Live Q&A with Johan Bruyneel 5:30pm (ET) Today!

03.23.2011 | 7:10 am

Today’s a big day. Johan Bruyneel — the 9-times winning Tour de France sports director and the man Phil Liggett says is “certainly the best director right now, and arguably ever” — is coming here today to take questions from Fat Cyclist readers.

The conversation will happen at this very URL, and begins at 5:30pm (ET) / 2:30pm (PT).

I’ve made no secret that I consider Johan to be one of the greats. He obviously knows his job, can take a joke (and turn it into an amazing event), and cares deeply about important causes (World Bicycle Relief chief among them).

So it’s a big honor to have him here. And to make sure Johan gets treated like the honored guest he is, I’m going to lay out some info and ground rules:

  • The “Living Room Rule” applies. You and Johan are both literally my guests here. In the same way I would not tolerate one guest being rude to another at my house, I will not tolerate one guest being rude to another here. And since this is my virtual house, I get to decide what “rude” means.
  • Let’s have an interesting variety of topics. I’m sure that at some point we’ll get to both doping and the radio ban. But let’s not have all the questions be about doping or the radio ban, OK?
  • Question moderation is on. When you enter your question, it appears in a list that both Johan and I — but not the public — can see. Both of us have the power to choose questions and make them public, at which point Johan will answer it. Or I might, if I feel like it.
  • If Johan doesn’t answer your question, don’t feel bad. There are going to be a lot of people asking a lot of questions, all at once. Johan can’t possibly answer all of them. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t like you.
  • Be nice. Pretty decent advice for life in general, really.

I’m excited. Really excited.

See you here at 5:30pm (ET) / 4:30pm (CT) / 3:30pm (MT) / 2:30pm (PT)!


Chat Live with Twin Six and Me Today, Johan Bruyneel Tomorrow

03.22.2011 | 10:01 am

A Note from Fatty: Hey, guess what. I’m the guest blogger for Bill Strickland’s “The Selection” blog over at today. Why don’t you do me a favor and go read it?

201103220947.jpgTomorrow’s going to be a big day for this blog and me — at 5:30PM (ET) / 2:30PM (PT) I’ll be moderating a live Q&A chat with Johan Bruyneel.

Yes, that’s right. Johan Bruyneel.

He’s going to be here, live and online, taking questions as you ask them and giving answers.

So, if you’ve ever wanted to talk with the man Phil Liggett describes as arguably the best team director in the history of the sport, be sure to come here tomorrow and at 5:30PM (ET) / 2:30PM (PT) and join the conversation.

This is something you do not want to miss. Nor do I, for that matter.

201103220950.jpg Awesome Dress Rehearsal with Twin Six

Here’s the thing, though. I’ll be using live blogging software ( for the live chat with Johan — and I’ve never used it before. And frankly, I don’t like the idea of using this tool for the first time ever as this interview begins.

So, as practice, I’ll be doing a Q&A today at  4:30PM (ET) / 1:30PM (PT) with Ryan Carlson and Brent Gale from the hip bike clothing design company that all the cool kids are copying, Twin Six.

Frankly, I think it’s going to be a terrific conversation, for the following reasons:

  • The Twin Six guys are an awesome success story. Two friends had a great idea — make cycling clothes that look great — and have made a successful business out of it.
  • The Twin Six guys are smart and funny. I call them all the time just to talk, because they crack me up. Sometimes we talk for hours. Sometimes they tell me to leave them alone; they have work to do.
  • The Twin Six guys are working on the design for the next 100 Miles of Nowhere T-Shirt right now. Maybe you can give them some suggestions on what you’d like to see that shirt look like.
  • The Twin Six guys are working on the design for the 2012 Fat Cyclist jersey right now. They haven’t shown me a thing. Maybe we can get them to give us some hints on what it’ll look like.
  • The Twin Six 2011 collection is incredible. Seriously, check it out. And be sure to check out their super-secret “Dark” collection, too. Wow. If there is one jersey I absolutely must have this year, it’s this one. Or maybe it’s this one. Or maybe it’s both.

So, come back at 4:30PM (ET) / 1:30PM (PT) today. Bring your questions and comments, kudos and ideas, for Twin Six. And for me. Cuz I guess I wouldn’t mind answering a couple questions, too.

It’ll be fun. Provided, of course, I get the interviewing software software working.

PS: And — just one more time — be certain to come back tomorrow at 5:30PM (ET) / 2:30PM (PT) for the Johan Bruyneel chat.

Stuff Fatty Loves to Hate: The Insidious Treachery of Netflix

03.21.2011 | 1:16 pm

I am a hardy soul. I am a man who loves to brave the elements, to be in the great outdoors, no matter the weather. A fierce-eyed cyclist of all seasons who gladly turns his eyes into the wind, glad to feel the sting of sleet in his eyes. A rugged ruffian who laughs at the numbness in his fingers and frostbite in his cheeks, not to mention the way his eyeballs have turned to granite.

Oh, I’m sorry. I made a couple of little typos in that first paragraph, which could have possibly led to a misunderstanding of its meaning. It should have read as follows (additions in red, deletions in strikeout):

I am not a hardy soul. I am once met a man who loves to brave the elements, to be in the great outdoors, no matter the weather, and I thought he was completely insane. As far as I’m concerned, nothing ruins a group ride more than having some A fierce-eyed cyclist of all seasons who gladly turns his eyes into the wind, glad to feel the sting of sleet in his eyes. Those guys are insane and just don’t know when to quit. To me, it seems completely ridiculous to be a A rugged ruffian who laughs at the numbness in his fingers and frostbite in his cheeks, not to mention the way his eyeballs have turned to granite. I mean, after all, hypothermia is no joke.

I apologize for any confusion my original rendering of that first paragraph may have conveyed. Because the reality is — and believe that as a person who has actually lived for a winter right on the edge of the Arctic Circle I can say this with some authority — I’m not a huge fan of the cold.

And so I have been riding the rollers this winter. A lot. Or at least, it feels like a lot. Because 45 minutes is seven years in rollers time.

But through this very long and cold winter, I’ve had a secret weapon: Netflix. I’m on the 2-DVDs-at-a-Time plan, which means that I pretty much always have at least one DVD ready to watch.

More importantly, though, I also have the instant streaming part of Netflix, piped in through both my PS3 and my AppleTV. Which means that I have a near-infinite number of movies at my beck and call, ready to watch anytime I want to throw a leg over the rollers.

The good news is: I never run out of shows to watch, and can pretty much always find something good enough to distract me from the fact that I’m riding the rollers.

The bad news is: I’m pretty sure my standards for “good enough” have fallen to a pretty low place, due to the “inconsistent” (those quotes are there to indicate I’m using “inconsistent” as a euphemism for “pretty bad”) selection of shows.

For example, I have recently watched:

  • Lost Boys: The Thirst (genuinely truly awful, especially for those of us who remember the original Lost Boys with fondness)
  • The Towering Inferno (probably was considered a thriller when it was made, back in 1872)
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (I found the plot too complex and unpredictable, so did not finish it)
  • District 9 (OK, I actually liked this movie a lot)
  • MST3K: Horrors of Spider Island (MST3K is awesome, but not for riding rollers to)
  • MST3K: Tormented (OK, so why did I watch another one?)
  • Mad Max (I didn’t find him all that mad. Maybe “Irritated Max” would have been a better title)
  • The Matrix Revolutions (Proof that sequels aren’t always as awesome as the original, a fact which I know most people will be surprised by)
  • Starship Troopers (I read the book as a kid. Was it as campy as the movie? I think it might actually have been.)
  • The Burrowers (Worse than Lost Boys: The Thirst)
  • Surrogates: Why does Bruce Willis hate all of us so much?
  • Gamer (As a person who likes violent movies, you will have to trust me when I say this movie is way too violent.)
  • Michael Jackson’s This Is It (This movie did what I would have considered an impossibility: it made me wish I could have seen this concert)
  • Battlefield Earth (Has anyone watched more than the first 20 minutes of this movie? If so, did it get any better?)

And that’s just a sampling of films I am not too embarrassed to admit I’ve seen.

The thing is, though, it’s at least something to watch when the weather’s too lousy to go outside. And when it’s too cold to ride, I’m (obviously) not very picky about what I watch.

But there’s a problem.

Little by little, the weather’s been getting better, but my laziness has meanwhile gotten worse and worse. To the point where I’ve been thinking, “Oh sure, I could go ahead and suit up in tights, a thermal top, a long sleeve jersey, a jacket, a beanie, and gloves in addition to all my other gear, or I could just throw on shorts and a jersey and get on the rollers and watch Netflix.

And then I ride the rollers, because it’s easier and faster and generally more convenient.

See the problem? Well, just in case you don’t, I’ll get all specific and stuff:

The problem is that I’m an idiot.

Here’s how I discovered I’m an idiot: I get on my bike and take it outside, and rediscover what I’ve known (and discovered and rediscovered thousands of times) for like twenty years now — riding a bike (any bike, whether it be road, mountain, townie or whatever) outside is so much better than riding a trainer or rollers.

Somehow, magically, even though it’s pretty much exactly the same physical activity, having your bike go somewhere when you pedal it changes cycling from exercise into fun.

The alchemy is crazy: Pedaling on rollers for 45 minutes: pure hell. Pedaling down a straight, featureless road for 45 minutes: awesome. Why? I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense. But the truth is, the worst ride outside is immeasurably better than the most awesome session on a stationary bike, ever.

So, Netflix: thanks for keeping me (more or less) sane during the winter. I appreciate it. And maybe I’ll see you next winter.

But I am so glad spring is here.

My Proudest Moment: High Water Mark, by Padraig

03.18.2011 | 6:30 am

A Note from Fatty: I’ve really enjoyed this week of guest posts, and the fact is I’ve received many more that I’d like to share. Luckily — for both me and you — I’ll be needing to take a week off the week of April 9, as my family and I head off for a vacation. I’ll draw from more of the stories you’ve submitted during that week.

I’m also thinking that, due to the awesomeness of the stories you all have to tell, I should make guest posts a regular, once-weekly feature. As in, Guest-Post Friday or something like that. Let me know what you think.

1147745718_pic-44.jpgA Note from Fatty about the Author of This Guest Post: Patrick Brady, aka Padraig, is best known for his work as a contributing editor to peloton magazine, at Belgium Knee Warmers and his blog Red Kite Prayer. His book “The No Drop Zone, Everything You Need to Know About the Peloton, Your Gear and Riding Strong” comes out in May.

I’ve been asked to write about my proudest moment on the bike. It’s an interesting question for me. As I was never a PRO, I’ve measured my successes on the bike within their relative merit—which was always modest, at best. Indeed, my introspection has always been more powerful than my legs, which is a way to say I’ve given some consideration to the pride that a cyclist clutches in those moments that follow a great statement of the legs.

Definitions of pride note two forms of the emotion; one comes from the feeling we possess in the wake of praise. Anyone who has heard a crowd cheer to their exploits knows this feeling. With it comes a warmth that can fill the coldest spot in one’s soul, if only for an hour.

Some athletes, performers and politicians can run on that kind of pride for years at a time. I’ve been cheered for my performances as a musician, a few times for modest wins on the bike. My reaction was always mixed; I was far more comfortable in the moment, either performing or racing. To know that I won on the appointed day was all I needed; that riders I respected saw me raise my arm in victory was icing. That’s because I thrive on the second form of pride, the one that comes in subsequent self-appraisal.

I’d like to think this is the better, truer sense of pride one may cultivate. Based on one’s own understanding of events, this pride doesn’t cool after the crowds go home and can be called upon in reflection. For me, the moments I look back on with pride have become cornerstones in my definition of what’s possible in my life. It’s a building I have built and rebuilt through my life. When I look out over the broad plain of ambition, my perch is based on pure fact. It’s as solid a footing as I might achieve.

But the building of one’s pride is composed of thousands of stones, not just one single accolade. That first cornerstone is a reference point that positions the whole of the structure—the ego in its truest sense. So what is my proudest moment on the bike?

As I scan the hard drive I recall a solo effort in a collegiate crit in 1992. I was away for most of the race which was cold and rainy and held over a technical, six-turn course. I crossed the line with my arms outstretched and an expression of shock on my face. The next day I stormed away from the group and when I crossed the line my arms flew up in an emphatic “V.” Both those were good, but neither hit it.

I’ve ridden some outrageously hard events such as the Markleeville Death Ride, the Climb to Kaiser and the Mulholland Challenge. Clearly the one that finishing yielded the greatest satisfaction was one I rode last fall, then called the Son of the Death Ride. These days it’s known as the Ride of the Immortals, and is a 138-mile trek through the Sierra containing more than 17,000 feet of climbing over roads that are mostly crap. I DNF’ed on that course five years ago, so finishing on my second attempt was a chance to re-write history and bite the apple of redemption. That’s a good one, but not it, either.

There was a masters race in the hilly country east of Bakersfield over a course that required a bit of everything: the ability to select a great line in sharp turns, descend on off-camber roads, climb steep hills, battle wind. At the beginning of the 1999 season I set a goal of winning at Iron Mountain. After forcing the selection that reduced the peloton to a group of four—on the first lap—I was able to play my cards carefully and when another rider attacked at 1k, I waited until I was sure the other two had given up, attacked them, bridged to the first rider and with less than 50 meters to go came around him for the win. That was a very good day.

The one I hold dearest was perhaps my quietest achievement on the bike. It was a win in an uphill time trial. The course was here in Los Angeles, up to the top of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Locals refer to the location as the radar domes due to the two geodesic domes that hold electronics of some variety I’ve never bothered to investigate. Their meaning to me is that my suffering is at an end.

I entered the senior men and was some variety of fortunate that no Category 1 or 2 riders showed up. Cat. 3s aren’t supposed to win time trials, right? The time trial was almost exactly six miles and was uphill save for a roughly one-mile dip just over half way up.

I was last to start; while I wasn’t sure what to expect, I knew I felt good and wanted the chance to pass as many riders as possible in order to gain all the motivation I could. My warmup was unremarkable; I only recall rolling to the line in my 53×19.

The opening 100 meters were false flat and my goal was to generate some momentum with my start, but I didn’t expect to ride for very long in my big ring; that was the province of PROs, like the ones who used to pass me in the three-mile uphill TT at the Killington Stage Race in Vermont.

When the starter yelled “go!” I could feel my bike’s saddle pop from the hands of the holder. I stood for more than 200 meters before sitting down and that’s when it happened: I realized I was strong enough to spin the 53×19 while seated. I didn’t need to shift. My speed varied as the grade changed, sometimes as low as 19, often more like 21.

After cresting the first part of the climb I began shifting, first the 17, then the 16, the 15, even the 14, 13. I wished the road was even steeper. Then, into the sudden uptick of the second part of the climb; around a right-hand bend the grade hits 9 percent and though I was downshifting, I stayed in my big ring.

I have no memory of my legs burning there.

Minutes later I reached the right turn that begins the final section of the climb. It opens with 30 meters at 12 percent and that was when I finally shifted out of the big ring. I spun up it and then shifted into what now seems a monstrous gear for that stretch of road. I crossed the line somewhere north of 20 minutes. The time I recorded isn’t particularly important to me; others have recorded much faster times. I hear Tinker Juarez did it in something like 18 minutes. So there’s that.

By the time awards were given, most of the small field had gone home. What glory there was came from fewer than a half-dozen people and even that isn’t why I look back on that day with pride. For me, it was a high water mark in my fitness. I climbed at speeds that were fast by any measure, in a gear that any normal cyclist considers inappropriate for climbing.

I felt like I could have ridden that gear all day long; without that 12 percent pitch I might have ridden in that gear to the crit I did that afternoon.

That day has my affection because climbing in a 53×19 isn’t something you can fake. It’s an irrefutable testament to a level of fitness—by orders of magnitude—greater than I had when I first dabbled in bike racing some 10 years before. It’s not a moment I pull out on the young whippersnappers who show up to our group rides and whip me with my own lactic acid. There’s no point in telling them, “I used to be so fast I could….” No, it’s a private relic, one that reminds me we all have unplumbed depths, that I’ve yet to understand all I may achieve.

My Proudest Moment on a Bike: “Thank You,” by Paul Guyot

03.17.2011 | 6:34 am

A “Start Thinking About Questions You’d Like to Ask” Note from Fatty: Next Wednesday, Johan Bruyneel will be joining us at 5:30PM (ET) / 2:30PM (PT) for a live online chat. Which means you get to ask him questions. Which means you ought to start thinking about those questions now. And also, you ought to make sure to schedule your time so you can be here then, cuz this is a pretty rare gig.

A Note from Fatty About Today’s Guest Author: Paul Guyot is a shrinking Clydesdale who began cycling in January, 2010. Since then he’s logged over 3,000 miles, climbed over 35,000 feet, and lost 33 pounds. He will soon take ownership of his first-ever carbon fiber bike (Project One), and has been told it will be like going from a 1972 Ford Country Squire station wagon to a 1990 Ferrari F40. His goal for 2011 is to ride 5,000 miles and lose another 20 pounds. He will ride in the Livestrong Challenge Austin among other centuries. When he’s not on the bike, he writes for the television series LEVERAGE on TNT.

201103170617.jpg My proudest moment on my bike was November 20th, 2010.

Christmas of 2009 I was a fat tub of goo. My day job is quite sedentary, and though I was a fan of pro cycling, as well as other activities, outside of golf now and then, I did nothing, but sit and eat. Then my brother – a coach with Carmichael Training Systems – gave me a road bike for Christmas. I had not been on a bike in seventeen years, not since the “Winery Incident.”

Seventeen years prior, my then girlfriend/now wife and I were invited to go on a cycling tour of several wineries. At the first winery, I collapsed onto the floor, exhausted from the treacherous four miles we’d ridden to get there, and proclaimed that I would never again park my tuckus on a bike. I took a cab home. Seriously.

But Christmas of 2009 I got back on. And I began to learn how to ride. How to shift, how to steer, how to eat before, during and after. And as 2010 arrived, a strange thing happened: I became addicted to cycling.

Then I found Fatty’s blog and became inspired. Not only were there health and lifestyle reasons to ride, but I could actually make a difference. I learned what it means to Fight Like Susan.

So after seventeen years of physical apathy, I couldn’t get enough of cycling. In 2010, I rode my aluminum triple crank over 2500 miles, culminating on November 20th, with the EL TOUR DE TUCSON, a 109-mile race.

People told me it was too much. I should start with the 40-miler, or the 66-miler. My sister-in-law, an avid cyclist, told me horror stories of how she vomited over and over after her first “109.”

But by now, I was in love with the suffering. I was in love with getting healthy. I’d dropped over thirty pounds during the year. And though I’d never ridden more than 62 miles in any one ride, I knew I had to do the 109.

Being such a newbie, a friend of my brother’s decided he’d “help” me. Since there were over 4,000 riders, the start could be insane, and the idea was to get away from all the craziness so you could relax and ride. Sounds good to me.

The start of the race is broken up by ability. Platinum riders – those who will finish in under 5 hours are up front. Followed by Gold, then Silver and so on. I felt a little out of place as my brother’s friend lined us up in the Gold section, me with my 21-pound triple crank, and my FAT CYCLIST jersey. “Just stay with me,” was the last thing I heard as we rolled off.


We started, and within the first few miles of my first ever group ride (oh, did I forget to mention that?) I was digging with all my strength to try to stay with him. My Garmin Edge 500 (thank you, Fatty) registered 19, then 22, then 24 mph.

Less than six miles into the race, that was it. I was cooked. I watched my brother’s friend’s wheel get farther and farther away and all I could think of was Tom Hanks in CASTAWAY… Wilson!!!

As I slowed I was being passed by hundreds of cyclists. And my mindset crashed. My outlook sank. I had blown up within the first 6 miles of a 109-mile race, and now I was sure there was no way I would finish.

I was among 4,000 other cyclists and never felt so alone. I began to cry. Yes, I admit it. I was riding my bike and crying. I had built this moment up all year and I had destroyed it within the first six miles.

And then, around the 22-mile mark, a miracle arrived in the form of Team Fatty. From behind me came a voice: “Hey, a fellow Fatty!” And there were two riders in Fat Cyclist jerseys. They asked how I was and I told them I wasn’t going to make it. They told me I was wrong. That I could do it. And they told me to get on their wheel.

And they pulled me for over three miles. Not just to physical recovery, but emotional recovery. For no other reason than we were part of a family. Team Fatty’s family.

A while after my Fatty angels were long gone, I was cruising along, happy to be back amongst the living, when I encountered another Team Fatty member. He was a large guy, very large, and riding a too-small-for-him hybrid as opposed to a road bike. And he was suffering. A lot.

And I was able to pay it forward. I turned back to my fellow Fatty and said, “Get on my wheel, you’ll be okay.” And I pulled him. Just like the others had pulled me. Up a hill and over, to where he finally recovered. And as I turned off at an aid station to refill my bottles, that Team Fatty member looked at me, smiled and said “Thank you.”

I went on the finish the 109. But hearing that “thank you” is my proudest moment on my bike.

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