Free Verse Friday: Ode to 17mph

07.20.2012 | 7:00 am

photo-2.JPGA Note from Fatty: Today’s Free Verse Friday poem was sent in by Tim Kalafut (pictured in the center of this picture with his family).

Like, he sent it back in May. As a testament to it’s memorableness, I remembered it all the way ’til now.

It isn’t just art. It’s truth. And it’s pretty funny (because it’s true), too.

Thus, I am pleased to present the first guest Free Verse Friday submission, which is aptly titled:

Ode to 17mph
An Epic Free Form Poem (Iambic Pentameter Is Way Too Hard)
by Tim Kalafut   

I have a nifty bike
With a computer that I like.
It tracks my average speed,
And lots more data than I need.

But it seems no matter what I do
I hate to say it, but it’s true –
When I ride, I average 17 miles per hour.
(Plus or minus 0.5)

I can ride for 15 miles in the evening after work.
Or, 105 miles in a day to Fight MS!
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can take “performance enhancing pharmaceuticals.”
Or, not.
(I would fail a pee test right now in the TdF
As my #1-guard-on-the-clipper haircut combined with
Too much time in the bike helmet has resulted in
“Folliculitis of the scalp” and my wife is repulsed
By the top of my head, so the doc gave me a
Corticosteroid shampoo.
She hasn’t noticed any performance benefits.
Nor has the bike computer.)
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can ride on fancy wheels –
$1500 super light weight climbers,
$2500 borrowed fancy aero wheels.
Or, I can ride on the $100 flexible cast iron hoops the bike came with.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can “taper” my training to prepare my body
To be in perfect condition for a given ride.
Or, I can run in a 5K race in the morning
Wherein I pull a calf muscle and limp the last 2.5 miles
And then ride 54 miles later that day.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can ride solo, accompanied only by my thoughts.
Or, with studly fitness types that are 15 years younger than me.
(I’m talking about you, David and Phil and Mike)
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can ride in the drops and use the big ring.
Or, I can sit up using the hoods
(Or even rest my hands the top of the handle bar!)
And pedal along all nice and relaxed in the small ring.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can consume exotic nutritional supplements –
Like “gels” and “gus” and “power bars” and “shot blocks.”
Or, I can ride fueled only by the fat stored in my spare tire.
(Be careful of Stinger Waffles. Bike food crack.)
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can stand up and attack the hills.
Or, I can sit and spin my way up in an easy gear.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can use “chamois butter.”
Or, ride dry.
(Don’t ask for an explanation if you don’t know.)
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

The temperature can be in the 40’s and I’m
Wearing two pairs of gloves, shoe covers, helmet liners, tights,
And three layers on my torso.
Or, it can be in the 90’s and I’m
Wearing the thinnest jersey I can find
And dumping water down it to stay cool.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can ride my normal rolling terrain.
Or, I can climb 1500 feet in 4 miles,
Followed by glorious 30+ mph
Screaming downhill descents without
A single pedal stroke for that same distance.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can be 170 pounds where you can see – Hey! –
I actually have muscles in my shoulders and veins in my arms!
Or, I can be 185 pounds and look as spongy as the Pillsbury Doughboy.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can take breaks every 15-20 miles,
And even stop for lunch.? Or, I can ride 40-50 miles straight
And never unclip to touch a toe to the ground a single time.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

It can be breezy enough to turn every flag I pass into a windsock
Suitable for landing light aircraft.
Or, so hot and humid and still that my glasses fog up every time I stop.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can do “proper carb loading” a few days ahead of time,
Or, I can stuff myself with BBQ and beer the night before.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

My legs can be smoothly shaved, perfectly tanned,
And clad in the latest fashion cycling socks.
Or, my legs can be all hairy and wearing old running socks
With holes in the toes.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can pedal at a theoretically perfect 90 rpm for miles at a time
In the perfect gear for every situation.
Or, I can mash the pedals at 60 rpm in the big ring
With bursts to 110 rpm in small gears as I fade on the hills.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I can set out to do a super intense,
Feel-the-burn, intervals-that-make-you-want-to-puke
Workout with a max heart rate
Fit only for an 18 year old middle distance track star.
Or, I can enjoy the scenery
And leave the heart rate strap at home,
Riding just to clear my head.
I ride 17 mph. (Average, ±0.5)

I don’t know if 17 mph is slow or fast.
Or, whether it’s good for first or last.
But if you’re out and about
And ever happen to see
Someone averaging 17 (±0.5)
Say “Hi” –
It’s probably me.


  1. Comment by the Putti | 07.20.2012 | 7:53 am

    Thanks for posting this Fatty!

    I can relate to Tim… except my 17 mph is 16.5 mph……

    Which, I’d like to point out, is 17mph, +/- 0.5. – FC

  2. Comment by Brian in VA | 07.20.2012 | 8:22 am

    A year of pushing the pedals
    Working to improve my technique
    Learning to pedal circles instead of squares
    Or Rhombi, or parallelograms.

    I eat better than ever before
    I work out 3 or 4 times a week
    And ride whenever I’ve got time and daylight
    Looking for the nirvana that is cycling.

    After all this work, and all these miles
    Which at 1500 probably doesn’t seem like much
    To many who read this blog
    I find that I’ve reached an average speed
    Of 17 mph (+/-.5)…and that’s all I’m likely to get.

    Thank you.

  3. Comment by Roger | 07.20.2012 | 8:22 am

    Wow, I didn’t realize there was something magic about the number 17. My average mph for this morning’s ride to work – 16.8.

  4. Comment by Jeremy G | 07.20.2012 | 8:24 am

    I can relate with that magic 17 number. And I thought it was just me. Well said.

  5. Comment by Lisa in Athens | 07.20.2012 | 8:29 am

    Two years of biking to Nowhere
    Hello, recumbent stationary bike
    Roughly every day riding,
    It seems that I, too, like
    17 MPH (+/- 0.5)

    Thank you.

  6. Comment by wharton_crew | 07.20.2012 | 9:12 am

    This post makes me smile -
    After riding mile upon mile -
    Staring at my own 17 mph pace
    And thinking I’m in last place.
    For reading Fatty’s blog,
    With all his racing logs -
    Had led me to thus believe
    That all cyclists’ average speed -
    Must be between 23-28
    In order to avoid self-hate.
    Those speeds I just can’t obtain -
    Thus leading to my self-disdain.
    But now I see there is some hope -
    Of pacelining up a slope,
    With some of my other 17ers
    While laughing at you faster wieners.

    Thank you.

  7. Comment by IBS Boy | 07.20.2012 | 9:29 am

    I love this post
    It makes me smile
    I’ll probably stay seated
    And read it a while.
    Fatty’s so cool for posting this here
    Because of this fact I give him a cheer.

    Thank you.

  8. Comment by AKChick55 | 07.20.2012 | 9:48 am

    That was awesomesauce! :) My average is 13-15 so I would never be able to pass someone going 17mph unless I had my trusty tandem pulling me along at 19mph. :)

    Happy Friday everyone! Summer has made a brief visit in Alaska. It hit 79.8 on my hilly ride the other night and was 78 at our house at 6:45 (yes, I realize that’s not very warm for most of you).

  9. Comment by Matt | 07.20.2012 | 10:06 am

    I left the house southbound
    about a quarter to five
    calm morning air enrobed me
    and my legs felt all alive.

    I have good legs!
    I rejoiced,
    and felt them, toned and lean
    “Today,” I thought might be the day
    to beat the curse of seventeen.

    (+/- 0.5)

    I spun down in to Hinesburg
    and past my boyhood home
    and on the climb to Monkton Ridge
    I saw the rising sun.
    No time to eat PB&J,
    nor bask in the morning gleam.
    “I’m on a mission” I said to myself,
    “to beat out seventeen.”

    (+/- 0.5)

    I spun on through down to Vergennes.
    I nearly missed my turn.
    To Comfort Hill and Botsford Road!
    I left the sunrise auburn.

    Northward bound now,
    up Route Seven,
    that ribbon of treacherous black!
    The wind picked up and my heart sank
    But wait,
    it was at my back!

    I’ve ridden through the Smuggler’s Notch,
    and to work each day
    on cross bike, fixie, fatbike and
    Through heat and cold and gray.
    But through it all I never saw
    rides so bucolic and serene.
    “Today,” I thought, “I break the curse
    of “average seventeen.”"

    (+/- 0.5)

    The wind kept pushing on Greenbush Road,
    Lake, and Bostwick as well.
    Flushed faces of the southbound riders
    belied their headwind hell.

    Now Shelburne Road, down through the Village,
    and the Allen Road hill climb. The wind was there at my bike- a teammate never so kind.

    To Swift and Dorset I proceeded,
    and back to my front yard fence.
    Stopping, I looked down at my Cateye
    Which displayed only cadence.

    I scrolled it over through time and mileage,
    standing on the driveway slate.
    And there it was, my average speed:

    Seventeen Point Eight!

  10. Comment by gargoyle | 07.20.2012 | 10:43 am

    I think “17 MPH (Average, ±0.5)” should be on next year’s Fat Cyclist jerseys.

  11. Comment by mykill | 07.20.2012 | 11:14 am

    i live among stoplights
    and crowds of people on bike and foot
    and hills that go mostly up
    (my kid once described the city
    as a big hill
    with a bunch of little hills on it)
    all obstacles that keep my average
    well below average, i’m sure

    (let’s don’t forget the engine,
    i’m on fatcyclist for a reason)

    but the Livestrong Davis Challenge
    had one stoplight! (Average, ±0.5)
    and was not crowded! (Average, ±0.5)
    and was flat! (Average, ±0.5)

    so i ran to my log to see
    if there i was able to keep pace
    with the crowd of 17!

    imagine my dismay to find
    an average of sixteen point nine.

  12. Comment by Diana | 07.20.2012 | 11:21 am

    I work with Tim and he’s awesome. And I bike with him on his MS Bike team, but my average is lower.

  13. Comment by Rebecca @ Sink Or Swim | 07.20.2012 | 12:58 pm


  14. Comment by Geo | 07.20.2012 | 1:58 pm

    The hot cycling term the last couple years, at least in mountain bikes, has been Twenty-niners. Now that this rings true for so many of us, I think we need to make Seventeeners the hot term.

  15. Comment by JRay | 07.20.2012 | 2:01 pm

    To know I am not alone In this curse of 17 (+/-0.5)
    Has brought my heart to full (+/-0.5)
    No longer will I be discouraged sliding back after my pull
    When ride is done and the beer is gone (+/-0.5)
    The computer stuck at 17.0 (+/-0.5)
    All will be well with my soul…

    Thank You

  16. Comment by Clydesteve | 07.20.2012 | 2:15 pm

    Well put, Tim! I am amused by all of the variables you took into account. Just checked my for the year – 16.61 mph, average; for July, 17.27 mph average. Both, 17(±0.5).

    So, this is not just true for you – it is true.

  17. Comment by Tim Kalafut | 07.20.2012 | 3:22 pm

    Wow! I had no idea so many people would relate to 17. Here is a century I did for Day 1 of an MS ride. Guess my average.

    Thanks for all the nice comments. I hadn’t written a poem since sophomore English in high school.

    If all of us 17ers got in a big pace line, we could probably ride forever. And we could tell our families exactly how long the ride would take us to finish.

  18. Comment by Rod Martin | 07.20.2012 | 4:32 pm

    Tim, if WE were in a paceline we could EASILY hit 17.6. Or so. Plus or minus 0.5

  19. Comment by Jim B | 07.20.2012 | 9:02 pm

    I think Tim needs to enter hill climbing competition. If he can keep is 17 mph (plus or minus 0.5) average going up five miles of 10% grade, he should be a winner.

    You are welcome.

  20. Comment by Tim | 07.21.2012 | 12:00 am

    Woohoo… there is hope for me yet… 17 here I come…

  21. Comment by the Putti | 07.21.2012 | 8:52 am

    29.5 mile ride this morning…. 16.9 mph average. Oh, and can we get Twin Six to design a 17 mph +/- .5 shirt?

  22. Comment by Bradley | 07.21.2012 | 9:14 am

    If you’re riding a time trial and happen to see
    Someone averaging 31 (±0.5)
    Say “Hi” –
    It’s probably me.

  23. Comment by Fuzz Martin | 07.21.2012 | 12:45 pm

    Hey, brother man,
    I feel your pain.
    I’m 270 pounds (±0.5)
    And the majority my rides are 17 mph ± 0.5
    Except for the rides
    That have lots of climbing
    Because 270 pounds ± 0.5
    Is a bit much to pull up hills
    Even with veins popping (gently protruding?) out of my arms
    So don’t overly judge
    My Strava account
    Lest you see some rides at 15 ± 0.5

    But cycling for me
    Is kind of like golf
    Where most days make me want to
    Ride off an embankment
    And hide my face in shame
    But every once in awhile
    I put on my good legs
    And power through rides like
    Cycling was something I was meant to do

    Those are the days
    That you remember
    That make you get back on the bike
    Like when I raced my first triathlon
    And finished the 18 mile ride in 56 minutes
    ±30 seconds

    Now off to the airport
    To go on vacation
    Where I’ll rent a road bike
    And ride by the ocean
    And show the Outer Banks
    What 17 mph ±0.5
    Really looks like
    Thank you

  24. Comment by roadrash | 07.21.2012 | 11:22 pm

    I watch the TdF and am so impressed
    The speed of those cyclists, not matter how they are dressed
    On a good day I average 16.5 mph,
    Wiggo time trials over 30 mph
    Sometimes I get a little depressed…
    Thank you

  25. Comment by Kari | 07.22.2012 | 1:45 am

    “temporarily retired” former teen endurance athlete
    Volunteered to chaperone the next generation of the speedy:
    Three teen girls in much better shape than me.

    I am rusty and out of shape,
    Expected to be left in their dust,
    Clearly on my packing list for the day
    Including humility is a must.

    27 miles in the hot midday sun
    27 miles & they “just want to race for fun”
    27 miles after not an ounce of training in the weeks before
    27 miles and I fully expect to be sore

    In top shape I had such an ego
    Ihought I was oh so fast
    Who knew bombing down the wrong hill
    Was all it took for that not to last?

    I was known to be fearless
    I was known to nearly fly down hills
    I was known to train oh-so-hard
    With my long rides and sprinting drills
    It was a rude awakening then to learn
    The speeds of my descents
    Were the exception to the rules

    So I chaperone the girls,
    keep an eye out while we ride
    I never expected to beat all my old times!
    My average used to my 10, give or take 2 or 3.
    Imagine my suprise when even with a headwind
    And temps in the shade were 93
    My body felt I had ridden gently
    But my computer said I had an average of 17!
    for all 27 miles at the speed of 17!

  26. Comment by Lorraine | 07.23.2012 | 5:04 am

    My most recent ride
    Through green and rolling country
    Average: Sixteen point nine!

  27. Comment by Full Monte | 07.23.2012 | 8:53 am

    Early AM ride
    Up before the clock hits five
    Shut it off before
    It wakes my wife

    Meet two friends
    Epic ride ahead
    Chicago to a lake
    In Wisconsin

    At first it’s chilly
    But then grows hot
    The miles roll by
    Corn field after corn field

    Birds in song

    We crack jokes
    Talk in funny voices
    Stop for a nature break
    We’re half-way there

    The last eight miles
    Steep rollers
    Hard climbs
    Sweeping descents

    I’m cracking hard
    Cramping in my

    I let them go
    Slide off the back
    Soft pedal the
    Last two miles

    And when I catch them at the end
    Hit the stop on my computer
    It is with joy and surprise
    To see 18.5 for just over 65

    Today, a personal record

  28. Comment by Susie H | 07.23.2012 | 12:13 pm

    alas, it’s 12 for me…
    but–i AM on a mountain bike.

    thank you.

  29. Comment by Shane in Utah | 07.25.2012 | 3:37 pm

    Last year, as I was just getting into road cycling, one of my local bike shops advertised a “Beginner’s Ride,” featuring moderate climbs and averaging 18-20 MPH. I’ve been feeling inadequate ever since because I can’t seem to break… 17 mph. (My last ride clocked at 16.9.) Glad to know it’s a common phenomenon…

  30. Comment by Tommysmo | 07.27.2012 | 7:26 am

    Dude. We could totally ride together all the time!


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