3 Words All Cyclists Must Know

01.19.2012 | 10:51 am

201201190647.jpgA Note from Fatty: This Sunday at 9PM ET / 6PM PT, I’ll be one of the guests on TourChats. The other guest is Tara McCormick, the 16-year-old sensation who’s already gone pro, riding for Team Exergy Twenty12 this upcoming season. Frankly, I’m a lot more interested in Tara’s story than mine, so I’ll be showing up mostly to see what she has to say.

Anyway, it’ll be live, and there will be both audio and moving pictures, as well as textual chatification.

I’ll talk about myself, in a way that is both heartfelt and compelling, without being pretentious or self-aggrandizing.

So please, mark your calendars: Sunday, January 22, 9PM ET / 6PM PT. See you there. (Although actually I won’t see you there. You’ll see me. It doesn’t go both ways. So it’s kind of like television. Or a creepy peep show.)

I will bring props. And I’ll might give some stuff away.

3 Words All Cyclists Must Know

Before I begin, I have a confession to make: I briefly considered titling this post “Terms of Engearment.” And then I remembered: puns are the lowest form of humor. So I changed the title to something more hyperbolic, but completely pun-free.

You’re welcome.

And now, let’s make with the defining.

(This, by the way, is the shortest introduction I have ever written on my blog.)


[snot-juh-luhm] (noun) – The mucousy, sweaty viscous goop (usually 0.5 – 2.5 inches in length) that dangles from the tip of your nose, swinging side to side in time with your cadence as you ride.

Generally, a snotulum forms when you climb on cold days. The outside temperature causes your nose to run, while your effort causes you to sweat. The two substances meet at the tip of your nose, resulting in a mixture ideally suited to hang from the tip of your nose.

The snotulum has several interesting characteristics. First, depending on the ratio of snot to sweat, the snotulum may be anywhere betweeen half an inch and 2.5 inches in length, with unconfirmed reports of snotulae (plural of snotulum) reaching lengths of up to eight inches.

Next, the snotulum, regardless of its consistency, has the ability to dangle indefinitely. Once it reaches its optimal length, it will swing — some say “hypnotically,” while others say “repulsively” — for hours or until you finally wipe it on your glove, thus totally grossing yourself out.

Finally, the swinging of the snotulum has the interesting characteristic of constantly moving into and out of your direct vision, thus drawing attention to itself multiple times per minute.

Interesting snotulum trivia: If you try to shake a snotulum off or blow vigorously through your nose, it will instead swing around and stick to the side of your face.


[win-r] (noun) – A person who, upon not making it to the top of a podium for a given event, begins a campaign to rectify the huge injustice he has experienced. This campaign may take several forms:

  • Discrediting the course: Explaining what was wrong with the course, from poor marking to poor opportunities to pass to bad course conditions. A whinner is not required to account for the fact that all other competitors dealt with the same course.
  • Blaming the competitors: Explaining how other competitors would not yield, or perhaps cut the whinner off, or maybe even had the audacity to fall. If it weren’t for other racers being so discourteous as to actually exist, the whinner most certainly would have won.

There are actually two levels of whinners. The first — and most common — is the whinner who explains why he should have whun (the verb form of whinner is “whin,” with “whun” being the past-tense form) to friends, family, co-workers, and miscellaneous passers-by.

The second type of whinner is the racer who actually takes his case to the race director. This person is called a “true whinner.”

Interesting whinner triva: The best and simplest way to silence a whinner is to tell him that he is in fact, a whinner. This is due to the fortuitous coincidence that “winner” and “whinner” sound exactly the same. Thus, a friend can react to a whinner by saying, “Yeah, you totally whun that race. You were robbed.” Similarly, a race director can appease a whinner by saying, “You are absolutely the true whinner today.”


[klee-ta-struh-fee] (noun) – The terrifying and usually painful moment when a clipless pedal releases the cleat, allowing all kinds of horrible things to ensue.

Cleatastrophes generally happen for the following reasons:

  1. Pedal Strike: Many MTB pedal systems (Eggbeaters, mainly) have the cleat engagement mechanism engineered so that the part holding onto your shoe is connected to the part facing the ground. This is fine unless you do something stupid like ride your mountain bike in the mountains, in which case you may at some point go over a rock or log or something, striking the bottom of your pedal forcefully on said rock. At which point the pedal will release its hold on the cleat, allowing your foot freedom with a suddenness that is only matched by its unwantedness.
  2. Ancient Cleats: If you let your cleats wear long enough, your pedal won’t have anything to hold onto. So, you know, it might not be the worst idea in the world to take a look at the bottom of your shoe once in a while. Trust me on this. I know.
  3. No Reason Whatsoever: Sometimes — generally in the worst place possible, your pedal will release your shoe for no reason at all.

The causes of cleatastrophes are not as important as the most common locations of cleatastrophes, which include:

  • While going over rocks and logs: See reason 1, above, to understand the causality here, but also note that when a cleat comes out while you’re partway up a technical move, the timing for this cleatastrophe always feels exceptionally poor.
  • While standing and climbing: Generally happening on grades of 8% and greater, cleatastrophes while doing a standing climb on a road bike inevitably lead to the rider striking his stem with his kneecap with enough force to shatter whichever is softer (generally the kneecap).
  • Anywhere else: Sometimes you’ll have a cleatastrophe for no reason whatsoever. This generally results in swerving, sticking ones leg out at a comical angle while you try to regain your balance. Oh, and also it usually results crashing and serious injury.

Interesting cleatastrophe trivia: Of the people who at one point rode with Crank Brothers Egg Beaters pedals but no longer ride with Egg Beaters pedals, the cleatastrophe is the cause of switching to a different kind of pedals for 98% of this group.

The other 2% didn’t actually switch; they simply had such a terrifying cleatastrophe that they have given cycling up entirely.


The Fat Cyclist Explains: How to Do a Recovery Ride

01.17.2012 | 1:49 pm

I am probably the most knowledgable person about training for bicycle fitness on my street, and quite possibly in the town of Alpine, UT (population 10,181).

Or at least the Northwest quadrant of Alpine.

Regardless, I know an awful lot about the correct way to train to be an incredibly fit cyclist. Which, when contraposed with the 15-30 pounds I constantly lose, then gain, then lose, then gain (I’m currently at what I hope is the top of a “gain” cycle, for what it’s worth) I do not find even a little bit ironic.


Because of my astonishing breadth and depth of bike-training expertise, I frequently get email from people hoping they can get training advice, without having to pay for it. Like I’m some kind of Chris-Carmichael-on-the-cheap or something.

For example, I recently received the following:

Dear Fatty,

I am trying to become the fastest guy in my cycling group. For some reason, however, I just can’t seem to do it. I ride and I ride and I ride, but I just can’t seem to beat the fastest guys in the big climbs or in the designated signpost sprints in the weekly group rides.

I eat well, so I know that’s not the problem. I have a very expensive bike which I keep clean and well-lubricated, so that can’t be it. And I ride up to fourteen hours per day, each and every day, always at maximum effort, so I think I’m doing OK there, too.

I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong! Please help me.

Best Regards,


Oh Duane. You’re missing the key ingredient in cycling training. All those 14-hour days in the saddle aren’t going to do you any good at all if you never take the time to rest up. The most important thing a cyclist can do to become stronger and faster is to do recovery rides.

But you’re not alone in your confusion. As it turns out, very few cyclists know when they should do a recovery ride, nor how they should do a recovery ride.

Luckily for all of you, I have studied the science and art (yes, art!) of recovery rides extensively, and am happy to — at no cost to you. Although would be nice if you bought a copy of my book (available now in paper and Kindle versions at a discounted price! Buy three today!!!).

202-ShimanoUltegraDi2-240x240.gifWhen To Do A Recovery Ride

Many top experts are very strong proponents of recovery rides, including Joe Friel, probably, because he seems to be in favor of pretty much everything.

The real question is when should you do a recovery ride?

While some recognized experts say you should do a recovery ride the day following a periodized interval session — whatever that is — the fact is the determining factor of when you should do a recovery ride is very simple indeed.

Scenario 1: Suppose you’re out riding. You’ve planned to do a big climb, followed by another big climb, followed by a long flat into a headwind, followed by a big climb.

The problem is, you’re not having fun. And the near future doesn’t look promising, fun-wise, either.

The solution? declare a recovery ride, perhaps to a nearby store where one can purchase a recovery beverage and perhaps a recovery burrito.

Scenario 2: You’re out riding, feeling good. Feeling strong. Feeling like you’ve got good power and that perhaps you are the strongest cyclist in the Northwest quadrant of Alpine, UT.

And then you get passed.

This, my friend, is because — although perhaps you did not realize it until just this moment — you are on a recovery ride. And it’s probably a really good idea to let the guy who just passed you know this fact, so they don’t have the misperception that they passed you because they’re faster than you.

I recommend, saying loudly (due to the doppler effect and wind and stuff), “Don’t you just hate recovery rides?”

Scenario 3: You go out to the garage, and your bike has a flat. You fix it, only to find that you didn’t do a very good job, because the new tube also goes flat. You go back inside.

Congratulations. You just did a recovery ride.

Except the “ride” part, of course.

How To Do A Recovery Ride

As important as when you do a recovery ride is how. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Start out the ride nice and easy, with the intention of never getting your heart rate above 120. If your resting heart rate is above 120, you may need to modify this number.
  2. As you ride, your legs will feel better and you’ll start enjoying yourself, and you’ll want to go faster. Resist this urge. You’re not riding your bike for fun, darn it! Bikes are for training and racing and crushing the opposition.
  3. At some point, you’ll see another cyclist up ahead. You’ll be tempted to step up your pace and catch this other cyclist, especially since your legs are feeling good and fresh. Resist this urge!
  4. Ah, screw it. Go ahead and chase that other cyclist down.

Oh, and when you catch that other cyclist, be sure to let him or her know that you’re on a recovery ride.

Happy Recovering,


The Fat Cyclist

My SOPA Post

01.16.2012 | 11:06 am

Really, I meant to black my blog out today, in opposition to SOPA. It was totally going to look like this:

Click to enlarge image for greater detail

And then I realized that there were two very important problems with this plan, which I shall list below:

  1. I’m kinda hoping for a lot of traffic this month, because Competitive Cyclist is doing a little bit of a trial balloon on my blog, seeing whether it’s worth it to advertise here. I’d kinda like that answer to come out “yes.” Totally killing ads for a day wouldn’t exactly serve my purposes, and in fact would be at least mildly ironic. (Bonus challenge for motivated readers: try real hard to see if you can find a Competitive Cyclist ad on my site. I know, it’s not easy.)
  2. The odds are very good that if I somehow managed to black out my site today, I’d never figure out how to get it un-blacked out tomorrow.
  3. Like BSNYC, I haven’t exactly spent a ton of time researching SOPA / PIPA, and so am not really all that prepared to march in a virtual picket line.
  4. It’s just too bold a stance to take. My neck out-sticking is pretty much limited to telling people that it’s nice to be nice. Which was pretty darn out-there, I realize.

202-ShimanoUltegraDi2-240x240.gifThat said, I am a fast learner, and — trying to do my civic duty and whatnot — have spent about fifteen minutes on the web trying to figure out what SOPA / PIPA mean.


First off, I learned that SOPA stands for “Stop Online Piracy Act.” Which sounds good, because we all like to act like we don’t steal music off the web, except for when we talk with other people who steal music off the web, in which circumstances we tend to brag about how much music we’ve stolen off the web.

Except me, by the way. I haven’t stolen a single song off the web, ever. At least, not since Napster went under.

Anyways, the problem with SOPA is that it’s too expansive. It overshoots piracy and lands in the realm of censorship. And as a guy who goes out of his way to make it easy to communicate (I leave my commenting system totally open), that feels manifestly uncool.


PIPA on the other hand, isn’t even an acronym. It’s just a silly sound. OK, that’s not true. PIPA stands for Protect IP Act. Here, “IP” stands for “Internet Protocol.” Honestly, I didn’t even know Internet Protocols were under attack, so I don’t know what the big deal is here.

OK, fine. “IP” in this instance probably stands for “Intellectual Property.” And PIPA actually stands for Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (really!), which means that whoever created this bill put a whole bunch of words together that don’t make any sense at all in the order they’re in, hoping nobody would notice and would just call the act “PROTECT IP.”

Of course, that acronym only works if you’re friends with the guy who created the bill and place the space where he wanted. Otherwise you could call it “PROTEC TIP,” which makes it sound like a badly-named brand of condom. Which is actually pretty metaphorically accurate.

So which is worse, “PROTEC TIP” or “PIPA?” You’ll have to decide for yourself.

Call To Action

Here’s what to do: go to Google’s SOPA/PIPA landing page and sign the petition, because — as you know — petitions pretty much always work.

Or better yet, you could actually contact your representatives. Wikipedia has a nice tool to help you find out who they are and how to contact them, accessible right from their home page.

Thank you. Oh, and just for fun, here’s that black square again.


Those Guys Who Keep Making Trails Steeper Must Be Stopped

01.16.2012 | 8:59 am

201201160751.jpgA “Buy Something Good, Do Something Good” Note from Fatty: My friends at Twin Six are doing their part in the fight to improve the lives of those living with cancer. 50% of all sales today will be donated to LiveStrong. Not half the profits, not half of everything over a certain point, half of all sales. Which — just for example — means if you buy their extremely cool-looking Yellow Cabby jersey for $75, LiveStrong gets $37.50. That’s awesome.

Or maybe if you wanted to pick up some Fat Cyclist gear — a hoodie, say, or a t-shirt. Half your purchase would go to LiveStrong. That seems decidedly appropriate, doesn’t it?

And hey, if you don’t know what you want just yet, you could buy a T6 Gift Certificate today, and half of that money goes to LiveStrong.

Could the Twin Six guys be any more awesome? No. No they could not.

(The one-day promotion is now over; thanks everyone who bought stuff!)

MoRaTraG Must Be Stopped

I consider myself a fair man. A tolerant man. Even a good-natured man. If you were to meet me on the street, you might — as we held a pleasant conversation and I pretended to be interested in what you have to say — think to yourself, “Why, this beloved, award-winning, book-authoring, Internet celebrity cycling megastar is just a normal guy who is interested in what I have to say!”

Which is just precious of you. Really.

With my “niceness” credentials thus unimpeachably established, I would like to now state that there is an organization that makes me furious. I start thinking about this organization, and my blood boils and I see red. My blood pressure surges. Sometimes I get pounding headaches.

My goiter throbs. Occasionally, I pass out. Frankly, I’m feeling a little bit dizzy right now.

There. I just took a pill. It should help me settle down in a moment.

[Ten minutes elapse]

OK, I’m fine now. I can continzhurrrrr.

[98 minutes elapse]

I’m awake again. (Note to self: adjust dosage.) Where was I?

Right, I remember now. There’s an organization, my friends, pervasive to all forms of cycling, that exists for no other reason than to mess with cyclists’ minds. To make us suffer needlessly. It revels in our confusion, and celebrates our discomfort as a victory. It laughs each and every time one of us cries. This organization hates cyclist.

No, I mean the organization besides the UCI.

I am talking about, of course, the Manipulation of Roads and Trails Guild (MoRaTraG) pronounced “MORE-uh-trag”).

This covert society operates with no purpose other than messing up your expectations for a ride. It wants you to feel stronger than you actually are on one ride, thus giving you unreasonable expectations for your next ride. Then, the next time you get out on a bike – boom – you have no energy whatsoever. It wants you to feel like you’re on top of your technical game one instant, and a bumbling fool pinned beneath your bike and unable to clip out without using the Jaws of Life the moment after that.

In short, the MoRaTraG is a bunch of jerks.

Allow me to detail their various heinous activities, through the use of serious-yet-immenseley-entertaining anecdotes, each carefully crafted for you to find yourself nodding your head in agreement.

Offense 1: Trail Difficulty Revisions

When I first started mountain biking, there was an incredibly steep, technical jeep road I made my mission to conquer. Most lunch hours, I’d head out to what we called “Lower Frank” and would try – over and over – to clean that pitch. I had this idea that since I had seen Dug and Bob clean it, that until I could at least work my way up that hill I would be nothing but a hindrance to them.

After about a month, I did it. I rode up that move without putting a foot down. I was incredibly proud, and justifiably so.

Then, sometime last summer I decided to find that move and see if, now that I have more than fifteen years’-worth of riding experience, I could now clean that pitch on a singlespeed.

I wasn’t optimistic, but I thought it was worth a shot.

So I rode out to where the move should be, but I couldn’t find it. There was a jeep road there, yeah, but it was certainly not a move. It would be more of what I’d call a “short, easy climb.”

Clearly, MoRaTraG had been here. They had lessened the gradient of the climb, as well as made the embedded rocks much smaller and easier to roll over.

My pride at having conquered my first move all those years ago vanished. This thing isn’t something I could brag about. Not anymore.

Thanks a lot, MoRaTraG.

Offense 2: Early Season Gradient Revisions

MoRaTraG seems to be most active in the Winter, because when Spring returns and I get a chance to ride my favorite roads and trails for the first time in months, it’s obvious that these jokers have been hard at work, because every single climb has been jacked up.

And by “jacked up,” I mean what I say quite literally. Gradients on my rides – road and mountain — have all been increased by 30%, sometimes more. I can tell this is the case because rides that were fun and easy last autumn are now so steep they’re making my ears bleed.

I think they do it with hydraulic jacks. However it’s done, it’s just plain rude.

Offense 3: Variable Technicality

What makes me really mad, though, is the way MoRaTraG goes out and screws around with trails. Like, I’ll be out riding one of my favorite lunch ride loops — a combo of Hog Hollow and Corner Canyon – just riding along, enjoying myself.

I’ll be flying down Ghost and – for reasons only they know – MoRaTrag will have clearly been at work, cleaning up the runout following a little jump. I’ll land so nicely my confidence will go through the roof; I’ll instantly vow to hit it really hard next time (and I think we all know how that will turn out).

Then, coming down Jacob’s Ladder, I’ll be carving my way around a hairpin turn – same as I have hundreds of times – and wham. I’m on my side. No warning whatsoever. I look back and – sure enough – MoRaTrag has placed an embedded rock, smooth and flat, right in the trail. Right at the apex of the corner, where I’m most likely to slide out.

And obviously it wasn’t there before, because I’ve gone around that corner a hundred times without falling. They put that rock there recently, and they did it just to be mean.

I don’t know what it is about those guys. But they’ve got to be stopped.   

PS: If you’ve ever wanted to hear me be interviewed and talk aimlessly and endlessly about whatever pops into my head, you should check out the interview I just did over at Bicycle Lab.

Do Something Good

01.12.2012 | 9:05 pm

Here’s how Bill Gifford’s story (in Outside) about LiveStrong and Lance Armstrong begins:

If Lance Armstrong went to jail and Livestrong went away, that would be a huge setback in our war against cancer, right? Not exactly, because the famous nonprofit donates almost ­nothing to scientific research.  

And that’s pretty much it. That’s the “big reveal” of the story. LiveStrong doesn’t do cancer research. Therefore what it does doesn’t matter. Not really.

Because what the millions of people who have cancer, right now, really need is cancer research, right? It’s cancer research that’s going to help them understand their current treatment options. It’s cancer research that’s going to inspire them to be strong and stay positive.

It’s cancer research that called me back, right away, after I filled out a form on a website, because I had found out Susan’s cancer had come back and I just didn’t know what it meant or what to do.

You see my point? Cancer research is important. Very important indeed, to the people in the distant future who will benefit from that research. But helping people who have cancer right now is important too. And for personal reasons, it’s the part of the fight against cancer I want to be involved in.

Do Good Things

I’m not going to do a point-by-point response to Gifford’s piece. I just don’t want to. Part of why is that I’ve been in Chicago the whole week, working long hours. I don’t have a lot of piss nor vinegar in me right now. The other part of why is I’ve had a chance to talk with some pretty amazing people this past week, and I’d like to be a little bit more like them.

So instead of getting all indignant and snarky and stuff, I’m going to tell you a little bit about the life philosophy I’ve been evolving. It’s pretty easy to remember: Do good things.

That word “good” is kind of a slippery one, though, isn’t it? It can mean “kind” or “fun” or “beneficial” and probably a whole bunch of other things. And I mean all of them. I try to live in such a way that I’m usually either doing or planning something fun, or kind, or helpful. And I try to do these things with the kind of people who also like to do good things.

I’ve spent some time during the past few years with people at LiveStrong. And they are people who do good things. I mean this. They are focused on helping people who either have or have had cancer.

They’re good people, doing good things. They aren’t wasting your money. They aren’t cheating you. They aren’t treating what they do like a job; they act like they’re on a mission. I know some of them, and I trust them. I trust that they’re honestly doing what they believe is the best thing they can do with your money to help in the fight against cancer.

And part of trusting someone is letting them make decisions and act on those decisions, without second-guessing them constantly.

For example, in Gifford’s piece, he refers to the LiveStrong legal team taking down someone who was selling “BarkStrong” dog collars. At first blush, that does sound ridiculous. Why waste good money on that? Well, I suppose it’s possible that some people at LiveStrong had a serious meeting at some point and asked themselves, “Are we OK with people taking our brand — the most meaningful asset we have — and turning it into a joke? And if we’re not, how are we going to defend that brand?” And maybe they made a sober decision on what the right thing to do was.

And maybe — just maybe — Lance started and continues to spend a ton of time on LiveStrong because he’s lived through cancer and he’s seen people who haven’t lived through it. I’m pretty sure that if money or fame were his objectives, he could go about getting both of them in more direct and easier ways.

Simply put, fighting cancer is what matters to Lance. It matters to him more than most people really understand. You may be able to ask him a little bit more about that here, soon.

So. I trust LiveStrong. And I trust Lance. Together, they’re an amazing force, and I am proud to lend my energy to their efforts.

Join Team Fatty, Help LiveStrong

So, Team Fatty is going to do the Davis LiveStrong Challenge in 2012, like we did last year. There are going to be incentives and prizes and other awesome reasons to help make the fight fun. But for right now, just do me a favor and sign up. Join the team.

It’ll be awesome celebrating having done something good together.

Do Other Good Things

I know that not everyone will agree with me about Lance, or about LiveStrong. Honestly, though, I don’t want to argue. I just don’t. So how about this: let’s agree that I won’t convince you and you won’t convince me about anything we have hardened opinions on.

That’s the way people are.

But if you disagree with me about LiveStrong, I’ll bet you still agree with me about doing good things. So — instead of burning cycles on arguing — you go give your time and money to whatever cause you choose.

Maybe, for example, you’ll want to join Team Fatty as we support World Bicycle Relief again this year. Or Young Survival Coalition. Or maybe you’ve got something else up your sleeve. Something that is important to you, with people you trust.

That’s awesome. Do it. And email me about it. I love hearing about people doing good things.

But let’s not tear into each other.

But I’d love it if you’d join Team Fatty. Let’s help LiveStrong with the fight against cancer.

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