A couple days ago, I was riding up the South side of Suncrest. I was near the top of this four-mile, 1200-foot climb, and it was getting cold and windy. This is not relevant to this story, but I like to point things like this out anyway. Because I like to paint pictures in your mind, and because I like to imagine that when you hear that I’m riding my bike up a mountain in the dead of Winter, you can’t help but admire me.
Anyway, as I neared the top (for I had nearly completed this incredible climb), I saw a cyclist ahead of me. Normally this would tell me that the race is on, but this cyclist was walking. “You good?” I shouted ahead, as I neared him, intelligently using the absolute minimum number of syllables required to ask the cyclist whether he needed help.
“My rear wheel won’t turn,” he replied.
“Want me to take a look?” I asked, knowing that if he knew exactly how mechanically inept I am, he’d answer, “No thanks.”
“Yeah, that would be great,” he replied, sounding a little embarrassed.
So I — gratefully, I must admit, because it meant I got to take a break — climbed off my bike. “Hold my bike,” I said, then tried to spin his back wheel.
Sure enough, it wouldn’t spin. And — very luckily for me — the reason why was obvious: the axle wasn’t properly seated in the dropout. Probably, he had taken a fall and it had got knocked loose then.
“So, did you take a fall?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he replied, even more embarrassed.
“This will take just a second,” I said.
Then, as I popped open the quick release and re-seated the wheel, I said, “This is a really nice bike. You must love riding it.”
“Thanks,” he said. And suddenly he was no longer embarrassed. Suddenly, in fact, he was proud. “This is the first time I’ve ever tried riding up Suncrest.”
“Nice work,” I said. “You’re about there.” I closed the quick release, said goodbye, and finished the climb.
Then, the whole way down, I thought about how smart I am. Because — for probably the thousandth time in my cycling career — the “Hey, that’s a great bike” gambit had worked for me.
Allow me to explain.
How to Make Friends Fast
We love our bikes. As cyclists, we can’t help it. They represent a choice, an expression of what matters to us. And — more often than not — of personal style.
So it’s kind of nice to hear from someone else that they like our bikes. It’s a lot like hearing, in fact, that they like us…but less creepy, by a lot, than hearing, “I like you” from a complete stranger.
But how you say it matters. Don’t just say, “Hey, nice bike” to someone. That can be misinterpreted as sarcasm, which may not be the best way to introduce yourself.
Instead, use these words: “That is a really nice bike.” “What a great bike” is acceptable as well. Or, if you’re younger than 35, you can substitute “sweet” for “nice” or “great.”
And don’t say that to people who have super high-end bikes. They hear it often enough. Say it to anyone you come across on a bike. Say it to people who pass you. Say it instead of (or at least before) “on your left” when you’re passing people.
Then see what happens.
I have gotten fat.
I think it might have something to do with eating more — and worse — and exercising less, though I’m open to theories that let me blame someone or something other than myself.
The thing is, I don’t want to tell you how fat I’ve gotten. I really don’t.
So I’ve made a bargain with myself, which I think (hope!) will get me motivated to get close to the weight I need to be, before the 2014 riding season really begins. A forcing function, if you will.
I have made an agreement that I have until March 1 to work on my weight in private, without telling you the astonishing number I have crept up to. On that day, I will tell you what my weight is. With discipline and luck and work and stuff, that number should be considerably lower than my current number.
I have given myself, essentially, a grace period.
I suspect that I am not the only one who is victim to the snowball effect post-race-season weight gain, combined with winter weight gain, combined with holiday weight gain.
You might say that I suspect this strongly.
So, how about we do this together. Between now and March 1, let’s work on dropping what we can, OK? And at that point, we’ll reveal where we are and how far we’ve still got to go.
Also, at that point, I’ll be announcing a carrot / stick contest in conjunction with my friends at Beeminder, where we can work together, track each other, encourage each other, win stuff, lose stuff, and in general have some fun, combined with some serious accountability.
Will you want to participate? This grace period where you’re working on your own should give you a clue. If you’re able to make great progress between now and March 1, maybe you’re fine on your own.
If, on the other hand, you discombobulate between now and then, you probably ought to be prepared to sign up.
So, fair warning. Your grace period starts now, too.
Join Me Some More
To help me kick off my grace period redoubling of effort and weight loss, I’m joining the Tour of Sufferlandria, which starts tomorrow (Saturday, January 25). It’s nine days long, riding a Sufferfest video route each day.
I’m expecting it to be a fantastic wake-up call. Plus, it benefits the Davis Phinney foundation for Parkinson’s, and I love me some good causes. And there are some nice prizes to win: bike tours, signed jerseys, coaching, and more.
So, if it’s too cold to ride outside, maybe this is just what you need to get yourself motivated.
And the awesome thing is, if you’re a Friend of Fatty (and you are), you get a 10% discount on buying the Sufferfest videos. Just use the code FATTY when you’re checking out.
Even awesomer, every time that code is used, the King of Sufferlandria will donate $0.50 out of his own pocket to the Davis Phinney foundation, in the name of Team Fatty.
So, you know, this is a pretty good time for you to round out your Sufferfest video collection and get back into shape.
Are you in? Let me know in the comments.
A Note from Fatty: I asked Nancy S to write a little bit about her experience with winning the InGamba Cycling Trip to Italy in the Grand Slam for Zambia fundraiser last month. Nancy is an amazing person; I am happy beyond words that she won this prize. And I think you’re gonna feel the same way.
Fair warning: have a hanky handy.
In the same vein as BostonCarlos’s recent guest post, I’m very excited to talk about the Awesomesauce (AKChick’s term, I believe) thing that has entered my life because of the most recent WBR campaign here on FatCyclist.com. I’m NancyJBS, formerly Nancy_in_MN. I changed my FatCyclist commenter handle for two reasons: because the old one was too hard to type and because I’d have to change it to Nancy_in_Italy for a week and then, sadly, switch it back to Nancy_in_MN.
That’s right, I’m going to Italy courtesy of InGamba tours and WBR! I’ve known this for almost two weeks and I still get goose bumps when I write about it or talk about it… which I will do any time someone is foolish enough to ask.
Being a fan and a Friend of Fatty wanna-be for the last 2 ½ years or so, I’ve come to feel awe for how Fatty brings great causes to our attention, how he attracts the most generous of prize donors and how he makes it fun to open my wallet. I had no idea how altruistic the bicycle industry was, on the whole, until I started seeing them in action in Fatty’s various campaigns. And I certainly didn’t think many of the pros were like that!
The named prize donors in this campaign, Ibis, Boom, Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, SRAM and InGamba Tours knock my socks off with their commitment to making the world a better place through bicycles. Thank you! From the bottom of my heart, thank you! Then there’s that anonymous donor that matched every dollar donated in The Power of 5 campaign: Thank you, beautiful stranger! I like to think about this donor and how any one of us could be riding next to him or her and not even know it. It makes me want to look at every cyclist I meet in a different light and I LOVE that!
A bit about why I’m a FatCyclist fan:
Though I can’t reconstruct the whole thing, finding this site was densely connected with a very hard time in my life. In the weeks following my husband’s initial cancer diagnosis, I had a lot of lonely hours in the evening. Paul would be sleeping (he was SO sick from the nastiest of surgical complications) and I found myself web surfing for hours. After stumbling upon a local company, Twin Six, that sold a line of cycling apparel with the hilarious theme of Fat Cyclist, then thinking, “Hmmm, I’m kinda fat, maybe I should order a jersey”, then learning that the jerseys weren’t actually available, I clicked the link to Fatty’s site in exasperation.
It started with how funny the blog was, and then the writing grabbed me. One night, digging through the archives for entertainment, I began to see hints of “the Susan story”, as I came to think of it, and a magical thing happened for me: I found someone who wrote about the pain and fears I was feeling from a perspective that I understood, one that wasn’t all about the horrors of cancer and the role of a caregiver. It was so much richer with the stuff about bicycling, the spoofs and the good causes.
For a time I was obsessed with learning about Susan and Elden, as real people, doing the battle. It also mattered to me to know that Elden had come out the other end as a happy, quite possibly well adjusted guy that could enjoy life (and love!) like a normal person. I mined the archives for anything I could find.
Alone at my computer, I would cry and rejoice for them and, even more, for Paul and myself. Essentially, it was the only time and place I would/could allow myself to wallow in self-pity about what was happening to us. I also felt freedom to think about what my future might look like without Paul. Late night grief therapy? Yeah, I think that’s what it was. And so much more!
Fast forward 2½ years and we are done fighting Paul’s cancer. It’s been a beautiful and horrifying time filled with amazing people who walk into our lives at just the right time and tremendous, but patient, misery on Paul’s part. We are now in hospice care, gearing up for Paul to go to heaven and feel good at last. I say “we” because our hospice team really cares for the whole family.
And then the best thing happened to me!
Winning the InGamba trip is a dream come true. When fantasizing, like everyone else, about winning a prize in the contest, it was the InGamba trip that most grabbed my attention. Though the bikes were awesome, I didn’t need a new bike. I’m fortunate enough to already have a decent stable of bikes.
But that trip! I didn’t even dare click the links to learn more about it because I KNEW it was an unattainable dream prize for me. I knew I couldn’t go on the trip because of the dates. It’s simply too soon, given what’s going on at home right now.
So when Katie from WBR emailed me, I very nearly didn’t ask about the trip.
I’m so glad I did!
After doing the happy dance for a bit (not pretty!) I called her, explaining my present situation, and the rest is history!
Katie, sweet, kind, and competent Katie, immediately called Joao at InGamba (in Italy!) and he offered to let me take the trip when I’m able. The next day I got an email from Joao offering to send me a complete InGamba cycling kit so I could feel some of the InGamba love in the interim.
See what I mean about bicycle people?
Paul and I have had a terrific time imagining me riding in Italy on a beautiful Pinarello, learning to love the Chianti region, meeting Joao and the gang, and eating/drinking so well it’s almost indecent.
Meanwhile, this win has gotten me out of a rut about cycling, it’s motivated me to fire up the pain cave and my Sufferfest videos and start thinking like a woman who intends to ride well in the near future. I am so blessed and very grateful!
Here’s my new bicycling motto:
Mangi per vivere, vivere di corsa, corsa da mangiare!
If the online translator I’m using did a good job, this means, “Eat to live, live to ride, ride to eat!” Now to learn how to pronounce it!
It’s not a good sign…
…when you notice that when you ride in the drops, your knees have started hitting your belly. And you can’t raise the bar because you—in what is now quite clearly a fit of foolish vanity and lack of foresight—“slammed” the stem and cut the fork to its absolute lowest position, back when you weighed twenty pounds fewer.
…when you notice you can no longer get into the drops at all. At least, not if you want to breathe.
…when you go out to ride and notice that your bike’s tires are all squishy and soft—and you know it’s not because you got a flat while riding recently. No, it’s because it’s been so long since you’ve been on your bike that all the air has had time to seep out of your tires.
…when none of your “Summer” jerseys fit anymore.
…when none of your “Winter” jerseys fit anymore (and not because they’re too large for you).
…when you start turning down invitations to ride with friends, because you don’t want them to see exactly how far you’ve fallen.
…when you bib tights stop having a “Spanx” effect, and now simply relocate your muffin top up a few inches. And also make it nigh impossible to breathe. (Especially deadly when combined with trying to ride in the drops.)
…when you realize — as you open it — that your seat pack contains the CO2 canister and tube from the last time you flatted.
…when there is sufficient time between the precipitating event and the impact itself for you to consider exactly how bad this crash is going to hurt.
…when you start tipping over at a standstill and you twist your foot to clip out and nothing happens and time slows down and now you’re at 30 degrees and you’re wrenching violently and your shoe won’t unclip because of either fusion or evil magic and now you’re at 60 degrees and you’ve put out an arm to break your fall even though part of you knows that what you’re actually about to do is break your collarbone and tear your rotator cuff. And now you’re at 80 degrees and you’ve still got plenty of time to notice that everyone in a 100-meter radius is watching you.
…when you go out for a ride in the winter and start to lose feeling in your face and fingers, but can’t say anything because everyone else on the ride seems to be perfectly comfortable.
…when you go on a ride with someone during a hot day in the Summer and they start by saying, “Hot enough for ya?” Because who knows what else they’ll say.
…when you spit and realize even as it’s leaving your mouth that the whole thing isn’t going to clear your mouth—and it’s very high-viscosity, due to the gel you sucked down a few minutes ago.
…when someone else spits and you’re in the slipstream.
…when you’re in a fast, low tuck and suddenly discover what “decreasing-radius turn” means.
…when you start thinking about how much you’re looking forward to the ride ending…and you haven’t yet reached the turnaround point.
A Note from Fatty: I am busy working on stuff that needs working on, plus it’s Winter and so I need to ration out my own bike-related observations ’til Spring. So today I’m pleased to give you a note from BostonCarlos, one of the winners in the Grand Slam for Zambia: The Power of 5.
I’m BostonCarlos – Formerly known as NYCCarlos. I’ve been a friend of Fatty since 2009. I even got a few honorable mentions in the blog way back when (“How to be nice“)!
First, I want to drop a HUUUUUUGE thank you on Katie and her team at WBR, and all of the awesome folks at Ibis, InGamba, Trek, Cannondale, BOOM, and Specialized. Without you guys, these Fundraisers aren’t quite as much FUN.
Second I want to say Elden, thank you SO much for putting this stuff together. Without you, I wouldn’t have even known what World Bicycle Relief is, let alone how incredibly awesome they are.
Why I Donate
WBR is such a fantastic organization. The saying goes – “Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for life.” – or something like that. WBR is teaching the men and women of Africa how to fish. The bikes are assembled, ridden, and maintained by Africans! They’re helping kids get to school, doctors get to patients, and small businesses get started.
I have been fortunate enough to have bikes in my life to make my days easier and more so much more fun… it just makes sense for me to give back to those who don’t.
My New Toy
If you hadn’t noticed, this year I moved to the outskirts of Boston. It turns out there are actually trails here! Because of this, I’ve been looking to build my own mountain bike over the winter so I could start ripping the new terrain this spring. When Katie e-mailed me on Tuesday I jumped up and down in my cubicle for a solid 10 minutes.
I couldn’t believe it was true… I had WON my dream bike! And I already knew exactly how I wanted to build it out. I wanted an awesome Mountain bike, so it was down to the Ibis Ripley and the Boom MTB. The Ripley is just so sexy. I had to have it.
Here’s how I’m planning to build it out: SRAM XX1 components, XX brakes, and RISE wheels with a Rockshox SID XX Fork (120 mm travel), Reverb seat post, and Truvativ Noir T40 flatbars. I’ve already been in touch with Scot Nicol (holy crap… I’ve been in touch with THE Scot Nicol!) and I can’t wait to get on my new Ripley and ride!
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