Sometimes, readers, I am amazed at how perceptive you all are. I post a photo, and you notice something peculiar and interesting in the background. I write 800 words about nothing whatsoever, and you notice that I tend to use dangling participles.
Yes, at times I am truly impressed with how astute you are.
This, alas, is not one of those times.
See, a couple of weeks ago I went on a three-day trip out to St. George, Utah to ride with friends. And then I came back and wrote about only two of those days.
“Where,” you should have asked, “is the report for the third day?”
“Why,” you should have continued, “are you not describing the events of the ride or even where you went riding on that final day of Fall Moab?”
Which is too bad, because if you had asked that, I would have been able to be coy and not answer, or perhaps given an offhanded response along the lines of, “Be patient; I’m still thinking about the last ride of the trip. I’ll get to it soon.”
In which case I would have had a completely different opening for today’s post. And frankly, it would probably have been a better one, because I wouldn’t have been attacking you for not tracking the minutia of my life.
Anyway, I’m ready to start talking about this ride now. I think.
A Question of Great Importance
I’d like you to think about your favorite ride for a moment. OK, that may not be easy to do, because you’ve probably got quite a few rides that might qualify as your favorite, depending on your mood or the kind of riding you feel like doing. So let’s think in terms of your three favorite rides. The three rides you would do if you were told that you could do only three rides for the rest of your life.
Since I’m the kind of person who likes “If you had to choose only 3 things” types of questions, I have already given this question some thought, and am prepared to answer that the following three rides are my all-time favorites:
1. Super Tibble (MTB): Tibble Fork Reservoir to Joy to Alpine Loop Summit to Mud Springs to Tibble and back to the Reservoir
2. Alpine Loop (Road): Home to Alpine Loop Summit to Cascade Springs, back to Summit, down to Provo Canyon, and then back up to the Summit and home.
3. Nebo Loop (Road): Start in Provo, go up the Payson side, down the Nephi side, and on the flats back to Provo.
Selecting this short list is a lot easier than you might suspect: these are rides that spring to mind when I think about my best biking memories. They’re my empirical favorites because, given a choice to ride and the time to do them, these are the rides I pick.
So, back to Fall Moab. For the third ride of the trip, Kenny, who in the absence of Dug was the guide for the trip, said we’d be riding a relatively new trail: Guacamole.
“Fine,” I thought. I’m happy to try new trails, though I generally don’t really enjoy them until I’ve ridden them enough to become acquainted. To know how they feel. What to expect. How long the ride is going to go, and where I need to gear myself up for a big effort.
And then something entirely unexpected happened: I loved this ride. More than loved it. I was amazed by it. Petrified wood lay about everywhere, as plentiful as sand. That, along with the rock, bush and valley below was simply beautiful. Similar in some ways to Gooseberry and Little Creek, but with its own personality.
The trail was so brilliantly considered. It was challenging, but not so challenging that it felt brutish. I’d say, in fact, that the tricky, technical sections seemed playful — as if the trail designer liked finding interesting natural features and thinking of ways to make them a part of the trail.
For example, there was a place in the trail where you’re directed to take a sharp left turn, climb to the top of a crescent-shaped fin of rock, ride along that fin, drop down the other side, and then continue along the trail. By following the trail markings here, you progress exactly no distance at all, but you do get the experience of riding your bike on the top of a crescent-shaped fin of rock.
It took me five tries to get to the top of this fin, ride along it, and drop down the other side. I was giddy when I finally got it.
Or for another example, you at one point ride up a hump of sandstone, turn gingerly right and ride off-camber around the circumference of this hump, the whole time with your left shoulder nearly touching the large boulder perched upon this hump of rock.
I got that one my first try. It was a proud moment.
Over and over, for the two or three hours we were out there, it’s just one quick up followed by a quick down. A natural skills park, carved out by erosion for kragillions of years, then cleverly and entertainingly interpreted into a mountain bike trail by trail-building geniuses.
It’s a beautiful, remarkable, entertaining trail. If you mountain bike and you’re anywhere near St. George, UT, you must ride it.
So after riding Guacamole just once, I’ve since found myself thinking about it constantly. I’ve got to get out there and ride it again. Soon. This time with a helmet cam running (I actually had planned to ride with a helmet cam the first time I rode this trail, but the camera didn’t work — one of a long line of expensive things broken during this trip).
Because I have a question. It’s a question that I can’t answer yet; one ride is not enough — nowhere near enough — to make this kind of judgement.
But still, I can’t help but wonder: Is Guacamole destined to break into my top 3 favorite all-time rides?
A Book-Related Note from Fatty: Over the Thanksgiving weekend, the first third of the pre-ordered books arrived from the printer; those are now on their way to people who pre-ordered. Over the next few week, the balance of the pre-orders will be shipped out. After that, I’ll see how many I have left over and –if I have enough books–will open up ordering again. Thanks!
I have had a serious concern on my mind lately, and it came to a head shortly before — as well as during — this year’s Fall Moab.
Let’s start with the “shortly before” part. My friend and core team member Ricky M sent out an email, announcing his regret that he would not be attending this year’s riding trip, since he was in the hospital with a mysterious and undiagnosed condition leading to a dangerously low blood platelet count. And by “dangerously low,” I mean “any time he even walked near a sharp object, he began to bleed profusely and pretty much endlessly.”
Of course, as any concerned friend with a blog would do, I hurried on over and got a photo of me with Ricky. Here it is:
What is disturbing about this image is not that Ricky is using oxygen. Or that he clearly doesn’t look like he feels good.
What’s disturbing is that Ricky’s hair has gone almost entirely gray.
That freaked me out.
But you know what freaked me out even more? It was that — as I rode with my friends during Fall Moab that weekend, I discovered everyone’s respective ages:
It’s possible that, due to some unavoidable constraints on my research process (i.e., I didn’t bother contacting the the guys in the riding group to verify my memory was correct), some of these ages are not precisely accurate, but you get the picture.
Specifically, it’s become clear that I am riding with a bunch of old farts and clearly need to find a younger, hipper riding group — one that more closely matches my own personal youthful vibrance.
In any case, during a quiet moment during the weekend, I turned to my good friend bob (age 48), and asked: “How many more years have we got before we’re too old to do this?”
Bob laughed dismissively, then adjusted his goiter so that it didn’t loll so far to one side.
I then asked Kenny a similar question. Kenny replied, “I am still at the riding prime of my life. I feel young.” And then he went back to rubbing liniment into his bad hip.
I–unlike my friends–choose not to take the issue of being an aging cyclist so frivolously. Hence, I have compiled the following list of common cycling activities and traits, along with guidance on how to detect that you are perhaps too old for them.
Shaving Your Legs
I start with issue of shaving one’s legs because — I confess — it is an issue of real concern for me. Over the past several years, I have become so accustomed to shaving my legs that I can no longer easily remember what they looked like when they were hairy (but here’s a hint).
The thing is, though, I have a hard time imagining myself being eighty years old and still shaving my legs. It just doesn’t seem to fit the image I have of myself as an older gentleman (i.e., a full, silver head of hair with a matching goatee, a white suit, and twinkling eyes. More or less, I somehow imagine myself evolving into Colonel Sanders sometime during the next 35 years.).
Distinguished, wise old men (for I intend to gain wisdom sometime during the next 35 years, not to mention a modicum of distinguishment) shouldn’t be lathering up and shaving their legs. They should be sitting in rocking chairs, discussing the finer points of government under Teddy Roosevelt and exhorting all around them to shape up and respect their elders.
So, anyway, the question arises: between now and when I buy my first white suit (and when my hair starts coming in thick and silver), when should I stop shaving my legs?
I think there are three threshold events:
- When it becomes impossible for me to shave below my knees. As I get older and stiffer, I expect it’s going to get more and more difficult to do the bending, lifting, and twisting combinations required to shave my legs. At some point, I will no longer be able to reach behind my knees without throwing out my back, nor will I be able to bend over far enough to shave my (admittedly) hairy toes.
- When I can no longer tell what I’ve shaved and what I have not. As my eyesight becomes poorer, my leg shaving will become less and less even. I will miss patches of leg hair, which will then grow out thick and silver, much like the hair on my head. I hope that some younger rider will take me aside and say, “Old Timer, it’s time to stop shaving your legs.”
- When I have to pull my skin taut in order to shave it. I already have to pull my facial skin taut in a couple of places in order to shave. As gravity has its way with me, I expect my legs — while still exquisitely muscular and powerful — to become wrinkly. Frankly, it seems dangerous and frightening to try to shave legs with complicated topography like that.
My projected age for reaching any (or all) of these events is 68, partially because I have a hard time imagining any 70 year old shaving his legs. Although, if you’re 70+ and shave your legs (and you’re a guy), please let me know.
Camping as a Group
The next “when are you too old” bike-related question is, “When are you too old to camp as a group on your mountain biking trips?
I propose that the age is 45.
I’m glad that question could be answered so simply. Let’s move on to the next.
Renegade Facial Hair and Music
If you look at the pictures earlier in this post, you will note that Ricky (in the hospital bed), Cori, Kenny, and Jud all have somewhat similar facial hair, which — with the exception of Jud’s — I would categorize as “the type of facial hair that was popular eleven years ago.”
When are you too old to have a flavor-saver lip scruff? Well, I’d say if you’re old enough to grow one, you’re too old to have one.
Which is a rich irony, I agree. But still: new beards or no beards, guys.
I do, however, have a related question. One that applies to me: at what age am I too old to listen to Rage Against the Machine’s “Renegades of Funk?” I ask this question because I have the following concerns:
- I like machines in general
- I don’t rage against much of anything. I’m pretty much rage-free.
- The last time I could legitimately consider myself a “renegade” would have been when I was in high school. And that was mostly because I sometimes wore a Devo “energy dome” to school. Yeah, I was that kid.
So, should I start filling my riding playlist with Oak Ridge Boys? Merle Haggard? Muzak?
After a year of mountain biking with gears, I am back to single speeding. I can’t help it. But I’ve noticed something: when I ride SS now, I find my elbows (yes, elbows!) hurt for days afterward, maybe from the intense rowing action required from climbing.
And people do say that at some point my knees will pay the price for my single speeding ways.
So, when will I be too old to ride SS? Well, I’d say not until at least one (and more probably, two) out of the three following items are true:
- I have replaced my knees
- I have replaced my elbows
- I have found a more awesome way to ride
Of course, that could be next year. Or this one for that matter.
Technical Moves in Mountain Biking
During Fall Moab, I was astonished at how good everyone was at the technical moves we were doing — and I say that without the obvious qualification, “for our age.”
Also, by “we,” I pretty much mean “they.”
But I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to Kenny if he fell — his bones are not quite as dense as balsa wood. And then there was Paul, who’s a judge. How much respect would he command in his courtroom if he showed up with a scraped-up face?
And of course there’s the general decline in testosterone levels, which could easily cause one of us to chicken out at an inopportune moment.
The simple fact is, as riders get older, it becomes less and less advisable to do big mountain bike moves.
And, at some point, it’s probably going to stop being a great idea to go mountain biking at all. That said, that time could be pretty far away, considering every year at the Leadville 100 there are at least a few guys in their 70’s finishing the race.
I take comfort in that, figuring I have a chance of being one of those guys. I don’t know, maybe I already am.
Still, at some point, I’ve got to assume that I won’t be able to mountain bike anymore. Though I think that might have more to do with the way the body heals slower when you’re older. Suppose, for example, you’re 21 and break your collarbone. You’re back on the bike in a few weeks, at least if you’re not a sissy.
If you break your collarbone when you’re eighty, though, it’s going to take longer to heal. Long enough, in fact, that by the time your bone’s better it’s going to be hard to get back on the bike for other reasons.
So my intention is to never fall. I think you’ll agree this is an excellent plan, and I am happy to report that since coming up with this plan (ten minutes ago) I have a perfect record of not falling.
And the good thing is, not being able to mountain bike isn’t exactly the end of the world for the cyclist. Because, as near as I can tell, there is no age limit to road biking.
And even if, at some point, regular road biking becomes a problem, there’s always recumbent riding. Although I’ll have to evaluate, if and when the time comes, whether I’d rather ride a recumbent than not ride at all.
A Note from Fatty: A huge thanks to everyone who bought a book or made a donation last weekend to help raise money for treatment for a neighbor kid of mine. We raised $3141 — an extraordinary amount in such a short time — and I’ve sent it along to the family.
Another Note from Fatty: Remember how, last week, I made an extremely compelling case for why you should take the Bicycling Magazine Readers’ Choice survey and vote for me as the “personality” with whom you would most like to ride? Well, apparently, it worked, because last night Bicycling tweeted this:
I’m tempted to think that Bicycling is trying to sway the vote here. But I’m sure that’s a silly and unfair representation of what was meant as a non-partisan appeal to people to vote. Right?
But just in case, if you haven’t taken the survey, why don’t you? It’ll only take about three minutes. And be sure to pay special attention to the “Personalities” drop-down in Question 20 (the final one), where you’re asked to “choose the cyclist you’d most like to ride with.”
I am thankful for bikes. I have written a lot about riding bikes in the past 6.5 years. More than I would have thought possible, really. But I’ve written very little about bikes themselves, which is an oversight I should correct.
I don’t mean that I should write about a particular bike. I mean that I should write about — and be thankful for — the mobile miracle that is the bicycle. At their best, they are incredibly elegant-looking. You get on it and suddenly — without having to use any power but your own — you are factorially faster than you ever could be without the bike. And you can go dozens of times further. At just the right speed so that you can take everything in, while still seeing new places.
There’s no other machine ever invented that multiplies what you can do and where you can go like the bicycle.
Bikes are amazing. Wonderful. I love them.
I am thankful for cyclists. Maybe this is just me liking people who are like me. If so, that’s OK. But the fact remains, I almost always make instant friends with other riders, whether we’re on the road or dirt. After all, we’re both out there, enjoying doing the same thing, at the same place, at the same time. What a wild coincidence. We must have stuff to talk about. Like bikes! And riding! And places to ride!
It comes off as silly when I write it, but I mean it anyway. A person on a bike is almost always a friendly, interesting, happy person. That’s a good kind of person to get to know.
I am thankful for my readers. In between the silly posts, I ask a lot of you. And you never fail to amaze me with your generosity. Thank you for being an extraordinary group of friends.
PS: I will be taking a break from this blog for the rest of this week, so I can focus on getting books mailed before (or right after) Thanksgiving. Have a great vacation, eat lots of mashed potatoes and pie, and try to get out and ride.
See you next Monday!
PPS: For my readers who are not US-based, I still recommend you eat lots of mashed potatoes and pie, as well as getting out for a ride.
SUNDAY NIGHT UPDATE: The 100 books are sold, so I’m taking down the form to buy books. I’m really pleased to announce that between book purchases and donations, we raised $3141.00 for Stephen’s treatment. Thank you to everyone!
There’s a kid in my neighborhood — his name’s Stephen — who’s fighting cancer: Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He’s about to start his third kind of chemotherapy Gemcitabine — a therapy used when someone has refractory cancer (a term for when cancer resists treatment).
By itself, that sucks. Hard.
What’s worse, though, is that his family isn’t in a great financial position to pay for this treatment, nor for the stem cell transplant he needs this January.
The neighborhood here is rallying around this kid and his family, in a big way, doing a fundraiser dinner and raffle.
I want to help this kid. And I hope you’ll help me help him.
Buy My Book, Win a Book Signed by Team RadioShack
I’ve been getting the house ramped up for shipping out the pre-orders for my first book: Comedian Mastermind: The Best of FatCyclist.com, 2005-2007. I’ve bought a label printer, and earlier this week I got all the mailer envelopes:
Check out the awesome free water bottle I got by purchasing a dozen huge boxes of envelopes!
With any luck, I’ll get the actual books today, prepare a bunch of them this weekend, and start shipping them out Monday. My plan is to have all these pre-ordered books out the door right after the Thanksgiving holiday.
The thing is, I went ahead and ordered a hundred additional books, figuring I’d ind a use for them (and also because it bumped me to a better per-book price point).
And then I got this tweet from Johan Bruyneel:
It was an incredibly generous gesture from Johan, one with no strings attached. I could sell the books to make money for myself, give them away, keep them, whatever.
I’d like to use one of them as a pretty awesome incentive for you to help me help Stephen.
So, here’s how it works. Out of the next 100 books I sell, I’ll do a drawing, and one book buyer will get a 2-for-1 deal: the regular book, and a book signed by everyone in the new incarnation of Team RadioShack.
I’m pretty sure this will be the first opportunity it will be possible to get such a signed item.
Further, all proceeds — meaning all the money I make from this 100 books, minus actual shipping costs and the hard cost of the book — will go straight to Stephen.
So the more you pay for the book, the more goes to Stephen’s treatment (and also, the better your chance at winning the Team RadioShack book).
And, by the way, the people who order these books will get them in time for Christmas. In fact, it’s possible that you’ll get them in early December.
To be clear, though, the winner won’t get the signed book until after the Team RadioShack camp, so it’s not guaranteed that you’ll get that book in time for Christmas. But I’ll do my best.
And hey, worst-case scenario: you’re still getting a book, and early reviews (i.e., The Hammer is reading one of the proof copies) are very positive.
[UPDATE: The books are all sold, so the form for book buying is now down. Thank you to everyone who helped out!]
Note: This contest will be limited to 100 books. Once those are gone, the contest is over and I’ll choose a winner. So if you want in, you probably should buy a book today. As in, now.
So, here’s the handy order form.
Thanks for buying my book, and thanks for helping out a kid who needs a lot of help — as well as a family that doesn’t exactly need one more thing to worry about right now.
The good people at Bicycling Magazine are currently conducting their Readers’ Choice survey, the results of which will appear in their March 2012 issue.
It is very important that you go and take that survey. Right now. Your very future — and my ego — may depend on it.
“Why does your ego depend upon it?” you ask, completely ignoring the part about your future, because you know that I am prone to hyperbole.
One Very Important Question
The Readers’ Choice survey starts out innocuously enough, asking you what your gender is — though, laughably, the options are limited to a mere two. It then goes on to asking you about what brands of bikes you own, how many people you’ve introduced to cycling, what you do when you get a flat tire, and so forth.
The whole thing takes about three minutes, and it’s good clean fun.
But. But. When you get to the final question — question 20 — the survey takes a turn for the utmost seriousness:
“From each pull-down menu, choose the cyclist you’d most like to ride with,” you are instructed. And there, in the very last drop down menu — Personalities — you will find the following:
Enlarged to show detail.
Yes, there — tucked unobtrusively as one of the middle options, as if they wanted to hide it — is “Fat Cyclist.”
No matter what else you do in that survey, you must select this option. Not to gratify my vanity and ego — although that is also a good and sufficient reason for you to choose me — but because the other choices are all completely horrible.
I shall explain why.
I have never met Frankie Andreu, but by all accounts he is a nice guy. He’s a former pro and a sometimes-commentator for pro cycling events, so he undoubtedly has some great stories to tell.
But you absolutely, positively do not want to ride with him.
For one thing, he’s 45 years old. Which means he’s currently in the throes of a serious mid-life crisis. And when you combine a mid-life crisis with Frankie’s best-known role in the pro peloton — that of a super domestique — you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Frankie will almost certainly be looking to reinvent himself. To resolve unfinished business. To scratch an itch that’s been there for 22 years.
To, in short, never ever ever let anyone finish ahead of him, ever again.
So he would ride you into the ground. He would point at every sign, every telephone pole, and yell “intermediate sprint!” and then take off, leaving you in the dust. When you caught back up with him, he would laugh at you and say, “That’s another one for me! 29-0!”
And he would demand you call him “sir.”
Also, bear in mind that Frankie was once the director of Rock Racing. And while it is admirable that he quit, the fact remains: he was once the willing leader of the most absurd pro team in the history of the universe.
For that he must be punished. Forever.
And finally, you don’t want to ride with Frankie Andreu because you’ll have to tell people you rode with someone named “Frankie,” and everyone will wonder why you’re talking about going riding with a six-year-old.
Bike Snob NYC
You do not want to ride with Bike Snob NYC (BSNYC to his friends). For one thing, he will demand that you ride with him in New York City, where you will most assuredly be t-boned, run-over, mugged, and have your bike stolen.
In that order.
During the first five minutes of the ride.
Furthermore, because BSNYC is very protective of his privacy, he always wears a mask when riding. This would not be such a big deal except that mask covers his mouth and makes it almost impossible to understand what he is saying. Your conversation would go something like this:
You: Hey, I really like your blog. How do you manage to write 9,000 words per day?
BSNYC: wart mmm hmmmprlf munkffm vurrtle.
You: I beg your pardon?
BSNYC: WART MMM HMMMPRLF MUNFFM VURRTLE!!!
Believe me, after a while that gets tiresome.
But that’s not even the main reason you do not want to ride with BSNYC. The main reason you don’t want to ride with him is because the following day, he will write about you.
And then you’ll never be able to leave your home again.
There is absolutely no reason you would not want to ride with Phil Liggett. The fact is, he is incredibly smart and has an infinite number of great stories to tell. He’s friendly, and a strong rider.
But you should still not choose him in this survey. Why? Because Paul Sherwen isn’t even listed as an option.
If Phil wins, it’s going to get back to Paul. And then Paul’s going to get depressed, and then he’ll start to sulk. On air. Like this:
Phil: And there goes Leipheimer! Ever since he got that new hairpiece he is riding like a man half his age!
Phil: Excuse me, Paul? Did you say something?
Phil: Well, what do you think of Leipheimer and his new hair?
Paul: I don’t know, why don’t you go and ride with him and ask? I understand you’re very popular and people want to ride with you.
Phil: It’s been three years since that silly survey, Paul. Are you still upset about that?
Paul: Leave me alone.
For the sake of Phil and Paul’s relationship, as well as for the sake of continued excellent on-air commentary, please do not vote for Phil.
Consider this for a moment: Bob sat right beside Al Trautwig for like three Tours. And he never took the opportunity to punch him in the throat.
For that crime, Bob must pay.
Also, if you slight him in some way, he’ll intentionally mispronounce your name for the rest of your life.
TdF Devil Didi Senft
Leaving aside the impossibility of pronouncing the consonants “nft” together without sounding like you’ve suppressed a sneeze, there are three very important things you should know about Didi Senft:
- He never showers. On principle. Teeth brushing is right out, as well.
- He does not know how to ride a bike.
- He will ask you to loan him $50, but he has no intention of repaying you.
So, really, that leaves me. You’ve got to choose me by default.
But that’s not the only reason to choose me as the “personality” you would most like to ride with. No indeed.
If we rode together, you see, I would bring snacks. Your favorite snacks.
If there were a headwind, I would pull my share of the time, and possibly even more often.
I would regale you with entertaining stories. I would practice those stories ahead of time, honing my storytelling craft for your maximum enjoyment.
I would listen with rapt attention to your stories, and ask many follow-up questions, to show that I was paying attention and would like to know more.
I would express interest in your tattoo, and would not ridicule it, at all.
I would show you my favorite rides. The ones so good I don’t even talk about them in this blog.
So. Please. Go and take that survey, and choose me. For your own good.
PS: In question 7, be sure to choose Other, and write in “Honey Stinger Waffles.” Because it’s true.
PPS: In question 20, in the “Elite Men” drop-down, be sure to choose “Levi Leipheimer,” or he says he’ll beat me up.
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