Absolute Beginner

08.7.2012 | 12:24 pm

I am not a very competitive person. Not really. Oh, sure, I like to participate in the occasional race. And when I do, I can’t sleep for about three weeks before that race. And I tend to get obsessed with that race.

And then I look for every possible advantage I can get in the race.

And on race day, I pretty much kill myself trying to attack and destroy every person I can in the race.

But other than that, I’m not really a very competitive person.

Which leads us to the Life Time Fitness Leadman Tri I’ll be racing in as part of a relay this September. Yeah, that’s the one where I have an open bet with anyone who thinks they can beat my time on the bike section of the race (click here for more details on how you can enter). And if you do, you get this t-shirt:


Sure, in a way that’s like getting a t-shirt that says “Taller than Hervé Villechaize,” but still: they’re cool-looking t-shirts.

And I really don’t want very many people to own them.

So I contacted Chris at Specialized, and told him all about the poem I wrote about my Stumpy SS, and how I love that bike so much, and how I was going to be doing the bike part of this triathlon soon and that the only non-mountain bike I have is a straight-up regular road bike, and how I really didn’t want to give away a whole bunch of t-shirts.

“I’ll see what I can do,” Chris said.

And so yesterday, I got this box:


And inside that box was this bike:

(Tomatoes and zucchini not included)

Yes, I am now in possession of one Specialized Shiv Expert, a Tri-specific (as in, it totally gives the bird to the UCI and its rules) aerodynamic freak of engineering.

How excited am I? Oh, I’d rate it up there in the “stratospherically ridiculously excited” zone, I think.

So excited, in fact, that I ignored the fact that I have a ton of things I need to do right now and built up the bike (that makes it sound like I actually assembled the bike, but really all I had to do was put the wheels on, attach the bars, put some pedals on and plug in the seatpost). Then I ignored that I’m supposed to be tapering right now and got on the bike, riding thirty hard miles.

On a type of bike I’ve never ridden before, in a brand-new position.

Hey, it’s a new bike. You would have done the exact same thing.

What It’s Like to Ride the Shiv

I admit, I was afraid to ride this bike for the first time. You see, I love watch how incredibly fast an accomplished cyclist can be on a purpose-built machine like this. Love it.

And I knew, deep within my heart — and head — that I would not look or ride like one of those fast guys. Not on my first ride.

I knew, basically, that I was deeply unworthy of this bike. It is built for the expert- and pro-level rider who’s needing to eek out a couple of extra seconds to get on the podium. Whereas I am a complete and utter novice with no form and no idea what I’m doing.

But that certainly wasn’t going to stop me from trying.

The first thing I noticed when riding the Shiv is that nothing is where I expected it to be, and how disconcerting that can be at first. I really hadn’t considered how reflexive the motions to shift and brake are. Or how my hands want to go to the — now nonexistent — hoods.

I’ll learn all of that again. Eventually.

The next thing that I noticed was that as I dropped into the TT position, how awesome it immediately felt.

Honestly, I was sure it was going to feel swervy and out of control and ridiculous. But it wasn’t like that. Instead, I found that when I got into that tuck (not as low as I wanted; I’ll be tweaking the bar height down quite a bit), I just wanted to go.

When I needed to shift, I just flipped the index shifters.

When I needed a drink, I just grabbed the tube (which is otherwise connected to my bar extensions with a magnet) that goes into the drinking system that’s actually integrated into the down tube.


For those of you who geek out the way I do over stuff like this, here’s the bladder that gets stuffed into the down tube:


It’s called the “Fuelselage” system. Clever.

And in general, I’m just hauling, and feeling really fast, knowing that I shouldn’t be going this hard so soon before a race, but you know that this isn’t a bike for dawdling. And so I keep hammering away, my back as low and flat as I can make it be without my knees crushing into my stomach.

In my mind, I am a bolt of lightning.

And since I had the foresight to not bring a bike computer, there’s no way this sense can be disproved. Yet.

This feeling of unstoppable speed continued . . . ’til I needed to slow down.

And that’s when I had my moment of terror. I needed to slow down! Now! But there were no brakes! WHY DOESN’T THIS BIKE HAVE ANY BRAKES?

Oh. There they are. Everything’s OK now. But how do I shift?

Clearly, I still have some acclimating to do.

Which, unfortunately, is going to have to wait ’til I get back from the Leadville 100 and Breck Epic. Which I should probably start packing for, since I’m leaving tomorrow.

But first I think I’ll go take the Shiv out for one more ride.

PS: There were actually two boxes that arrived yesterday. This is what came in the other one:


I think I’ll wear it during the Leadville 100. It’ll go awesome with my skinsuit.


  1. Comment by ClydesdalePilot | 08.7.2012 | 12:38 pm


  2. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 08.7.2012 | 12:41 pm

    That bike is as tall as a tomato plant?? Are you sure it’s for you and not for the girls?

    Pretty awesome none the less, though I think the helmet needs a special Fatty paint job so we can recognize you coming….and stay out of the way.

    Good luck in Leadville.

  3. Comment by Doug P | 08.7.2012 | 12:48 pm

    Really? Really!!! Now you’re just getting on my nearves with all this great gear in your garage (or living room).

  4. Comment by GenghisKhan | 08.7.2012 | 12:48 pm

    Definitely better than a sarcophagus!

  5. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 08.7.2012 | 12:50 pm

    And for the ‘runner(s)’ out there check out the fascinating story from New Yorker magazine about marathon running. Apparently the runner in question writes a blog about his accomplishments, times, awards, travels, etc., …..and makes it all up.
    Hmmmm? Who do we know out there who “hates” running, posts strong times…for his age, and writes about it?

  6. Comment by Scott R | 08.7.2012 | 1:20 pm

    Yeah, I definitely need to have my own person at Specialized to send me amazing stuff. Doesn’t that feel like cheating, bet-wise? :-)

    I even have a reason to celebrate – my vent dependent son Lucas is finishing up his open heart surgery right now in KC, MO – everything went great, and they are closing him up now.

  7. Comment by slowRider | 08.7.2012 | 1:22 pm

    So… I need a road bike. Can you call up Chris and tell him that I’d really rather not be passed up by old ladies on Rascal scooters on a daily basis and if I don’t get a real non-mountain bike soon I’m likely do to something desperate like buy one of those $169 “road bikes” from Wal-Mart?

    I can write an Ode to 7mph if it would help :)

  8. Comment by TK | 08.7.2012 | 1:43 pm

    Please post Chris’ contact info.

  9. Comment by ClydeinKS | 08.7.2012 | 1:43 pm

    Was hoping to see this be a “prize” to a contest but looking at the picyou posted I’m guessing the stack and reach for that frame can’t be any longer than my forearm.
    So awesome to be part of Team Fatty, but oh so jealous of the contacts and power of our man “Fatty.”
    Forget the frame aerodynamics, just a change of material for me to something in carbon would significanlty improve my Strava times!
    Can’t wait for pics at Leadville in that lid!
    Good Luck!!

  10. Comment by RL Julia | 08.7.2012 | 1:45 pm

    Just jealous – although I can’t tell if that helmet is cool or simply ridiculous.

  11. Comment by Bee | 08.7.2012 | 2:18 pm

    Oh, you suck. You suck so much that I am as green as a tomato right now and dying a thousand deaths of jealousy. I am going to go home early and ride my beloved BMC to remind myself that there is a bike in this world that I do love even more than anything by Specialized so far. I might die before then, though, if envy can eat a giant hole in a person’s heart.

    I still think you should give out Shiv pony-rides on Sunday after the Leadman for those of us who were heartlessly and relentlessly crushed by your awesome climbing superpowers, and who just love amazing bikes and hanging out with other cyclists who love really awesome bikes. And you know at these triathlon things that there are plenty of people who are into post-race stuff like compression and ice baths and chia seed massages, so the cyclists gotta stick together to play with our bike toys and eat cheeseburgers.

  12. Comment by Bee | 08.7.2012 | 2:23 pm

    BTW, for the record, I think the Shiv photographs horribly. When I first saw a picture, I thought it was the ugliest thing that had ever been granted the name “bike”.

    Then I saw it in person, and I swooned. In person, those things are HOT.

    Back to stewing in jealousy right now and finding a good route for my afternoon Ride of Solace.

  13. Comment by bikemike | 08.7.2012 | 2:33 pm

    Just so you’re aware, on the Specialized aero helmet, the pointy end goes to the front. You’re welcome.

  14. Comment by nh_joe | 08.7.2012 | 2:55 pm

    I would highly recommend a professional fit for a bike like that. I’m pretty sensitive about position in general, but especially so on my TT bike. I even have to change the saddle height when I switch between my skinsuit and bibs because the chamois thickness is different.

    And those bikes, like triathletes, don’t like to go around corners. Be careful!

  15. Comment by Dustin | 08.7.2012 | 3:02 pm

    I hate you. (Obviously that’s just the jealousy talking)

  16. Comment by Anonymous | 08.7.2012 | 3:41 pm

    Holy Shiv!

  17. Comment by Pat Schleck (the cyclist formerly known as MattC) | 08.7.2012 | 3:42 pm

    Uhm, EXCUSE ME….you mean to tell us that thing has GEARS? You need to quickly make that into a SS…gears are for wussies. (and, uhm, er…it isn’t DI2, is it?)

    And to agree w/ everybody else…


    (that’s pure jealousy talking there…sorry Fatty).

    Man…if I ever get the chance, I’ll make sure I crank your brakes so the pads are rubbing on your rims (unbekowest to you) so that you ride like a slightly slower bolt of lightening.

    I’m going into my man-cave to pout some now.


  18. Comment by MikeL | 08.7.2012 | 3:47 pm

    It’s a helmet? I thought it was a seat designed especially for Fatty. I don’t know whether to be happy or jealous.

  19. Comment by roan | 08.7.2012 | 4:34 pm

    You thinking of a ’skinsuit’ at Leadville ? I think they have laws about public nudity, even with that helmet on…or was that a new Fatty seat (thx MikeL)?

  20. Comment by Fuzz Martin | 08.7.2012 | 7:08 pm

    During my first and only tri of the season, a guy in my rack had this exact model bike. As I was unracking my bike and packing my dirty, sandy, sweaty, failure-and-regret-filled gear back into my bag, I said to the guy, “sweet bike.” He said, “yeah, it gave me problems, today.”

    Apparently it is easy to kink the “fuel line” to the “Fuelselage” which means the pilot runs on empty. I told him, “yeah, I had problems, too,” and took an “I may not be rich, but at least I ain’t thirsty” pull of leftover Gatorade from one of my cages. For a moment, I felt like a champion.

  21. Comment by NYCCarlos | 08.7.2012 | 7:36 pm

    lol @nhjoe… “those bikes, like triathletes, don’t go around corners” bwahhahahaha

  22. Comment by Carl | 08.7.2012 | 7:56 pm

    It’s good to be the Fat Cyclist

  23. Comment by Erica Tingey | 08.7.2012 | 8:37 pm

    Wow, that is a pretty bike and helmet. No pressure, but you better ride really fast now!

  24. Comment by Obstinate Roadie | 08.7.2012 | 8:38 pm

    bikemike is right about the which way the pointy end goes. You’ll be like a bullet piercing the air.

  25. Comment by MukRider | 08.7.2012 | 9:39 pm

    Cool bike! Now lower those bars and get aero!!

  26. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 08.7.2012 | 10:49 pm

    So, in summary, in order NOT to lose t-shirt to an ‘athlete’ who might beat him in one leg of a tri-athalon, our esteemed leader has acquired a 5K plus bike, will either don or sit upon an elongated something, and sip liquids from a tube (are you practic.ing for your future in the ‘home’). I’m worried for you Elden. Listen to thesewords from avery wise man:

    A Heartfelt Plea

    Triathletes, please. Stop it. The rest of the cycling world would happily welcome you into our arms if you’ll only join us. We’ll teach you how to draft. We’ll teach you how to pedal circles. We’ll teach you how to ride a bike that’s both comfortable and efficient.

    Just admit you have a problem. We’ll do the rest.

  27. Comment by Sylvia | 08.7.2012 | 10:58 pm

    I think we should all get t-shirts, eh?

  28. Comment by Alan | 08.8.2012 | 12:16 am

    Your garage must be looking like a certain former TdF rider we all know.

  29. Comment by dude | 08.8.2012 | 5:27 am

    Why r u completely ignoring the Tour of Utah? Did they not send you an invitation or r u not fast enuf… or is there some other reason?

    Speak up, please!

  30. Comment by mtnbikechk@hotmail.com | 08.8.2012 | 6:37 am

    She’s so pretty…….and yes, ‘it’s a She…….so very pretty….drooooool…..

  31. Comment by Micha Ordway | 08.8.2012 | 6:47 am

    Dear Fatty:

    Please stop posting about all your awesome new gear. My 15 year old Cannondale and 20 year old Trek MountainTrak are developing complexes!

  32. Comment by AJ | 08.8.2012 | 8:13 am

    I am sooooooooo jealous. I will be getting one of these next spring, I can’t wait! I wanna hear more of what you think of the bike though!

  33. Comment by Clydesteve | 08.8.2012 | 12:07 pm

    Luckeee! I bet you can catch some sweet air with that!

  34. Comment by Clydesteve | 08.8.2012 | 1:16 pm

    This probably says more about the evil way my mind works than I would generally care to admit:

    Great & evil prank for someone in the Faster than Fatty competition – Remove the hydration bladder and fill the entire downtube with mercury to add “road-hugging mass” to the Shiv, while it sits in the transition zone waiting for the swim to end.

    Whay would i say such a thing? Why would I even think it?

  35. Comment by Andrew | 08.8.2012 | 1:28 pm

    That might be the ugliest bike I’ve ever seen. It looks like they grafted a seat tube into a softride.

  36. Comment by KristenT | 08.8.2012 | 2:40 pm

    DavidH-Marin CA says: “That bike is as tall as a tomato plant?? Are you sure it’s for you and not for the girls?”

    David, my tomato plants are all well over 5 feet tall, not including their pots. You must have puny tomatoes. ;) (Including the pots, they are about 6 feet tall. And loaded with tomatoes, which will one day ripen. Are you listening, Early Girl tomatoes?? Because you are NOT early!)

    I agree with Andrew, that’s one ugly bike. That may be the jealousy talking, however. No offense, I suppose.

  37. Comment by Doug | 08.8.2012 | 6:45 pm

    Use the skinsuit and helmet while riding the shiv at Leadville!

  38. Comment by Shawn | 08.10.2012 | 8:15 am

    Sweet ride, but it just doesn’t look right with those aluminum wheels. You better get a request in to Zipp for some deep carbon hoops pronto ;-)

  39. Comment by Zonker | 08.12.2012 | 5:15 am

    Can I have a “NOT faster than Fatty” T-shirt please?


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