2015 is almost over. Which means this is a perfect opportunity for me to write a post that increases traffic (not to mention lines my pockets with the huge amount of money I make from ad sales), without me having to do any actual writing. Except for this introduction, which is a very good introduction indeed.
As you’re awkwardly standing at New Year’s parties, wishing you were anywhere else (but especially somewhere else that had a bike nearby), you’re sure to have some time to pull out your phone and do some reading.
May I humbly suggest you read any or all of the following, which I consider to be some of my least-awful work from 2015?
Rockwell Relay Race Report
I think most people would agree that my 2015 Rockwell Relay Race Report the best race report I’ve ever written. It also distinguishes itself as one of very few instances on the internet where the comments section is not only not horrible, but actually adds to the quality of the story.
This is a good solid party’s-worth of reading, right here.
Three Terrific (AND CHEAP) Last-Minute Gifts to Get for The Cyclist In Your Life
Last week I wrote what I consider to be the very best guide for present buying there has ever been. I’m pretty sure nobody read it. Please remedy this oversight.
Movie Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT
My mistake, when writing this, was that I didn’t make clear that I wrote this review well before I saw the movie, and that it has nothing to do with the actual movie. Hence, my clickbait headline completely backfired.
More to the point, you can read this review without learning anything. Also, you can read the comments and find that a few people didn’t exactly get the joke.
100 Miles of Nowhere, 2015 Camp Kesem Leadership Summit Edition
Going to Michigan with my twins and racing the 100 Miles of Nowhere on a stage was a huge highlight in my year. This is worth reading again.
The Hammer, The Swimmer and I went on a little mountain bike ride. And pretty much everything went wrong.
All Better, Briefly
Having a cold sucks. This is the story of how wonderful it feels to get out on a ride in spite of feeling miserable, and — briefly, temporarily — feel all better.
Leadville 100 Race Report
2015 was the year of race reports for me. Heck, I’ve got a bunch of race reports from 2015 I still need to get back to work on.
My annual Leadville 100 race report happened to be a pretty darned good one, if I say so myself. And I do.
The Precipitation Negotiations
You want to ride. But the weather and terrain are prohibitively bad. But you’ve traveled so far. But the trail is a mucky mess. But you really really want to ride. This is that story.
The Clipless Pedal Monologues
Remember when you first started riding clipless? So do I.
Sleeping with Your Bike is a Terrible Idea
Lots of people say they love their bikes so much they are considering kicking their human partner out of bed. This is why you should reconsider this very stupid idea.
I’m glad I could rescue you from having to interact with actual people.
Happy new year!
I don’t want to make this post about me. Not too much, anyway. I want to make it about Diane Lees, the incredibly engaging host of the radio show / podcast The Outspoken Cyclist.
But first, I do want to say something about The FattyCast — my new podcast.
Specifically, I want to say that for the first time since I started this blog nearly eleven years ago, I’m completely and totally in love with a new way of communicating.
When I started this blog, I always had a huge backlog of ideas I wanted to write about. I couldn’t wait to write my next post. Sometimes I had multiple posts going at the same time, and I just desperately wanted the next day to come, so I could put the next one up and see what people think.
Of course, over the course of eleven years, I’ve become a lot more comfortable with this blog. Now it’s an old friend. I enjoy writing it, but it’s been a while since I felt like I was breaking new ground with it.
With the FattyCast, though, I’m loving the fact that it’s not about me. I’m loving thinking about all the people who do such cool things with or on or about or for bikes, and talking with them. Just having conversations with them, learning from them, and then sharing what I’ve learned.
I’m also loving how much I’m learning, and how quickly. I can tell that I’m very much a beginner and make a lot of mistakes. But also that I’m learning quickly, and am already making fewer mistakes than I did at first.
And I love how generous people are being with their time.
So. Whether you already listen to a lot of podcasts or to none at all, let me put in a plug here: try out The FattyCast (you can subscribe on iTunes). It’s just me, talking with people who love bikes and biking.
And let me know who else you think I ought to have as guests.
One of the people who really inspired me to begin this podcast is Diane Lees, the host of the popular podcast and radio show, The OutSpoken Cyclist.
Diane has been doing this show for five years, with nearly 300 episodes and nearly double that number in guests.
But her experience in the world of cycling goes way deeper than that. She rides. She’s been a bike shop owner. She’s been a promoter. She’s written a book on touring.
She’s 69 years old, but has the energy (and voice) of someone half that age.
You can listen or download the podcast below, get it on iTunes, or find it on FattyCast.com.
It’s a great hour of conversation with an amazing woman. I’m a huge fan of Diane Lees.
Oh no. Christmas is almost here. No, wait. It is here, if you happen to be reading this on the 25th. Or it’s come and gone, if you’re reading it after Christmas. (I like to cover all my bases.)
My point is, Christmas has been approaching at a constant rate for months now. It’s not like you couldn’t have predicted that Christmas would be coming. Furthermore, you could have predicted the time and day on which it would arrive, with some accuracy. But you have just let it come, without doing anything about it.
You are an incredibly slovenly, ungrateful person, and you should be ashamed of yourself.
However, even though you don’t deserve it, I am going to help you, by presenting you with this inspired — yes, inspired! — list of things you can still get for the cyclist friend / family member / neighbor who bought you something and now you feel obligated to get them something, too.
Idea 1: Portable First-Aid Kit
Cyclists crash and get hurt a lot. More than you’d expect, even if you consider that we perch atop a latticework of plastic and spinning metal, the sum total of which has approximately one-quarter square inch of rubber actually in contact with the ground.
And when we cyclists get hurt, we need to patch ourselves up, pronto. By assembling the following items, all of which are likely readily available and laying about in your house, you will seem much more thoughtful on Christmas morning than you actually are.
- Box of Bandaids: just whatever you have left over in the box you’ve got open already, even if they’re those weird-sized ones that aren’t any good for anything
- Turniquet made from a pencil and a no-longer-working mini-USB cable
- Percocet left over from that procedure you had a couple years ago, but the pain wasn’t really as bad as you thought it might be so you still have these lying around, just in case
- Nyquil, just in case your rider gets the sniffles during a ride
- Ambien, in case your friend winds up needing to spend the night in a cave and is having a rough time dozing off
- Alcohol swabs or salt or acetone or anything else that really stings if you get it on a cut. Becasue if it stings, it’s probably killing bacteria, right?
- Liniment, even though I don’t even know what liniment is.
- That crinkly half-full tube of Neosporin you stole from your parents’ house when you moved out about ten years ago. Technically, it expired back in ’05, but it still works. Honest.
Put all of these items in an orphaned sock, and then wrap the whole thing up in multiple layers of duct tape. The entire thing should be the size and shape of a largish duct-taped avocado when you’re done. Put a bow on it and tell the lucky gift winner that it’s a first aid kit for them to always carry when they ride, but that you can’t remember what’s in it, but that it’s guaranteed to be super helpful.
Idea 2: Cycling Upgrade Kit
Cyclists are always wanting a newer, lighter, faster, more-prestigious bike. And if you were a better person, that’s what you would have gotten me. But you didn’t, and now it’s too late.
Or you could have gotten nice new parts to put on their old bike, if you were a cheapskate, but you didn’t even do that. (You are a lousy excuse for a human being.)
But you still have time to make the bike your friend / loved one / cell mate feel like the bike they have is better, lighter, newer, and more expensive.
All you have to do is go get a couple of Sharpies and then write “S-WORKS” on every available space on the bike frame. Up and down the downtube. On the top tube. On the saddle. On the water bottle cages. Everywhere. Technically, this only makes sense if the person is riding a Specialized, but statistically you’re safe with that bet.
Once you’ve done that, it’s time to upgrade the drivetrain. If it’s a road bike, write “DURA-ACE Di2” on the pedals, cranks, and derailleurs. If it’s a mountain bike, write “XTR Di2” in the same places. If you’re not sure which it is, just write both.
Congratulations. Their bike is now worth $18,000. Easy.
Idea 3: Certificates for Bike-Related Services
Sometimes, the very best gift you can give someone is the gift of your time. And since cycling pretty much takes up every spare moment of every cyclist’s life, the gift of some of your time will definitely be welcome. So, create little certificates (or coupons, if you don’t have much spare paper laying around) for any (or all) of the following items:
- A free bike wash: Don’t worry, your friend will never take you up on this, because you’ll let them know that they way you’ll wash it is by taking it to the local car wash and spraying full-tilt into their greased and moving parts for ten minutes.
- 5 free shuttle rides: If you’ve got a downhilling mountain bike friend, this is maybe the best gift you could ever give: saying you’ll be the one to drive them and their bike to the top of a run, then meeting them at the bottom. But what a drag this will be for you if your friend has the audacity to redeem this coupon. Luckily, you can get out of this boring day by simply giving them a ride to the top, dropping them off, and then going home (turn off your phone). When (if) they eventually get home, just look confused and say, “If you didn’t want to pedal at all, why didn’t you just buy a motorcycle?”
- Bike theft: This is an awesome gift to give a cycling friend, on the sly. Promise them you’ll steal their bike whenever they want, then will discretely sell it and split the funds 50-50. I know, I know, that doesn’t sound like much of a gift. But most cyclists really want to buy a new bike, but can’t justify it to their mom or spouse because they already have a perfectly good bike. But if that bike were stolen, well…they’d need to buy a new bike. And since you’re going to secretly give them half the money, they’ll be able to use it to upgrade that bike beyond what they’d otherwise be able to get budget approval for.
Merry Christmas, you rotten, no-good, failure of a present-giver.
I am fully aware (although I find it very distressing) that very few people come to FatCyclist.com for late-breaking news about the important goings-on in the cycling world.
Today — accidentally and very briefly — that all changes. Because the latest episode of the FattyCast (which is available on fattycast.com, on iTunes, directly downloadable, and playable from a little lower on this page), I talk with Neal Rogers. It’s a fantastic conversation with one of the top cycling journalists in America…and it has actual news.
The News Part
Until about a year ago, Neal Rogers was the editor-in-chief of Velo and is currently at Global Cycling Network, the entertaining new-media cycling show. The “actual news” part is that Neal is announcing today that as of January, he’s moving to CyclingTips.com as the US Editor-in-Chief, which we discuss in detail about halfway into the podcast: Neal talks about how this change came about, why he’s making this move, and what he’ll be doing.
Neal also reveals James Huang — well-known for his extraordinary reviews at CyclingNews and BikeRadar — will be joining him at CyclingTips.
CyclingTips had already made a pretty big play in the cycling news world by bringing Shane Stokes aboard last year; with these two additions, CyclingTips will no longer be under anyone’s radar.
[Note: If you feel like you need to skip straight to the news-y part of the podcast, it begins around the 51-minute mark.]
The “Let’s Talk About Bikes and Writing for About Two Hours” Part
While Neal’s new job — and all it implies — is interesting stuff, it wasn’t why I wanted to do a FattyCast episode with Neal. In fact, I had no idea that he’d be changing jobs sometime soon when I reached out to him.
I wanted to talk with Neal because I think of him as a fair-minded, thick-skinned, highly-accessible cycling journalist.
We talk about his first mountain bike (a Gary Fisher Hoo Koo E Koo). We talk about his lack of regret for being a surf / cycling bum for five years after graduating from college. We talk about the surprising lack of respect he got as a bike messenger.
We talk in great detail about his time at VeloNews, from when he moved to Boulder to work as an overqualified intern, to working his way up the ladder, to the very dark times when a lot of the staff was fired and he didn’t know if the magazine would survive.
We talk about how he brought the magazine from a very bad place to the very good place it’s in now. We talk about his move to Global Cycling Network, and the (big) difference between writing for magazines and writing (and presenting) for video.
We talk about how he’s had to develop a thick skin. And why he makes himself so available on social media. We talk about asking hard questions, and Neal even answers a few questions posted for him on Twitter.
We talk about Leadville. And cramping. And Strava. And getting time to ride.
It’s a great conversation. Listen in any of the following ways:
A Note from Fatty: Today’s 100 Miles of Nowhere race report comes from Nick, whom everyone should follow on Twitter. For reals.
Also, I should mention that I’ve been hoping someone would send me a completely insane race report.
This is that report.
I’m not a cyclist. I’m a bike rider. I’m not even an athlete. My idea of “getting serious” about an ultramarathon was to switch to light cigarettes and to go from whiskey to beer.
I’ve missed out on the 100 Miles to Nowhere the last several years and finally was able to register for it.Sure, I could ride 100 miles on the bike at the gym but that’s not funny enough. I live in Chicago and we have a bike share program called Divvy. And what’s funnier than attempting #100MoN on a bike like this?
That’s a $1600 piece of high tech machinery with three — count ‘em, three —gears.
Look at that sexy not-composite frame! I pay a yearly fee for unlimited rides — providing they are less than thirty minutes. And being a cheap jerk, I’d want to swap bikes every thirty minutes to avoid getting extra charges. I honestly figured that I would do 25 miles on Divvy and then finish up at the gym because my butt hurts after two miles on those bikes.
I figured that my best bet for doing the #100MoN course-wise was Chicago’s lakefront path: eighteen miles of nearly-flat asphalt, in pretty good condition. I’ve biked and run along it hundreds of times over the years and I can close my eyes and describe every quarter of a mile.
What could possibly go wrong?
I set out at 4:30am without the benefit of coffee and proceeded north from Navy Pier. As I proceeded north and finished my first mile, I realized two things that I had forgotten about:
- No matter which direction you ride or run, you’re heading into the wind. Someone should probably consult a scientist about this.
- I’m less than 30 feet away from an angry piece of glass 50% larger than Switzerland. Waves, water, wind. In summer there’s no finer place to be, but after Labor Day it becomes your cruel mistress.
Right now I hate my life – and I just left my house.
I hit the top of the lakefront path for my second bike change after about an hour of total time. I knew the distance but wanted to live in denial. But I glanced at my watch anyway and saw that I was a bit over 8 miles.
In an hour.
Heading south was wonderful with the wind to my back. At 5:30am on a Saturday, I had the path to myself except for the occasional solitary runner. It was in the low 30s and windy and I was getting a bit cold.
Two more bike changes put me back to where I started:
I’ve only gotten 17 miles under my belt after 2 hours of cycling, with no snacks or coffee.
This is going to be a long day.
It was nearing 7am and I was enjoying the stillness. By my count I’ve only encountered 4 runners and some late night pot smokers who wanted to get lifted and watch the sun come up. But I hit my favorite stretch of the path – from Monroe Harbor to the Museum Campus that houses the world famous Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium and Shedd Aquarium.
I felt my body kick into an instinctual mode and reacting to the terrain, unconsciously shifting gears.
The further south I went, the more people I encountered. Generally the reverse is true — head south and once you’re past McCormick Place, the path is a ghost town.
But it’s Saturday morning and the runners come out…but I didn’t see the slender runners; I saw the Clydesdales. Those are my people. I would rather encounter and support those grinding out 15 minute miles than deal with Boston Qualifiers.
An hour later I made it to the Museum of Science and Industry – the famous Hyde Park institution a stone’s throw from the University of Chicago. For the last 2 hours I’ve been making good progress – over 9 mph! But the weather and the bike was taking its toll.
I looped around Jackson Park – about a mile and a half south of the MSI and headed back north and ran into the dreaded wind. It immediately killed my optimism about making it back to Navy Pier so I could get above a total of 35 miles on Divvy. After all – this is like the Olympics with the “degree of difficulty,” right? Surely 30 miles on a horrible bike is worth like 70 on a proper road bike? It’s about 10 miles north back to Navy Pier and I was huffing and puffing to stay above 7 mph.
But more importantly I needed coffee, so I found the nearest Dunkin with a close-by Divvy station for a recharge and a sit down. 30 miles in and my butt hurts. It made me realize that my road bike seat was worth every penny.
Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood is rather interesting – awesome architecture and home of famous people like trumpeter Louis Armstrong.
So I eventually got back on the lake, feeling better but running into a headwind. I just wanted to cross 40 miles on the Divvy for the day. As I got back near the Museum Campus, I realized it was close to 10am. I did the mental math and realized in the time it’ll take me to do the full 100 miles, people do triathlons.
The stretch between Roosevelt Road and Navy Pier was a lot more crowded – tourists, Weekend Armstrongers, fashionable runners and other assorted characters. I looped around Navy Pier, vaguely aware that my butt at one point had sensation to it.
Heading north, I was on my least favorite stretch – between Navy Pier and Oak Street beach. Less than a mile of pure torture, with intense wind, waves that will splash you – along with the path being at a sideways angle.
At this point I gave up and powered through a few more miles and dropped my bike off at Fullerton and decided that brunch and a nap is in order. I’ll do the rest tomorrow at the gym.
Total damage: 45.29 miles with 20 bike changes.
I’ll get you next year, #100MoN.
But in a funnier way that has me avoiding the lakefront.
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