Stuff Fatty Loves: The Garmin Edge 500

09.22.2010 | 3:21 pm

A Full Disclosure Note from Fatty: I bought my Garmin Edge 500 from an online retailer and got no special discount on it.

Remember when bike computers had a thin little wire that ran down to your fork, where the sensor would pick up as the little magnet you attached to a spoke went by?

Except, of course, when the magnet moved and started hitting the sensor with every rotation of the wheel. Click click click click click.

Or when the sensor moved and stopped picking up the magnet.

Or when the wire broke.

Or when the battery died, in which case you would need to — since of course the battery was a completely unique size — order replacements from the manufacturer for just slightly more than the original cost of the bike computer itself, plus $8.00 for shipping. Please allow 8 weeks for delivery.

Yeah, those were the good old days.

IMG_1196.jpgDawn of the GPS

And then — maybe seven or eight years ago? — affordable GPSs came out. They were just about the same size as mobile phones, which is to say about the size and weight of a brick. Four AA batteries would very nearly get you through a three-hour ride. Provided, of course, you didn’t break the giant thing off the handlebar mount.

And good luck figuring out the software.

But — like phones — the GPSs have gotten smaller. And — Unlike phones — their battery consumption has gotten stingier.

And — judging from the fact that Garmin is sponsoring a pro cycling team — they’ve wakened to the fact that cyclists are a huge and awesome target market for GPSs.

I don’t know if it’s feedback from the Garmin-Transition team that led to the Garmin Edge 500, but Garmin has nailed it.

Yep, I love the Garmin Edge 500, and now I’m going to tell you why.

IMG_1186.jpgMounting It: As Easy As Shooting Rubber Bands

I am not good with tools. In fact, I tend to get sweaty and panicky when I have to do any bike maintenance beyond lubing the chain. And I am not too proud to say that I have ruined more than one bike computer simply by trying to mount it on my bike.

So when I got the Edge 500, I wasn’t looking forward to setting it up on my bike.

Until I found out that setting up the mount requires exactly no tools and — at most — two minutes of your time.

Essentially, all you have to do is rest the mount where you want it on your stem, then stretch a couple of industrial-strength rubber bands under the stem, diagonally from corner to corner.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it.

At first I was a little bit concerned — would a couple of bands be enough to secure a GPS? Well, I’ve had this GPS mounted to the stem of my fully-rigid singlespeed for the whole season, for every mountain bike ride, for the Kokopelli Trail, for the Leadville 100, for the PCP2P, and for several hometown epics, and the mount has never slipped. No band has ever broken.

Simple solutions are sometimes the best.

So, how do you attach the actual Edge 500 onto this little mount? By putting it on sideways, and then turning it a quarter turn, locking it into place. Takes no time at all, and it stays put, nice and secure.

Oh, and here’s a nice touch with the mounts: the Edge 500 comes with two mount kits, not just one. Which means that you can set one up on your mountain bike and one on your road bike, then easily move the computer between the two bikes.

Which is exactly what I do.

So now I’ve gone on for about ten paragraphs about the Edge 500’s bike mounts. But the fact is, setting up and moving the computer is a huge — and until now, problematic — part of how you use your bike computer. With the Edge 500, setting up the mounts and moving the computer between mounts is truly, genuinely simple.

Information Overload

It’s nothing new to have a lot of information available on your GPS, and the Edge 500 can provide a ton of data: Speed, temperature, time, time of day, total ascent and descent, vertical speed, cadence, calories, distance, elevation, grade, heading, heart rate, laps, and power, along with various permutations of practically all of the above.

What I like about the Edge 500 is how easy it is to customize how much data you see, what data you see, and how you can easily change what you see.

For example, for most of the Leadville 100, here’s the screen I was looking at:


Three fields, nice and big, showing just what I cared about: how long I’d been out, how much climbing I had done, and how far I had gone.

With a single button press (the Page / Menu button on the bottom-left side), though, I could go to a different custom page with eight fields:


Cuz sometimes you just want to let your inner nerd out.

Other Stuff I Love About the Edge 500

There are other things I like a lot about the Edge 500 — things that make me think that Garmin really did their homework for what a cyclist would want from a GPS bike computer:

  • It’s easy to use even with gloves on. The buttons are on the side, and are rubberized and clicky. There’s enough tactile feedback with these that even with full-finger gloves on, I have no problem operating this thing.
  • It’s smart. If you turn the Edge 500 on but forget to press Start, it notices when you’ve started rolling. It chimes and prompts you to press Start. I don’t even know how many times at the beginning of a ride (or race!) I forget to press Start when I get going. This little reminder has come in handy dozens (at least!) of times.
  • It’s helpful. The first time I went to customize the fields, I didn’t know whether I would be able to figure it out. To my surprise, the Edge 500 actually walked me through the process, telling me what steps came next. Like this:
    Yep, a bike computer that doesn’t assume you keep the arcane instruction book with you at all times. What a concept.
  • It’s long-lasting. The specs for the Edge 500 say the battery life is up to 18 hours. Honestly I haven’t tried running it that long. But I have run it for twelve hours at a time, several times.
  • It’s easy to charge. The Edge 500 comes with an AC charger, but it also can be charged from any USB port, which is what I always do. Which means that as long as you can find a computer, you can charge your Garmin. That’s not a big deal, until you forget your charger at home, and then it’s really nice to be able to not have to look for an obscure cable to recharge your bike computer.
  • It’s got a backlight. If you’re riding early in the morning or late at night, that’s nice to have.

If you’re looking to quantify your cycling experience, I daresay this is a really nice way to do it. And, in short, I love the Garmin 500.

Enough so that I bought a second one for The Runner to use on her bikes.


Stuff Fatty Loves: Shoes Edition

09.21.2010 | 11:08 am

A Note from Fatty: This is the first in a series (of indeterminate length, because I don’t think very far ahead, and I don’t know whether people will like these) of posts about bike-related stuff that I own and love. These posts are not reviews, because reviews are generally about new products and need to at least pretend to be balanced in coverage. Instead, these posts are about stuff I have had long enough that I’m way past certain that they’re awesome, and hence want to tell my friends about them.

In April of 2009, I wrote a post titled, “An Open Letter to Specialized.” In it, I pretty thoroughly trashed their mountain bike shoes, saying that while the shoes fit great, they just didn’t last; with them I had had to purchase new mountain bike shoes every other season.

I said that Specialized had worn out their welcome, shoe-wise, and finished with an open appeal to any shoe manufacturer that would like to earn a loyal customer.

Two companies sent me new mountain biking shoes. Sidi sent me their top-of-the-line Dragon 2 SRSs. Here they are, back when they were new:


And — to my huge surprise — Specialized stepped up in the face of ridicule and sent me a new pair of their Specialized BG Pro Carbon MTB shoes. Here they are when they were new:


The Evolution of Preference

I told myself that the fairest way I could decide which pair of shoes — if either — I liked best would be to switch on a ride-by-ride basis. The thing is, I knew that system wouldn’t last forever. At some point, I knew I’d start using one pair of shoes more often than the other. And that, probably, I’d wind up wearing one of those pairs pretty much exclusively.

I should also point out that I started out hugely biased against Specialized; they had already failed me and were on double-extra-secret probation, as far as I was concerned.

And besides, the Sidis were the cooler, sexier brand, and were way (like double) more expensive.

So, in short, I was pretty sure that Specialized was going to take a drubbing, handing me one of those oh-so-rare-and-delicious “I told you so” moments.

You can already tell where this is going to wind up, can’t you?

Well, just in case you can’t, take a look at the shoes now that I’ve had them for about two riding seasons:

My Photo_22.jpg

Yeah, the Specialized shoes look like they’ve been used a lot more, don’t they?

I’m surprised too. It’s because these shoes are used a lot more, by the way — not that they wear out fast.

The truth is, I was pretty good about switching between the shoes for about a month — long enough to realize that both brands of shoes are very good.

But while I like the way the Sidis look and fit, I simply love my Specialized BG Pro shoes.

And here’s why.

No Maintenance

My previous pairs of Specialized shoes all self-destructed within a couple of seasons, which is a huge problem, considering how expensive cycling shoes are. But after a couple of seasons, here’s how this pair looks from the side:

My Photo_29.jpg

And here’s the sole:

My Photo_25.jpg

Obviously, these shoes are scuffed and dirty (and it’s high time I replace my cleats). If you look past those things, though, you’ll note that the shoes are completely intact. The mesh on the uppers is in great shape (in spite of the fact that I have not cared for them at all), and the soles are still intact. I can also tell you that the velcro still fastens securely and the ratchet on both shoes works flawlessly.

In other words, these shoes are in as good of shape after two seasons of a lot of riding as when I got them. Without my ever doing anything to take care of them.

And I have no reason to suspect they won’t be good for at least another season or two of lots of riding.


One thing I have never complained about — and in fact have praised, multiple times — is the Specialized “Body Geometry” system. Specialized has clearly spent a lot of time and money researching how feet fit in shoes.

As a result, my feet have never hurt when mountain biking this season. And that’s saying something, considering I have worn these shoes on some pretty long rides, including:

  • The Kokopelli Trail
  • The Leadville 100
  • The Park City P2P
  • Several hometown all-day epics

No hotspots. No aching arches. No soreness or blisters. Ever. My feet are the one part of my body that have never endured even a second’s worth of discomfort this riding season.

The fact is, once I put my shoes on, I never think about my feet the rest of the ride.

Which I think is about as high of praise as you can have for mountain bike shoes.


I’m now a big enough fan of Specialized shoes that last weekend I took The Runner out to a bike shop and bought her an equivalent pair of these shoes (but much, much smaller, because The Runner’s feet are dainty). I think that’s worth pointing out because while it’s one thing to like something that’s given to you for free, my endorsement might be more credible when you know that I am also willing to buy them at retail.

So, Specialized, we kind of took the long way ’round on this relationship, but I think it worked out pretty good for both of us in the end. You’ve won me back. I love you guys.

Now c’mon over here and give me a hug.

That’s Right, I AM Dangerous

09.20.2010 | 9:31 am

Hmmmm. What did I do during the weekend? Well, I went on a couple great mountain bike rides — one on Pole Line Pass, one on Tibble Fork — getting to enjoy perfect weather and trail conditions:

My Photo_18_2.jpg

Not to mention the incredible beauty of the changing of the color of the trees:

My Photo_21_2.jpg

But I didn’t get to write about those rides.

Oh, also I spent some time working on the next big Team Fatty giveaway, which will in fact be bigger and more awesome than previously anticipated.

But I didn’t get to write about that contest.

In fact, I didn’t get to work on any of the parts of this blog I like to work on, because yesterday — when I would be doing my writing for today’s post — I went to take a look at my site and saw — instead of my site — this:


I think it’s safe to say that I freaked out. A little bit.

Or maybe a lot.

I then checked my email and noticed that approximately 150 of you (thanks to each of you for the heads-up by the way) had sent me email saying you were getting the same thing.

Which meant that instead of writing, I was going to get to spend the evening troubleshooting.

A Quick Fix

It didn’t take long to figure out that the one part of the site I don’t control — what ads are shown — had to be the culprit. So I stripped the site of all the codes that put paying ads in my site, then submitted a malware review request to Google.

And as of this morning, they give my site a clean bill of health. Hooray.

Quick Fixes Might Be Permanent

The thing is, there have been several times that ads I’m none too thrilled with have appeared on my site. And for the past couple months been considering the possibility that the money — which is not a huge amount, alas — I get from ads is simply not worth it.

The problem is, I spend an enormous amount of time on this blog. Getting a little bit of money — even if it works out to be less than mininum wage — for my effort is kind of nice.

But not so nice that I’m willing to have my site contain malware.

So maybe I’ll keep the changes I’ve made. I dunno.

You Tell Me

I’d like your input. Do you think I should:

  • Go ahead and go back to serving ads, but make sure the company that provides ads has their act together?
  • Start looking for a company or two to act as the site sponsors, giving them exclusive rights to advertising?
  • Don’t go after any money at all through advertising, but instead maybe do a “Best of Fatty” book sometime and hope a bunch of people buy it?
  • Quit worrying about making money altogether and just do this blog for free?
  • Something else?

Seriously, I look forward to your thoughts.

I’m More Than a Little Nervous About “Race Across the Sky 2010″

09.16.2010 | 11:15 am

A “Cool Stuff Coming Next Week” Note from Fatty: For some time, I’ve been thinking that I would like to do a week of posts with the theme “Stuff I Like.” Specifically, each day next week I’m going to talk about some bike-related object that I really love. So watch for that.

Cleverly, one of the things I love is also going to be the central part in one of the most awesome bike giveaway contests I’ve ever done.

It’s like synchronicity. Or maybe it’s synergy. Or maybe both. I’d have to look the words up to know for sure, I guess.

Regardless, I think you may want to look under the sofa, borrow money from your parents, and otherwise scrounge up some cancer-fighting cash.

Cuz this is going to be big. And awesome. And quite possibly awesomely big.

I’m More Than a Little Nervous About Race Across the Sky 2010

In 2009, Citizen Pictures did a documentary of the 2009 Leadville 100 race. It was a fun movie, centered mostly around the Wiens / Armstrong rematch. I saw the movie at the local theatre, and it was a blast — mostly because the theatre was packed with other cyclists, all cheering whenever someone we recognized appeared on the screen.

For 2010, Citizen Pictures came back to Leadville to do the sequel. A few days ago, they uploaded a trailer. Check it out:

After seeing this preview, I knew that I would for sure be seeing this movie when it comes to US theaters November 4. I mean, JHK vs Levi Leipheimer vs Dave Wiens vs Todd Wells vs Ned Overend vs Tinker Juarez. All racing the course I have been on — without fail — for the past fourteen years.

Heck yeah I’m going to see that movie.

And then, after watching the preview about five times (loved the soundtrack by the way, anyone know who that is? [Update: It's Clutch, and the song is "Electric Worry," as clearly indicated at the beginning of the video. Duh.]), I went to the Vimeo page for the video. And there, I saw in the “Tags” section, this:


For those of you who don’t know, my name happens to be Elden Nelson. And since the only other Elden Nelson I know of is the president of the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations and therefore doesn’t have a lot of time to race his mountain bike, I think it’s safe to say that I’m going to be in this movie.


How to Make Me Say Anything, at Great Length

The thing is, I don’t recall any camera crews following me during the 2010 Leadville race (and, unfortunately, there were no crews filming me in 2009, or I’m pretty sure at least one moment would have made the cut). Sure, it’s possible they filmed me but I don’t recall. (The Runner reports that a film crew filmed her — riding with The Daisy mounted on her handlebars — for a big chunk of the final part of the race, so maybe she’ll be in the film?)

So probably they’re going to include some of the footage of the interview they did with me before the race.

Which scares me to death.

You see, like most people, I’m not exactly comfortable when a camera is turned on me. And like some — not all — people, my tendency when nervous is to talk. Fast. And a lot.

About anything that comes into my head, whether it’s relevant or not. Or accurate or not.

And then, later, after I’ve calmed down, I try to remember what it is that I’ve been going on about . . . and I have no idea whatsoever. Just a vague memory of talking and talking and talking and talking and thinking about the fact that I’m talking and can’t seem to shut myself up and wishing that someone — please, anyone — would whack me on the back of the head with a blackjack, thus rendering me unconscious and therefore incapable of further blathering.

In this case, I recall in particular a moment where they ask why I was going to ride a singlespeed. Which caused me, of course, at that precise moment, to completely forget the perfectly good reason I have for riding a singlespeed: it’s fun and I like it. Instead, I went on and on (and on and on and on) about . . . something.

To be honest, I’m caught between hoping they will include that section in the movie — because it might be humiliatingly hilarious to see myself do rapidfire stream-of-concious ranting on the big screen — and sending them an impassioned plea, along with a check for $5000, not to include it. Because, you know, it’s not like I have a ton of credibility in the first place, but I kinda would like to hold on to whatever tiny bit I have.

November 4

I assure you, I have not seen any of this video. Ever. And I don’t expect that Citizen Pictures is going to send me a rough cut or anything for my signoff.

Which means that when I go to see that movie, I’ll be seeing and hearing myself on the big screen for the first time. Unprepared. Vulnerable. And, I expect, very very sweaty.

So — as you may expect — I’m now just a little bit nervous for November 4.

I Really Don’t See a Problem With My Current Weight

09.15.2010 | 11:21 am

Yesterday, I weighed myself, for the first time since about mid-April. I fully intend to disclose my current weight and how I feel about knowing — for the first time in five months — aforementioned weight, but first I intend to force you to read a whole bunch of explanatory text, with the hope and intention that you will lose interest in my weight before you find out what it is.

I think, with that first paragraph, I’m off to a good start.

My First Reason For Why I Have Not Recently Weighed Myself: Tradition

Whenever I’ve had a big, important race coming up, I’ve stopped weighing myself between two and three weeks before the race. Why? Because — and this is pure scientific truth, not rationalization — I figure that once I get that close to the race, any weight gain (or, hypothetically, weight loss) is not going to be significant enough to affect the outcome of my race.

Therefore, anything I know about weight I gain right before a race (because, let’s face it, I’m not going to lose weight as I taper down and carbo-load up) is only going to mess with my head.

And so, in mid-April, a couple weeks before the IronMan, I put away the scale.

And then I never brought it back out. Because, you know, there’s always another race coming up. Like…um…the one I had in August. And…uh…the one a couple weeks ago.

OK, fine, I guess there might’ve been a couple months in there where I didn’t have a race that was exactly impending.

Which is why I’ve got a very valid, extra-scientific second reason for why I haven’t weighed myself recently.

My Second Reason for Why I Have Not Recently Weighed Myself: Quantum Mechanics!

You may have heard of the “Schrödinger’s Cat Experiment,” wherein the living/dead status of a cat that may or may not have been poisoned is in a state of flux — i.e., the cat is simultaneously alive and dead — until that cat is observed.

It’s a fun experiment, and I recommend the next time you have a child come home with a Science Fair project that you have this child perform this experiment for his or her classmates.

My relationship with the scale is much like the Schrödinger’s cat experiment, except instead of a cat, it is my weight that is not measured. And also, I am not kept in a sealed box, and there are no cyanide tablets or geiger counters involved.

Really, the point I’m trying to get at is that as long as I do not measure my weight, no weight has been gained.

it’s a little more like “Fatty’s Scale.” Which is to say, until I’ve measured my weight gain, no weight gain has occurred. Schrödinger’s cat. Fatty’s weight.

You get the picture.


Why I Have Finally Weighed Myself

The problem with the quantum mechanics aspect of “Fatty’s Weight” is that, at a certain point, other indicators start to make it evident that while I have stopped training like I’m going to be doing a big endurance race soon, I haven’t stopped eating like I’m going to be doing a big endurance race soon.

Or in other words, once you start carbo-loading, you quickly develop a fondness for it.

This has led to — for about the thousandth time in my life — the manifestation of my least favorite (because it’s true) weight-gain axiom, which is deep enough that it belongs on its own line, in bold and italics.

You will know before it shows.

(In fact, it was important enough to indent and put a border around it.)

In this case, I could tell my body is getting ready to hibernate because my pants are tighter. All of them. Which kind of forced me to rule out the “mysterious shrinking pants” theory I otherwise like to cling to so tightly.

My Weight Does Not Matter

So, anyway, for those of you who pushed on through to this point. My weight. It’s 12.07 stone. Which is 169 pounds.

Which is about ten pounds more than I like to weigh.

Or at least, it appeared to be 169 pounds. You see, there were some ameliorating circumstances that make that 169 pounds really quite a bit less than 169 pounds. Specifically:

  • I weighed myself in the afternoon. Ordinarily I weigh myself first thing in the morning, right after I pee. I consider that my true weight. Everyone knows that you’re heaviest during the afternoon. Because you’ve had both breakfast and lunch. And probably a few snacks. And around 64oz of Diet Coke. So I expect that this 169 probably counts for eight pounds or so.
  • I have recently raced. Everyone knows that you gain weight after a big endurance race. This is due to the “post-race-3-day-binge” factor, as well as serious inflammation (which is a form of water retention, I suspect) factors. I figure this is worth two pounds. And a half.
  • I was fully dressed. Actually I can’t remember whether I was fully dressed when I weighed myself. Let’s just assume that I was, though. And let’s further assume that I was wearing very, very heavy shoes. So, maybe seven pounds.
  • It’s been a while since I’ve shaved my legs. Oooh, and my head too. And my eyebrow hair needs trimming. Between all the excess middle-age-man body hair I need to prune, that’s probably two or three ounces of weight I can lose instantly with the help of a razor.

So, when it comes right down to it, when I weighed myself, my reported weight was probably around 17.65 pounds too harsh of a judge.

No need to start dieting. All’s well.

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