This story is true. Before I say anything else, you must understand this very important fact. Which is to say, everything I will describe in today’s post actually happened. In fact, it actually happened last weekend.
The second thing you must accept as a crucial part of the premise of this story is this: I am a complete idiot. If you don’t take this second statement as given, you’ll never believe the first part.
Are we clear on both of these facts? Can we continue? Excellent.
Saturday was the day we had been waiting for. A weekend day. Not snowy or rainy. Little wind. Mild temperature.
A good day, in short, for The Hammer and me to — for the first time in what felt like forever — go on a ride.
So, with me on my Tarmac and The Hammer on her Orbea, we rode the 23 miles to the Cedar Fort gas station, bought and shared a coke, and then started riding back.
On the return trip, we always take mile-long pulls, trading off at the mile-marker signposts. It’s a little tradition, one we both like.
“It’s so nice to be able to do this ride without the wind,” The Hammer shouted back during one of her pulls. And she was right.
As The Hammer came around for her third or fourth pull, I felt the way my rear wheel rolls change. You know the feeling: it becomes sloppy in the way it tracks, and you start feeling the road vibration much more strongly.
I had a flat rear tire.
“Oh well,” I said, not really terribly disappointed. Flats are easy to fix on road bikes. Meanwhile, it was a nice day out, and I didn’t mind taking a break from riding for five minutes or so.
So I unzipped my Banjo Brothers seat back and pulled out the spare tube I keep, wrapped up in an old cycling sock (to keep the tube from getting a hole rubbed into it). Then the CO2 threaded canister. And then the CO2 valve.
Except there was no CO2 valve.
Why wasn’t there a CO2 valve?
I sent my mind back — when was the last time I had gotten a flat, and why would I have replaced the tube and CO2 canister, but not put the CO2 valve back in the pack?
I couldn’t even remember. It didn’t matter anyway, not for the moment.
Luckily, The Hammer had a Banjo Brothers seat pack on her bike. “Can you get me the valve out of your seat pack?” I asked The Hammer. “I don’t have one in mine, though I don’t know why not.
“Sure,” The Hammer said, and unzipped her seat pack. Which contained a tube, a CO2 canister, and…nothing else.
So, for whatever forgotten reason, at some point in the past I apparently had raided both our seat packs at some point, taking the valves. Then, I had evidently forgotten to ever replace them.
Past-self, know this: I am pretty darn upset with your forgetfulness and irresponsibility.
So there we were, me with a flat and no way for us to fix it. The solution — a lousy solution, but there you are — was obvious.
“You go ahead and ride home (about fifteen miles from where we were),” I said. “I’ll walk my bike to the nearest gas station and buy myself an ice cream cone while I wait for you.”
“But what if I flat between here and there?” The Hammer asked. A good question, but with no good answer.
“Did you bring a phone?” I asked.
“No,” she answered.
“So take mine,” I said. “If you flat, you’ll need to call one of the kids to come pick you up.
“I’ll hurry back as fast as I can,” The Hammer said.
“That’s fine,” I said, not really unhappy. Walking’s not as fun as riding, but at least the day was nice. Things could have been a lot worse.
I walked for about ten minutes, and then saw a guy riding toward me on the opposite side of the road. Riding a Canondale, wearing an Adobe kit.
Right then, I knew I wasn’t going to have to walk much farther.
As soon as the cyclist saw me, he veered off his line, cut across the four lanes of the road, and hollered the standard greeting cyclists on bikes yell to cyclists who are walking: “You need anything?”
“Do you have a CO2 valve?” I yelled back.
“Threaded,” he said, because by then he was stopped and swinging his leg over his bike.
“Perfect,” I said, and we talked for a few minutes while I changed my tube. As I worked, a couple more riders came by, each yelling the standard offer of assistance, and I thought to myself how great it is that this is somehow part of standard cyclist etiquette.
Before too long I was all set and Ryan and I each resumed our rides, heading in opposite directions.
The Problem With Plan C
As I rode back, I tried to picture how far ahead of me The Hammer might be. How long had I walked before Ryan rescued me? And how long had it taken me to get a new tube in once Ryan had shown up? A total of fifteen minutes, maybe? Possibly more?
I didn’t really know, but wasn’t worried. I figured I’d just ride the route The Hammer and I always ride, keeping an eye out for my truck.
But then I remembered.
The Hammer had said, “I’ll hurry back as fast as I can.”
And The Hammer is usually very literal. Which might mean, it now occurred to me, that when she came to get me, instead of retracing the less-trafficked route we take when we ride, she might drive the shortest route.
Because, of course, she wouldn’t be expecting me to be back on my bike.
Or would she?
Like me, The Hammer was bound to have noticed how many cyclists were there on the road that day, and she knows as well as I do that they often offer to help.
So she might guess that I might be back on my bike.
But that would be just a guess.
And she wouldn’t want to leave me sitting bored at a gas station for any longer than necessary.
And I didn’t have a phone to let her know what was going on.
“I’ll just have to hope she retraces the route we ride,” I thought, and kept going.
When I was about half an hour from home, I started watching carefully for the truck, preparing to wave wildly when I saw it.
I did not see it. And as I got closer to home, I was more and more certain that I would not see it. That I would get home just about the time The Hammer got to the gas station where she expected me.
I got home and opened the garage door, hoping against hope that for some reason she had been delayed at home and was still there, thus bringing a ridiculously easy conclusion to this little farce.
Of course, the truck was gone.
So I went to call The Hammer. Except when she had left to pick me up, she had taken both her phone and mine with her.
So I tried the landline. Which failed to work. (Yes, really.)
And then one of the several teenagers living at our house wandered by, his phone in his hand (natch). “Give me your phone,” I said, curtly.
“Why?” He replied, suspiciously.
“Just give me the phone,” I said, the explanation for why I needed it almost ridiculously too complicated in my mind.
I called The Hammer.
“Hi Nigel,” The Hammer said, answering the phone.
“Nope, it’s me,” I replied.
“Elden? Did Nigel come and get you, then?”
“No, a rider stopped for me and I was able to get my bike fixed, and I rode home. I guess you must have gone a different way than we ride?”
“So,” I asked. “Where are you?”
“I’m just getting to the gas station now.”
And that’s when I realized what you probably realized about twenty paragraphs ago: I could have stopped at a gas station along the way. Or any of the multitude of fast-food restaurants. Or just about anywhere, really. And I could have made a phone call, letting The Hammer know where I was and what I was doing.
But I didn’t. It didn’t even occur to me. I had given my phone to The Hammer and — magically — at that instant all other phones (including the one I probably could have borrowed from Ryan if I’d thought of it) had stopped existing.
And — in spite of the fact that we had seen probably 25 or 30 bikes on the road that day — it never occurred to me to say to The Hammer before she took off on her own, “Hey, on your way back, retrace the regular riding route…just in case someone stops and can loan me a CO2 adapter.”
And…finally…maybe it’s time I realize that owning a small pump that fits in a jersey pocket — not just relying on CO2 to fix flats — might not be a half-bad idea.
But I figure I’ll probably just wait ’til I’ve found myself stranded on the side of the road a few more times ’til I learn that lesson.
Yeah, that’s almost certainly what I’ll do.
As cyclists, we are missing a big opportunity. To identify it, turn around and look behind you.
Oh, that didn’t work at all.
OK, this time, just turn your head around, leaving your body where it was, Exorcist-style, and then look down.
If you are — as I assume you always are — wearing a cycling jersey, you’ll notice three pockets.
Three capacious pockets.
(Or if you’re wearing some styles of women’s jerseys, you may have been cheated into having only two pockets. This is not my fault, and I accept no responsibility for this inequity, but I do sympathize. [However, this is not the point of today’s post and I intend to ignore this unfairness from this point forward, though if you happen to have a petition demanding three pockets for women’s jerseys, I will gladly sign it.])
And yet, all too often, I see cyclists riding with only a few trivial items — or, worse, nothing at all — in these pockets.
This needs to stop.
People, you have pockets. You have a bike. It’s time to start carrying stuff — lots and lots of stuff — in those jersey pockets whenever you ride.
I shall provide examples, by way of suggestion, and encourage you to provide examples of your own in the comments.
Articles of Clothing
Sure, maybe you currently pack arm warmers, knee warmers, a vest, and even a windbreaker sometimes. But your jersey pockets can (and should) hold so much more. Imagine, for example, the indescribably delicious feeling of swapping out to a nice clean pair of shorts midway through a century ride? And perhaps a matching jersey? And socks? All of those will fit in your jersey pockets. With room enough, even, for cycling cap you can don, post-ride. And a poncho.
Why a poncho?
Carrying a poncho as you climb gives you the right to wear that poncho as you descend. And there is nothing quite so grand-looking as a cyclist descending while wearing a poncho. It looks as festive as it does gallant.
Plus, if you’re carrying a poncho in your jersey pocket and people ask you what you’re carrying, you get to say, “A poncho,” and you get to say it as enigmatically as you like.
Of course you’re already carrying food in your jersey pocket. I know that. But the food you’re carrying is lacking, both in terms of quantity and variety. With the large pockets you have on your back, might I suggest:
- An eighth of a cheese wheel. Or, if you like, a quarter of a cheese wheel, split between your left and right jersey pockets. In which case I recommend carrying a few nice apples in your center jersey pocket. Nothing is quite so delicious as an apple slice with cheese. [Tip: Don’t forget to carry a knife to cut apple and cheese slices.]
- A loaf of fresh-baked bread. This is more for your riding companions than for yourself. As your fellow cyclists will (I promise) point out, there is nothing quite so wonderful — nor delightfully unexpected — as riding behind a cyclist that smells like a loaf of fresh-baked bread.
- A quart of applesauce. It goes down nearly as easily as a drink, with nearly the same caloric density as a gel. And wide-mouth bell jars mean you don’t have to squeeze to eat.
- A whole roast chicken. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of getting enough protein in a cyclist’s diet.
My personal favorite is to carry an eighth of a cheese wheel, a loaf of bread, and a roast chicken. When I ride, I eat like a king. A medieval king.
Are you training to be a better climber? Allow me to suggest riding with a ten-pound barbell in each jersey pocket.
[Tip: wrap the barbells in cotton or duct tape to soften the hard edges of the barbells pressing against your back.]
[Another Tip: Allow for some stretching of the jersey fabric.]
Tools and Supplies
You’re probably already carrying what you need to change a tire, and maybe make some emergency repairs on your bike.
But what if you need a half-dozen new spokes when riding? Or a new rear derailleur? Or what if you need to make some emergency welds to your frame? If you carry a full set of Park Wrenches, hydraulic cable and fluid, enough spokes to build a wheel from scratch, a replacement rear derailleur (and a front one while you’re at it), along with a complete new chain, you’ll find there are few field repairs you aren’t prepared for.
The reason for carrying a puppy in your jersey pocket is simple: it will be incredibly adorable.
[Tip: Do not carry a full-grown small dog (like a Pug or Chihuahua) in your jersey pocket. For some reason, that’s just creepy.]
You’ll have to excuse me for being a little slow with posting today. See, I found this really good race writeup about this really great race, and I got caught up in it. You should check it out: Parts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, and eleven.
Oh, did I forget to mention that this is a story I wrote? About last year’s Rockwell Relay? Silly me.
The thing is, though, that was probably the highlight of my racing career. My favorite installment of my favorite annual race.
Because The Rockwell Relay is an incredible adventure. Ask anyone who’s done it: it’s equal parts race, road trip, and experiment in interpersonal dynamics.
And you ought to come race it. This year. More to the point, you ought to sign up today. Cuz if you do, as team captain you’ll score an extremely awesome Fat Cyclist / Rockwell Relay jersey:
What Is The Rockwell Relay?
For those of you who don’t know what the Rockwell Relay is, allow me to encourage you to go read my race report (yes, all eleven installments). Or watch this beautiful video (see how many Team Fatty sitings you can identify) to see the kind of incredible terrain you’ll see.
But here’s the short version.
The Rockwell Relay is a 520-mile road bike relay race along the backroads from Moab, Utah to Saint George, Utah. Each team is made of four people, each of which takes turns racing specific segments of the course. Segment lengths vary, but are generally 40-50 miles long. The rider order stays the same throughout the race, and you take turns being the racer, the driver (unless you’ve got a dedicated driver), and the support crew (unless you’ve got a dedicated crew).
It’s intense. It’s fun. It’s brutally hard. It’s exciting.
It is — completely honestly and truly — my very favorite cycling event.
So, clear your calendar for the weekend of June 13 – 14. I’ll grill you a bratwurst.
We’ll hang out, and then we’ll race.
It will be a weekend you never ever forget.
Sign Up Now
Because I love this event so much, I’ll be talking about it more in the next little while. And I’ll be encouraging you to sign up. Because I’d love to see as many Friends of Fatty do this race as possible.
And because I love this race so much, I’ve partnered up with the Rockwell Relay guys. If you sign a team up by the end of this month (February), the captain of your team will get a very nice Rockwell Relay / Fat Cyclist jersey, made by DNA Cycling. And these guys make very nice jerseys. Nice enough that the other three people on your team will want to get one too — and at only $60 / jersey, that’s about the best deal you’ll ever get on a DNA jersey.
So, sign up here. Now.
Oh, One More Thing
For the past three years in a row, Team Fatty — Kenny, Heather, The Hammer, and me — have won the coed division. We intend to win it again.
That said, our cumulative age this year will be 189 (that’s an average age of 47.25, and our youngest rider will be 45). And while a coed team can be three men and one woman, we always have — and always will — race in the true spirit of co-ededness: two women and two men. And we always have been — and always will be — a self-supported team.
So if you’re going to come after us, you may want to take those things into account as you build your team. You know, so you don’t blow us out of the water too badly.
See you in June!
The Armstrong Lie is a documentary about Lance Armstrong. Unfortunately, Alex Gibney—the producer and/or director (I don’t know the difference and can’t be bothered to look it up) gave away the surprise revelation of the documentary right in the title: that Lance Armstrong lied. And probably continues to lie.
So the big question is, if you start making a documentary lionizing a guy and he turns out to have been lying to you (along with pretty much everyone else) and you try to salvage the documentary by flipping its thesis on its ear and adding a couple of interviews with the guy who was — and possibly is still –lying to you (along with, as I mentioned, pretty much everyone else) in the first place, do you have a compelling story to tell?
That is the question I’ll try to answer in this review.
But first—before we even begin talking about the documentary itself–there are some mysteries that need solving.
A Big Stack and a Big Rack
The Armstrong Lie comes out on DVD on February 11, but you can buy it and stream it on Amazon.com right now. Which is what I did.
And there were a couple of very strange things about the order page.
First of all, if you buy the DVD version, you apparently get a lot of DVDs:
Thirty discs? What could be on thirty discs? Every single foot of footage? The most-recent backup of Gibney’s hard drive? 29 additional copies of the movie for you to give to your friends? Promotional AOL membership discs from 1993?
Or — and it is my fervent hope that this is the case — perhaps discs 2-30 contain sixty hours of hilarious outtakes and bloopers. Because that would make for both a lot of entertaining viewing and a large enough coaster set for a pretty good-sized party.
Next comes the description of the video, which shows that someone wasn’t even trying when they were filling out this particular part of the form:
“Chronicles Armstrong’s attempt to win the 2009 Tour de France?” Really? That’s the description of this 2+hour movie you’re going with?
Spoiler alert: he doesn’t win, and that’s not really what this documentary is about.
Even weirder than that, though, is the cover of the DVD case. Sure, there’s the big image, where it looks like Lance is looking (in shock and dismay) at the text that shows that this video attended the Venice and Toronto film festivals.
But then there’s the shot of Lance on his bike:
I swear on my life that I did not Photoshop this. This is the actual shot on the actual DVD case image on Amazon. And it looks like Lance has a medium-sized gut and the largest man-boobs ever seen on a professional cyclist.
To wit, it looks like someone Photoshopped Armstrong’s head onto my body.
OK, now on with the review. Kind of.
When I told The Hammer we were going to watch this documentary so I could review it for my site, she—initially—seemed fine with the idea.
But then the documentary started, beginning with Armstrong talking, just moments after his Oprah interview. And The Hammer said, “I’m not that interested in watching him tell more lies. Is that all this is going to be?”
At which point I paused the movie and told her the premise of this documentary. That, basically, Gibney originally set out to make a documentary about Armstrong’s comeback in 2009. Then, when Armstrong’s falseness was revealed, Gibney instead combined his original footage with new interviews with Armstrong and people who had a part in his undoing: Betsy and Frankie Andreu, Coyle, Walsh, Hincapie, and others.
“Do we learn anything new in this documentary?” The Hammer asked.
I told her that I didn’t know for sure, but from what I had read, didn’t think so. What we’d do, I thought, was get a better sense of the people involved.
And so The Hammer sat down with me, watching, skeptically, while I watched and typed notes.
Then, after a while, she started playing Candy Crush on her phone, so she wouldn’t fall asleep.
Then, with about 45 minutes left in the documentary, she left to go do something else.
Because, when it comes down to it, this documentary doesn’t reveal much in the “whodunnit” sense (we already know all that), nor in the “why’d he do it?” sense (Tyler explained that part much, much better). The fact is, if there’s a single defining characteristic of Lance Armstrong, it’s self-discipline. He’s going to stay on-message; the only difference is that the message has changed, somewhat. We’re not going to get a Perry Mason moment from Lance.
And most everyone in the documentary is about the same. They have a point to drive home (Lance is a doper and a bully), and they’re going to drive that point home, come hell or high water. If you come looking for the pathos behind it—which is what I was looking for–you’ll need to look elsewhere.
The exception to this is Betsy Andreu: she comes across as both forceful and forthright. Her motivation feels real and complex: anger at betrayal, a desire to protect her husband, indignation at unfairness. And her time on the screen — more than anyone else’s — feels straightforward and unfiltered.
The backstory to this documentary is pretty interesting: Gibney started a documentary intended to showcase Armstrong’s return to racing — then resurrected it as a movie about Lance’s career in deception.
The problem with the movie is that Gibney tries to have the movie do too many things. He seems to have been too much in love with all the race footage he captured during the 2009 Tour de France, and recaps almost the entirety of the race. Very little of which has much — if anything — to do with his new subject matter (doping and deception). As a result, a documentary that should have been about eighty minutes long — tops — comes in at 124 minutes.
Gibney tries to tie the huge amount of 2009 TdF race footage to a question: was Armstrong racing clean — as he insists he was — during this tour?
Here’s the problem with this question: the documentary doesn’t really give me much of a reason to care about the answer. You’ve got a guy who’s doped for his entire career and — until recently — gotten away with it. Now he says he raced clean when he came back in 2009. Why believe him?
And more importantly, why care? Either he was doping and got beat by another doper (the presumption I’m going with), or he wasn’t doping and got beat by a doper, which happens all the time and is in no way remarkable. Either way, this documentary doesn’t give me a compelling reason to care.
Summing up, The Armstrong Lie suffers from a similar problem Armstrong correctly observed about his interview with Oprah: for people who know about Lance already, it’s too little insight. For those who don’t, it’s too much detail. And for everyone, it’s too long.
And in truth, If I didn’t have an ulterior motive — writing this review — I wouldn’t have finished The Armstrong Lie.
Though I reserve the right to revise this opinion after watching all 30 of the DVDs that should be arriving at my home soon.
Greetings from the future. I send you this message back through time (WordPress started having the feature of being able to post backward in time beginning in build 5.2.1c) as guidance, and as a warning.
The Zombie Apocalypse is coming. You have seven months to prepare. Yeah, I know. Some of you are saying, “Hey, seven months isn’t exactly a lot of time to prepare. As long as you’re sending blog posts into the past, why didn’t you send it back ten years? Or at least five?”
To that, I respond: I wasn’t even blogging ten years ago, so that’s stupid. And if I had sent this post back five years, you would have had plenty of time to rationalize why it was just a silly joke—a fabrication—and you would have let your preparations lapse.
Most of you will do that anyway. (I say this both as a person with knowledge of what you consider the future, and as a person who understands the personality profile of my blog readership.)
But for those few of you who choose to take this seriously, I have some life-saving tips.
First and foremost, start riding your bike more. Ride every day. Ride as if your life depended on it.
Because it does.
See, as it turns out, cars won’t do you a lot of good once the Zombie Apocalypse begins. Sure, they’ll be great for getting away while you’ve got gas in your tank. But before long you’re going to run out. And the lines at gas stations are going to be long. Which, by the way, the zombies figure out pretty quickly. (Also, they figure out how to break windows.)
And then the gas supply dries up. And the roads get clotted with cars, making it pretty much impossible to get anywhere in a car.
But a road jammed with cars still has plenty of room for bikes to get around (ask any big-city cyclist; they’ll tell you. Endlessly.).
So start getting in shape. Get used to riding. Toughen up your butt. And—this is very important—don’t forget to do intervals. It’s impossible to overstress the value of the ability to accelerate and hold a sprint for about 200 yards. This will distance you from all but the fastest zombies (the exception being Usain Bolt [yes, he’s now a zombie], but if he chases you, you at least have the consolation of knowing you were captured, killed, and eaten by an Olympic superstar). By the time you’re that far away, the Zombie will have forgotten you (Zombies have notoriously short attention spans, and nobody has really taken it upon themselves to find out if Ritalin helps).
Also, you should work on skills drills. Practice hard stops and sharp turns. Yes, partially to give you the know-how to avoid zombies that surprise you by jumping out from behind large objects (cars, mostly). But also because in the future, auto drivers (the smug bastards who hoarded gasoline) totally ignore the three-foot foot rule.
Keep Your Bikes In Good Repair
If you are a professional bike mechanic, you are in a peculiar position: you are set to become either the most powerful people in your general geographic location, or you are about to become captive to one of the most powerful people in your geographic location.
My recommendation: learn kung-fu.
For the rest of you, now is a good time—a really, really good time to learn how to maintain a bike. And it’s a not half-bad time to consider getting a singlespeed. Chain suck always sucks, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more sucky time to get chain suck than when you’re being pursued by a zombie.
(Word to the wise: in an emergency, a quick release skewer can be used to skewer more than a wheel. Provided you’re quick enough with that quick release.)
As it became clear to the world that the Zombie Apocalypse was nigh, people began to hoard. Sadly, however, many people hoarded very stupid things.
Specifically, people thought that hoarding cigarettes would be a good thing to hoard, with the expectation that cigarettes would make an excellent portable, high-value fungible.
This was, as I mentioned, stupid. Really stupid.
First of all, smokers—thanks to their hacking coughs, strong odor (zombies have a heightened sense of smell), and reduced lung capacity, smokers make easy pickings for zombies. And as the number of smokers decreased—and the number of surviving smokers who suddenly decided to quit sharply increased—cigarettes were definitely a buyers’ market…and nobody wanted to buy.
You know what is in strong demand in this post-apocalyptic hellscape, however? Stan’s Tire Sealant. With broken glass (from cars, see above) pretty much everywhere, the ability of your tire to survive a puncture is pretty much synonymous with your ability to survive, period.
It’s not a bad idea to stock up on tires, while you’re at it. And lube. And flat pedals (clipless pedals are currently not in fashion, for reasons I think might are probably pretty obvious.
Oh, and buy a good helmet. Not as protection from crashes necessarily, but as a way to avoid being bitten on the head. Zombies like to go straight for the brain, and a layer of styrofoam between your noggin and the ravenous undead can be downright helpful.
If you’ve put on a few pounds this past winter, allow me to recommend you do everything you can to keep that weight on. Having a few extra pounds on you might be the difference between surviving for the first three weeks of the Zombie Apocalypse…and not.
Hey, why do you think I’m the one writing this blogpost of warning, while other much thinner cycling writer types aren’t? It’s because with their they all died of hunger, about twenty minutes after the last batch of kale was looted from the local Whole Foods market.
So, eat up (to a point).
[Full Disclosure: In fairness, I should point out that I have a somewhat selfish motive in recommending you gain a few pounds. Specifically, those of you who take my advice to heart a little too literally will be slower than me. Which means zombies will catch you first. Plus overweight zombies are easier for me to outsprint.]
Finally, one last word of advice: get a good lock and chain. Your bike is more valuable than you could ever have known.
And be of good cheer. As a cyclist, your chances of survival in this Zombie-infested nightmare are better than just about anyone else’s.
They’re not as helpful against the sentient humanoid killer robots, but that’s a matter for a different post.
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