I’m really excited for this year’s 100 Miles of Nowhere. Which seems weird, somehow. One should not — obviously! — get enthused about the prospect of riding 100 miles in one’s basement or around one’s block or up and down the same stupid hill over and over and over until one wishes one could simply hit oneself over one’s head and slip into blessed oblivion, right?
And yet, I am excited for this year’s 100 Miles of Nowhere.
And I believe that you will be, too, as soon as I tell you about what I’ve got up my sleeve. And I will tell you, eventually.
But first, I need to explain what the event even is, for those who are new to the idea of this event.
What Is The 100 Miles of Nowhere, And Why Should You Do It?
The idea of the 100 Miles of Nowhere is to ride an infuriatingly small course for 100 miles (or 50, or 25, but ideally 100), to raise money for the fight against cancer. And also to demonstrate that you have no sense at all.
The 100 Miles of Nowhere is a race without a place. It’s an event in which hundreds of people participate . . . all by ourselves.
You’ll have fun. You’ll be miserable. And, thanks to the fact that there won’t be hundreds of people all over the place, you almost certainly won’t have to wait for fifteen minutes to use an overflowing portapotty.
And you get some pretty decent bragging rights. Namely, if you take some good pictures of you (and your friends) doing the 100 Miles of Nowhere and send me a good writeup, I’ll post it on the blog.
Also, you get to claim that you won your division . . . since you get to create your own division. For example, I am the four-year consecutive reigning champion of the “Alpine Men’s 40-45 Year-Old Award-Winning Blogger” division. Which is a pretty big deal, if you ask me.
Most importantly, though, is the fact that you’re joining Team Fatty in our ongoing fight against cancer. And that matters.
What’s the Status of the 100 Miles of Nowhere?
I am hard at work right now with the Twin Six guys, working on the T-Shirt design (by “hard at work,” I mean that I give them bad ideas and they ignore them and instead give me great designs based on ideas of their own). And, because I am really great at multi-tasking, I’m also hounding companies to be Swag sponsors of the 2012 100 Miles of Nowhere.
I’ve got some good sponsors on board already, and am working on more. I’ll reveal who they are . . . soon. Because I am mysterious, and a little bit of a tease.
Registration will start next week, and will be strictly limited to 500 paid registrations (plus whoever beats me in the weight loss challenge, which I’m afraid is going to be practically everyone). Which is to say, I’ve learned my lesson and — unlike last year — will not add additional registrations this year. Once we get to 500, we’re done.
The event itself will be on June 2. Or another day near June 2, if you happen to already have plans on June 2.
For what it’s worth, if you happen to be interested in joining my own particular crazy course for the 100 Miles of Nowhere, I’d love to have you come along. Depending on course conditions, it will either be the climb of the Alpine loop, or Suncrest (like last year).
What’s Going to be Special About This Year’s Race?
I’ve got a story to tell. It’ll take a while. Stay with me; it’s worth it.
Of course, the 100 Miles of Nowhere is absolutely ridiculous. And — if you’re lucky — fun. But there’s always a serious purpose behind it: helping in the fight against cancer.
And, as you know, I am a big supporter of LiveStrong, so that is what we’ve raised money for in all prior editions of this event.
Lately, though, I’ve been thinking. And about a month ago, I wrote my thoughts down and sent the following email to Doug Ulman, the CEO of LiveStrong:
I’ll try to keep this reasonably short, but honestly, long-winded is more my style. So if I’m not terse, I’ll at least try to be interesting.
There have been a number of events that have happened recently that have really gotten me thinking about LiveStrong, Team Fatty, and how I can be as useful as possible.
- A new blanket warmer at a hospital: Last summer I sponsored a local race — the Utah Tour de Donut — to raise money for a new blanket warmer in the cancer center where my late wife went for treatment. It was a no-brainer thing to do; I remembered Susan talking a few times about how cold she was while getting chemo there. She would have appreciated a blanket warmer. So it was a nice tribute. A few weeks ago I went to the hospital where they had a nice little “Thank You” ceremony and put a “Fight Like Susan” plaque on the blanket warmer. While this was probably my smallest fundraiser of the year (I only needed to raise $4K for the blanket warmer), it was incredibly touching and meaningful and made me want to do more to help.
- World Bicycle Relief: One of the cool side-effects of my blog is that I’ve gotten to help not just with LiveStrong (and other anti-cancer causes), but I’ve also gotten to know Johan Bruyneel and work with him fundraising for World Bicycle Relief. We raised enough money last summer to buy more than 1000 bikes for kids in Zambia. WBR has made a great video I put on my blog recently, showing some of those bikes being given to kids whose lives will be changed by having those bikes.
- A kid in my neighborhood needed money for treatment. A teenage boy in my town — I’ve met him and know his parents a little, but that’s it — has really aggressive Hodgkins Lymphoma. And no great way to pay for treatment. So I did a weekend-long fundraiser where the proceeds from my new book went to his treatment. I sold more books that weekend than I have before or since.
- The American Fork Canyon Half Marathon: Last summer I was on the organizing committee for a new local half marathon in my community, with all proceeds designed to go to local people who could not otherwise afford cancer treatment. Even in its inaugural year, we netted $50K.
What all of these things have in common is that they are really small, targeted, achievable missions. They’re things people can understand and get behind, and then celebrate and say, “I made a difference, and there’s something I can point to to show what that difference is.”
And what I would really love to do is — both personally and with my readers — engage in more of these kinds of projects.
While I can (and definitely will) fundraise with my team toward the LiveStrong Challenges, I wonder if that’s really the most powerful way for me to help. I wonder if maybe there’s some small, targeted mission a guy with 20,000 daily readers might be able to accomplish with LiveStrong. Something we (you, me, my readers) can point at and say, “We saw a problem, we attacked it, and we made a difference.”
It’s the kind of thing that gets people energized to do more. This is a lot to chew on — probably too much. But I appreciate your taking the time to read it.
I look forward to helping LiveStrong, in any way I can.
Elden “Fatty” Nelson
Doug replied right away, inviting me to an event that happened last week — The LiveStrong Assembly — saying he thought it would be a great place for me to find exactly that kind of project to get behind.
And he was right.
Meet Camp Kesem
One of LiveStrong’s Community Impact Partners is Camp Kesem, a (from their website) “college-student run summer camp for kids with a parent who has (or has had) cancer. [The] one-week sleep away camps are a chance for kids 6-13 to have a fun-filled week and just be kids.
Camp Kesem (“Kesem” is Hebrew for “magic”) was represented in force at the LiveStrong Assembly; I got to know some of the counsellors, and I got to understand their mission: letting kids who’ve been affected by having a parent with cancer catch up on being a kid.
As a dad of kids who mostly remember their mom as someone who was sick or dying, the idea of this camp really resonates with me.
And it resonates with Doug Ulman, too — here we are together, wearing very awesome Camp Kesem headbands (which are acquired by making a $5 donation to Camp Kesem):
Right now, there are 23 Camp Kesems across the U.S., and they’re looking to add more all the time.
But they need help.
And that’s what this year’s 100 Miles of Nowhere is going to do.
What I want to do with this year’s 100 Miles of Nowhere is raise $30,000. That money will go to LiveStrong, which will then turn around and donate it to Camp Kesem.
And Camp Kesem will use part of that money to launch a brand new camp — one in Southern Utah, which I’ll be sending the twins to this year (so watch for their camp report late this August).
And the balance of that money will go toward sending kids to existing camps (no child has to pay to Camp Kesem).
I hate the way a parent’s cancer robs kids of what should be a fun, carefree time in their lives.
And I love the simple, direct way Camp Kesem is addressing this: by giving kids some of that fun, carefree time back.
And I appreciate you joining me for the 100 Miles of Nowhere. As always, we’ll have fun. As always, we’ll be doing something in the fight against cancer. But this year, we’ll be getting a little more specific about who we’re helping, and how.
I don’t do a lot of reviews on this blog. Partially, that’s because I tell everyone who asks about sending me something my policy on returning stuff, which is: “I don’t return anything.” I used to have good intentions and intend to return things, but I finally realized that I’m just too lazy to re-box anything and send it back.
Part of it is that I’m not qualified to review many things.
Part of it is that when I review stuff, it brings out my cranky side; for no reason I can adequately explain, I tend to get downright mean when I start reviewing things. Sometimes after reviewing something, it takes me days to return to my incredibly loveable normal self.
And part of it is that most of the time someone sends me a press release with a “Contact me for more information if you’re interested,” I don’t contact the PR person. Because I’m not interested.
In the case of the Cardo BK-1, however, I was interested. Because the Cardo BK-1 is a new mike / speakers / radio setup designed for bike helmets. Using them, a couple (or three) riders are supposed to be able to easily talk with each other, hands-free. Not to mention listen to music or take calls on your phone via Bluetooth.
The most obvious difference between a helmet with the BK-1 is the mike boom on your right side.
I liked the idea of being able to talk with other riders without shouting over wind noise, and then having to repeat myself – or shouting at the other rider to repeat herself – several times over.
So I said I’d be interested in trying these out. [Full Disclosure: Cardo sent me two of the Cardo BK-1 DUO at no charge. However, lots of people send me stuff at no charge, with no assurance I will write anything. I only write about stuff I really like, or really hate.]
In Short: What It Does
The BK-1 uses a combination of Bluetooth (to stream audio to and from your phone) and radio (to communicate with other BK-1) devices to communicate “up to 500 yards” (we never got that good of range before losing each other entirely, and when mountain biking would lose each other whenever a bend or rise in the mountain would make it so we didn’t have each other in line-of-sight).
The BK-1 is full-duplex, which means you can talk and hear at the same time, so you can interrupt each other and stuff. Each set also has an A and B channel, which means that if there are two of you, you can each use your B channel to listen to music or take a phone call (or listen to GPS voice instructions from your phone). If there are three people using BK-1s, one of the people has to act as the conferencing hub, using both A and B channel (so no background music for that person).
The BK-1 is supposed to get seven hours of talk time, and while we haven’t tested out the BK-1 for that long of a ride (yet!), we have tested it out for three- and four-hour rides with near-continuous talk; on a full charge, I expect you could get at least five hours of conversation on the BK-1. The radio uses a rechargeable battery, recharged via a micro-USB port (through which firmware updates will eventually also be available).
The BK-1 is voice-activated, so when you want to talk, just talk to wake the system up and start talking.
One of the things I liked about the BK-1 was apparent when I first opened the carrying case (the packaging for the product is also a zippered, padded carrying case, which is useful as well as not wasteful): it comes with lots of “spare” parts for the headset, as if they knew that in the real world, little parts can wear out or get lost. So there’s an extra spongy windguard thingy for the mike boom. There are a lot of extra adhesive-backed Velcro strips for mounting the headphone-like speakers and mike. And there are various lengths of Velcro straps for mounting the radio on the top of your helmet (along with a good instruction book describing how to route those straps on different kinds of helmets).
As it turned out I would need some of those spare parts before I ever used the BK-1 for the first time, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
The BK-1 is easy to set up. Peel the adhesive backing off a couple Velcro strips and stick them to the inside left and right sides of your helmet, toward the back. Wait ten minutes for the adhesive to cure, then stick the left speaker – which is at the end of a flexible gooseneck-y cable so you can easily position it by your ear – to the Velcro inside your helmet. Do the same thing for the speaker / mike boom on the right side of the helmet. Then strap the radio to the top of your helmet, and plug the wires from each side of the headset into the radio.
So all that’s fine, so far. It only took a few minutes, so your helmet now looks like this:
But there are some things about the setup process that you should take into account if you’re going to get yourself a BK-1:
- Size matters . The first helmet I tried setting the Cardo BK-1 up on was my Giro Prolight helmet, which does not have adjustable straps, nor any real padding. It’s a very minimal helmet, and either fits you or it doesn’t (it fits me just great and is so light as to truly feel like I have no helmet on at all). With the Velcro straps and the headset attached on the inside, my already-snug ProLight wouldn’t fit at all anymore. So if your helmet is already a close fit and cannot be adjusted with smaller pads and loosened straps, the BK-1 may push your helmet into the too-small category. (I was able to set up the BK-1 on my other helmet and make it fit without difficulty by simply loosening the Roc-Loc strap on the back of the helmet).
- You’ll want it to be permanent : Setting the headset up only takes a few minutes, but I can’t imagine taking a few minutes to attach a radio to my helmet, attaching two speakers to the helmet, routing the speaker cables through the vents and then plugging them in . . . every time I wanted to use the BK-1. It would be too much of a hassle.
- It’s got to be permanent anyway : When I tried to peel apart the Velcro attaching the speaker to the helmet, the Velcro attached to the inside of the helmet came off instead. It wasn’t because the adhesive was weak, either. No, the problem is that the Styrofoam in your helmet is weaker than the adhesive and the Velcro, so that’s what lets go first. (This wasn’t an isolated incident, either; the IT Guy had the exact same thing happen to him).
- Pairing: Radios have to be paired to each other. It’s pretty easy to do, but since it involves looking at flashing lights on your helmet, it’s something you’ve got to do before you put the helmet on, obviously.
So basically, if you’re planning to use the BK-1, you should probably dedicate a helmet to it. Pick (or get) one that has room to be adjusted for size, then set up the BK-1 really well (tie down the otherwise free-floating cables, for example) and just leave it on there, ready to use whenever you want to ride and talk with others.
Just Riding Along
Once you’ve got the BK-1 mounted to your helmet, the hard part is really over. Turning the system on is a 1-button push, and adjusting the speakers so they’re near your ears is as simple as bending them into place – you can either place them right by your ears (the way I prefer) or with some extra distance between them and your ears (the way The Hammer and The IT Guy prefer).
Either way, the first thing you notice as you ride and start talking with each other is that . . . the BK-1 works great. You can hear each other really well – nice, clear and loud (volume is adjustable by big, easy-to-find buttons on the top of the radio).
Wind noise – which I assumed would be an enormous problem with a helmet-mounted intercom – is no problem whatsoever.
You don’t have to talk in an abnormally-loud, especially clear voice. You just talk. In fact, you can talk quietly. Even whisper. So talking while riding doesn’t take anywhere near the lung power it normally does. And since the headset consists of speakers near your ears instead of in your ears, you don’t get the isolating effect you normally get with headphones; you can hear ambient sounds just fine.
Voices aren’t “clipped” (when the beginning or end of something someone says is cut off), either – something I was worried would be a problem.
Since a radio and two speakers are added to the weight of the helmet, I was concerned that weight would be a problem – kind of like the way a helmet-mounted light or camera starts feeling heavy on your head (or makes your helmet shift into a bad position) after a few hours. The BK-1, though, has its weight distributed around the helmet (with the speaker weight essentially balancing each other out) well enough that I haven’t noticed a weight problem yet.
Basically, the BK-1 makes it really nice and easy for people who are riding together to actually hold a conversation, without having to ride side-by-side (a problem on the road), or right on top of each other (a problem on the dirt).
Of course, this is a first-generation product, and so using the BK-1 wasn’t always totally perfect. When we got far enough apart to lose signal between each other, re-connecting was sometimes automatic when we got back to within range, and sometimes it wasn’t. At that point, we’d have to press the channel button to re-connect, but the re-connect process was slow enough that we’d start to wonder whether we’d done it right and press the button again, thus probably starting the process over.
The buttons have LED status indicators telling you the connection status, but they’re hard to see in daylight, and in any case, they’re on top of your head so you can’t see them yourself anyway. Maybe a voice interface would make more sense for something like this?
While voice levels were always nice and loud, the volume level for music streamed over Bluetooth comes in very quiet. (A related wish: it’d be really nice to have the option to have music continue streaming behind voices.)
The most persistent problem, however, was interference when we were mountain biking. When there was a hill or bend or rock or thick trees between riders, audio would get very sketchy or drop out altogether. Our rule of thumb became that the BK-1 was great as long as you had each other in view.
The strangest problem, though, would be when we stopped close to each other and talked. I was worried there would be a terrible feedback problem when this happened, but there was none of this at all. It was just peculiar to hear the other person’s actual voice, followed a split second later by the voice coming through your speakers.
Oh, and when we stopped and talked to strangers on the side of a trail, they looked at us as if were were space aliens.
Which, of course, I am.
You’d almost have to buy these in pairs (that’s the BK-1 DUO), unless you and all your friends are buying these. Or if you were buying it specifically as a solution for listening to music and talking on the phone while on your bike.
We actually really like these BK-1s. Since we’ve gotten them, The Hammer and I have used them on every ride we’ve been on together. If you want to talk while you ride, and are tired of yelling “What?” over wind and road / trail noise, you’ll find these a really effortless way to chat while on the bike.
It’s surprising how quickly I’ve gotten used to using the BK-1. The Hammer and I went on a 4.5 hour ride last weekend, but – wanting to see how long the batteries would last – didn’t charge the batteries before we started the ride. So, about three hours into the ride, the batteries died. After the ride, we both remarked how we had gotten used to being able to just say something in a quiet voice, and have the other person hear it.
Is the Cardo BK-1 necessary? Totally not. But – especially if you like combining conversing with your cycling – it’s fun. And you get used to having it amazingly quickly. The Hammer and IT Guy especially like these – he’s a chatterbox, and she loves catching up with her son while riding. Maybe this’ll come off as a little cheesy, but the BK-1 can bring a little more “quality” to your riding quality time.
What you say to one another is of course up to you, but I recommend continuous heavy breathing. Or yelling, nonstop, “Venga! Venga! Venga!”
Or possibly, in the lowest voice you can muster, “Luke. I am your father.”
The Cardo BK-1 costs $274.95; the BK-1 DUO ( which comes with two of the headsets) is $479.95. For more information and where to buy, go to the Cardo BK-1 website here.