Archive for the ‘Bicycle Retailer and Industry News’ Category

Life in the Fat Lane: Everything, all the time. With fries.

March 10, 2019

If you’re seeing a little more sun all of a sudden, it’s not just because it’s Daylight Saving Time. It’s because the Fat Guy is throwing a little less shade.

The Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter turned 30 today, and he’s been on one of those weight-loss programs for celebrity has-beens, the kind where you don’t look quite so porky because hardly anyone ever sees you anymore.

When I turned 30, back in 1984, I was on a weight-loss program of my own. It had occurred to me that I had problems, which included but were not limited to drugs, booze, food, voices in my head, and newspapers, and I found that vigorous bicycling helped me sweat out the cocaine, alcohol and gravy.

Didn’t do shit for the voices in my head, or the newspapers. But what the hell, a guy needs friends. And a job’s nice, too.

Five years later I finally put those friends in my head to work, when I signed on to draw cartoons for VeloNews, which was just settling into its new digs in the People’s Republic of Boulder. I was two more newspapers further on down the road, in Santa Fe, and the voices were telling me that once again my days were numbered, probably because the publisher kept saying things like “Are you still here?”

I’d been racing for a couple of years, and out of an abundance of caution and a desire for some sort of change that involved more than my ZIP code I applied for the managing editor’s job at VeloNews. Didn’t get it. But the honchos liked the cartoons, and the first one they published featured the Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter, who debuted in Volume 18, No. 3, cover date March 10, 1989.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Back then the Fat Guy didn’t look at all like he does today. In fact, he looked a lot like me. Long hair and a full beard, both of which gradually went away, and a variety of undistinguished and too-tight jerseys that by the mid-Nineties had stabilized into the familiar yellow-and-red kit with the “Spare Tire Ale” logo on both sleeves, the one we still sell today over at Voler.

The shorts sponsors tended to change whenever I had a notion. Lardasche Jeans. Juan Ton’s Asian Tacos. That sort of thing.

And the dude just kept getting larger.

At one point Fais Dodo couldn’t find his bike (turns out he was sitting on it). At another he had sucked a few smaller riders into orbit around him. Almost everybody was smaller. Entire teams were.

He even tried to sue the bicycle industry for making him a great fat bastard, when it had done the exact opposite for me.

“Yep, cycling did this to me,” he tells the lawyer, hot dog in one hand, sack of pork rinds in the other. “Couple hours in the ol’ saddle and I gotta eat a 7-Eleven.”

“You don’t say,” replies the lawyer. “Sounds like a no-class-action lawsuit to me!”

Every time I revisit that particular cartoon I see and hear John Goodman, playing Walter Sobchak from “The Big Lebowski,” and not just because Goodman’s first TV appearance was in a Burger King commercial. I just like John Goodman.

I like the Fat Guy, too, and he went with me when I left VeloNews in 2012, not long after the original honchos sold it to the publishing equivalent of a chop shop run by meth-heads. We didn’t go bowling, though. We teamed up with Charles Pelkey at Live Update Guy, where Il Fattini was cast as a gender-bending Fat Lady Singing.

“It’s over!” he’d croon whenever a break got caught.

And El Grande started appearing more regularly in the “Shop Talk” strip I still draw for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, though he’s basically down to walk-ons and cameos behind that strip’s stars, the Mud Stud and Dude. He’s the kind of customer who dollars up on the wrong side of the ledger, drinking all the beer in the shop fridge and grazing the energy-bar display right down to the bedrock.

A customer once asked the Mud Stud if he had any fat bikes.

“Nah,” said the Stud. “We got a Fat Guy, though. Sell ‘im to you cheap.”

Behind him The Large One is mumbling through a cloud of hoagie crumbs. “This shop needs a deli. Maybe a brewpub. A bakery? Funny, I don’t climb so good lately. Bro’-deal me on a lighter bike?”

We’ve all ridden a few kilometers in those Sidis, eh? Any cyclist worth his kit knows that to find the shortest distance between two points you have to cut a few corners, or at least round them off a little.

And lighter is always better, amirite? Fatso is not the Road Runner, so bloody fast that his sheer velocity straightens out the curves and flattens all the hills. He’s Wile E. Coyote with an eating disorder, shopping for solutions at Acme. Or Walgreens. At least he’s out there, putting in the kilometers.

He was the guy the legendary Dong Ngo had in mind when we were discussing the 1987 Trek 2500 on display at the Denver Spoke.

“Who buys this bike?” I asked, stunned by the price.

“You wouldn’t believe who buys this bike,” he replied.

The Fat Guy, that’s who. The last guy who needs one. His eyes were never bigger than his stomach. Nothing was. Or is.

Maybe that’s why the Fat Guy struck such a chord. He wants what we want, which at rock bottom, basically, is more. Or maybe it’s because he seems so obliviously comfortable in his oversized skin.

Oddly, the jersey he covers it with seems especially popular with little skinny climber dudes, probably because people go “Oh, yeah, right,” when they see them wearing it.

But you know what’s really odd? Nearly 30 years to the day after Fatso and I pranced onto the VeloNews stage together, we’re both working for Felix Magowan again. A full circle, that is.

Yep. Felix was one of the honchos back then, and he’s one of the honchos now, ever since Pocket Outdoor Media bought Bicycle Retailer in January. I got my first check from the new owners in March. It didn’t smell like meth, and it didn’t bounce, so I guess we’re all one big happy family again.

We’ve been downsized, of course. Before this latest acquisition BRAIN published 18 issues per year, and now we’re down to 12, which accounts for Fatso’s sleeker shadow, and my slimmer paycheck.

Still, 30 years is a nice long first lap. We may be off the back, but we haven’t been pulled yet. Good thing the Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter has been taking his turns on the front. It’s been like drafting the Budweiser beer wagon with a full hitch of Clydesdales.

Can’t find my way home

February 11, 2019

Good thing it doesn’t matter when a virtual press runs, because someone has been intercoursing the penguin as regards his self-imposed deadlines.

Radio Free Dogpatch is intended to be a weekly affair, scheduled for Fridays, but just ask the penguin how well that’s worked out for him (whoops, too late, he’s exploded). To date the thing has reared its ugly head weekly, semimonthly, and on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays.

After three or four goes at this most recent episode, which came this close to becoming a plain-vanilla blog post, I’m starting to think Wednesdays are the ticket. Showtime. Whatever.

In any case, and without further ado, here’s episode 19 of Radio Free Dogpatch. Too bad I couldn’t get it finished in time to win a Grammy to go along with all my Pulitzers, Reubens, Emmys and MacArthur Fellowships.

Oh, well, there’s always next year.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Editorial notes: Shannon Hall wrote about the meanderings of magnetic north for The New York Times. Steve Frothingham has been following the trials and tribulations of ASE and the various media-consolidation stories for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. John McNulty wrote about super-salesman Elmer “Sell the Sizzle” Wheeler for The New Yorker way back in 1938. And Sam Dean of the Los Angeles Times gave us a peek at Zwift’s e-sports ambitions.

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with an Audio-Technica AT2035 microphone and a Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. I edited in Apple’s GarageBand on a 2014 MacBook Pro, adding audio acquired through fair means and foul via Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack (no profit was taken in an admittedly casual approach to various copyrights). Speaking of which, Buck appears courtesy of the 1935 William Wellman film “Call of the Wild,” while Nick Danger took a break from his Further Adventures to ask directions to The Firesign Theatre’s Old Same Place. The background music is “Crusin” from Zapsplat.com. And Blind Faith wrapped it all up with “Can’t Find My Way Home.”

Prime time is on trails, not TV

February 6, 2019

The February wind was making the clouds skate around all over the sky yesterday.

The State of the Union (El Rancho Pendejo Edition) is as follows:

Herself is now working 10 hours a day, four days a week, so as to have a three-day weekend each and every week.

I am working not quite so much, my career having developed a slow leak at the potholed intersection of Bicycle and Journalism.

Trail time: When the bike is leaning up against the rock I’m probably not going to fall off of it.

I have a cartoon to draw for Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, and a review to finish for Adventure Cyclist, and beyond that it’s anybody’s guess. Terra incognita. Here be dragons. All hope abandon, ye who scribble here.

Speaking of hope abandoned, I can’t wait to see the ratings for last night’s comedy special from Capitol Hill. Knowing that Charlie Pierce would be on the case, we gave it a miss, reasoning that if we want to watch a loon pretending to be president we can always dredge up some old “SNL” footage of Chevy Chase playing Gerald Ford.

Instead we caught up on “Crashing,” the Pete Holmes thing on HBO. It’s only so-so — Marc Maron and Bill Burr are more my style, when ol’ Freckles isn’t raving about ball sports — but you get to see some funny cameos by twisted comics like Dave Attell and Jeff Ross.

Beforehand I engaged in wheel sport, taking a quick out-and-back spin on the Voodoo Nakisi, which has been neglected while I review the Jamis Aurora Elite. My mad trail skillz have atrophied, and I was dabbing on sections a fat 4-year-old could handle on a balance bike, but it sure beat working. It beat not working too.

And in other news …

January 31, 2019

VN and BRAIN, together at last.

… we have this. More later.

Some lovely filth

December 15, 2018

Your Humble Narrator makes the masters-45 podium at the 1999 Colorado state championships. Photo: Neal McQuarie

The USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships are going on in Louisville, and some decidedly un-’crosslike weather is going on in Albuquerque.

This is nothing new. The weather, that is. I began losing my interest in ’cross about the same time everybody else “discovered” it, in part because winter was starting to seem like something you saw in old movies, or that only the graybeards talked about.

“You call this winter? Pssh! Why, back in ’98. …”

For me, getting cold and muddy was about half the fun. While all the roadies were doing squats in the gym, riding fixed gears on the street, or even worse, sitting on the trainer in front of some old Tour tapes, a select few of us were running around in the slush, wearing thick coats of goo, broad grins, and perfectly rideable bicycles.

“Ooo, there’s some lovely filth over ’ere!”

Anyway, thinking about ’cross and the lack of proper weather for same reminded me of a BRAIN column from 2002, and that constitutes the bulk of this week’s episode of Radio Free Dogpatch, which got a bum call-up and thus is a little slow getting off the start line.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with a Shure SM58 microphone, Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack, and the old 2009 iMac. Background music is “Newborn,” a jingle lifted from Apple’s iMovie, which also supplied the “Medal Ceremony” opener.

Catbed scanner

December 13, 2018

“Yo, scan this.”

Miss Mia Sopaipilla proves something of an impediment to the rumormongery from time to time.

Cold blow and the rainy night

December 7, 2018

The transition from fall to winter is always a sketchy time around here.

I’m not a fan of shorter, colder, darker days. They remind me at a genetic level of why my people invented uisce beatha. And since I no longer indulge in that miraculous restorative I’m at sea without a paddle on these chilly gray mornings, when the hangover is outside my head, at large and in charge, and not even aspirin is of any use.

This is when I await a tot of bad news, the way I once awaited a shot of good booze. The life of the free-range rumormonger is wild and free, until it isn’t, and it’s generally around this time of year when editors count and cull their herds.

“Oh, that one’s got to go. Dumber than three mules, eats like six of ’em, and shits all over the place. Fetch my .30-.30.”

It was fall 2017 when I got the word that Bicycle Retailer and Industry News would no longer require my “Mad Dog Unleashed” column. This was not a surprise. The industry-news biz, and the industry itself, was not exactly flush. Flushed was more like it. And shortly thereafter the publisher who gave the order and the editor who carried it out were no longer with The Organization.

About the same time Adventure Cyclist guessed that they wouldn’t need me at Interbike Reno, the Last Dance in Sin City having demonstrated all the intoxicating power of a half-can of O’Doul’s, a two-wheeled version of P.T. Barnum’s This Way to the Egress. When I heard nary a word about the show afterward I assumed Management had made the right decision. A bored and sober Dog makes a poor companion indeed. Whining and snarling and pissing on things.

And an old Dog, too. Set in his ways he is. ‘Tis a wee bit late to be training him so. Is there a .30-.30 to be had somewhere, d’ye think?

Well, p’raps. But not right now. Until I hear otherwise, I’m to deliver the first “Shop Talk” cartoon of 2019 to BRAIN next week. And a fresh Adventure Cyclist review bike awaits me down at Fat Tire Cycles, one of the few Duke City shops I have yet to visit.

And thus we have this week’s edition of Radio Free Dogpatch: “Cold Blow and the Rainy Night, or Whatever Floats Your Boat.” Give it a listen.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: This episode was recorded with a Shure SM58 microphone, Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack, and the old 2009 iMac. Cap’n Whitebeard used an Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB mic. I edited the audio using Apple’s GarageBand on a 2014 MacBook Pro. The background music is “Into the Sunset” from Audio Hero via ZapSplat.com. Sounds of the sea courtesy Freesound.org.

• Editor’s note: The very day I recorded this episode BRAIN announced that the bell had tolled, not for me, but for Interbike, both show and staff. That shit will roll downhill — just how far and fast remains to be seen — and I feel the pain of all those who saw the business end of that .30-.30. Marc Sani, one of BRAIN’s founders and presently its interim publisher, has a few thoughts on the whys and wherefores. As for me, I wrote about the final Vegas show in 2017, and you can read that after the jump.

• Off to see the Wizard in 2017

Who shot a man in Reno …

December 6, 2018

“C’mon, walk it off, y’sissy. …”

… just to watch him die?

Hint: It wasn’t Johnny Cash. Not this time.

Bring out your dead

October 31, 2018

That’ll be ninepence. And a happy Halloween to you.

Days decrease, and autumn grows

October 10, 2018

Yesterday’s clouds were a harbinger of mildly unpleasant weather,
the sort one expects in October.

It’s that time of year again.

This morning, instead of going straight to The New York Times to see what deviltry Cheeto Benito has been up to while we slept, I cued up Weather Underground to find out what Thor has in store for us here in our little corner of the Duke City.

Also, I was wearing socks. And pants. O, the humanity.

I already miss my summer routine. Reveille at oh-dark-thirty as Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Regiment) leaps into my rack. After a brief exchange of the usual courtesies it’s up and into the Columbia shorts, guinea tee and Tevas for the trip to the kitchen, where I burn an English muffin for Herself, pour a cup of joe for myself, and top off Miss Mia Sopaipilla’s kibble.

Next, open the sliding glass doors and a kitchen window. Fresh air reminds me we have two cats who haven’t mastered the flush toilet. But the litter box will have to wait. First, the news. One foul chore at a time, please.

With the international, national, regional and local butt-nuggets exhumed, examined and expunged, and a second cup of coffee to wash down a snack of some sort, it’s time to generate a bit of bloggery and/or paying copy before embarking upon some healthy outdoor activity.

Here we have another indicator of the relentless passage of time, as reliable as falling leaves. Come autumn, Bicycle Retailer and Industry News and Adventure Cyclist reduce their frequency of publication, and my income stream — hardly a raging torrent, even in the heart of the cycling season — becomes more of a dribble, the last warm sip from summer’s water bottle.

I delivered the video teaser of my Jones Plus SWB review to Adventure Cyclist on Sunday, and yesterday the November “Shop Talk” cartoon went off to BRAIN. Now I’m fresh out of other people’s bikes to ponder, and there’s just one more ’toon to draw for 2018.

And that healthy outdoor activity? Come autumn, it’s as likely to be a run as a ride. This year I started jogging again in July; this lets me sort of sneak up on my knees, give them time to grow accustomed to the idea that we enjoy this sort of thing, before winter winnows our options.

It’s a useful fiction, one that keeps me in shorts a while longer.