t believe it. Ditching my family and friends, I ran up to my computer and dashed off an email, thanking him for this incredible gift, and for helping me get away from my thoughts for a while.

“Now I need to figure out a wheelset and frame to go with this,” I concluded.

Moments later, I got a brief reply back:

“So I guess the wheelset hasn’t arrived yet?”

And sure enough, the next day another box came: Dura-Ace Carbon Tubeless wheels.

And then an introductory email to Orbea, where I got an incredible deal on a 2010 Orbea Orca frame, which I of course ordered in Orange — not only is that the Euskaltel-Euskadi team color, but it goes very nicely with the orange and black Fat Cyclist jersey.

Which, by the way, I always arrange to be wearing when I ride this bike.

I completed the bike with a PRO Vibe bar, stem, and seatpost, as well as Speedplay pedals and a Selle Italia SLR saddle.

Take a look (click any of the pictures below for a larger version):





I love all my bikes. All of them. But this is a work of art.

Riding With Di2

I’ve heard a lot of people dismiss the Di2 components. After all, it’s not exactly difficult to shift without electronics, right?

But those people haven’t tried Di2. Now I have, and I am in love. And I’ve let Mark and Brad ride my bike, and they both fell in love (the on-road exchange with Brad didn’t last long; I had never noticed before, but Brad’s legs are so incredibly long that I was completely unable to turn the pedals when sitting. Seriously, I could barely reach the pedals at the 3 and 9 position.). It doesn’t take long to see why:

  • Instant shifts, no matter where you’re riding: In the big ring on a climb and you want to drop to the small ring? The Di2 front derailleur does it instantly. I’m pretty sure I’m going to unlearn everything I’ve learned before about having to shift before the climb. With this group, instead of you having to adapt when you shift to when the bike will allow it, you shift when you need to, at the literal touch of a button. There’s a big difference.
  • No-effort shifting: I injured my left wrist a couple years ago, and now by the time I’ve been riding for three or four hours, it’s painful enough for me to shift — with a traditional derailleur — to the big ring that I sometimes am not able to do it. With Di2, making this shift takes exactly the same amount of effort as clicking a mouse button.
  • It’s smart: This isn’t just electronic shifting, it’s electronic shifting with a brain. As you work your way up or down the cassette, the front derailleur automatically trims. If your shifts aren’t perfect, work your way up and down the cassette and the derailleur figures out where it ought to be.
  • No cable stretch: No cables mean no cable stretch.
  • Stingy on the power: I assumed that I’d need to recharge the battery every couple of rides. Wrong. A battery charge is good for months. To me, that seems like dark magic, but I’m OK with dark magic in this instance.
  • It sounds awesome: When you shift, it makes a little servo sound, like R2D2’s your copilot.

The only downside I’ve noticed, so far, is that I’ve become a shifting fool. I shift all the time, just for the fun of it…and because I like that cool sound.

Riding With the Orca

I know some people who detect even the slightest variations in components and frames. I am not one of those people. A bike has to be radically different for me to notice a change.

The 2010 Orca is radically different from any road bike I’ve ridden before, in one really great way: the front feels more stable and solid than anything I’ve ever ridden. I’ve never thought to myself before this, “Hmm, my bike’s front end feels flexy,” but — and I think this is because of the tapered headtube/fork — this bike feels incredibly stable and responsive.

And I’m pretty sure this isn’t just something in my head, either — Mark noticed the same thing.

In short, I’m in road bike heaven. Thanks, Shimano. Thanks, Orbea. Both of these companies deserve serious kudos, not just for making great bikes, but for the huge help they were in raising money to fight cancer — and for reaching out to me during the worst week of my life.

Incontrovertible Truths

09.1.2009 | 10:17 am

200909010648.jpgA Note from Fatty: Today’s the last day of the 2010 Fat Cyclist Apparel Pre-Order. Yes, that’s right. I called it “Fat Cyclist Apparel.” And I’d like you to, as well.

For info on everything, including clever — but not necessarily informative or helpful — descriptions, click here. Or just go to my page on the Twin Six site if, for some reason, you don’t feel the need to read my finely-crafted text.

The pre-order ends today at 5:00pm CDT, at which point the Twin Six guys will collapse gratefully on a couch, and will probably add me to their Do Not Call list.

And remember, $25 from each Team Fatty (the white / black / pink ones) — both mens‘ and womens‘ versions — goes to the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Preliminary Incontrovertible Truths

We are officially — because I hereby declare it, thus making it official — in the best part of the year for riding. It’s the best because we’re (yes, all of us) in the best shape we’re going to be for the year, but generally don’t have any more big races or events planned. So we get to use our fitness to actually go out and have some fun on our bikes.

Imagine that.

It’s the best part of the year for riding because the days are still warm, but the heat doesn’t feel quite so brutal. As if the heat is no longer a malevolent force, bent on crushing your body and sucking out your soul. Now it’s a friendly heat. Like a blanket, or a warm omelette. Or a Sunday afternoon in Paris.

It occurs to me that I may be overselling this “not as hot” thing. Let’s move on.

It’s the best part of the year for riding because the trees are just starting to change colors. On yesterday’s ride, I saw three trees that had gone red. Which means that in the next two weeks, the Alpine Loop is going to explode into crazy colors, so bright that they grab your attention, bright reds you see from the corners of your eyes.

And in short, it’s a not-half-bad time to get on your bike. And so yesterday, I did. I rode the Alpine Loop, tacking on the Cascade Springs spur for good measure. A nice four-hour ride, with maybe 5,000 feet of climbing.

Oh, by the way, I was doing the ride on this:


But how I came to be in possession of the twin of the Orbea Orca (I’ll take mine in Fat Cyclist Orange, thanks) I gave away a couple weeks ago is a story for another day. A good story, but not the one I want to tell right now. (I will confess, however, to often going into the garage and just looking at it.)

OK, back to truth-telling.

With all that climbing, there’s bound to be some serious descending. Which I love. In fact, I recently posited to Dug that a good road descent — and the Alpine Loop is a very good road descent — is just as exciting as any mountain bike descent.

To my surprise, Dug agreed with me. “It’s like when you dream about flying, except the dream part,” said Dug.

And in short, I wonder if there is any more pure sensation of speed than descending a mountain pass on good pavement on a really well-made road bike. I can’t think of one.

Of course — and alas — cyclists are not the only ones on the road.

Incontrovertible Truths About Automobile Drivers Who Do Not Yield On Paved Mountain Descents

If you’re even moderately aggressive in your descending, you’re going to be faster than at least some cars and trucks, and especially faster than trucks pulling trailers.

When this happens, the feeling of disappointment is nearly insurmountable. “All that work — that endless, painful climb — and now there’s going to be no payoff,” I think to myself, because I have conditioned myself to assume the worst: that the vehicle I am trailing at approximately one quarter the speed I’d like to be going will not take the minimal, simple, courteous, two-second effort of slowing and pulling over to the side of the road, so that I can blow by and resume my rapturous descent.

But as I’m riding my brakes for twenty minutes, I have time to think. And to analyze. And thus, yesterday, behind a horse trailer for approximately half my life, I came to the following epiphanies about the kind of people who do not let me by as I descend on my road bike:

  • It never even occurs to non-yielders that you might want to get by them. They think you’re right there because you find them — and their vehicle — attractive.
  • Non-yielders never look in their rear view mirrors, except to check to see if their chewing tobacco is stuck between their teeth.
  • Non-yielders are confident that 5/8 of the road belongs to them, and that oncoming traffic can make do with the other 3/8.
  • Non-yielders were not breast-fed as children. They still harbor resentment of this fact and express it whenever they can.
  • Non-yielders are full of malice and bile.
  • Non-yielders are the same people who, when you were climbing, honked and yelled at you for making them veer two feet out of their way, potentially delaying them by up to three seconds.
  • Non-yielders hate children and puppies.
  • Non-yielders invented lint. And they wrote the screenplay for Tranformers: Revenge of the Fallen. And those are the only two things non-yielders have ever produced.
  • Non-yielders cut in line at the Chuck-O-Rama buffet, shouldering aside grandmas and grandpas to get to the baked potato bar before all the Bac-O-Bits are gone.
  • Non-yielders feel thwarted somehow if I do manage to squeak around them.

Incontrovertible Truths About Automobile Drivers Who DO Yield On Paved Mountain Descents

Occasionally — and this did in fact happen to me yesterday — I’ll close in on a car. The familiar despondence will set in and I’ll begin to dream about the descent that might have been.

And then the car will slow down a little and pull over — not coming to a full stop, not pulling off the road, just pulling over enough to give me some room.

And then my heart will soar.

I have the following to say about people who yield to me in this manner:

  • Yielders almost certainly have bikes of their own.
  • Yielders are wise and kind. And very attractive physically, too.
  • Yielders apply the Golden Rule as it was actually intended
  • Yielders invented penicillin. And chocolate. And cheese.
  • Yielders realize that it doesn’t actually cost them much in the way of time, effort, or dignity to let me by.
  • Yielders not only have their rear-view mirrors aimed correctly, but are actually quite likely to use them from time to time.
  • Yielders are 80% likely to remember to get mom something on Mother’s Day than non-yielders.
  • In some cultures, Yielders are regarded as sacred, and there word is regarded as prophecy.
  • Yielders earn, on average, 42% higher wages than non-yielders.

True facts, all of them. They must be, because you are reading them right now on a popular internet site, written by a beloved and award-winning cycling celebrity.

So feel free to share this information with your friends. Especially the ones who tend to drive trucks with horse trailers down mountain passes.

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