Archive for the ‘VeloNews.com’ 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.”

And in other news …

January 31, 2019

VN and BRAIN, together at last.

… we have this. More later.

Bring out your dead

October 31, 2018

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

Back to the future

October 13, 2017

Check the date: March 10, 1989. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

That’s the cover of the first VeloNews in which a cartoon by Your Humble Narrator appeared.

It practically goes without saying that it featured the Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter.

The Old Guy Who Gets Fat in Winter, v1.0.

How long ago was this? Well, President Ronald Reagan had just delivered his farewell address, Ted Bundy had taken his ride in Mr. Edison’s rocking chair, the last Soviet troops were leaving Afghanistan, and Eurosport was debuting in France.

The previous year, Felix Magowan, John Wilcockson and David Walls had acquired what was then called Velo-news from founders Barbara and Robert George.

After moving the operation to Boulder they declined to hire me as managing editor (a wise move). Time passed, as it will, and then in 2008 Inside Communications Inc. sold out to Competitor Group Inc. (not so wise in my opinion, but you know what they say about opinions).

Wilcockson — who would later get a ruthless, senseless and unceremonious heave-ho, along with Charles “Live Update Guy” Pelkey — wrote about the history and acquisition of Inside Communications here.

Il Fattini as he came to appear further on down the road.

As for me, I quit, was coaxed into returning, and then quit again, that last time for good.

But I always kept an eye on the joint, the way you sometimes bicycle past a ramshackle house you used to live in, shaking your head at the carelessness of the new owners.

And so did one member of that Original Trio — Magowan — who has repo’d the joint, with Pocket Outdoor Media partners Greg Thomas and Steve Maxwell.

Included in the sale are VeloPress, which just published Nick Legan’s “Gravel Cycling,” and the magazines Triathlete and Women’s Running, along with their digital counterparts.

“Despite the well-known challenges in print today, our team is thrilled to have the chance to rebuild these iconic titles as well as their sister digital operations,” Magowan told Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. “We have ambitious growth plans, and want to restore these brands to their historical industry leadership positions as quickly as possible.”

Here’s hoping Friday the 13th turns out to be a lucky day for Felix, The Trio v2.0, and for VeloNews (turn that number upside down just for luck, guys). Meanwhile, for anyone with the flashback blues, here’s John Prine.

Man at work

September 2, 2016
Your Humble Narrator in the salad days, covering a race in Bibleburg.

Your Humble Narrator in the salad days, covering a race in Bibleburg.

While cranking out a column and cartoon to commemorate the upcoming 25th anniversary of the launching of the good ship Bicycle Retailer and Industry News back in 1992, it struck me that I was approaching a milestone of my own — as of today, I have been a full-time freelancer for 25 years.

That is not a typo.

After quitting my seventh and final newspaper gig, at The New Mexican up Santa Fe way, I raced the Record Challenge in Moriarty on Sunday, Sept. 1, 1991 (56:43 for 40km, a personal best), and the very next day I was up north in Bibleburg, trying to figure out how a burned-out newspaperman might pay for his bacon and beans.

I had three things going for me. One, I had been freelancing cartoons and light journalism to VeloNews since March 1989, and I began doing more of that, helping cover (now-defunct) races like La Vuelta de Bisbee, the Casper Classic, and the Cactus Cup, and lending a hand with copy-editing and production up in Boulder.

Two, Marc Sani at BRAIN wanted a comic strip for his brand-new industry magazine, and before long I was writing some stuff for him, too.

And three, Herself and I were living rent-free with my mom, who was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and required oversight. So we’re not exactly talking Hemingway-in-Paris here; we had a roof over our heads, three hots and a cot, and a small allowance for serving as live-in help while my sister managed Mom’s finances from Fort Collins.

At first I could and did work for anyone. But eventually the VeloNews and BRAIN gigs led to other work in the bike biz, and after a while that’s all I did. It’s hard to believe, but a guy could actually earn a semi-OK living scribbling for bicycle magazines, and eventually, bicycle websites. Who knew? Not me. Not until I had 15 years of newspapering under my belt, anyway.

Today I work for BRAIN and Adventure Cyclist, period. It’s not exactly heavy lifting. I get to make shit up for the one and play with other people’s toys for the other. I should be paying them, not the other way around.

You guys, of course, get the dubious benefits of 40 years’ experience for free. You’re welcome.

 

It makes a man’s eyes damp, for sure

December 12, 2012

At times one wonders how many of the online readers of VeloNews.com were the only children of overprotective hippie parents, Montessori grads, or home-schooled by feebs who think the Bible was written in American by dinosaur-riding Christian cowboys.

Velo’s annual awards issue names the Schleck brothers the International Disappointment of the Year and the comments section fairly overflows with tears on the Luxembourgers’ behalf. I’ll bet the Suits who pay their salaries are muttering, “You fuckin’ A,” along with more than a few of their teammates and maybe even their old man.

Some of these sensitive types who think the cycling press should focus only on sweetness and light should re-examine the last 15 years of uncritical paeans to various dope fiends for a refresher on just how well that worked out. They might also skim some of our mainstream sports coverage, in which underachieving, overpaid stars are routinely power-washed with ice-cold horseshit by fat fucks whose primary athletic achievement is getting out of bed in the morning without stroking out.

Hell, Andy Schleck would hang himself over the bidet by his pantyhose if his every utterance was “enhanced” by a comments section. You give me 20 percent of his 2012 salary for riding the pine and I’ll have 15 years’ worth of my hate mail tattooed on my body. There should be just enough room if we keep the text to 5.5 point, the size sports pages once used for results.

Tour de Frags

July 6, 2012

Sean Kelly, one of the hard men of the peloton when I was first becoming interested in the sport way back in the day, implies in a chat with the working press that this modern lot is a shower of eejits — and I’m not inclined to argue with him after watching stage six of Le Show Beeg, in which pretty much everybody save the Eurosport commentators, ASO management and Paddy McQuaid found themselves on the tarmac, in the ditch or inside an ambulance.

Sean Kelly back in the day, as photographed by <a href="http://www.corvospro.com/arimages.aspx">Cor Vos</a>

Sean Kelly back in the day, as photographed by Cor Vos

“These kinds of crashes happen, but you have to ask, how did it happen?” Kelly told my man Andrew Hood over to VeloNews.com. “Nobody wants to brake anymore. Everyone is pushing to be in the top 30 riders. Everybody is taking so many risks, and they will have crashes because of that.”

From your lips to God’s ear, Sean a chara. Today’s appalling clusterfuck on a narrow section of road, which left dozens of riders on the floor and sent several out of the Tour altogether, looked as though someone from the Spandex Liberation Army had set off a roadside bomb as the peloton rode past. Andy tallies up the body count here.

Some crashes can be blamed on course designers. Others can be chalked up to ineptitude (yes, pro cyclists fuck up just like we do, only at higher speed). I don’t know whom to pin this one on, other than upon the collective mindset that everyone — sprinters, wanna-bes, winless guys fretting over next year’s contract, GC men and their minders, and anyone in a Euskaltel-Euskadi jersey — just has to be at the front, all at the same time.

There isn’t enough room. Forget about UCI regulations —  it’s a violation of the laws of physics. You can’t squeeze a thousand pounds of Lycra through a garden hose. There’s gonna be an explosion. And we saw it today.

Editor’s note: Incidentally, in case you’re wondering where I am lately, I’m helping Charles “Live Update Guy” Pelkey with running commentary on the 2012 Tour over at Red Kite Prayer. Well, maybe “helping” isn’t quite the word we’re looking for here. “Hindering” may be more accurate. Whatever. I’m there, and you should be too. See you.

Thorazine is on my Xmas list

November 29, 2011
Miss Mia Sopaipilla views with alarm

"You said a bad word," says Mia. "And another. And another. And another. ..."

What’s been going on around here, you ask?

Well, let me think here for a minute. Hmm. …

We had the big Thanksgiving Day U-turn from Bibleburg to Fort Collins and back on Thursday; a full day of VeloNewsery plus dinner with our across-the-street neighbors Larry, Jill and Wendy on Friday; lunch with (and saying adios to) our wonderful next-door neighbor Judy on Saturday, with an extra-large side of work; and work work work on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, culminating in yet another dinner with friends tonight, a northern New Mexican project to which I tended between bouts of pixel-pushing for the Boulder boyos.

Whew. Long week for an old dog. And it ain’t over yet.

As you might imagine, something’s had to give around here, and that something is exercise. My ass is approaching critical mass, and I ain’t talking about the traffic-snarling bicycle parade, either.

I did sneak out for a 20-minute “run” this afternoon before putting the beans on the stove. Folks probably thought they were seeing a particularly ugly, sluggish zombie on the prowl.

And I probably managed to sweat off a couple of grams running around the kitchen, chopping, mincing, slicing, sautéing and stirring bits of this and that until in desperation, running out of time, I finally dialed down the menu from cheese enchiladas in green sauce with one side of beans in chipotle and another of red chile roasted potatoes to a bare-bones platter — bean burritos smothered in green with a side of the aforementioned spuds.

The bad news is, I probably put those lost grams right back on by going back for seconds. Plus pie. Did I mention pie? Oh, Lord.

Meanwhile, we will return to our regularly scheduled snark come Thursday, when I have a day off — and the weatherman is calling for wind-driven snow and a high in the 20s. I foresee much grumbling and the first stationary-trainer ride of the season, not necessarily in that order.

That was absurd, let’s eat dead bird

November 23, 2011
Mia and Turkish

Mia and Turkish watch as Buddy (not pictured) gets a grooming from Herself.

The mighty river of VeloNews finally slowed to a trickle today. I fired off an invoice to Corporate and slipped out for a short ride.

Several impatient motorists seemed in dire need of a brisk hosing down with a fire extinguisher full of tryptophan on this day before Thanksgiving. I tallied exactly 349,392 moving violations intended to kill me before abandoning the count.

Plenty of static violations, too, my favorite being the bulbous land yacht parked smack dab in the middle of the bike lane, right under the “No Parking In Bike Lane” sign. This appalling lack of reading comprehension is not encouraging to those of us who earn our meager livings from wielding the English language.

Oh, well. At least I got my big ass out in the late-November sunshine (this is not strictly accurate, of course; it was wearing bib shorts). Herself and I took the critters out for an airing, too. Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein, Miss Mia Sopaipilla and Banzai Buddy the Japanese Wonder Chin all scored themselves a little free vitamin D, which can be hard to come by this time of year.

That’s a little something to be thankful for in trying times when we 99 percenters hear the distant ring of carving knives clashing rhythmically against sharpening steels and wonder if we’re what’s for dinner.

And if that doesn’t get your drumstick throbbing, raise a glass to longtime Friend of the DogS(h)ite Boz, who notes in comments that he’s back to working for The Man.

From our family to yours, happy Thanksgiving.