First impressions matter to me. They matter a lot. In fact, they form a bias I have a tough time overcoming at all.
But it can be done.
Which is what today’s post is about.
When I first got a Cannondale Scalpel 29 Carbon Team for long-term testing, I was — as is completely understandable — so excited I wanted to take this beauty to bed with me.
But lots of bikes — almost all bikes, really — are gorgeous-looking. I’d suggest that for die-hard cyclists, how a bike looks in its showroom state doesn’t really qualify as its “first impression.”
The real first impression you have of a bike is how you feel when you take it out on that first ride.
And on the Scalpel, that first ride didn’t go so well for me.
On my very first descent with this bike, in a hairpin turn, I tipped over, put out my left hand to catch my fall (stupid), and bent my pinky finger back.
This, of course, had nothing whatsoever to do with the bike. It was user error, pure and simple.
[Side Note: Even though I fully acknowledge that I crashed because of clumsiness, I’m tempted to go on a rant here, asking why mountain bike manufacturers spec out ridiculously narrow tires with their high-end bikes. It’s not just Cannondale, all major bike manufacturers do this. I suspect it's so they can claim as low a weight on the bike as possible. But I’m not going to dwell on this, except to say that before I rode the Scalpel again, I replaced the 1.95 tires the bike ships with, with some much-more-reasonable 2.2s.]
But still. The wreck colored my perception of the Scalpel. I now associated it with falling down. And as a result, I was way less excited about this technological marvel of a bike than I ought to have been.
[Another Side Note: I wonder how often this happens with real bike reviewers. You know, people who legitimately review bicycles. Not that I expect they crash anywhere near as often as I do, but the truth is, about 84% of how any given bike feels on any given day has to do with what you personally bring to the ride. If you’re hung over or hungry or had a quarrel with your dog or have a cold coming on, no bike — no matter how amazing it is — is going to impress you as much as it would if you are personally having a banner day.]
I knew this impression was unfair, and I wanted to give the Scalpel a fair shake. To associate it with something besides my own error.
And last weekend, I had the opportunity to do just that.
For my first time ever, I plan to race what’s emerging as one of the premiere early-season endurance races in UT: The True Grit Epic. It’s fifty miles of rocky, often-technical singletrack and doubletrack in Saint George, Utah.
Yeah, I know I said earlier that I was considering the 100-mile version of this race. That was somewhere between Folly and Hubris on the scale of Stupid Things to Say.
Why? Because last weekend, as part of a “Camp Lynda” group ride, The Hammer and I went to pre-ride the True Grit course.
And fifty miles was plenty.
I brought the Scalpel, knowing that this light full-suspension racing machine is in fact perfect for this kind of course. I knew that if I was going to fall in love with this bike, that it was going to happen here, on incredible trail.
And, within an hour of riding — sure enough — I had fallen in love with this bike.
For the first time in..well, ever…I was able to hang with both Kenny and Brad on all but the most technical of descents.
Once, in fact, I actually caught up with Brad on a fast downhill. This has never ever happened before. Ever.
And the Scalpel’s a crazy-good bike for climbing, too.
For one thing, this full-suspension, geared 29er weighs a grand total of 22 pounds. Yeah. And for another — and this is important to me — you lock out the front and rear suspension with the press of a single button, letting you swap this bike from a full-suspension descender to rigid climber, instantly.
I didn’t count, but I’d guess I did this swap more than 200 times during this ride.
Unfortunately for me, the bike can only do so much. When you’re out of gas on a climb, you’re out of gas:
Dropping the ten pounds I’ve still got to lose will go a long way toward resolving that issue. Nothing in the universe can make you a better climber than you’ve earned the right to be.
Oh, and here’s a picture of Brad, sticking out his tongue while poking me in the ear:
Important Additional Observations
Riding a very technical and challenging course (42.5 miles, 5610 feet of climbing, countless technical moves) this early in the year is incredibly educational.
First and foremost, I learned that the True Grit course is amazing. It’s tough and technical and beautiful and — above all else — really fun.
It’s an amazing showcase of the fantastic trail network that’s evolving in St. George. If you can possibly find a way to get over and race it this year (or next year), I highly recommend it. (But be ready for it — it’s not an easy race at all.)
Secondly, I am very, very afraid of The Hammer this year. You see, while I have always talked up how strong she is, my big male ego has remained comfortable…because I was always still stronger and faster than she is.
On this pre-ride of the course — specifically, on the second half of it — this was not at all the case. Over and over, she would drop me on climbs, then have to wait for me to catch up.
Here she is, comfortably hanging with me on a climb I am killing myself on.
Every year since we’ve been together, The Hammer has narrowed the gap between our riding abilities. That gap has now been fully closed, and is now beginning to open in the other direction.
Time will tell if my big male ego can handle it. [Hint: If I stop talking about how well The Hammer is riding, it’s because I can no longer bear the shame of it.]
And finally / thirdly, I’m really lucky to have the good friends I’ve got. If Kenny hadn’t hung around, waiting for The Hammer and me, we would never have been able to ride that course. (I just hope it’s well-marked on race day, because I have a hunch that Kenny won’t want to wait around for me then.)
Oh, and here’s a selfie of Brad, Kenny and me
I’ve been busting at the seams, and not for the usual reasons. Basically, I’ve been dying to share some great news, and now I finally can.
It’s about me (as everything is, if I can possibly make it so), but it’s not just about me. And it’s the not-just-about-me part that has me really stoked.
I’m talking in circles and dancing around the point. As usual. So let’s cut that out and get to the point already.
I am a 2015 Team World Bicycle Relief Ambassador.
Yup, The Hammer was one last year and did amazing things to spread the word and raise funds for World Bicycle Relief. This year it’s my turn. And I already have some things in mind that I think you’re going to really, really like.
Stuff I’ve done before, and stuff I’ve never done before. I am so stoked.
But here’s the thing. That’s only half the awesome news. Here comes the other half:
Dave, Amy, and Rob Thompson are ALSO Team WBR Ambassadors!
For the past several years, I’ve gotten to know the extraordinary Thompson family; they’re some of the nicest, most generous folks I’ve ever known.
Dave is an amazingly strong rider (not to mention a genius engineer), Rob is tenacity personified, and Amy is just a remarkable soul (and remarkably tolerant / supportive of Rob and Dave’s adventures).
And they are absolutely positively the very embodiment of the WBR slogan, “The Power of Bicycles.”
Here’s what the official announcement has to say about the Thompsons:
Amy, Dave and Rob Thompson, Family Cycling Team Extraordinaire
In 2008, Amy & Dave Thompson’s son, Rob, suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of a car accident. After a five-month hospitalization that began with a five-week coma, Rob returned home and wanted one thing — to go on a bike ride.
Unable to walk or stand at the time, Rob’s request broke Amy’s heart. But Dave took it as a challenge and began a search for a tandem that he could ride with his son. When the search proved no results, Dave built one — a tricycle that he and Rob power together!
Their first ride was one mile.
Within a few years, they were riding regularly and went on a 20-mile ride. Last year, the family cycling trio completed a 60-mile ride! Rob, who is still in a wheelchair, is now an avid and successful cyclist.
Together, Amy, Dave, and Rob will serve as our first family as Team WBR Ambassadors, truly symbolizing the Power of Bicycles.
Being a WBR ambassador at the same time as some of the very best Friends of Fatty is pretty much the best thing, ever.
A Few Hints
I’m going to be talking about WBR a lot this year, and I’m going to be including you. Here are a few hints about things you can expect, with a promise that there will be details soon (ish).
- Grand Slam Will Be Back: Last year I took a break from my annual “Grand Slam for Zambia,” so I could finish my book. This year, the Grand Slam will be back, and it will be huge. We’re going to set an audacious goal, and we’re going to have an outrageous number of incredible prizes. This will happen in July.
- Let’s Go On Tour. Hey, you might have heard that Team MTN Qhubeka will be racing in the Tour de France this year. But did you know that Qhubeka is part of World Bicycle Relief? Yes, they’re actually the same organization. Which means that World Bicycle Relief will be represented at the Tour de France. Does this possibly mean that there might be some Tour-related schwag coming your way? Mmmmmaaybe.
- The FatCyclist.com Jersey Will Have a Very New Look. I’ll be revealing the 2015 FatCyclist.com jersey very soon. And while I don’t want to give away too much, let’s just say that if you’re wearing the Team Fatty jersey this year, you’ll also be supporting World Bicycle relief, both with your money and on your sleeve.
- Back to the Yurt. The Hammer and I loved our trip to the Gooseberry Yurt last year; it was a fantastic fundraiser. I think we ought to do it again. Don’t you?
And there’s going to be more. It’s all going to be fun, and I’m (obviously) very excited. And together, we’re going to make a big difference.
I’m stoked to get started.
PS: Read the official announcement here.
I’m buried under my day job right now, so don’t have time to be hilarious. Which is too bad for you, because I’m feeling particularly funny right now. For example, I just had a thought that made me chortle, then guffaw. Ordinarily, I would share that thought with you, but today, I’m keeping it to myself.
What a shame.
Still, there are a couple things I want to remind you of: a reminder about tonight, and a tease about tomorrow.
Don’t forget that this evening I’ll be joining Jonathan Lee, one of the honchos at TrainerRoad. We’ll be talking about the mile record, tips for training, approaches to getting thinner and faster (and where the balance between those two things lies), and taking lots of questions.
You don’t need to be a TrainerRoad subscriber to join the call; this is a chat about getting fast with a guy who knows what he’s talking about. So bring your questions and thoughts.
Make sure you register (click here to register) before the event, and then join us either on your phone or computer (or both) tonight at 7pm PST / 8pm MST / 9pm CST / 10pm EST.
Tomorrow, I will have an exciting, major announcement I’ll be making here. I’m super-duper stoked about it, and I think you will be too.
So make sure you check in sometime tomorrow, OK?
Last summer, my feet started hurting. Bad. The MTB shoes I owned left my feet in agony after even medium-sized rides. Trying to fix this, I bought a couple pair of mountain bike shoes, then went to a cobbler and had the shoes stretched to make room for where my feet were being cramped.
I went to Leadville with two pair of shoes: the Giro Code VR70s, and the Shimano SH-XC90s. After riding around for a few days, trying both pairs of shoes, I went with the Codes for the race itself.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t like the Shimanos. I really liked the Shimanos. However, when one pair of biking shoes is more comfortable than the other — even just a little bit more comfortable — I tend to go with those shoes, pretty much all the time.
A few days ago, however, I thought to myself, “I should start wearing the Shimanos while I’m doing short rides early in the season. I bet that if I start wearing them in, they’ll be plenty comfortable by the time I get to the long rides.”
It was a fine idea, and I was happy to execute it. Unfortunately, there was a problem.
The Hunt Begins
I could not find the shoes.
At first, I chalked this up to a simple misplacement. I looked in the obvious places. On the shelf by the steps in the garage where I usually take shoes off before entering the house. In my closet. In the trunk of my truck.
It was, of course, in none of those places.
So I looked in the many storage bins we have in our garage. Not there. I looked under the bed. Not there. I looked in the coat closet, though I couldn’t imagine why they would be there.
Nor was it in any of the suitcases in the house. Nor in The Swimmer’s closet (she has a habit of “borrowing” her mother’s clothes, and I thought maybe she had “borrowed” my shoes by accident). Nor under the bathroom sink (no idea why they’d be there).
I commenced to tear the house apart. No longer searching just because I wanted these shoes, but because the fact that they had entirely vanished was driving me insane.
In my distress, I fired off a tweet:
Many people had witty and sarcastic responses. Nobody had any helpful responses. Which pretty much describes Twitter in general, when you think about it.
Finally, I resolved myself to the fact that I am a victim of the “Law of Accelerating Bicycle Gear Entropy,” which is defined as follows:
As you fail to use any bicycle-related item, it becomes unusable at an increasingly fast pace.
What does this mean? Why, I’m glad you asked.
Essentially, as long as you use any bike-related equipment on a daily (or at most, every other day) basis, it will remain easy to locate, and in good working order. This of course doesn’t mean that these things won’t break or wear out; it just means they will break and wear out at a predictable, understandable rate. Clothes will get old, socks will get holes in toes, bike tires will wear out.
But none of this will surprise you, and you will know where all of these things are.
However, if you stop using an item for more than a couple days, strange things will begin to happen.
After a week of non-use, your bike’s rear derailleur will become misaligned.
After a month of non-use, one of any given pair of socks will develop an unexpected hole. Or relocate to under the couch. Dust and / or grease will accumulate on non-used bike parts until they are no longer recognizable as what they once were. Clothing items will shrink, drastically.
After a season of non-use, a bike will have two flat tires, the chain will be so creaky and rusty that you would never be able to convince a jury that it had ever been lubed, and the saddle will tilt far forward and to the left. This demonstrates a corollary to the law: the longer you don’t use an object, the harder it will be to ever start using it again.
And once half a year has elapsed, the Law of Accelerating Bicycle Gear Entropy will have had time to take full hold of the bike-related object.
And it will spontaneously crumble into dust. Which will, incidentally, then go out of its way to coat other non-used bike-related items.
Or, sometimes, it will travel into a parallel universe, where it will peacefully exist forever.
Unless, of course, you buy a replacement for that vanished object. At which point it will immediately return.
Farewell, Shimano SH-XC90s.
A Couple of Notes About Upcoming FatChats: This week, I’ll be hosting two conversations. You should come join in for both, because taking questions from the audience is a big part of what will make these fun. Here’s the who/where/when for each:
- Rockwell Relay: Stories, Strategies, and Bad Advice: I’ll be joining Race Director Tyler Servoss and other experienced racers from this, my favorite road race, to talk about route, equipment, strategy, rules, the spirit of the event, favorite moments (and worst moments) from the race, and answer questions. If you’ve signed up for this race or are considering signing up for this race, you should definitely register and listen in. This will happen Tuesday, February 17, 7pm PT / 8pm MT / 9pm CT / 10pm ET. You must be registered to attend (registration is free, however). Click here to register.
- Training Tips, Techniques and Myths: Chad Timmerman (head coach for TrainerRoad) and Jonathan Lee (XC Cat 1 Nationals hopeful) will be joining me to talk about getting fast on a bike. I’ve got a lot of questions, and I expect you do too. This will be a great chance to get some great guidance from folks who actually know what they’re talking about. This will happen Thursday, February 19, 7pm PT / 8pm MT / 9pm CT / 10pm ET. You must be registered to attend (registration is free, however). Click here to register.
You should note that while I allow up to 1000 people to register for these FatChats, only 100 people can actually attend live. Neither are overbooked yet, though both are close. So after registering, be sure to sign in on time in order to get a “seat.”
If, for some reason, you do not get a seat in the FatChat, when it begins, try a little later and see if you can get in; someone else may have vacated a seat.
And if all else fails, know that I will be recording these and making them available both on Vimeo and as podcasts. (Also, if you’re familiar with launching a podcast, get in touch with me…I’ve never done it and don’t know all the steps; I’d rather not learn by trial and error).
Also, I’ve decided to call my interviews, conversations, book club meetings, and other podcasty stuff I do “FatChats.” Because “fat” rhymes with “chats,” and rhymes are awesome.
Great Shows Made Greater with Bikes
Last night, The Hammer and I were watching the latest episode of The Walking Dead. Basically, this episode was designed to definitively answer — with a resounding “yes!” the question, “Is it possible to make a mind-numbingly dull episode in a TV show about a small group of post-apocalyptic survivors being pursued by zombies?”
Essentially, they just walked on a road, moping, for 50 minutes of the hour, using the defensive strategy of not quite outwalking zombies to stay alive.
As I was watching this, I thought to myself, “If a brisk, sustained walk is almost enough to keep you safe from zombies, imagine how awesome everything would be for these people if they had bicycles.”
Yes, as near as I can tell, in this alternate post-apocalypse universe, there are plenty of cars, but no bicycles.
Which is too bad, because I can’t think of many episodes in this show where the protagonists wouldn’t have been much better off on a bike.
Seriously, try this drinking game. From now on, when watching The Walking Dead, at each commercial break, ask yourself: “How would this scene have been different if they had access to bicycles?” And if the answer is anything but “no different,” take a drink.
Warning: Do not plan to drive after playing this game.
Anyway, after watching The Walking Dead, I took a few minutes to consider the bicycle and how profoundly absent it is from most TV shows and movies. And how tragically tragic that is.
I have examples.
The Ten Commandments
If the Egyptians would have had bikes, I’m pretty sure they would have closed the gap between the Hebrews and them before the Red Sea closed up on them. And frankly, considering what a bunch of ungrateful jerks the Hebrews started being within ten minutes or so, that might not have been a bad thing.
Oh come on. Don’t tell me I’m the only one who had a hard time figuring out who to root for in this movie.
Jack Bauer is always running. Usually to get to a bomb that’s about to explode. Or to get away from a bomb that’s about to explode. Or running after people who are shooting at him. Or shooting at people as he runs toward them.
If he’d just get on a bike, he’d have a little more time to get to (or away) from those bombs. Or bullets. Or crazy poisonous darts or whatever.
Fast and the Furious
Imagine: the exact same movie, but now with bicycles. It would be just as exciting, a lot less deadly, and a whole lot less illegal.
Orange is the New Black
OK, I honestly have no idea how bikes could fit into this show.
A loveable underdog boxer (Rocky Balboa) gets a shot at the big time. He trains in earnest, getting stronger and stronger. To mix things up and build aerobic capacity, he includes cycling as part of his regimen. His endurance triples, his legs get stronger, and his lung capacity becomes phenomenal. He defeats an exhausted Apollo Creed easily in the fifth round, then goes mountain biking in the afternoon, just because he doesn’t feel like he’s had enough.
In Rocky II, Apollo Creed takes up cycling and there is a much more evenly-matched fight, after which they agree they prefer biking to boxing anyway, and there is no Rocky 3, 4, 5, or however high they currently go.
And the world is a better place because of this.
Fifty Shades of Grey
They meet. They go for a road ride. She discovers that she can completely demolish him, in spite of the fact that his bike is much more expensive than hers. She recognizes that he is a creep who has a lot of expensive things, but no soul and no skills. She drops him hard on the first climb.
There is no second date. And the world is a much less creepy and disgusting place because of this fact.
The Wizard of Oz
OK, this movie has bikes, but only the Wicked Witch gets one. If you gave one to Dorothy, she’d just clock miles on that Yellow Brick Road about ten times faster, which means those songs would have to be much, much shorter. And I, for one, would be extremely grateful if the “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” song lasted about twelve seconds instead of its current length, which is just under nine years.
Already has bikes. I just thought we should go ahead and point out that a magical, perfect movie can have bikes in it, and people will still go see it.
Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs
If the Dwarfs had bikes, they would’ve gotten home before Snow White would have bitten that apple. And then they’d still have their super hot maid working for free for them.
Which, at least for the Dwarfs, would have been a much better ending to the movie.
At the beginning of the movie, Charles Foster Kane mutters, “Schwinn Stingray.” Everyone immediately knows what he’s referring to and understands why it was such a central part of his life.
The film is four minutes long.
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