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.
A little while ago, I posted about how I cleaned out my basement, put in Wahoo Kickrs and bikes for The Hammer and me, then set up a TV and a Mac Mini for us to stare at.
Tying all this together is TrainerRoad, a subscription-based library of workouts and training plans designed to help you hit your cycling goals for the season.
And since, this season, I want to be the fastest I have ever been—I want to finish the Leadville 100 in under eight hours—I’m counting on TrainerRoad (and a really, really fast, lightweight Cannondale) for help.
It’s time for an update on how that’s working out.
The promise of TrainerRoad is that it’ll make you faster. That promise doesn’t mean much —and won’t keep you on the program — if you don’t really trust the guys behind it.
But I do. I’ve been talking pretty much constantly with Jonathan Lee, the Marketing Director at TrainerRoad. You wouldn’t think a marketing guy would be deeply knowledgeable about training and racing, but Jonathan’s an outrageously strong rider (his racing objective for this year is to win the XC Cat 1 National Title) and total physiology geek.
And he’s nice, too. And smart. And as obsessed with training right as I’ve ever seen a person be.
And then there’s Chad Timmerman, Head Coach for TrainerRoad. He’s a Level 1 USA Cycling Coach and a Cat 1 Dirt / Cat 2 Road racer.
These guys know what they’re talking about. I’ve been learning a lot from them.
Come Talk With Us
So I’ve asked them to share the love with my friends. Meaning you.
Meaning, I’m going to do a webinar chat with them, and you should totally join us. Here’s the info you need:
- When: Thursday, February 19, at 8:00pm (Mountain Time)
- Where: Register (for free) at GotoWebinar. Attendance is limited, so definitely don’t wait to sign up.
- What About: The topic will be training tips, techniques, and myths, my upcoming attempt at the Hour Record (yes, really), and anything else that we feel like talking about.
So if you’re training and want to be better, or if you’re just thinking of getting started, you should probably click here to register
The Big Surprise
This next bit is going to come off as a little bit commercial-y. But it’s not. It’s actually how I feel. Because initially, both the Hammer and I expected to tolerate TrainerRoad. To put up with it. To, basically, survive it.
We did not expect to love it.
But we do.
We actually love the intelligent intensity and variety and automatic simplicity of TrainerRoad workouts. We love the way we have a plan that takes into account how much time we have for exercising (and that this amount sometimes changes), and how we’re given varying workouts that build us up and make us stronger, little by little.
We love how the workouts are super-easy to download, and then—thanks to the way the TrainerRoad software talks to our phones or computers, which talk to the Wahoo Kickr—get the right amount of resistance for the effort we’re supposed to be putting out.
Which means that all the Hammer and I have to do is show up, follow instructions, and do the work.
In exchange for which we’re promised we’ll get stronger and faster.
And you know what? It feels like it’s working. These guys are really pretty amazing at building plans, at building you up, at a reasonable pace.
This is not to say that everything’s working exactly perfectly with the setup we have. There are some equipment issues that can be pretty frustrating.
The top issue is bluetooth flakiness. Specifically, if I were starting over, I would not use a Mac Mini as the machine to capture the bluetooth signal from six different devices (two cadence sensors, two heart rate monitors, two Wahoo Kickrs). It’s really really uncommon for everything to pair on the first try. And uncommon enough for everything to pair at all that we’ve kind of given up running two instances of the Mac version of TrainnerRoad, and instead run mine on the Mac, and The Hammer’s on her phone.
I’ve talked with TrainerRoad about this frustration, and they say that Apple, when it released the Yosemite version of their OS, changed bluetooth interaction. They’re working on working around it, but it’s still kind of clunky.
The workaround would be to get ANT+ USB dongles for the computer, using them instead of bluetooth to read data. This is what we’re going to try next, because it really is awesome to be watching Netflix and be able to see your workout profile and stats and get audio cues and video and video instructions.
The next gap in TrainerRoad is it is really just about the training part of getting faster. And as I have learned through years and years of sad experience, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.
So in spite of the fact that I feel like I’m pretty darned strong for mid-February, I have a bunch of weight to lose…and I’ve still got a lot of work to do that (today’s weight: 168.8). I’d really love it if TrainerRoad had a diet plan as thorough and well thought-out as its workout plans. Better yet, integrated with its workout plans.
I’m sure I’m not the only guy who’s wished for this, and I expect it’s something TrainerRoad has considered. So if you’re reading this, TrainerRoad guys, consider this my vote for a really useful upsell. I’d be all-in.
So, yeah, room to grow, room to improve. But here’s the thing I’m wanting to drive home here: I’m a full-on convert. And so is The Hammer. This is the first winter we’ve ever looked forward to our indoor trainer workouts…and I’m saying this months into winter, so this isn’t just a “new owner pride” kind of thing.
Like you, I am a very busy person. Like you, my time is valuable and I have many responsibilities. I cannot afford to waste any time, and that is true even —nay, especially — of the time I spend on a bicycle.
This includes, naturally, the critical moment between when you lose control of your bike and when you hit the ground.
Think about it: in today’s busy world, there just aren’t as many opportunities as there used to be to be truly contemplative: to think deep thoughts, to make life decisions, to reflect and ponder.
But in that moment just before you turf it, you’ve got nothing else to do but think. It’s not a good time to send a text message or check email. You don’t have time for a conversation (at least, not one of any real depth).
It’s just a good time for you to think.
“But Fatty,” I hear you ask, “What should I think about?”
And that’s an excellent question. Fortunately for you, I have compiled a list of excellent subjects worthy of your instant-before-crashing contemplation.
1. “I’m Pretty Sure My Wrist (or Collarbone, or Finger) is Plenty Strong Enought to Withstand the Impact of My Combined Force and Mass.” I wanted this to be my first item in this list because it is, to be honest, empirically my very favorite favorite thing to think right before I crash.
I offer, as evidence of this, a photo of my two hands, taken exactly one minute ago:
There are no tricks being used in this photo; my left hand genuinely is swollen to the size of a catcher’s mitt.
Why? Well, because a few days ago, when I was taking my brand new Scalpel out on my first ride with it ever, I hit a soft sandy spot in the apex of a hairpin turn in the trail. At approximately zero miles per hour, I tipped over to the left.
I took this opportunity — this slow-motion crash — to think to myself, “Well, the smart play right now would be to stick my hand out and catch all my weight and momentum with my pinky finger, which I’m sure won’t bend back unimaginably far and in a most painful manner.”
And that’s exactly what I did. Although, as it turns out, even I was surprised at how far back my left pinky finger is capable of bending, not to mention how incredibly painful it can be for the next several days.
2. “I am an Idiot.” Considering the fact that the contemplative time known as “I know I’m going to crash but have not yet hit the ground” period is remarkably brief, it’s astonishing that one has time enough to have multiple thoughts.
“I am an idiot” is almost always one of them. If you have not ever before considered yourself an idiot just as you were about to crash, allow me to wholeheartedly recommend that you queue this thought up and have it ready for the next time you are about to punch the pavement.
Why? Look around. Are there other people currently laying on the ground all around you, rolling and writhing and groaning in pain?
That’s because they either didn’t fall when they rode by this exact place where you are currently falling, or they were smart enough to not go riding in some area where they were definitely going to crash.
You, on the other hand, are crashing. Right here, right now. Which means you’re doing something painful to yourself that lots and lots and lots of people aren’t doing to themselves. Which, when you think about it, is kind of an idiot move.
Might as well acknowledge it.
3. “I Sure Hope Nobody / Everybody Sees This.” In general, this thought occupies my mind concurrently with the “I am an idiot” observation. In fact, I have this thought as I’m crashing much more often than the “Oh no, this is really going to hurt” thought that, in quieter moments, I expect is probably the more reasonable thought to express.
On the other hand, every once in a while you’ll have a spectacular crash, and you’ll furthermore be aware that this crash you are having is spectacular even before it starts hurting spectacularly badly.
The good news is, thanks to YouTube and the ubiquity of GoPros, there is in fact a pretty good chance that everyone in the world will see it.
The bad news is, it’s going to be someone else who uploads this incredible footage, and they’re going to monetize your agony.
4. Consider the Absence of Pain. This is a good thought to have if you’re flying through the air for a nice, long time. Take a moment to reflect that right now, this instant, you don’t hurt.
In fact, as you rush toward the ground, maybe reflect on how light—how right—you feel. Your legs feel good, your collarbone’s intact, you aren’t aware of any giant hematomas growing out of your forehead.
Take this moment to be grateful for all these things, because it’s going to be the last such moment for a good long while.
5. “I Think I’ll Take a Nap When I Hit The Ground.” If you’ve ever been on a truly long, exhausting endurance ride, you know how tired you can be. When you get tired enough, you might experience a certain sense of relief as you approach the ground. “This doesn’t look so bad,” you might tell yourself. “In fact, that ground looks downright comfortable. I think I’ll stay there for just a little while. Just catch a few winks.”
As a bonus, you then have permission to just lay there after the crash until someone comes along to help and asks if you need anything.
“Yes,” you can reply, “I’d like a pillow.”
A “Real Life Seems to Have Gotten in the Way of My Blog Life” Note from Fatty: If I could have my way, I’d spend all my time blogging about biking and talking about biking and biking while talking about biking. However, it turns out that I have a job and responsibilities and stuff. Some of which, inconsiderately, have gotten in the way of my plans to do some live / recorded podcasty things. So:
- The Rockwell Relay Chat: This was supposed to be today! In fact, it was supposed to be really, really soon today. But I’ve got something else going on right at that very moment. So we’re moving this chat to Tuesday, February 17, at 7pm PT / 10pm ET. Register here!
- The Book Club: This was going to be this Tuesday, but it’s not ready to go. I’ll have a new date for this soon.
A Note About Racing Leadville with Fatty and WBR: If you’ve ever wanted to race the Leadville 100, this might be your best opportunity to do so, while making an awesome difference in the world. By raising $5K for World Bicycle Relief, you can be on Team WBR-Fatty-Queen of Pain. Which is my way of saying that by signing up, you can join Reba Rusch and me for training, talking, pre-race clinics, and otherwise hanging out. Read details and apply here.
Sleeping with Your Bike is a Terrible Idea
I’ve made no secret that I want to be fast when I race this year. Really fast. I’m working hard to drop the holiday pudge before the season begins, while simultaneously improving my form and strength on the bike.
I have also been doing some research on what the best bike would be for an XC / endurance racer like me. Basically, I’ve noticed that a lot of the fast guys locally are on Cannondale Scalpels and F-Si’s lately. And that they are incredibly innovative and light.
And most importantly, I borrowed and rode one, and instantly obliterated my own personal record on a climb that had been vexing me the whole year.
And that’s why I got ahold of the world’s greatest Cannondale rep, Matt Ohran, who made a few calls on my behalf.
And a few weeks later, I got this SMS photo from my friend (and soon-to-be Rockwell Relay teammate) Cory at SBR Cycles:
Yeah. A Scalpel 29 Carbon Team. Complete with ENVE 29XC wheels and SRAM XX1 drivetrain and brakes.
“I’ll be right over,” I texted back to Cory, and within an hour, I had this:
(Sprinter van not included)
No, I don’t get to keep the Scalpel forever. Yes, I’m still outrageously excited.
As you would expect, I immediately started texting friends. You know, for gloating purposes. Here’s an exchange I had with my friend DJ:
It’s a common question, for some reason: Did you sleep with your new bike? Almost as if it’s expected of us.
Few of us, however, actually follow through and sleep with our bikes. Which is, as it turns out, a good thing.
As I shall now demonstrate, sleeping with your bike is a terrible idea.
Reason 1. Bikes Are Bigger Than You Think
When you’re riding a good bike, it kind of just disappears from under you. This, unfortunately, doesn’t apply at all when the bike is in bed with you.
As it turns out, bikes take up more room than you might imagine, quite literally forming a substantial wedge between you and your loved one.
This, of course, assumes you have a loved one in your bed. Which, if you have a bike in your bed, will not be the case for very long.
2. Not Very Cuddly
While most bikes are, thankfully, lacking sharp edges, they nevertheless tend to be a little bit bony, with sharp angles and edges that verge on the serrated (I’m looking at you, 11-speed cassette).
It’s like it’s giving me the cold shoulder. Or headset. Whatever. Frankly, this made sleeping very difficult. And when I finally did get to sleep, well that’s when the bike finally decided it wanted to get close.
Have you ever wakened to find a handlebar in your ear? It’s less pleasant than you might think.
3. Selfish Sleepers
Seeing as how it’s made of carbon fiber and metal, you wouldn’t think the Scalpel would require a lot of warmth when in bed.
But that doesn’t prevent it from being a total covers hog.
And the thing thrashes around and kicks in its sleep, too, taking more of the bed as the night goes on, completely oblivious to the fact that its saddle is in your face.
And even a new saddle doesn’t smell great at 3:00am.
But a well-worn saddle…well, that just smells nasty.
And don’t even get me started on morning breath from a bike.
Between the kicking and thrashing and poking and covers stealing, I promise you: sleeping with a bike is guaranteed to leave you completely exhausted when morning comes.
4. The Morning After
Great, you’ve slept with your bike. Now it’s going to feel like it has the right to use your shower, where it will use up all the hot water and most of your soap
Then it’s going to leave a greasy residue on the shower floor.
And you think it’s going to put the lid down after using the bathroom?
Yeah, right. Guess again.
But the real problem—the biggest problem—with sleeping with your new bike is that your other bikes are going to find out.
And they’re going to get all jealous and petulant, thinking that they should get to come in and sleep in the bed too.
And if you think sleeping with one bike is uncomfortable, wait until all your bikes try to crowd in.
It’s a nightmare.
A “Hey, Let’s Talk” Note from Fatty: As you no doubt know, I’m a big fan of the Rockwell Relay. It is, in fact, one of the three events I absolutely positively make sure I do every year.
I’ve done it four times now (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014), and I’ve loved it every single time. I love the beauty of the area. I love the friendliness of the competition. I love the way you get a chance to race your brains out, support your other teammates, and eat like there’s no tomorrow.
Over the course of the four times I’ve done this race, I’ve learned a bunch about it. Enough, in fact, that I’m probably a good guy to have a chat with if you’re going to do the race yourself.
Which, this Thursday at 2pm MT, is exactly what we’re going to do: talk live about the Rockwell Relay.
Joining me will be race director Tyler Servoss, as well as other racers with considerable experience in this event: Spencer Storey and Christian Walton.
We’re going to talk about the route, equipment, strategy, rules and rule changes, tips for not bonking at 3am, and what the race is like in general. We’ll make plenty of time for answering questions, too.
If you’re going to be racing the Rockwell Relay, if you’ve raced it before and want to chat about your experience, or if you’re just considering signing up, you should join us. For reals. (But if you can’t attend live, I will have a recording of the event available later.)
You need to register to attend this event live (but it doesn’t cost anything), so click here to get yourself set up.
Ready-Made Metaphors to Improve Your Storytelling
On a near-daily basis, people contact me, asking me to read their brand-new cycling blog, and to link to it. Because it’s going to be the next big thing.
I generally react by employing some combination of these two time-tested techniques:
- Ignore: I’ve found that at least in the case of email, if I ignore something it really does go away. Or at least it drifts down my inbox. And out of sight is out of mind.
- Reply: Sometimes, like when I have something else I really ought to be doing, I decide to check out the site. At that point, I generally discover that there are a grand total of three posts, the third of which is an appeal to the writer’s (no doubt vast) audience to give them some ideas to write about. I reply to people with these fledgling blogs and good intentions to get back to me once they have fifty or so good posts. They never do.
This problem manifests in other places, too. Like, when people are trying to tell me stories about their bike riding adventures. They start talking, telling me something about turns and sky and tarmac and berms and within seconds my attention has wandered.
This is in stark contrast to my own stories, which I find consistently and endlessly riveting.
As, naturally, do you.
“Why, Fatty?” I hear you ask. “Why is it that your stories are so astonishingly interesting, while mine are so lackluster that I frequently cannot even bear to finish telling them, due to lack of interestingness?”
It’s because of a storytelling secret I employ: colorful metaphors. As well as similes, which are like metaphors (yes, there’s a t-shirt for that gag).
But do you think I just spout these metaphors off the top of my head in the heat of the moment? Nay. Nay, I reiterate. I instead prepare them in a dark room, my eyes undistracted.
And then I list and memorize them, so I can use them at appropriate moments as I ride. Or, when push comes to shove, I seek out cycling experiences that will allow me to use these carefully prepared metaphors.
Sadly for you, you are not a famous and beloved blogger with years and years of experience in creating and deploying exquisite cycling metaphors. Luckily for you, however, I am a generous soul and have taken the time to build you a starter list of cycling metaphors, so that you can be at least fractionally as interesting as I am.
“I was shot out of a cannon.” I list this metaphor first because I consider it to be the most important of all metaphors, due to the fact that I am so fast. You can use it to describe your explosive power in a sprint or attack. You can use it to explain your flight as you went over your handlebars. This metaphor can be intensified with any number of expletives between “a” and “cannon.” But only if you’re really fast.
[Note: This metaphor is copyrighted by Bob Bringhurst. All rights reserved. Used without permission, but he’s pretty cool about me plagiarizing.]
“I was a leaf on the surface a rushing stream.” I like this metaphor because it is truly evocative. Use it to describe the turbulent harmony amongst you, your bike, and the terrain. Your audience will be unable to help but think of you as simultaneously fragile, courageous, and unconsciously graceful. They will see you as being at one with your bike and the road/trail, possessing a preternatural sense of flow. Oh yes, do your best to use the word “preternatural” in your story, too. (But learn how to pronounce it first.)
“We tumbled like lovers.” As you know, sex sells, which is why this blog is so sexy. However, this metaphor—while mentioning lovers—turns out to not be about lovers at all! No, it turns out it’s something you say to describe how you crashed, but didn’t manage to clip out of your pedals. The contrast between the language of the metaphor and the action being described is almost too beautiful. Your audience will find itself caught up in the moment, and may not be able to help but weep.
“My tire expelled its breath, forcefully. Its last.” Lungs hold air. Tires hold air. Both are in big trouble if they get punctured. This metaphor is so perfectly apt it’s almost not a metaphor at all. It’s like a metaphor sandwich with extra cheese. Honestly, I’m a little bit in awe of myself that I came up with this.
PS: In this blog post, “five” is a metaphor for “four.” And also I have a meeting I need to get to right now and so had to post this before I wrote my fifth metaphor, which is too bad because it was totally going to be the fifth one. A hint: an electric blanket is used as a metaphor for an oppressively hot, windless day.
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