Monday, August 27, 2012

Replacement Frame Update

As of last Friday, the guys at seemed to be on top of the warranty replacement for the Moto frame.  The warranty does not, however, cover labor, shipping or handling.  So to get the new frame, I have to strip the old frame, box it up, ship it to Texas for inspection and pay for shipping of the new frame back to me.  Not great, but better than buying a new frame ... so I thought.

I went to the bike shop and got an old bike box.  That saved me $45 for the knuckleheads at the shipping joint from building a box for me.  With the lightweight bike frame, I was expecting a few bucks, but anything over $50 was too much for this FatGuy, especially because I had to pay shipping both ways.  It seems, however, that shipping now charges by both weight and another new, communist measure called dimensional weight.  This is a way for the shippers to charge crazy prices for large boxes, regardless of what is in them

From wikipedia:  Dimensional weight is a calculation of a theoretical weight of a package. This theoretical weight is the weight of the package at a minimum density chosen by the freight carrier. If the package is below this minimum density, then the actual weight is irrelevant as the freight carrier will charge for the volume of the package as if it were of the chosen density (what the package would weigh at the minimum density). Furthermore, the volume used to calculate the Dimensional Weight may not be absolutely representative of the true volume of the package. The freight carrier will measure the longest dimension in each of the three axis (X,Y,Z) and use these measurements to determine the package volume. 

In other words, to ship a big box of feathers now costs the same as shipping a big box of bricks, so long as the bricks weigh less than this theoretical 'chosen density' specified by the shipper.  If teh 'chosen density' is lower than my bricks,. then they can use the actual weight, which is even more profitable.

This applied to my bike as it weighed only 22 pounds in the box with packaging, but due to the size of the box, the dimensional weight was north of 90 pounds.  $130 in shipping, one way.  Actually, no fu&*ing way was I shipping this frame back.  $260 is shipping to get a 'free' replacement bike?

Email has been sent to for an alternative.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Wheel Destroyer Does it Again

Lets review my commute bikes and purchases:

On December 27, 2009, I dusted off my 15-year-old Craigslist Trek Mountain Bike and rode it to work for the first time.  I told myself that if I rode twice a week, every week, in January, February and March, I would buy a ‘real’ bike. 

Succeeding in my challenge, I was shocked at how much these machines actually cost.  And anyone who knows me knows that I have a tendency to, shall we say, cut corners when it comes to paying full retail.  I stumbled across and was seduced by the slashed prices.  In March 2010, I spent a whopping $550 and ended up with the Motobecane Fantom Cross.  A cheap Chinese/French all purpose bike with a Tiagra triple and crap components.  But it was a great bike to learn what I liked and didn’t like, needed and didn’t need, on ‘real bike’.

After 18 months, I had completely destroyed this bike.  I went through the original wheels, breaking a spoke once-a-month for the first few months, then once-a-week by month 12.  I had a great 36 spoke DT Swiss touring rear wheel built and bought a used Mavic Ksyrium front wheel on a day that I needed a replacement after a commute.  The front derailleur was stuck in the middle gear, so I was basically riding a 9 speed.  If I was lucky enough to get the bike to shift, I lost the chain either into the bottom bracket or over the top and completely off.  It was time for an upgrade.

This time, my requirements were 105 or better components and a full carbon bike.  After significant negotiation, in August 2011, I ended up with A Performance Bikes special – a Scattante road bike retailing for $2699, paying just over $1,ooo.  This was the nicest bike I had ever sat on.  The shifting was like butter, the fit was perfect and it weighed what felt like nothing.  Again, I destroyed the fancy race wheels that the bike came with.  But I put the DT Swiss and Mavic on this bike and I was good to go.

As detailed in my May 2012 posts, the Scattante met an untimely death on Camino Alto with snapped chain stay.  Performance hooked me up with a new Fuji carbon frame and it has smooth sailing ever since.
Heading into the rainy season, I decided to prep the old Motobecane with all new components, fenders and 28mm tires for the ultimate commuting machine.  My pal Tom donated a lightly used SRAM Force gruppo and I dropped the bike and parts off at the shop prior to my Yosemite trip.  The shop called today to tell me that I should come pick up my bike.  Note that ‘pick up’ does not necessarily mean that the bike was done or ready to ride.  It seems that this FatGuy did a little damage to the frame of the Moto.  Chalk it up to my massive torque, or just crappy welds, but I cracked another frame.  This time the down tube where it meets the bottom bracket.

I have emails and pictures into who confirmed the 10 year warranty on all Motobecane frames.  We shall see how this one turns out.  ButI am expecting a new frame at a minimum.  Stay tuned.

Anyone want to put an over under on the date of destruction for the Fuji frame?!?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tioga Pass and the Yosemite Valley

Long, lonely shadow.  Time to do some rock climbing.
Amy and the kids were out of town at the end of last week.  On Wednesday morning, the morning of their departure, I got a random phone call from Amy’s grandmother just to say ‘hi’.  With little plans for the coming days, I suggested that I go visit her for the weekend at her home in Lee Vining.  She was happy to have me and I was hyped for the weekend of mountain air, no cell phone reception and adventure.  Lee Vining is basically 250 miles due east of San Francisco, through Yosemite, on Mono Lake.  

Tuolomne Meadows
I left work on Thursday afternoon and made pretty good time.  Driving through Yosemite, I was blown away by the beauty and the scale of the Yosemite Valley.  I realized that I probably had not been to Yosemite in my adult life, most likely since a 4th or 5th grade camping trip.

After a solid nights sleep, I woke up early on Friday morning, packed my backpack with food, tubes, CO2 and lots of water.  I was on the bike by 6.15am with little plan other than to make it up the Tioga Pass.  The first thing that I noticed, even before the ride got going, was that my heart was beating out of my chest.  I don’t know if it was my nerves or the elevation, but my heart rate in the parking lot was north of 140, where I can typically get to work on a casual commute sub 130.  An ominous start. 

I headed up the hill not knowing exactly how long the climb might take.  All I knew was that I had the longest climb of my life - 3,000 feet and 12 miles - ahead of me.  I settled into low gear and tried not to work too hard.   Moreover, I wanted to get my heart rate back into check and not blow my load in the first few miles.  I snapped a few pictures and took deep breaths.  With each crank of the pedals, I was doing math in my head.  Twelve miles at eight miles per hour was an hour and a half, ninety minutes.  Perfect.  The grade was a steady six percent and my MPH were steady.  All of a sudden, the grade increased and the MPH dropped accordingly.  More math.  Seven percent grade, 16 percent steeper, MPH down from eight to seven or six.  Another increase in pitch, the MPH dropped again.  The next thing I knew, I was struggling to keep the MPH above five.  Four point something.  Yikes, 12 miles a four miles per hour.  Could I really be climbing for three hours?!? 

The road turned a bit to the left and I looked over my shoulder.  It was at that point that I noticed the valley beneath me that I had already climbed.  I couldn’t see the top yet.  But the view to the bottom was breathless.  My four-something MPH pace felt comfortable and I kept chugging along.  I should mention that I started the ride at about 6,500 feet and I had seen a picture of the Tioga Gate reading 9,900-some-odd feet.  Rather than focus on speed or time, I figured I should just look at my altimeter.  One revolution of the pedals equaled about two feet of climb.  So I just counted my strokes and the altitude cranked by – 7,100 feet, 7,200 feet, 7,300 feet.  As I was expecting to see my meter get to 7,500 feet, I noticed the sign on the side of the road.  It read “Elevation 8,000 feet”.  Wait, what?  My meter read 500-600 feet LOWER than the sign.  I was closer to the top than I had thought.  More math.

I flipped my Garmin screen to a pre-programmed screen to only see two data points - my heart rate and the elevation.  I consciously chose to avoid my speed, the time of day or total time ridden.  I threw the math out the window and just tried to enjoy the ride.  This helped a bunch and I further settled in to the pain.  Just keep pedaling, knock off the elevation foot by foot, take deep breaths, enjoy the scenery  and keep my heart rate as low as possible.  I reached the “Elevation 9,000 feet” marker on the hill and compared it to my Garmin at 8,700 feet.  Crap, it was equalizing.  I don’t understand the technology.  But I don’t need to be a rocket scientist to calculate that something didn’t jive with the data.  I trusted the sign and felt comfort knowing that I had less than 1,000 feet to go.  

Was I an hour into my ride?  Two hours?  I had no clue.  Keep pedaling.  Some orange road signs appeared noting some road work ahead.  I recalled from the drive in that the road reduced to one lane as they were working on a bridge.  I approached the construction woman with the two-sided sign – SLOW and STOP.  She graced me with the stop sign and I got to catch my breath.  After a couple of minutes of small talk, she prodded me to go forward and I went on my way.  I reached the guy on the opposite side of the sign team and he quipped, “Do you think you will get to the peak before dark?”  I smiled but thought to myself, “Man, that was just plain cold.”  

Ellery Lake, just west of the Tioga Pass.  A mile or less to go.
All of a sudden, the road turned to the right and started to flatten out.  Was it possible?  I was almost to the top.  I passed a few resorts and hotels, a big lake, and there it was - the ranger station at the peak.  I slowed to a stop, parked the bike against the station, nodded to the ranger and took a final deep breath.  I finished my water bottles (I drank 48 ounces total on the climb), pulled out my breakfast burrito, snapped a few pictures and forced myself to keep eating.  I finally checked my Garmin and the stats read something like 3,100 feet of climbing, 2 hours 15 minutes, 13 miles.  Ouch.  But I also realized that I was “done” and it was only 8.30am.  No way I could call it a day at this juncture.  I kept eating, filled up my water bottles and prepared to keep going – no clue where I was heading, but it certainly wasn’t back down that hill.

The rest of the ride was basically a blur.  You would have thought that after reaching the peak at 9,900 feet of elevation, the only thing left for the day would be to descend.  Well, boy, was I wrong.  I was in no rush and I was constantly taking pictures, but it seemed like the whole ride was uphill.  I kept heading west with the goal of reaching Cedar Flats, the western gate to Yosemite.  The hard part was that the ups and downs were so severe.  I would do a few hundred feet of climbing at five MPH, taking 20-30 minutes, then I would bomb down a hill at 35+ MPH (sub two-minute miles) for a few minutes/miles.  The thing is, a descent at those speeds passes really quickly, and then the climbs pass that much more slowly.  There wasn’t enough time in the descents to rest before the next climb approached.

Upon reaching Cedar Flats, I looked around for the bus schedule.  My plan was to take the bus back to Lee Vining.  Unfortunately, it was 11.30ish when I got to the bus stop and the next bus was not scheduled until 5.30pm.  What to do?  If I waited for the bus, I would not be back to Lee Vining until 7.30pm, 8 hours.  I could ride back in way less time than it would take to ride the bus.  I went into the gas station, loaded up on food and drink and prepared to hit the road again.  Thankfully, my senses got a hold of me in the line and I decided that 125 miles was not in the cards for this day.  I was already spent, on a balding rear tire and at altitude.  I just didn’t have another 6,000 feet of climbing in me.  Luckily, I only had to ask about ten people whether they were heading east to Tioga Pass.  I found an old hillbilly and his wife, with an empty pick-up truck cab that were willing to give me a ride.  He refused allowing me to buy his gas or even a coffee.  The conversation was stimulating and the effort was minimal as we hauled across Yosemite. 
My ride home.  No pedaling necessary.  Note the full bottles of Gatorade.  That's how close I can to riding back.
I left my ride at the top of the Tioga Pass.  There was no way I was going to pass on the opportunity of descending that bastard of a hill that I had trudged up a few hours earlier.  My Strava time was negatively affected by the road closure and another few minute wait.  But, needless to say, my hands were killing me from braking so much on the 27 minute downward bomb.  

View down the Tioga Pass.  You can barely make out the road that travels along the left of this canyon.
All in all, an amazing day.  The pictures above do not do justice to the beauty and grandeur of the Yosemite Valley.  Let me know when you are ready to do this again with me.  I will either start before you or you can get extra rest at the top of the Tioga Pass.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Return of StravaMo

Sunny summer is over.  Its been wet and dark recently.  Time to pull out the lights and the plastics.

This blog has been conspicuously silent on StravaMo and the MoMiles Friday rides.  This is due to Mo's generous employer which offers a sabbatical of 4 weeks paid every five years of employment.  Well, July and August brought that wonderful gift to Mo and his family.  And with that gift, I was deprived with several weeks of Mo-less riding (I was also blessed with sleeping in on Friday mornings and being somewhat productive on Fridays having not ridden 5,000 feet of climbing on the way to work).

Alas, yesterday and this morning I received two emails from StravaMo announcing his return and his intentions:

From: StravaMo
To: FatGuy
Sent: Tuesday, August 14, 2012 10:59 AM
Subject: RE: riding tomorrow?
Finally caught up on your blog…seems you have many stories to share…awesome reading. And love that you noticed how I beat you up camino alto by a tic…and even better that you got it back again.
Wish I realized that yesterday on my way home…I was flying despite the wind. I have purposely avoided strava and your blog and emails most of the 4 week break. I didn’t want to crave riding and avoiding this stuff helped me. Wanted instead to focus on riding with kids, and just relaxing with family on vacation.

From: StravaMo
To: FatGuy (and many others)
Sent: Monday, August 13, 2012 10:17 AM
Subject: Mo's riding schedule

I’m back,
And with a new schedule. I have some training to do if I hope to ride W2W this year. So my general training plan follows
·         Mondays
o   ~20 miles
o   Straight shot basically
·         Wednesdays
o   ~40 miles
o   Tib loops, Pan Toll, Muir Woods Back Country, Sutro Tower
·         Fridays
o   ~80 miles
o   Commute from Novato, Stinson, Muir Beach, Tib loop and Sutro,
You get the idea.
Note, I’m in crazy horrible shape after my break. 4 weeks off the bike + 4lbs makes for slowMo miles currently. For example my morning ride today was an less than impressive 14.6mph average :-> I blame the backpack and Oregon brews I enjoyed.

I find those email hilarious for several reasons.  First off, Mo's Monday email shows just how looney this guy is. Really!?!  His 'normal' schedule will be 20 miles on Monday, 40 miles on Wednesday and, oh, 80 miles on the way to freaking work on Fridays?!?!?  There is nothing 'normal about that'.  I will post an update in a few weeks to see how closely Mo adhered to his proposed schedule (no pressure, buddy).  Second is Mo's bike riding obsession.  He can not even bare to read the FatGuy blog for fear of losing sleep dreaming about my rides to and from work (and Aptos and Marin Century, btw).  Lasty, in Mo's Monday commute, his first ride in four weeks, he claims to have ridden an embarrassingly slow 14.6 mph average to work that day.  Well, looking at my data from the same morning, I put in an impressive 14.2 mph, returning from a relaxing weekend and only a short spin on Sunday morning.  Thanks for showing me up, Mo.

Welcome back.  You were missed.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Marin Century and the Near Naked Man

Iron Mike and Young Daniel taking Bog Rock at the top of Lucas Valley Road
 This past Saturday brought the famous Marin Century.  I was super excited for the ride and not overly concerned about the mileage or the elevation.  The Tour de Cure was much faster and the ride to Aptos was much longer with more elevation.  So I was ready.  And to top it all off, the Marin Century is world renowned for its service.  There were well rest stops at all the major mile markers, stocked with fresh fruit, Gatorade, trail mix, PB&J, oreos and tons of other goodies.  I ate a big bowl of oatmeal pre-ride and packed four packages of Gu.  Otherwise, I was confident that the food, SAG vehicles and all of my other needs would be met.
Near Naked Man - Raising awareness for male cancers
The ride also was my opportunity to introduce the world, or at least this continent, the NearNakedMan (NNM).  NNM is a fancy kit that I wore as part of a philanthropy that I am supporting,, The cause for the philanthropy is pretty simple.  It states that these make cancers are generally treatable and curable in men as long as they are diagnosed early in the process.  As you might imagine, many men are intimidated or even embarrassed to ask their doctors to check out their undercarriage.  So the goal is to raise awareness by minimizing the embarrassment of talking about the cancers.  The method doing so is by having its supporters (me) wear the most god-awful, flesh colored speed suit of a naked man, complete with abs and nipples, and a fig leaf covering the boy parts.  While the kit is not pornographic by any means, it is certainly off-color and possibly obscene.  And there is nothing sexy about a 225 pound guy in a flesh colored spandex skin suit.  Nonetheless, it succeeds in its goal of catching attention and creating something to talk about.
NNM, Young Daniel and Paul B enjoying the first rest stop in Petaluma
Accompanying me on the ride were several of my FOG Dweller buddies and a few friends of friends.  We were a strong crew of nine, with little intention for a hammer fest.  Most exciting was young Noah who, at 14 years old, was doing his first century.  Selfishly, I was thrilled for him to join us because his pace was certain to keep the group from flying through the course.  
One of many cow pastures that we passed.  We also went through a herd of sheep.

We did surprisingly little socializing at the start of the ride and proceeded straight to the course.  By the top of our first climb of the day, Big Rock on Lucas Valley Road, there were still a lot of people and plenty of bikes/bikers to pass.  Jeff B. and I took the initiative to hit the downhill a little hard to get out of the masses.  At the first rest stop, in Petaluma, I must say that I was really embarrassed to get off the bike and fully expose the NNM to the masses.  It was one thing to have someone make a comment about the silly suit as we passed each other on the bike.  But there was no hiding as I was surrounded by tons of people waiting in line for food.  I kept my sunglasses on as to not have to make eye contact with anyone in particular.  But the comments were unavoidable.  Most were extremely positive like “Whoa” and “Great kit, man”.  But others were more in shock and there was a significant amount of finger pointing and laughing.  The ice was broken when I was approached by a flamboyant gay guy who was hosting the food line as a representative for the AIDS Ride.  He can up to me and we bantered for a while which made the situation much more fun.  Then I bumped into a few acquaintances who are part of a very strong community of riders in San Francisco and Marin.  I got the token “Wow”s and we continued on.  But I also knew that my buddy Mark, with whom I rode to Aptos, was riding in that crew.  I innocently asked, ‘Is Mark with you guys?” and Mark chimed up from behind me.  Although we just rode together just two weeks ago, and we have hung out a few times since, Mark was horrified to talk with me, be in my presence or even acknowledge that he knew me.  I felt a bit uneasy to see how uncomfortable he felt seeing me in the kit.  No harm done and we have laughed about it after the fact, though.
Rest stop number 2 in Valley Ford

We picked up the pace heading west towards Tomales to our second rest stop at about mile 55.  It was at this stop that the NNM was in full form.  The entrance was about 100 feet from the parking area, so there was literally a red carpet walkway between the bike parking and the food.  NNM was on full display.  It was also at this stop that I had the most fun encounter of the day.  After being asked to pose for several pictures, both alone and with other riders, I was approached by a cute little racer chick with piercings and tattoos all over her.  She proclaimed, “We are going to take a picture together, and I’m gonna grab your nipple.”  Who was I to object so as she handed her camera to Young Daniel, I just shrugged and went with it.  We both laughed and we went our separate ways.  By the end of the day, she was not the last person to touch me without my solicitation to do so.
Jeff B, one of the speedster group that dropped me at mile 70

The third leg of the ride brought the vaunted Marshall Wall – an 750 foot climb over three miles that is an unwelcome sight after 71 miles behind us.  It was at this point that the speedsters of our group – Jeff, Young Daniel and Paul – left the rest of us for good.  For me personally, it was a time to downshift to low-low and just pedal without regard for speed.  I was still passing more people than I was being passed by.  But the climb gave me the opportunity to lower my heart rate and just spin for 20 minutes or so.  I may not be able to climb fast, but I can certainly climb slowly for a very long time.  After the Marshall descent, we stopped at the last rest stop of the day.  As I was pulling in, my racer chick was on her way out.  She feigned surprise as I walked past her and she said, “Sheesh.  You caught me by surprise.  I am just not use to being in the presence of a naked man.”  I responded that “Maybe you should try it more often.”  She just giggled and said, “Nope, men are really not my type.”  If the tats and the piercings were not clue enough, it was now clear that racer-chick was into other biker babes.  Too bad.  She would have made many of my single buddies very happy.
The fearless FOG leader, Scott, and his buddy Mark who drove in from Folsom

The last leg of the ride was the most fun.  The speedsters were way ahead of us (they chose not to stop at rest stop #3) and Mark, Scott and Noah stayed for an extra long rest after Marshall.  That left Iron Mike, Jeo and me to finish off the day.  There was about 20 miles of rollers left before we had to climb back up Big Rock and then another 5 miles to go after the climb and descent.  Mike took off early and left Jeo and me to chase.  I caught Mike just after the Cheese Factory and we dropped Jeo somewhere on Nicasio Road.  Mike and I got in a group of five and we just hammered through Nicasio and back onto Lucas Valley Road.  At that point, Mike started getting leg cramps, so I did all the work to pull him through.  I led Mike and me pretty hard, passing dozens of people for several miles.  What I thought was 3 miles turned into just under 10.  I was absolutely dying doing all of the work.  But I was also enjoying passing all those people.  And to think what must have been going through their heads as the NNM was reeling them all in, one at a time, and passing them all in the 90th through 100th miles of the course.  Hell yes!!  At the bottom on Big Rock, I declared myself done and let Mike pass.  I never did see him again that day.  I spun, again in granny gear, up Big Rock for the final few hundred feet of elevation.
Young Noah, age 14, mugging for the camera during his first century ride ever
I pulled into the finish line, 102.5 miles and almost 7,800 feet of climbing, to see Amy and the kids waiting for me at the line.  It felt great to be done and even better to get off the bike.  We made it through to the food lines and I collected tons of stuff for me and the kids to eat.  I downed two or three slices of pizza, half of a Chipotle burrito, some lasagna and also passed out brownies to the kids.  I caught up with the speedsters who had already changed and finished eating.  We cycled through the pictures and reminisced a bit before it was time to get home.  A marvelous end to a marvelous day. The NearNakedMan was an absolute hit.  But I don’ot think I will break him out for a ride any time soon.  For those of you that are so inclined, or if the pictures above gave you a chuckle, think about kicking down a few bucks for the cause.  Help raise awareness of male cancers and support another knucklehead to don the kit.  The philanthropy’s website is and you can make a donation in my name at .

The amazing paella dinner that was waiting for me upon my return home.  Happy birthday, Diana.