How Climby is Your Climbiest Ride?

07.30.2012 | 8:55 am

I often think about how lucky I am to live where I live. “As a guy who loves riding both road and mountain bikes, and loves riding them in the mountains, I could not have picked a better place to live,” I tell myself.

For example, a couple weekends ago, I rode what I call “The Gauntlet Deluxe,” a 97-mile ride with 11,497 feet of climbing. Here’s the elevation profile for that ride:


And a few weeks earlier than that, I rode over Suncrest and then up a couple of canyons to a couple of ski resorts and back. That was a 95-mile ride with 11,318 feet of climbing. The elevation profile looks like this:


These are totally different rides, but they have a few things in common:

  1. They’re right around 100 miles
  2. They start and end at home
  3. They’re really, really hard

As I do rides like this, I often think to myself, “Wow, this is really stupid of me, and I am way over my head.”

But when I’m not thinking that, I think to myself that I live in a pretty amazing place for this kind of cycling.

But is it the most amazing place for this kind of riding? Maybe. Maybe not. I really don’t know.

Show Me Whatcha Got

But I’d be interested in finding out what kind of mountainous riding other people have available to them, right out their front door.

So why don’t you show me (or tell me, because I am a very trusting person) what your awesomest out-the-door climbing ride is? And I‘ll give a new FatCyclist jersey to the person with the climbiest ride of all.

Just a few rules.

  1. The ride must start and end at your home. It can be a loop or an out-and-back.
  2. The ride must be no more than 100 miles long.
  3. The ride cannot climb any road or trail more than once.

If you’re the winner, you’ve got to be prepared to prove the ride exists and satisfies the rules. That’s fair, right?

And bonus points if you’ve actually done the ride, have pictures and a story.

This contest ends end of day Tuesday.

PS: “Flatlander Boobie Prize” prize will be given to first person who can demonstrate that there’s no possible way for them to climb more than 100 feet if they satisfy all the satisfy the rules above. What is the “Flatlander Boobie Prize?” I don’t know yet, but I bet it’s cool enough to warrant submitting the entry.


Free Verse Friday: Soulmates

07.27.2012 | 12:38 pm

201207271130.jpgA Note from Fatty: It’s interesting how you wind up making new friends. For example, back in my “I Have Created a Monster” post, I mentioned that The Hammer couldn’t quite surpass Erica Tingey’s QOM on Clark’s Trail (she has since rectified that issue, by the way).

And then a commenter pointed out that Erica Tingey was recovering from a serious bike crash. So I linked to her site and wished her a speedy recovery. After which she posted a nice blog post of her own, wishing The Hammer success in her riding.

And now we’re friends. Cool!

So a few days ago, Erica (now recovered) emailed me, saying she was putting on a mountain bike skills clinic, and she’d love to have The Hammer attend (and also, could I give the clinic a plug on my website?).

Now, you should know this about The Hammer: she’s blazing fast on the flats and climbs, but a little timid on the descents. So she was in fact stoked to have the opportunity to attend this class.

And the cool thing is, Erica’s going to give a free entry to this clinic to another of my readers. ‘Cuz in addition to being a wicked-fast pro MTB-er, she’s also really nice.

Erica will be putting on two clinics: a women’s-only clinic (that’s the one The Hammer will be attending) on August 6 at 5:30pm, and a Co-ed clinic August 22nd at 5:30pm.

For each of these clinics, you’ll get a two-hour skills camp, and then a home-cooked Paleo meal, courtesy of

So how do you either register for the clinics or for a shot at attending one of these clinics for free? Easy: head on over to

  • To register for the clinic, Click on the “Clinics” tab from the home page, or just click here to go to the registration page.
  • To register for the drawing for the free clinic, just register for her newsletter (the signup is right on her home page). Make sure you sign up before the end of Monday (July 30) to be eligible for the drawing, OK?

I’m looking forward to finding out what The Hammer learns, although I’m a little uneasy at the prospect of her cleaning my clock on the descents.

And now, let’s get on with Free Verse Friday, shall we?


I believe
With all my heart
And head
That for each person in the world
Somewhere there is someone
Who fits you perfectly
Your soulmate

Am I a romantic?
A fool for love?
Perhaps, perhaps
But I have found that someone
So who’s the fool now?
Huh? Who’s the fool now, tough guy?

I am so sorry
I am emotional
I get this way
When I talk about my soulmate
Which is, of course The
Carbon 29

Oh how I love
Even saying her name

At seventeen pounds
She compensates
For my largeness
I climb
With alacrity
In spite of myself

But lightness
Is only one of
Her many virtues
For she is beautiful

She has everything she needs
And nothing she does not
She is the paragon of sufficiency
XTR brakes and cranks
A Niner carbon fork
Hubs by Chris King
Rims by Stan’s
A red Salsa chainring
(a surprise from Racer when he built her)
If this does not sound like poetry to you
You have no heart

And when we are together
This bike fits me like no other
When I sit I am at ease
When I stand I can fly
Together we descend
Faster than you
Might expect

I have bikes not a few
And I love them one and all
But this is the bike I choose
More than any other
I make no excuse
I love this bike
I love this bike
I love her

And when we are together
I am happy
This bike feels right
To me
It is so simple
As that

I have wondered
What bike I should ride
in the Leadville 100
This year

How could I wonder?
Am I not fit?
Have I not finished sub-nine With gears?
Have I not one last challenge to face?
A sub-nine on a singlespeed
Could there be a better bike for this
Than her?

No, of course not.
Singlespeed it is
On this bike
With this gearing:
34 x 19
There I’ve said it

I know that others
Will read this poem
And find lust in their hearts
For who would not envy her?

But that’s too bad
Because this Stumpy SS
Is super-limited in production
And there’s no way
You’re getting one
Talk to Specialized;
They should make thousands of these

Instead you must find
Your own soulmate bicycle
It is out there
And you cannot
Have mine.

Thank you.


Considering Options

07.26.2012 | 11:23 am

photo.JPGA “Fight Cancer, Win Cool Stuff” Note from Fatty: My friend — and hotshot producer of TNT’s Leverage — Paul Guyot is fundraising for Pedal The Cause. This is a pretty awesome event with 100% of donations being divided between Siteman Cancer Center and St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Paul’s got a great reason to hate cancer and raise money toward the fight against it: both his wife’s parents were killed by cancer last year.

And his son, “Bucky” (he’s the one on the right in the picture here) is joining him in this ride. Which I think is pretty amazing.

Paul’s got some nice incentives you should take a look at, too. And since I’m far too lazy to write about them myself, I’m just going to cut and paste from Paul’s donation page:

Not only will your donation help children and assist in finding a cure for cancer, but you could win some very cool prizes!

For every $10 you donate, you will receive 1 entry into a drawing to win one of the following:

  • An actual script from the hit TNT series LEVERAGE autographed by Timothy Hutton and the entire cast!
  • ARRIVA LEO Bluetooth Sport wireless headphones! If you don’t know, Arriva Leo’s are AWESOME and endorsed by [Note from Fatty: It’s true — my Leos are at least partially responsible for what is widely regarded as freakishly fast time on a popular MTB climbing TT) as well as thousands of others. Thank you to ARRIVA for donating TWO of these amazing prizes!!!
  • A $40 gift card to the restaurant of your choice. ANYWHERE in the United States!

Paul’s a great guy. Cancer sucks. These are awesome prizes. So I highly recommend you go find $10 bucks (or $20 or whatever) and donate now. Thanks!

Considering Options

Earlier this week, I posted about my frustration with Cigna as I’m trying to get the right level of treatment for my son’s depression.

I’ve been trying hard to not let the rage (yes, actual rage, which is weird for a person who is decidedly non-rage-y) dominate me. I even made myself sit down and write a fun post yesterday.

But yesterday afternoon I got a couple calls: one from Cigna, one from the doctor in charge of my son’s treatment. They both were saying essentially the same thing: We had escalated the appeals as high as they escalate, and the answer was the same: no.

So now I need to figure out what to do next. And honestly, I really will not be able to write anything fun or interesting ’til I get this sorted out in my own head, so bear with me.

Option 1: Do What Cigna Says

Cigna says they’ll pay for a reduced level of support — basically about 1/3 of what my son’s doing in the program he’s in now. But the thing is, my son’s really doing well in the program he’s in, and I’m not interested in pulling him out and seeing if he’ll continue to improve if we do less for him. Since this program has seen the first real improvement in his outlook in about five years, I want to stick with it — not swap out to something cheaper and assume that Cigna knows best for my son.

Option 2: Hope HR Pulls Through

The HR department at my company is negotiating with Cigna. I’m not really privy to what they’re doing or how it’s going (though I hope to hear something today).

Option 3: Go Nuclear With Legal

I could hire a lawyer and see whether that would get Cigna’s attention. But even if that resolves the problem for me eventually, it will mean considerable stress and time between now and then. And there’s no guarantee that it will resolve my way, in which case I am now on the hook not just for my son’s treatment but for attorney fees.

I’m not taking this option off the table, but I really hope to avoid it.

Option 4: Pay for Treatment Myself Plus Help from Family

I have a little money saved and a 401K I could raid, and my mom says she could pitch in. Between us, we could pay for my son’s treatment for up to six weeks or so. But I’m really reluctant to raid my mom’s savings (even though she’s been super generous in offering it).

Option 5: Fundraise

My readers have shown, time and time again, how generous they are through the various fundraisers I’ve done. My guess is that if I were to do a contest / fundraiser to cover my son’s treatment, my readers would help me out.

But I don’t like this idea much.

A while back when I decided I could and should use my blog as a soapbox to champion causes I care about, part of the bargain I made with myself was that I would use this to help other people, not to make money for me. And while it could be argued that if I did do such a fundraiser it would be for my son — not me — it’s a slippery slope. I’d rather not get near that slope.

Option 6: Sell Susan’s Novel

Once Susan’s cancer had metastasized and slowed her down so it was hard for her to do much outside, she directed her energy into writing a novel. She got about 95% of it written before the cancer got to her brain and made it so she couldn’t write anymore.

As she worked on writing the book, I promised Susan that if she got it written, I’d get it published. I had a plan on how and where I’d publish this, but maybe this would be a better use.

I am pretty sure that she’d be really pleased to know that the proceeds of her work were dedicated to helping her son.

I like this idea quite a bit. But I don’t know what people will think of reading a novel that ends without an ending.

Option 7: Pre-Sell Fight Like Susan

I’ve been planning to compile the posts about Susan’s fight with cancer, along with commentary and the parts I couldn’t / didn’t write because it was too hard at the time.

I’ve been hoping to have that book finished and ready by the end of the year, but I’ll need money for my son’s treatment before then. If I did pre-orders on the book now for a book that wouldn’t be arriving for several months, would that be a big problem? I don’t know.

I do think Susan would like that the story of her fight eventually helped her son.

I’m sure I haven’t considered all the options. I do know I want to keep my son in the program he’s in; I’m interested in your thoughts on things I’m considering, and ideas for what my next move ought to be.

An Open Letter to the US Forest Service, I Think

07.25.2012 | 12:23 pm

Dear US Forest Service,

First off, I think I might owe you a little apology. See, I’m not exactly sure whether you’re the right people to be sending this letter to. I think it’s probably you, but maybe I should be sending this to the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Or maybe this should be going to the Department of Transportation. That could make sense, unless I should be sending it to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

On the other hand, maybe the State Parks people should be the ones reading this. Or, possibly, the Department of Roadway Design.

Kinda hard to say, honestly. Maybe after you read this letter you’ll do me the favor of sending this on to the people who should be reading it.

If it’s not you, I mean. Which it might be. Possibly.

Climb, Interrupted

Last weekend, The Hammer and I (joined by the IT Guy for the second half of the ride) went on a big ol’ training ride: The Gauntlet Supreme. Starting from home, we ride up American Fork Canyon to Granite Flat, up to the summit of the Alpine Loop, down to Cascade Springs, back up to the summit of the Alpine Loop, down to Provo Canyon, up and down Squaw Peak, up Provo Canyon, up and down South Fork, and then up the Sundance side of the Alpine loop and down the AF side, and — finally! — back to home.

Here’s what it looks like on a map:


It kinda looks like a man holding a bell, doesn’t it? At least a little bit?

Along the way, there’s a fair amount of climbing. And descending. Indeed, since we wind up where we started the ride, I believe it could be said that the amount of climbing and descending are practically identical. Here’s what it looks like:


That’s a pretty jagged-looking elevation chart. Which is fine. We signed up for all that climbing, so we aren’t going to complain about it.

No, just kidding. Actually almost the whole rest of this letter is going to be complaining. So you might want to brace yourself for that.

See, there’s one particular part of this ride that just seems . . . well, wrong: The Cascade Spring climb.

No, the problem isn’t with the scenery; the scenery is gorgeous. The problem isn’t with traffic; since this seven-mile road goes nowhere but to a small (but beautiful and well-worth seeing in its own right) park, there’s rarely any traffic at all. The problem isn’t even with the pavement; there are some cracks with weeds growing through, but they aren’t really a problem.

The problem is with the elevation profile.

As a refresher, take a look at what this seven-mile climb looks like, elevation-wise:


On second thought, that elevation profile isn’t very dramatic; it certainly doesn’t reflect the steepness I feel when I climb that sucker. Instead, take a look at mile 28 -35 from this closeup of the elevation chart for the whole ride we did:


Do you see the problem now?

You don’t?

Well, that’s because you don’t ride a bike, US Forest Service (or whoever). Which is understandable, I guess, because it would be weird to see the US Forest Service on a bike. And probably very uncomfortable for you.

I’m getting sidetracked. Let me get back to my point.

The problem with the Cascade Springs Climb is that it has a nice one-mile descent, right in the middle of the climb. The result being that you climb three miles, descend one mile, and then climb three more miles to get to the summit.

“I fail to see the problem,” I can imagine you saying, US Forest Service (or etc.). “You should be thanking us! We gave you a nice little break in the middle of a very difficult climb — in fact, that break comes right before the hardest part of the climb. We’ve given you the opportunity to rest up before beginning the second three miles of climbing.”

And that just goes to show, US Forest Service, that you don’t understand what is going on in the mind of cyclists when we are doing a big climb.

Allow me to clear that up, for your future reference.

The Problem With Short Descents Between Big Climbs

See, when cyclists start big, long climbs, we steel ourselves for what is to come. “Seven miles of climbing,” we tell ourselves. “We’re going to grind it out, grit our teeth, grind it out, weave all over the place, and otherwise haul ourselves up this road ’til we get to the top.”

And we do it. We bribe ourselves, lie to ourselves, convince ourselves, argue with ourselves, and otherwise hold internal dialogues that would frighten priests and psychiatrists alike. Whatever it takes to keep the legs turning until we get to the top.

But just suppose that right in the middle of this dramatic and traumatic and superhuman effort, the climb ends?

And instead of climbing and suffering and gnashing our teeth, we are coasting effortlessly downhill?

The storm of emotions is just too much to take.

First, there’s elation: “Wheee! I no longer hurt! And instead of 4.8mph, I’m going thirty! I am so happy!”

But then there’s distress: “This descent ends in just one mile. At 30mph, that’s just two minutes before I have to climb again. I don’t want to start climbing again in two minutes. I don’t want to start climbing again at all.

And then, finally, there’s the horror at the dawn of understanding: “Wait a second. By having a descent in the middle of a climb, I’m effectively having to re-climb altitude that I have already earned.”

It is at this moment that the weeping usually begins.

For while cyclists are — for some reason — OK with earning a big chunk of altitude all at once, it is with the expectation that we will get to spend it all at once, as well. Here, instead, we descend just long enough for our legs to fall out of the rhythm of climbing. To let the lactic acid pool up. To realize, fully and completely, that we’re tired.

And then we have to start climbing again. Climbing up to a height we already climbed up, just a couple minutes ago.

Whimpering and complaining is not only common, it’s expected.


US Forest Service (…), I am not the kind of person who identifies a problem without suggesting solutions. I have two excellent ideas, either of which I believe can be executed with a minimum of expense and effort.

Idea 1: Bridge: My first idea would be the simplest and most straightforward to execute: simply build a cycling bridge, spanning the beginning of the descent to the equivalent spot in altitude a couple miles down (and then up) the road:


I think the benefits of doing this are as obvious as they are compelling. First, cyclists (i.e., me) still get a nice little break from the climbing — when you’ve been climbing hard, flat really does feel like downhill. Second, finishing times for this climb would shrink drastically, causing cyclists to feel much better about themselves and their state of fitness without having to resort to ridiculous measures like doping or training more.

Further, I believe that if you build this bridge you’ll bring curious people from all over the world to see this two-mile wonder. Certainly, the surge of tourist dollars will more than offset the minor costs you might incur by building this bridge.

One last note regarding this bridge: I think you should make it out of carbon fiber. It’s both strong and light.

Idea 2: Redistribution: While I believe my first idea is a good one, I must be honest with myself and admit that it is really nothing more than a half-measure. To really and truly fix the problem, you’re going to need a big shovel.

A really big shovel:


Where the “bridge” idea simply eliminates redundant climbing on this road, filling in the unneccessary descent and subsequent climb with what was previously the top of the mountain actually reduces the total amount of climbing required.

Consider: Right now cyclists must make a thousand-foot climb, descend 300 feet, and then make a 1200 foot climb. That’s 2200 feet of climbing. With my “Repurpose the Mountain Summit” plan, however, we’ll climb up a thousand feet or so, catch our breath on the two-mile flat section, and then make a 500 foot climbing push to the new, lower, and flatter summit.

That’s 1500 feet of climbing — a savings of 700 feet.

Honestly, I don’t even think I need to explain how perfect an idea this is. In fact, I am currently agog at my own brilliance.

US Forest etc., I believe I have presented a compelling case; I can see no reason why you would not begin work on this immediately, even at the expense of in-progress projects. This is that important.

I look forward to climbing the new and (drastically) improved Cascade Spring climb.

Kind Regards,


The Fat Cyclist

My Son, Depression, and Cigna

07.23.2012 | 1:54 pm

This is the time of year when I have the best ideas for blog entries. I’m on my bike a lot, and as I ride, funny and interesting thoughts seem to just occur to me, usually a couple of them per ride. The biggest challenge I have is remembering all the ideas long enough after the ride that I can jot them down to do the post on later.

I currently have a backlog of 18 post ideas; it makes sitting down and actually writing this blog so easy, because instead of the “what should I write about today?” question, I get to choose which idea I want to write about.

So this morning I sat down and started doing the Photoshop work for the post I wanted to write (illustrations were necessary for this idea).

And that’s when I got the call from Cigna, the insurance company my employer uses.

Cigna says that as of today, they will no longer cover the program my son is in to help with his severe depression.

And obviously I am no longer in a mood to write anything funny at all.

A Little About Depression

Depression comes hand in hand with cancer. One of the things I haven’t talked about in this blog (but will in my Fight Like Susan book) is the depression Susan had to battle after she finished treatment the first time she had cancer.

It was around that time that my son started showing signs of depression, too.

Now, many years — and doctor visits and therapists and psychiatrists — later, he’s still fighting depression, which has only become worse, to the point that it is essentially debilitating.

A Program That Works

But I recently found a program that was helping. A comprehensive program, with academic, therapeutic, and psychiatric aspects combined. For the past two weeks, he’s been there eight hours a day, five days a week.

His progress hasn’t been fast — you don’t overcome depression fast — but it has been progress, for the first time, ever.

And that’s where the phone call from Cigna comes in. They believe he doesn’t need this level of treatment. It isn’t medically necessary. Visits to a psychiatrist and maybe a counsellor should be sufficient.

Right, because that’s been so successful so far.

No Help

Today we did what is called an “expedited appeal,” which is where the doctor that’s working with my son talks with one of Cigna’s doctors and tries to convince the Cigna doctor that my son actually needs the help he’s getting — that it’s not just for entertainment or free babysitting or whatever.

The Cigna doctor turned down the doctor caring for my son immediately and easily, saying that since my son is not in “imminent danger” — he is not actively attempting to kill himself — this level of care is unnecessary. A weekly visit to his therapist should do the trick.


Please Help

So now we’re at the next level of appeal. The doctor caring for Brice isn’t particularly hopeful; Cigna seems to be pretty comfortable with the word “no.”

After that, I have to start looking at other options. Raiding my 401K. Asking parents for money. Telling my son I’m sorry, but he’ll just have to soldier on as best as he can. After all, it’s not like depression is a real disease, and it’s not like he has cause, right? Buck up, kid.

OK, that last sentence started letting the anger and bitterness out a little bit more than I wanted. I’m going to leave it in there just so you can see what I’m trying to hold back here.

So, maybe you can help. Maybe you work at Cigna, or know someone who does. Or maybe you might want to email them or tweet something to @Cigna and @Cignaquestions.

I don’t know if any of that will help. I really don’t. Maybe it will even make things worse for me.

But this is my son.

And this is what Cigna is supposed to do.

And they’re not doing it.

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