A Big THANK YOU from The Hammer

03.19.2014 | 8:48 pm

I wanted to say a huge thank you to the 165 people that have joined Elden and me in our quest to lose weight. The last few weeks have definitely been a challenge for me! Whether you have a lot of weight to lose or just a few pounds I want to thank you for making the commitment with Beeminder to publically acknowledge your weight loss goals.

Not only are we making a difference in our lives, but we are also impacting young girls in Africa! What an awesome thing: a situation where everyone can win…by losing! As a result of the $19.95 the 167 of us each donated when we began this challenge, we have raised enough money to buy 24 bikes. So, even by just starting something good for ourselves, we have essentially already changed the lives of 24 young ladies in Zambia. Talk about win-win!

Emily

This happy young lady is Emily. We met Emily when we traveled to Zambia with World Bicycle Relief. She was one of the teenage girls fortunate to receive a bike through the efforts of WBR.

Emily and her new bike can now make the six-mile round trip to and from school in a quarter of the time it takes to walk. This allows her more time to study and take care of the chores around her home. Your small sacrifice of a few dollars to join our weight loss contest will have an impact on a young girl a half a world a way. I cannot say Thank You enough!

I’m also excited about our weight loss potential as a group of Fat Cyclist Fans! Losing weight is not easy, and knowing that 165 people are suffering right along with me is a comfort! The end result of our weight loss struggle will be worth it in the end–at least that is what I keep telling myself! I’m hoping to come away a little faster for my racing endeavors this summer.

I’m curious why you decided to join Elden, Beeminder, and me in our weight loss contest. I would love to read about it in the comment section.

And If you have any good low calorie/low carb recipes I would love to have them.

You see, Elden is out of town this week and I have temporarily taken control of his blog. It’s our secret. Lets see how long I can go before he finds out.

 

How I’m Losing Weight This Year: The Egg White Scramble

03.17.2014 | 9:57 am

A couple years ago, I wrote about how I used egg whites and avocado to lose weight. A couple years later, people still ask me if I continue to be on the avocado and egg white diet. 

The answer is, “Yes…sort of.”

The problem, as you might expect, is that this particular diet works only if you actually stick to it. And even a person who doesn’t particularly need or care about variety in food — e.g., me — eventually gets tired of eating the same thing over and over.

So, as The Hammer and I work on our respective weight loss efforts in the FatCyclist / Beeminder weight loss challenge, we’ve adapted the recipe a little. And it’s working out great (I’m at 167.6 pounds today, down from my initial weigh-in of 173).

Essentially, we’ve started scrambling the egg whites with a lot of mushrooms, onions, and zucchini. And some cheese. And often, some chicken or steak. 

And — even for The Hammer, who’s down to her last couple of pounds to lose (and I’m down to my last twelve or so to lose) — it’s working. 

It’s delicious, it works, and — once you know a couple tricks we have been using — it’s really fast and easy.

So let’s get started.

Prep Work

It sounds like too much work to chop and sauté a bunch of onions, mushrooms and zucchini before each meal…and it is.

So we do a huge batch of onions, mushrooms, and zucchini, all at once, and then refrigerate it, using some whenever we cook.

There’s no recipe, no correct amount of what to use. But we chop up a couple onions and then enough mushrooms and zucchini to fill the biggest frying pan we have in the house.

And instead of butter, we sauté using chicken broth.

Sure, this takes a little time, but then we’ve got this mixture that turns our very boring batch of egg whites into a meal that has some bulk (which means it looks like more food and takes longer to eat, which is pretty important when you’re dieting), and it tastes good

Without, I should add, adding any significant number of carbs or other calories.

Prep Work, Part 2

The Hammer and I have been grilling a lot of chicken and steak on the outdoor barbecue lately. This is of course for the family dinner. As long as we’re doing this, though, we’ve started grilling — and then refrigerating — extra. Which we’ve then been chopping into our scrambled egg whites.

Adding It All Together

So, between five egg whites, a few big spoonfuls of our pre-saute’d onion/mushroom/zucchini mix, several bite-sized pieces of steak or chicken, and just a tiny amount of shredded cheese, we’ve got a really nice-sized (and good-tasting) meal, which can be made in just a few minutes. We then chop up some tomato and a quarter of an avocado (per person) on top of this, add some Cholula (for me) or Chipotle Tabasco (for her), and you’ve got something that doesn’t remotely feel like you’re dieting.

But you are.

Because that’s all lean protein, good fats, and hardly any carbs.

Try it. You’ll (probably) like it.

Bonus Tip

As a cyclist, I would never ever say that you should live a carb-free life. If you’re going to exercise for more than an hour at a stretch, it just won’t work. 

But, if you skip the carbs during most of the day and then have some carbs (I like to have the egg white scramble described above, but wrapped in a tortilla) in the meal before you exercise, you’ll have the energy you need to get in a good workout, and (this is important to me) you appease the God of Carb Craves that otherwise will eventually overpower all your willpower and leave you eating an entire loaf of bread at a single sitting.

PS: I tried taking pictures of what the egg white scramble looks like, but I lack the gift of photographing food, and scrambled eggs are pretty gross-looking anyways. 

Razik Vortex First Impressions: Play Kerplunk, Look Exotic, Grate Cheese

03.13.2014 | 2:21 pm

Sixish years ago, I wrote An Open Letter to Delta 7 Sports, Maker of the Arantix Mountain Bike, where I related my impressions of the then-new Isotruss frame. It’s one of the most popular posts I ever wrote, in spite of the fact that it’s possible I made an occasional sarcastic remark therein.

To my surprise, in spite of the considerable attention I brought to them, the good folks at Delta 7 never invited me to come take a ride on one of their bikes. 

And then Delta 7 became known as much for the way their bikes self-destructed during the 2008 Interbike Outdoor demo day as for their exotic-looking (with pricing to match) spiderwebbish frames, and  went out of business. Imagine that. 

I wept bitter tears, knowing  I would likely never get a chance to ride something that looked like a bike mated with a Hoberman Sphere

Well. Never say never. Except for when you’re saying “never say never,” in which case it’s perfectly fine to say it twice in a single sentence.

All of this is, of course, the nonsensical preamble to the fact that a new company—Razik Bicycles—has emerged, rising from the ashes of Delta 7 like some unholy latticework-constructed phoenix. (And I mean that in the nicest possible way, naturally.) And last Saturday, I got to spend an hour or so riding one myself.

And this is what I thought.

How It Looks

Let’s start with how the bike looks, because–love it or hate it–there’s no getting around the fact that the Razik Vortex is eye-catching.

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Heath Thurston of Razik lifts the Vortex.

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The frame, up close. Yup, took this shot with my phone. Steady hands, eh?

There’s an exotic geekiness to the look of this material, and you’re going to make your own decision as to whether you like it. In photos, I don’t. Not really. It’s too “We’re doing this because we can” for me. But when I looked at it in person, the wildness of the material kind of grabbed me. I was drawn to the rough, Klingon-y look of the Isotruss weave, and I thought, “Well, that looks pretty darned cool.”

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Let’s Ride

Heath at Razik was awesome enough to let The Hammer and me take a couple of the demo bikes and ride them for half an hour or so. Which, by the way, turned into 90 minutes, since neither The Hammer nor I have anything that resembles a sense of direction; we got lost and rode around the industrial warehouse maze for quite a while. In fact, it’s only due to a rare piece of luck that we aren’t still out there now.

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Foolishly, as The Hammer and I began our ride, Heath did not ask what I was carrying in my jersey pockets, which I figure he’s going to regret in about three paragraphs.

I tooled around for a few hundred yards, getting a feel for the bike, then I stood up and sprinted, wanting to see whether these airy tubes made for a flexy frame. 

Nope. The Vortex sprints great. Stand up, grab the drops and fly. Not flexy at all. Which brings up the question, is it too rigid? The answer is easy: it’s not. The lousy chip seal roads we were riding on are buzzy and harsh, but the Vortex smoothed it out.

As far as handling goes, the Vortex corners nice and tight. In fact, it’s a little too tight for my taste, with a shorter wheelbase than I’m used to. Riding hands-free takes more concentration than usual, and turns can feel just a little twitchy. Part of this, granted, may be that I had to ride a 56cm frame, which was too big (I usually ride a 52). 

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To be honest, though, the ride characteristics of the frame material — the Isotruss carbon weave — are almost impossible to tease out. The frame is light, sure, but no lighter than other carbon frames. It’s stiff when you pedal, but frame stiffness is absolutely a choice nowadays, not a material characteristic. It dampens out some chip seal buzz, but adjusting your tire width and pressure affect that ride attribute way more than your frame choice.

There were a couple of things I thought might be a problem that turned out to not be problems at all. It was a windy day when we rode, and so I listened for whistling from the frame. I confess to being disappointed that there was none. 

I wondered if rocks would get stuck and rattle around in the frame, so I stopped at the side of the road, picked up a few pieces of gravel, and dropped them into the frame. At which point I found that anything that falls into the frame easily also falls out of the frame easily. Which, alas, deprives me of getting to say, “They should have named this the Razik Rattler.”

Dammit.

There were two things that bugged me, however. First, the tubes—including the top tube— are thick, and the Isotruss weave juts out. So the inside of my knees and legs grazed the top tube pretty often.

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Did they graze the top tube more often than they do on my own bike? I honestly don’t know. But I certainly noticed it more often.

Next, the brake cable comes out of the frame at an odd place, so it extends out (to the left) rather than up. The inside of my (admittedly massive) quads bumped this cable dozens of times  during the ride. Would I eventually adapt? Probably. But should I have to?

So, do I like it? Sure. Does it ride well? Sure (again), but some will like it more than others…which is true for every bike in the world. Was the ride life-changing? No. 

Is it wild-looking and eye-catching? Yes. In fact, for the first time ever, a couple of guys on recumbents going the other way actually swiveled their heads as I went by.

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Although if I were the Razik marketing guy, I might be hesitant to go with the tagline, “Even wackier-looking than recumbents.”

Bonus Features

To think of the Razik Vortex simply as a bike—something to ride—is a mistake. It is so much more, as I took the time to discover while on my test ride.

First and foremost, what other frame allows you to do this? 

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The ability to grate some cheese for a mid-ride picnic cannot be overestimated. Nor the ability to strain pasta with your bike. 

And what if you and (up to three) of your riding companions (ages 4 and above) gets bored of riding and wants to mix things up a bit? Well, with the Razik Vortex, a handful of gravel, and some coffee stirrers (or, in a pinch, twigs from a tree), you’re all set for an afternoon of KerPlunk-style fun:

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And don’t even get me started on what a cool tanning pattern you might be able to give yourself if you were to lay out in the sun with this bike on top of you. 

Other Things That I Should Probably Mention

What haven’t I talked about yet? Well, how about the fact that Razik bikes are fabricated and handbuilt in Utah. Check out this in-process, pre-baked tube: 

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I only wish they’d leave that metal tube in the completed bike. Now that would be Klingon-y.

And the whole handmade-in-Utah thing is at least partially where the price comes from: a frame costs $3999. That’s a lot. And once you build it up, you’re going to be looking at a $10,000 bike. [UPDATE: Heath at Razik tells me you can get a Shimano Ultegra build for under $5799; this isn’t yet on the website but he tells me it will be soon.] If you want to go top-end electronic (Shimano Di2 Dura Ace, Campy Super Record EPS), you’re looking at $15k or above.

Which is not unheard of. For an exotic builder, in fact, it’s not even outrageous.

But Razik has some Delta 7 baggage it’s automatically saddled with, and if I were them (which I’m not), I’d focus on getting those prices down and on making it clear that this is not Delta 7. I’d be clear that Delta 7 was focusing on the novelty of Isotruss, instead of focusing on being a good bike manufacturer that happens to be using Isotruss for a frame material. 

And I’ll be interested to see what else Razik builds — Razik says they’re going to build a FS mountain bike, as well as a 29er hardtail.

Is the Razik Vortex the new dream bike, made with a new dream material? Well, ninety minutes of riding in a flat industrial park (fifteen of which was spent taking ridiculous photos) is probably not enough to answer that question.

I will tell you this: I’d be interested in riding one built my size, on a big climb. I have a feeling the Vortex might shine there. 

And if not, well, at least I’ll have the wherewithal to make a nice cheese and pasta dish at the summit.

Last Day to Register for Weight Loss Challenge (Plus Helpful Tips)

03.11.2014 | 10:44 am

A week ago, I posted an announcement for the FatCyclist / Beeminder Challenge.

So far, more than 100 of you (including The Hammer and me) have signed up. Which means that more than 100 of us are serious about hitting our weight goals by June 21, and that we’ve raised more than $2000 for World Bicycle Relief.

That is awesome. 

Today, I wanted to let you know that it’s the last day you can register. 

Tomorrow, we reset the points back to 0, and the contest begins for reals. 

So now seems like a good time for me to give you a link to details of how the challenge works, along with a link to register.

And give some helpful tips for making it easy to leave comments to each other, as well as maximize your points right off the bat.

Use Retroratchet TODAY 

When you start a Beeminder program, Beeminder automatically gives you a weeklong grace period — time for you to get on the good side of the yellow brick road. And, probably, even to get below the yellow brick road before the road starts dropping down. Like my chart, here:

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Normally, that’s awesome. Because it feels good to look at the chart and be able to say to yourself, “I’m doing great. I’m doing better than what’s expected of me.” 

But with this contest, when you’re below the yellow brick road (green dot territory), you are getting only two points per day, instead of the three you get when you’re on the good side of the yellow brick road (blue dot territory).

So, today you can use the “Retroratchet” feature to drag the yellow brick road to wherever you are, and adjust the path of that road toward your goal starting today. 

Here’s what my chart looks like after I used Retroratchet:

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Tada! Now instead of being way below the yellow brick road, I’m on the yellow brick road for when the contest starts in earnest (i.e., tomorrow). This way, everyone who has signed up has the same fair chance of doing well in the contest, regardless of how they did during the practice period.

Note that for the purpose of this contest, today is the only day you can use Retroratchet. After that, the feature will be disabled so you can’t constantly drag the yellow brick road to where you are, giving yourself more points in the process.

Also note that Retroratchet is a two-edged sword. You can use it today to put yourself on the yellow brick road, but by doing so you eliminate any buffer you might have built up by getting below the yellow brick road. And that means if you mess up, your odds of derailing are better.

So, do you want to Retroratchet? It’s up to you. I did, because I’m confident I can keep up my progress, and felt I had too much buffer, which for me is an incentive to slack off.

How do you “Retroratchet?” Well, log in to Beeminder and go to your personal page. Below your chart, you’ll see several links in a tab format, like this: 

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Click the “Retroratchet” link and then click the Retroratchet button. Suddenly, you’re right in the middle of the yellow brick road, and whatever safety buffer you’ve built up this week is gone

It’s a gamble. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth taking.

Comments

One thing I’ve really liked in past weight loss challenges is being able to leave encouraging comments (and where appropriate, encouraging taunts) to each other, so I asked the folks at Beeminder to add a Comments feature. Impressively, they did it pretty much instantly.

So now you can go to anyone’s personal page (the Leaderboard is a good way to see others’ pages) and leave a comment. Just look below the chart, log in with any of your popular social media logins, and you’re set to leave a comment. Easy.

Good luck with joining, and meeting your goals. This contest is gonna be great. 

Bad Stuff That Became Awesome Stuff

03.10.2014 | 10:25 am

First came the fires. 

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Specifically, back in July of 2012, Lambert Park — a small but well-crafted network of singletrack at the foot of the mountains above Alpine, UT, just one mile from where I live — caught fire in a huge way. 

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It could have been a lot worse,” we said. Presciently, as it turns out. 

Because a year later, the floods came. And they were amazing. Without any vegetation holding the water back, it cut an amazing gash down the mountain.

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That’s me, standing at the bottom of one of the trenches the water cut — it was well more than twenty feet deep and thirty feet wide. 

And all those rocks and dirt that the water picked up? Well, they had to wind up somewhere.

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Anywhere the water went, it left boulders behind.

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Yeah, that trail suddenly gets a lot more technical right there. 

And honestly, I didn’t think the flooded, rock-strewn part of Lambert Park would ever be rideable again.

And I am so happy to announce that not only was I mistaken, but I was mistaken in the best possible way.

UtahMountainBiking.com To The Rescue

UtahMountainBiking.com is one of the sites pretty much every single mountain biker in Utah knows about — it’s the best resource there is for getting ride information and access info for trails throughout Utah. 

But they also do a lot of trail work.

So after the rains and the floods, the UtahMountainBiking.com guys got to work. Within a few days — amazingly — they got parts of the trail into rideable condition.

And then more rain…and floods… came.

I thought it was over; I assumed this section of Lambert Park was done. 

And I was wrong. The UTMTB guys went back at it.

And they made the trail better than it used to be. Specifically, they took the Zag trail, which used to be one of the least interesting trails in the park, and turned it into a fun and challenging ride.

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It’s twisty and technical, but if you pay attention you can keep your momentum.

The Hammer and I have been out to Lambert every day for the past few days; the trail salvaged by the the UTMB folks has become our favorite.

Who’d have expected that fire plus flood could equal a fantastic reimagining of a new trail? 

Thanks, UtahMountainBiking.com guys. You’re amazing.

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