How to Ride the Correct Speed

03.13.2016 | 3:49 pm

A Take This Survey Note from Fatty: Late this week or early next week, I’ll be launching a crowdfunding project, to help me make ends meet while I work on the book I’ve been wanting to complete for several years: Fight Like Susan. (Check last Friday’s post for details.) 

Between now and then, do me a favor and (if you haven’t already): click here and take this survey to help me understand which of my incentive ideas are good, and which I should forget about. I’ll let you know the results soon. 

How to Ride the Correct Speed

From time to time, I get email from my readers. I treasure each and every one of these letters, and take care to read each message, consider it carefully, then to answer fully and thoughtfully. In the order received.

Unfortunately, I receive email at a rate that exceeds my ability to respond, which means I am desperately behind in my email responses; I am currently answering email I received in May of 2005 (i.e., the month after I started this blog).

As you may expect, some people are quite perplexed to be receiving responses to questions they no longer even remember asking.

This, however, does not mean the questions are not worth answering. It just means that, frequently, my responses are returned because — more often than not — the person I’m writing to no longer has their AOL or Compuserve email address. 

Which means I need to reply to the question in this public forum, in the hope that my response will reach its intended audience.

Such is the case in the letter I am replying to today.

Dear Mr. Cyclist,

I like riding with other cyclists, but I worry that I’m holding my faster friends up. How can I let them know that it’s OK with me for them to ride on ahead, that I don’t mind if they drop me and then rendezvous later?


Rick Sunderlage 
(not my real name)

Dear Rick,

Your heart is in the right place, but you have weak mind. If you were capable of thinking clearly, you would realize that you are not asking the right question. In which case instead of wondering how to properly communicate that you are OK with other people going faster than you are, you would be asking this much more important question:

What is the correct speed to ride my bicycle?

This is the question I choose to answer, with the intention of ignoring the question you actually asked.

You’re welcome.

The Wrong Speeds

When it comes down to it, there are really only three speeds a cyclist can ride: too slow, too fast, and just right. As you may have just realized, the correct speed to ride your bicycle is at the just right speed. 

But how can you tell if you’re riding at just the right speed? Well, that’s not as difficult to figure out as you might think.

All you have to do is go on a ride with me.

If, as we ride together, I start half-wheeling you, that’s a pretty good indicator that you are riding too slowly.

If I push the pace up by a mile per hour each time I start my pull, that means you are probably going too slow.

If I say, “Hey, how come you’re going so slow?” you are almost certainly going too slow. 

The remedy for this problem is for you to go faster. 

But be careful when you do this. Because if you start half-wheeling me, you are obviously going too fast. And that’s not cool. Not cool at all. 

Or suppose, as we ride together, you start slowly pulling away, and I jump to catch your wheel, but then find I can’t quite do it and you build a gap I just can’t bridge, and you drop me.

When that happens, you’re going too fast, and that’s a character flaw you may want to address, because it means you’re being selfish and not taking my needs into account. As if this ride is all about you, when in fact I think we can both agree it is actually about me

Try to remember that in the future. You think you can do that? Thanks.

The Correct Speed

Allow me, then, to make a recommendation. Instead of riding faster than I do, or slower than I do, ride at precisely the same speed I’m riding at the moment. By doing this, you’ll avoid the twin problems of making me wait for you, and of making me go faster than I want to (or am capable of, I suppose).

For example, I have noticed many times that practically everyone goes too fast on technical mountain bike descents. I am so disappointed in these people; they should have the courtesy and common sense to go the correct speed (mine).

Then these same people will go an entirely other wrong kind of speed during climbs, forcing me to drop them. It’s not that I’m trying to put the hurt on them or anything; I’m just going the correct speed for the climb. 

Please bear in mind that this, the correct speed, is subject to change without notice, and may in fact change multiple times during a given ride. For example, if I’m feeling good that day, the right speed for the ride can be surprisingly rapid.

If, on the other hand, it turns out a little later in that ride that maybe I’m not feeling as great as I originally thought, the correct speed may drop precipitously.

How is it possible that no matter the speed I am going, it is the right speed for the occasion? I’m as mystified by this as you no doubt are.

And yet, it’s manifestly true. No matter what speed I ride, it always feels like I’m going the right speed, and that any other speed would be either recklessly aggressive, or dilly-dallying.

All you need to do, then, is just imagine we’re riding together, and just go the speed I would go if I were really there with you. 

Just don’t half-wheel the imaginary me you’re riding with. Even my imaginary self thinks that is not cool. 


100 Miles of Nowhere Race Report: Winner of “Most Incredible” Division

03.11.2016 | 9:25 am

A Note From Fatty On What I’m Doing Next (And How You Can Help by Answering a Survey)

Before you read today’s 100 Miles of Nowhere race report, let me tell you a little bit about what I hope to get started in the next week.

I’m going to write Fight Like Susan, the story of Susan and me and her fight against cancer.

It’s the book I’ve meant to be writing for about seven years now. Until now, however, there have always been things that have stopped me. At first, my problem was that I simply was not ready to write it; it was too raw. Then I was busy with a job, this blog and the causes I care about, and a blended family.

Now, though, I feel like I’m capable of writing this book, and want to write this book. The family’s doing great. And I have time to write the book.

That’s last bit — having time — is an opportunity. But it’s also a problem.

My sudden lack of a full-time job means I have time to write this book. But I don’t have a big pile of money set aside to make it so I can just live on that while I write, because a long time ago I decided I’d use this blog to raise money for good causes instead of for myself.

Next week, though, I’m going to ask you — for the first time — to help raise money for a good cause that is myself.

And the way I’m going to do that is by asking you to “crowdfund” the writing and publishing of Fight Like Susan. Which is to say, I’m going to ask you to pre-order the book, and to hopefully participate in various incentives that go along with the pre-order. 

And that’s why I want you to click here and take this survey. If you’ll do this, it’ll give me an idea  whether I’m on the right track — whether this is something I can and should do — or just completely nuts. It’ll also help me know what incentives you find interesting, and what price is reasonable for them.

So: do me a favor and take five minutes to take the survey. Next week, I’ll let you know what I learn and what my next steps are.


A Note About Today’s 100 Miles of Nowhere Guest Post: A giant thanks to Martin B, who took it upon himself to bring the nuttiness of the 100 Miles of Nowhere to a completely new, completely awesome level. Read on — and enjoy the photos — to see what I mean. 

This year’s 100 Miles of Nowhere pales in comparison to Jill Homer’s (aka Alaska Jill) 20,000 feet of vertical climb as she rode 100 miles of Montebello Road, or Noodle’s 5 centuries a few years back as she “Rode to Nowhere Road.” (I still watch that video. Fantastic.)

No, my inspiration came from Bill Hart-Davidson, who rode 3000 laps in his driveway. I decided I’d eschew big numbers in the vertical climb category in favor of racking up lots of laps.

Because this event is so late in the year, I’d been in full “pack on the weight for winter” mode for a good month. In fact I rode less than 100 miles in October so I had serious concerns if I could even manage 100 miles. 

My only hope was to make it as easy as possible. And that meant flat, which is impossible to do in Iowa County. What to do? Find another county.

Thanks to my intimate knowledge of East Iowa, I found a nice, secluded stretch of road along the Iowa River in a park in Iowa City, about 30 miles east of Williamsburg, my home base. My route: 0.9 miles with 11 feet of vertical climb. Sweet.

The Route elevation
My route: 0.9 miles. I followed the Iowa River, then rode past the tennis courts, around the cul de sac and back. 111 times.

I’m a pretty unassuming guy and don’t like being in the spotlight—which is why I rode last year’s 100MoN at night, 13 miles from civilization. And what says “inconspicuous” more than wearing a Santa costume? I was having fun with this plan, but I had some concerns about losing my damage deposit if I brought the suit back the velour with the velour rubbed off the suit’s “bottom bracket” and smelling of sweat. Also Santa isn’t very “Aero” and that wasn’t going to make my legs happy.

Then one day I saw a picture on Facebook of a friend wearing a Mr. Incredible costume. Turns out he owned the suit. (So no damage deposit, and since I didn’t know him all that well I wouldn’t feel bad when his costume came back smelling like a wrestling locker room). 

Besides, Mr. Incredible isn’t some fat, jolly guy—he’s a superhero. 

I was set.

November 8 was my day to ride. I arrived at City Park in the morning, with temps hovering just above freezing. It was supposed to be breezy later in the day so I wanted to get an early start.

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Mr. Incredible. Ready to start his incredible day.

And I was off! It was exciting! Ride a half mile out. Ride a half mile back. Make a U-turn in the parking lot. Lather, rinse, repeat 111 times. The park was pretty deserted, but considering it was 36 degrees out and 7:30 am, it was understandable. 

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On the bright side, I did have my shadow.

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The University of Iowa rowing team kept me company for a while.

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And this young fellow was putting up signs for a 5K run scheduled for later in the day.

Where were my adoring fans? Finally, a couple of cycling friends dropped by around mile 30—with hot coffee and bicycles.

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Bill, riding his brand-new Vaya, Mr. Incredible, and Dick. 

Thirty miles into the ride and my thighs were showing signs of early onset cramps. The wind had picked up quite a bit by now and I discovered Mr. Incredible wasn’t so “aero” after all. Seventy miles to go and and already my legs were wanting to quit. Yikes! 

On the bright side, I was one huge sail in the tailwinds. 

Bill and Dick rode 10 miles with me before previous commitments forced them to stop. I wonder if they really had somewhere else to go or if 20 laps along the river was numbing their minds as much as the cool temps were numbing their feet. Regardless, they’re fun people and they made those miles go by very quickly. 

Riding alone again, it was back to monotony.

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Riding along the Iowa River

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Tackling the first climb.

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Regroup and prepare for the second climb.

15 100MoN 007
Ride back to the start.

Riding back to my starting point I spent a lot of time figuring out how many clockwise U-turns I should do before switching over to counter-clockwise U-turns. After considerable experimentation, five is the proper number.

Around mid morning the 5K run began. I’m sure they all ran faster after hearing my words of encouragement, like “You’re incredible!” or “Keep it up! What an incredible pace!”. 

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Highly motivated runners after getting Incredible encouragement from me.

After lunch, another friend, Mike, stopped by to ride. Mike and I ride a lot together. He introduced me to crazy long bike rides—a passion of mine now. I don’t know whether I should thank him or unfriend him on Facebook.

He rode 20 miles with me—about what he rode with me in the dark last year. The wind was pretty strong and I’d done 50 miles when he showed up. My legs were not happy with me and I was looking forward to drafting Mike when we rode into the wind. What I failed to consider was that Mike was fresh, and he kept dropping me. So I made him stop and eat a peanut butter sandwich.

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My riding partner Mike. He was not a team player that day.

Mike left me shortly after “lunch” and the final 30 miles would be on my own. There were more people in the park now and it helped break up the monotony. A mother brought a rake so she could rake leaves into a pile for her toddler to jump into.

A high school senior was having her senior portraits taken. I thought about running over the photographer as she stood in the middle of the road, but came up with a better idea.

I had her take my “portrait.”

15 100MoN 014
Getting my picture taken by a “professional.”

15 100MoN 015
Looking good!

Soon, my Garmin showed I had just a few laps to go. The sun was setting in a few minutes and I was glad to be done. Considering my extreme lack of training before this, I was pleased to be finishing. 

I had put a donation box by my pickup. Beside it was a poster explaining what I was doing (no I am not a weirdo) and why. Even with my out-of-the-way parking spot, the box had $80 in it. Made my day.

So here’s a summary of my efforts. You’ll notice my climbing elevation summary doesn’t look anything like Jill Homer’s. 


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I did it!

100MoN as ridden
Interesting looking route. Reminds me of a cave drawing.

A summary of the ride. Spent a lot of time sitting still.

15 100MoN 018
Time to rest.

Talking With WORLD CHAMPION 24-Hour Solo Racer Madeline Bemis

03.10.2016 | 12:15 pm

A “Thanks, And There’s Still Fat Cyclist Gear Available” Note from Fatty: I’m incredibly thankful to all my readers who responded to my March 8 post by buying FatCyclist gear. At this point, a lot of it’s sold out (the hoodies, long-sleeve jerseys, and arm warmers are all gone, for example), but there is still quite a bit available — some in a few sizes, some in most sizes. Here’s what’s still around:

  • Short-Sleeve Jerseys, both Relaxed-Fit and Race-Fit. The relaxed-fit jerseys are great for early season riding, the race-fit jerseys are flat-out amazing for summer riding. As you’d expect, the race-fit jerseys are closer-fitting than the relaxed-fit. To help you calibrate against the Twin Six fit, right now at 166 pounds, I barely fit into a large Twin Six jersey, fit comfortably into a Medium Relaxed Fit jersey, and fit comfortably into a Large Race-Fit jersey. Does that help?
  • Vests: These are unisex, and most sizes are available. At this price, if you don’t already own a vest, you really ought to get one. If you do already own a vest you ought to get a good one. Like this one
  • Race Bib Shorts: These were such a killer deal that most sizes sold out very quickly. However, there are a few sizes still available for men, and most sizes available for women. If you’re a woman and have never had a pair of good bib shorts, this is your opportunity to find out in a very inexpensive way why most serious riders stick with bibs.
  • Ladies’ Shorts: These are the only bike shorts (as opposed to bibs) The Hammer will ever wear, and she (5’7”, 120-125lbs) wears a Small, while she wears a Medium in most women’s bibs. So you might want to calibrate down a size when buying these. (For what it’s worth, someone asked me if there is any reason a man couldn’t wear these shorts, so I tried a medium pair on. The legs were too short, and the chamois felt all wrong, so I recommend against it.)
Remember the free shipping (in the US) on all of this still stands, and if you buy at least $100, I’ll toss in a t-shirt (if there’s a size match to what you’re buying) or a cycling cap for free
Talking With WORLD CHAMPION 24-Hour Solo Racer Madeline Bemis

On New Year’s Day of 2016, I posted a conversation I had with Madeline Bemis, a 17-year-old with a dream of racing in the 24-hour world championships in New Zealand. If you haven’t listened to it, stop. Before you listen to this episode of the FattyCast, you’ve got to listen to the first chat I had with Madeline.

Anyway, a lot of people, including readers, got behind Madeline’s dream, getting her to her fundraising goal and to the starting line. 

Now Madeline’s back, and this high school world champion has an awesome story to tell.

Screenshot 2016 03 10 11 16 53

You should definitely not miss this episode of The FattyCast, on iTunes, Stitcher,, or on my feed.

Or just listen / download it here:

And while you’re listening, be sure to read Madeline’s race writeup, and to check out the cool video of the event.

Help Fatty, Get a Killer Deal on FatCyclist Gear

03.8.2016 | 2:27 pm

A Note for People Who Tried Ordering After We Overloaded the Server: We’re back; please try again!

A Note from Fatty for People Who Want to Get Right to the Point: If you’d like to skip straight to the bottom line, here it is: FatCyclist gear is all 50% off, with free shipping and a free t-shirt or cycling cap for all orders over $100. While supplies last, natch. Click here to shop now.

Yesterday, I mentioned that I’m at a personal crossroads right now, and that I would be telling you more about what’s going on this week.

And I will. I’ll tell you everything, as soon as I know everything. Because things are changing fast, and what I think I know keeps changing. I have a lot to figure out. Some of it’s exciting; most of it’s scary.

However, I do know a few things already, and I’m going to ask you to help me out. So here’s what I know so far:

  1. My financial situation is in crisis. 
  2. I have a full range of 2015 FatCyclist gear in inventory.  It is the best-made, most comfortable cycling gear I have ever sold. By a lot.
  3. I think there’s a way for me to do a couple of very exciting things — I want to write Fight Like Susan, and I have a super-secret charity project I’ve been putting a lot of time into — but right now I need to take care of some near-term issues. 
  4. By “near-term issues,” I mean, “Before I can go forward, I need to dig out of a hole.”

I have an idea that will help me take some next steps: sell the FatCyclist gear inventory. And sell it fast

And that made me think: what if I didn’t worry about making a profit on this gear, even though it’s pretty much Rapha-quality? What if I knocked 50% off the price?

And what if I shipped it for free (at least in the US)?

And then, I reasoned, what if I got fully stupid and gave a free FatCyclist t-shirt or FatCyclist cycling caps (until I ran out) to anyone who buys at least $100 worth of gear?

I know, that’s insane. But it’s fully true. Click here and see.

The Basics

I wrote a description of all the gear back when it was up for pre-order, so you can of course check that out. But here are a few updates I have to give after having ridden using DNA gear for a season:

  • Relaxed-Fit Short Sleeve Jersey: fits looser than the Twin Six jerseys and is not as long, which means it doesn’t bunch up around the zipper when you’re hunched over and riding. Now $42.99
  • Race-Fit Short Sleeve Jersey: This fits close and is of very light material. It’s my very favorite summer jersey. If you don’t have one, you should order one (but maybe size up). Now $49.99
  • Thermal Long Sleeve Jersey: This is the best cool-weather jersey I have ever owned. It is so comfortable, and it looks so good. It was a good deal at $120, and it’s a ridiculous steal at $59.99.
  • Race Bib Shorts: I went out of my way to select these shorts in combination with this chamois, because they’re both ridiculously good. Until I had DNA bib shorts, I always just wore Rapha shorts. These…well, I promise you’ll be so much more comfortable than in cheap shorts. Except now these are cheap, at $62.50.
  • Ladies Race Shorts: I have never tried these on, but The Hammer — who ordinarily sticks with bibs — likes these enough that she insisted I make them available. $47.50. 
  • Vest: It weighs practically nothing, looks great, and does exactly what a vest should. Now $49.99
  • Arm Warmers: You can never have too many of these, especially because of how versatile they are, and the way they’ll go with practically any kit. I recommend sizing up. Now $17.50.
  • Hoodie: I love hoodies in general, and this one in particular. I wear it about three days out of seven. I’m wearing it right now. Honestly I can’t believe I’m clearing them out at $24.99.

If you do the math, this means you can put together a super-high-quality bibs+jersey kit for right around $100. Total, including shipping (which is free in the US, just in case you forgot). And if you do spend more than $100, I’m going to throw in a Fat Cyclist t-shirt, just for the heck of it.

And once I run out of t-shirts (or if I don’t have a t-shirt in the size of the jersey or hoodie you’re ordering), I’ll throw in a Fat Cyclist cycling cap instead. An once I run out of those, they’re gone. And that’s what I’m shooting for.

How it Looks

At this point, I’m pretty sure I’ve just made the most compelling case possible for ordering FatCyclist gear. Except I haven’t shown off photos of how great this gear looks. Checkitout:

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My niece and nephew-in-law, staring deeply into each other’s eyes. Why? Because Fat Cyclist gear makes you beautiful and thin and loveable, that’s why.

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Dave Thompson runs happily up the Leadville 100 Powerline trail. Why? Because FatCyclist gear makes you happy and thin and fast. 

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The Hammer and me at Levi’s GranFondo. Why? Because FatCyclist gear makes every ride a day at the beach.

What’s Next

I am very busy right now. Just so you know, I am finalizing the design for next year’s Fat Cyclist gear, and I hope you will buy it, too. It will make it  possible for me to pay bills and keep my kids in school.

I am also working on my outline for Fight Like Susan, and putting together a pre-order of this book. You’ll see it soon. If you’re all willing to help me with these things, I’ll have enough money that I can spend two or three months writing, instead of scrambling for a job.

And if things go well on these fronts, well…I’ll hopefully have enough momentum that I can launch a charity project I’ve wanted to do for years.

But first things first.

If you were holding off on a Fat Cyclist kit for price reasons, now’s your chance. If you got one and liked it, maybe get another, because then you won’t have to wash clothes as often. 

I’ll have more to talk about soon. Thank you for your help.

Big Dreams and Doing the Hard Thing: Talking With Hollywood Big-Shot (and Friend of Fatty) Paul Guyot

03.7.2016 | 11:39 am

NewImageSometimes, I write for my readers. Those are the fun posts. Sometimes, I write for myself. Those are the important posts, and also generally wind up being the stories that my readers like the best.

The new episode of The FattyCast — a conversation with TV and movie writer/producer (and occasional Fat Cyclist guest blogger — here and here, for example) Paul Guyot (Twitter / Web) is the first podcast I’ve ever done that really fits into the “for myself” category. 

But I don’t mind if you listen in. 


At the risk of stealing my podcast’s thunder, I’m going to tell you a little bit about this conversation, and I’m going to drop a few hints about why it’s important to me right now.

Originally, when I scheduled a podcast with Paul, my plan was to talk with him about biking, his impressive weight loss, and about the new TV show he was pitching.

And the first time we talked, we did talk about all of those things. And it was…OK. But neither of us was really happy with it. Both of us felt a little bit like we hadn’t really gotten to the conversation we ought to have had.

So I erased the recording and we scheduled another one.

And this time, Paul talked about how 2015 was a real crossroads year — about relationships, about forgiveness, about discovering what he is truly capable of.

He talked about how he had a big dream, but also had bills to pay…and a really good, practical offer for steady work.

He went with his dream. And it was hard, and scary, and a lot of work.

But in the end, he had multiple networks competing for his dream. He’s fought his way to the starting line, and he’s now positioned to build something extraordinary. 

And the thing is: I’m at a crossroads, too. I’m in the place of needing to make some big decisions.

So this was a remarkable conversation to have.

Much More

This is a long conversation — about two hours. We talk about  the transformational moment you realize you’re going to be a cyclist, and how we both vividly remember that moment. 

We talk about Paul’s son and a remarkable ride with Team Garmin…including a really touching moment with Tom Danielson.

We talk about what it’s like to pitch a TV show to big networks. 

We talk about inspiration. We talk about forgiveness. We talk about the weird, uncomfortable politics of Hollywood.

And we talk a lot about the really amazing show — based an amazing, little-known, and very relevant part of American history.

So, make the time. Listen to this one. You’ll find the FattyCast on iTunes, Stitcher,, Google Play Music, and with the RSS Feed:

You can also listen to on this page, or just click here to download

PS: I’ll have more to say about my own crossroads in the next day or two.

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