Guest Post: Captain Petes New Crew, by The Twins

03.16.2011 | 7:24 am

A Note from Fatty: Guess who’s going to be on Fat Cyclist for a LIVE web chat a week from today? JOHAN BRUYNEEL, that’s who. Yes, that’s right. Johan Bruyneel — the Director of Team RadioShack and the man Phil Liggett told me is arguably the best team director of all time — is going to be right here, where you can ask him questions directly.

To make sure you’re here for this live event, be sure to mark your calendar: Wednesday, March 23 at 5:30PM (ET) / 4:30PM (CT) / 3:30PM (MT) / 2:30PM (PT).

This is pretty freaking huge, if you ask me.

Another Note from Fatty: One of the great things about the fact that this blog is mine is that I can put whatever I want on it. For example, last weekend my nine-year-old twins decided to write and illustrate their own book. It was so awesome that I wanted to share it with the world. So today’s guest post is Captin Stews Petes New Crew.

Note that you can see a larger version of each page by clicking the image.

The twins will be reading comments today.

Enjoy the book!


Once there was a pirate named Pete. He was tired of swabbing the deck. So he went off to find his own crew, so he could be captain.

So the captain said: fine. But there’s only one way off, the plank!

Pete said: What?!? So you built this thing without an exit?!?

Yes, said the captain. And I’m not steering this boat to shore.

Pete said: FINE! I’ll walk the plank! So he did.

As Pete was swimming to shore he had to fight off ferocious sharks!

And refuse to marry a mermaid.

And battled a sea monster.

Finally he got to shore.

He started working right away. He found an old axe he could use to get wood for his ship.

He also collected sap for glue in an old bucket he found, and in leaves.

Finally he had everything he needed to build his ship! When the ship was done it was magnificent.

So Pete started to row. He wasn’t going very fast, but he was going.

Soon after Pete hit a rock, the ship started sinking! A nearby elephant saw him so he jumped onboard. He sucked up water in his trunk and pit it back out. He kept doing so until Pete Landed it.

They both quickly fixed the ship then they got the rest of the water out. Pete asked for his name. It was Shorty.

Pete asked Shorty if he wanted to be part of the crew. Yes! said Shorty.

A little while after, they saw someone swimming. Ahoy! it called. Can I climb aboard? His name was Mr. Jeepers. After a little, he asked to be part of the crew.

Of course! cried Pete.

A while after they got REALLY hungry. So they landed to find food. They stumbled upon Carrots the Bunny. She shared her carrots with them so Pete asked, Do you want to be part of our crew?

Totally! Said Carrots.

After that they stumbled upon Candy Island! So they landed in search of one more crew member. A marshmallow poked its head out of a hole and said, Are you people friendly?

Sure! They all said. WAnna join our crew?

OK, said Marshy the marshmallow.

So Captain Pete had his NEW CREW!


My Proudest Moment on a Bike: Apple Cider Century, by Michele Ringwood

03.15.2011 | 5:00 am

A Note from Fatty: Today’s the second day in the “My Proudest Moment on a Bike” series, guest-posted by readers. This post is from Michele Ringwood, who owns a business in Chicago and is finishing her MFA in Creative Writing. She is writing a book about her breast cancer experience called; “Breast Cancer; Wish I Knew”. This September she and Ken are biking across Italy. Ken’s training plan, “We’ll start with a smaller country and move up.”

finishapplecidercentury.JPGMy second chemo session was worse than the first session. I was allergic to the chemo drugs and went into anaphylactic shock. As alarms went off, Lori, the nurse I’d already nicknamed Chemo Queen, was joined by two more nurses. Those little clear plastic needle caps popped off walls and bounced on the floor. They couldn’t pump drugs into me fast enough, I gasped through an oxygen mask, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” My husband, Ken, stood beside my hospital bed, pulling his blond hair straight up, his eyes bugging out (and he hadn’t even had any drugs).

I knew it was bad, when afterward the oncologist called me into his office for an “extra visit”. He waltzed in, his usual distant coolness warmed a few degrees, his gray eyes actually touched me.   

“I’m sorry. I hear you’ve been having some trouble with the chemo drugs. You know, we really weren’t trying to kill you.”

“You could have fooled me,” was the only thing I could think to say and I went home to bed.

A week later when I could get out of bed, I decided I had to get out of the house. I had to breathe some real air, even if it was January in Chicago. Ken hesitantly agreed to walk me around the block. For 45 minutes, I held onto his arm and I creeped. There was lots of time to talk. I told him I was afraid they had crossed a line. I mean, I know the whole point of chemo is that they are killing stuff, but I said I thought they had gone too far and were actually killing me. Then I started to get a little pissed. I told him if I lived through this next six months I wanted to bike a century. Yes, 100 miles on my bike in one day. And not in the distant future. This summer.

Maybe a century is not a big deal for a lot of you but my husband and I are casual bike riders (read slow). Both hovering 50 (I’m the one that is a LOT younger than 50, I’m 47), I had only been biking a few years. My idea of a big ride was 25 or 30 miles on the Chicago lakefront path. I love the second hour, when I find a long smooth rhythm and it feels like I am flying, the lake on one side and the city on the other.

One thing you have to know about my husband. He’s Swedish, so he doesn’t always tell you what is on his mind. Now, I’m Irish and if my mouth isn’t moving you, you know I’m mad at you. So when I said, I want to bike a century, he said what he said most of that year, “Whatever you want.”, “Yes, of course.”, “You want cake doughnuts, let me run to the store.”, “You need to go to another doctor, I’ll be right there to drive you.”, “You want to ride a 100 miles in a day, and it is taking you 45 minutes to walk around the block, we can make that work. I’ll set up a training plan.”

They changed my drugs and the rest of the chemo went uneventfully, not to say that it didn’t suck and I didn’t keep getting weaker and weaker. More surgery and June 12th, 2010, I got onto my bike for the first time since the summer of 2009, before breast cancer, a mastectomy and chemotherapy, reconstruction. The best that can be said is that I made the pedals go around. I groused at Ken to stop riding around me in circles. We went 7 miles and it took an hour. Recovery consisted of 45 horizontal minutes examining my living room carpet before I was strong enough to stand up and shower. Ken told me months later (after the century) that I was going so slowly he thought I might fall over.

We followed Ken’s plan. Longer rides. I got up to 11 miles an hour and thought I was a rock star. Then he added some intervals. And I got a trainer to help me build back muscle. Do you know how much muscle you lose sitting in a recliner for months watching the entire West Wing series and eating cake donuts?

The Apple Cider Century was September 26th, 2010. I was terrified of the last 25 miles. I shouldn’t have been. I should have been terrified of miles 50-75 when we were going north, onto the hilly section (ok, hilly for me) into a 15 mile an hour headwind. This fat cyclist and I kept rubber banding, I would pass him and he would pass me. (It wasn’t you Fatty. You’re much thinner and faster than this guy was.) At 65 miles there was a turn; go left and you finish in 10 miles. Go right, still into the ^%$& headwind, and you take a 25 mile loop for the 100 miles. I so wanted to turn left. Desperately. I made Ken stop. I got off my bike and looked at all the young, healthy people lounging on this rural corner laughing and joking about the cold wind. The van for the ride organizers sat there waiting to help people in trouble.

I got back on my bike. Eventually there was a tailwind. I love downhills and tailwinds.

I did the century. From bed in June to a 7 1/2 hour century in September, not too bad. That night, Ken said that when I told him on that walk that I wanted to do a century, he thought I had completely lost my mind. Perhaps.

By the way, the other thing I told him on that very same walk is when I’m 50, I want to bike across the United States. So he’s in the study right now, working on training plans. I’m working on being cancer free.

My Proudest Moment on a Bike: Heading to California, by Moishe Lettvin

03.14.2011 | 4:57 am

A Note from Fatty: This is going to be an intense week, work-wise. Luckily, several readers have stepped up and sent in some fantastic stories for me to publish. As a result, I think you’ll find that this week is going to be awesome, content-wise.

About the Author of Today’s Post: Moishe Lettvin writes code, rides his bicycle, runs and can’t wait to take his daughter adventuring on two wheels. He’s on the web at

When I was a kid I was, to put it mildly, not very athletic. Whenever I played a sport involving a ball, the ball would hit me in the face; whenever I played a sport involving speed, I was slow. This bothered me but only in a vague way; I was more interested in other things, primarily computers. I felt like I was pretty good at that and if I couldn’t run a mile and a half during gym class, oh well.

Junior year of high school, my friend Mark and I were sitting in the cafeteria during study hall, likely struggling with our French homework. Mark looked up and said something off-the-cuff and probably not very serious.

He said, “Hey Mo, after we graduate, let’s ride our bikes to California.” As I remember it this suggestion was completely unexpected; it’s not like we spent lots of time riding our bikes around or talking about the sunny climes of California. Maybe it arose from the general wanderlust of teenage boys or a sense of confinement in our small suburban town, or… well, who knows. It changed my life.

I became obsessed. I started riding my bike, a heavy Schwinn Continental, all around the back roads of eastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. That summer, the summer between my junior and senior year, I rode to the beach in Gloucester; I rode along the Merrimac River; I sought out the steepest hills I could find so I could bomb down them.

I saved up the money from my job — at a local software company, natch — and towards the end of summer bought myself a bright red Cannondale, equipped with racks and low gears, perfect for long-distance touring.

I went back to high school that fall 40 pounds lighter and almost unrecognizable from the pasty nerd of the year before. I was more distracted than ever from my classes; I spent my time daydreaming about being on the road and the feeling of setting out for an adventure to the other coast. I spent every calculus class doing math, yes, but not calculus.

“How many miles a day will I have to ride to get to California in 3 months? How much water will I need to carry? I wonder how many flat tires I’ll get?” I got rollers later that fall so I could keep riding when the snow fell, and I rode through the winter mostly in my bedroom. Occasionally I’d venture onto the messy roads, ending those rides by chipping frozen slush off my down tube in my parents’ garage.

Spring came and the snow melted and I easily fell back into the rhythm of watching the sun rise on my weekday rides and seemingly endless rides on the weekends. I graduated high school – barely – in May and spent the summer writing software and riding my bike to the exclusion of pretty much everything else.

What about riding to California? Isn’t summer the time to do it?

Well, yeah… but Mark couldn’t go. So I fell back to the BikeCentennial classifieds to find some riding companions, and found three people who wanted to leave from New England around Labor Day. We exchanged mail (actual physical letters — this was a long time ago) and phone calls and planned to meet at my parents’ house the day before Labor Day, figure out last minute logistics, and set out the next day.

So plans were made. I was riding to California! All I had to do until September was ride, and ride, and save some money. I did that.

Around the middle of August, I set out kinda late in the day for a long ride. I’ll bet — though my memories are hazy now — I rode out to the coast in Manchester, past the tourists buying antiques in Essex, through the rolling farmland in Ipswich and Rowley. I probably got a snack in Newburyport. I may have continued north into New Hampshire, or looped over towards Haverhill, but I know that by the time I got back onto the long, empty stretch of route 1A heading back from Crane’s Beach in Ipswich towards my parents’ house, it was dark.

It was dark, and I might’ve been worried by that, but it was one of those summer nights that people write songs about. If you’re from the northeast, you might know what I mean: the warm air, crickets, stars and moon hazy with humidity. There was no traffic. I’d ridden close to 100 miles and nothing hurt; indeed I felt as good as I ever had in my life.

I took my hands off the bars, sat up and let the warm air wash over me. I thought of adventures to come. I thanked whoever came up with the idea of balancing on two wheels. I thanked Mark for the crazy idea to get on a bicycle and start riding, ostensibly to California, but really just to ride. I thanked my parents for being so willing to let their kid take off on some crazy adventure. I thanked my muscles and bones and tendons for adapting themselves so ably to what I asked of them. I thanked myself for not letting the images I and and others had of me – fat, not athletic, a computer nerd – get in the way of something magical.

I might have teared up with gratitude and happiness and a touch of pride, but it was probably the wind.


This Blog Ain’t Going to Write Itself

03.11.2011 | 1:56 pm

A Mysteriously Exciting Note from Fatty: I very nearly have something very exciting to announce. I cannot (or at least am unwilling) to tell you what it is quite yet because I have not nailed down the exact date and time, but here are some hints:

  • It has to do with this blog.
  • It will happen soon.
  • You will be able to participate, and it won’t cost you anything.
  • Johan Bruyneel will also be participating.

More details soon. As in, early next week.

This Blog Ain’t Going to Write Itself

As you probably know, writing this blog has made me fantastically wealthy. So wealthy, indeed, that I really have no need to have a day job. Like most extremely wealthy (and handsome) people, I continue to work a 9 – 5 job strictly because I find it fulfilling at a personal level.

As part of my day job (the one I do even though I have no need whatsoever of money), I have weeklong meetings, twice per quarter. During these very intense weeks, I have pretty much no mental energy or creativity for anything but my job itself.

For the past year or so, I’ve mostly just not posted during these very intense weeks, or have posted very short things. Or have dipped into my (small) reserve of things I’ve written but have not yet posted. Or have re-posted stuff from long ago.

But here’s the thing: these twice-per-quarter weeklong meetings aren’t going away anytime soon. And I don’t like to just let my blog sit here, languishing, during those weeks.

And last night, a solution came to me: ask you to write guest posts about a certain theme while I’m doing these weeklong meetings. I mean, you’ve got stories to tell, and I’ve got a place to tell them. We should work together.

So, if you’d like to write a post for my blog, here’s what you’ve got to do:

  • Keep your story to under 1000 words. And don’t write a 2000-word story with a suggestion that I use it as a two-parter. Because I won’t. On the other hand, if your post is way under 1000 words, that won’t count against you. Like, if you have an awesome photograph and a one-paragraph story, that may just work. As long as it sticks to the theme.
  • Stick to the theme. If your story isn’t about the theme for this week of guest posts, or if it’s only tangentially related and I have to squint real hard to see how it fits in the theme, I won’t use it. The theme for this week is, “My proudest moment on my bike.
  • I want original content. Don’t send me a link to something you’ve written for your blog a couple years ago. Write something new.
  • Send it in on time. I need your posts by Monday, March 14. Send it to with the subject line “Guest Post.” I know I haven’t given you a lot of time to write your story, but bear in mind that I never give myself a lot of time to write anything, either.
  • Send the story as an email message. You can write your story in whatever you want, but copy and paste it directly into the email message, so I don’t have to open up whatever program you use to write in order to read your story.
  • Send images as JPG or PNG attachments, 495 pixels (or more) wide. If you send any images in a format that requires me to do as much work as if I would have just written the story myself, I’m not going to use your story.
  • Make sure you give me a bio you want me to use. I’ll be happy to link back to your blog or website in your bio, and I’ll use either the name or the handle you include in your bio. Your choice.
  • Watch my site next week. That’s how you’ll know whether I decided to use your story. If I use your story, it’d be cool if you monitor the site a lot during the day to respond to comments readers have.
  • If I don’t use your story, don’t be mad. I doubt I’ll be able to use all the stories that come in, and just because I don’t use yours doesn’t mean it was no good. It just means that I got had already picked the stories I wanted to use before I read yours.

Finally, please be patient. This is kinda new, so I don’t know how well it’s going to work out. But I’m excited to read — and post — your stories.

The Fat Cyclist Explains: The Race Radio Controversy

03.10.2011 | 2:19 pm

201103101326.jpg A Note from Fatty: This is the third in the occasional “The Fat Cyclist Explains” series, which goes to show it really is a series, albeit a sporadic one. You can read the first installment here, and the second one here. Finally, you can read the third one here, but you’re already here, so what’s the point of clicking this link? I don’t think there is one, to be honest.

A couple of days ago, I remembered, briefly, that I have an email address and that many people actually read email that comes to them. For the novelty of it, I opened my email (note to the 14,000 people who have sent me as-yet-unread messages: I’ll get back to you soon!). To my delight, I found I had just sent myself the following email:

Dear Fatty,

I’ve been seeing a lot of headlines in the cycling press about a controversy surrounding the banning of race radios. I don’t want to read the articles myself, so I was hoping you could explain — in the objective, clear and thorough manner for which you are known — what this this ban means, who’s for it, who’s against it, why it matters, and what it means to the future of the sport.

Thanks very much for your very informative, entertaining, and award-winning blog,


Thanks for your note, pretend person whom I choose to call “Duane!” As you’ve noted, there is in fact a controversy over the use of radios in professional cycling. I’ll do my best to explain what’s going on.

201103101115.jpgWhat Are Race Radios, and What Their Problems?

It’s quite simple to define what a “race radio” is, actually. It’s any radio that is used to communicate with cyclists during a bicycle race. Due to the wide variety of ways in which a radio can be used, many problems — some intentional, some accidental — can occur.

Let’s go through some of the most prevalent.

Dangerous Directors: The primary — and by far the most dangerous — problem with race radios is the fact that race directors are incredibly frightening drivers. Trust me; I’ve ridden with one. They’re talking (and texting) on their phones. They’re looking at maps. They’re looking at watts and kilojoules and VO2 max scores and whatnot. They’re consulting with passengers in the cars. They’re handing out drinks.

Meanwhile, if the director ever gets a chance to look out the windshield, he’ll notice that the streets are lined, ten-deep, with people.

With all that going on, is it really a good idea for race directors to be saddled with the additional distraction of communicating with the riders?

That question was rhetorical, by the way.

Cruel and Unusual Punishment: Perhaps even more important than the “menace behind the wheel” issue is the fact that many team directors fancy themselves excellent singers, and will often sing along to whatever they’ve got in the car’s CD player. For example:

  • Johan Bruyneel: Known to open up the mic and “treat” the entirety of Team RadioShack to hits from the 80’s, including (but not limited to), “You Spin Me Round,” Round and Round, and — to show his musical tastes are not strictly a product of the 80’s — “I Get Around.” Says pro cyclist Levi Leipheimer, “I suppose I understand Johan’s fascination with “round”-themed songs, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
  • Bjarne Riis: During climbing stages, will — a cappella — open up the mic and sing the entire Abba catalog during long, flat stages, just to entertain himself. “The riders love it,” says Riis, citing, as evidence, the fact that he has informed them that they love it.
  • Jonathan Vaughters: Vaughters is known for breaking into Riis’ radio channel and joining in for the chorus of “The Winner Takes It All.” Says Vaughters, “I find the song highly inspirational. And besides, Abba is awesome.”

Radio Quality: The truth is that race radios are simply not very good, and it’s very difficult to understand a thing the race director is shouting into the CB-quality microphone. As a result, the second-most-commonly-heard phrase in the peloton is now, “Excuse me?”

The first-most-common phrase is, of course, “What?”

Spoiling the Surprise: Finally — and perhaps most importantly — race radios eliminate elements of the race that would otherwise be very interesting. The most commonly-cited way in which race radios take away the excitement and unpredictability of the race is in breakaways. In the absence of radios, cyclists don’t know exactly how far ahead a break has gone, which means that they can’t let the breakaway get very far ahead.

This means, tragically, that Phil and Paul will have to figure out something else to talk about during an interminably long stage, instead of talking for hours about how perhaps this will be the group that wins the breakaway lottery.

But while breakaways will be given much less line before they’re reeled in, the absence of radios will add excitement in a much more key aspect.


See, one of the things radios are used for is to indicate upcoming obstacles, turns, and the occasional renegade cow on the course. Without radios, racers are likely to crash more often, and — even better — crashes are likely to turn into full-on pileups pretty frequently as well.

Which, as far as I’m concerned, is the very best argument for not letting racers have radios.

Why the Controversy?

So now that you understand the problems of race radios, you are almost certainly wondering why there could be any controversy surrounding the banning of them.

Well, there are two perfectly good reasons.

The first reason is that the UCI is behind the ban, and we have gotten so used to the UCI being completely screwed up in everything they do that we now assume that if they back something, it must be screwed up.

In fact, I’m having a certain amount of cognitive dissonance myself. I’m agreeing with UCI on something? Really? What am I missing? Weird.

The second reason, however, is much more important and practical. Namely, everyone — the cycling press, cycling fans, pro cyclists, the UCI, everyone — is just so happy that we’ve got a controversy to talk about that isn’t doping.

It is so refreshing to have an argument devoid of skullduggery, ad-hominem attacks and innuendo that, even though nobody — pro or con — really honestly feels like the race radio ban is that big of a deal, we’re going to keep talking about it, dwelling on it, and feigning outrage about it.

Although I assure you, my own personal point of view is very, very genuine and I am 100% committed to it and am willing to argue about it until I start to get foamy spittle at the corners of my mouth.

Hopefully, that clears the topic of the Race Radio Ban up for you. I’m glad I could help.

PS: I wish to reiterate that I’m very, very passionate on this subject. Very.

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