Sunday, April 28, 2013

A good bad weekend

Now just so you know I am trying very hard to keep this blog from being a boring "I did this and I saw this and I ate this" blog. I want to provide you with post that are both enjoyable and informative. This is why I have been taking the time to do the interviews and reviews. That being said, this post is going to be a little light on content but there are things I just have to get off my chest.

Been a mixture of good and bad this weekend. I went to both thick bikes and OTB on friday. I got to have a good dinner and hang out with my friends Paul and Jenny as well as have a wonderful conversation with one of the most intelligent people I know. All while enjoying beer and just a little tequila. It was a great night. Both at thick bikes and OTB I was welcomed by name and I still find it strange. This may sound a little self deprecating but I am still not used to being a part of a group instead of on the outside.

It is good if stange to me.

Dinner and friends went well even if I did for the second time that week end up flying back to town in order to catch my bus. (For everyones information if you ride across the Smithfield St bridge on the shared sidewalk/bike path at 9:45 at night at 20 mph ringing your bell and screaming "COMING THRU!!" You will cause some people just a little stress) To the girl who clung to the railing screaming I am very sorry but the last bus was at 9:55.

Karma is a bitch

I woke up the next morning sick with a sore throat and ended up missing the Keg Ride for East End Brewing. (that ended up at Schenly Park Dammit!!!)  and only got 26.8 nmiles this week which leaves me at 203.61 miles for the year and 123.3 miles under my goal. (GRRRRR!!!!) I am hoping to finish several interviews, and reviews (a very nice multi tool and my new Headlight)

One last note. If you are reading this and want more I have been posting a lot of small things at the Fatguy Orange bike Facebook Page so if you want more head on ever there and like the page so you don't miss anything.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Before and After

This is me a month before I started Riding my bike. March 24th 2006. What you see in my hands there is the remains of a Super Battleship. A 27" Hoagie and yeah I ate it all. I almost didn't want to show this picture to anyone. Just one look at my face and I can't believe it.

Here is a picture I took when I got home. I know I'm still a great big guy but I am so happy that I am not that great big guy in the first photo. I can only guess that I in the first photo I was 430 - 425 pounds and now I think I'm around 350 - 360 

All of a sudden I feel pretty damn good.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Interview with Marcel Means

In the past 5-6 years I have met some very amazing people in the cycling community. Many of whom I would proudly claim to have kept me cycling when I wanted to give up. They have encouraged me when I faced a hill I didn't want climb. They have ridden with me and pushed me to ride farther than I wanted and I ended up enjoying the ride.

One of my first group rides I went on was a Flock of Cycles Ride. I was so afraid I would be singled out for being some old fat dude that was holding everyone back. As I watched people half my age and a third my size show up I was even more convinced that my fears were realized.

I was wrong.

People whom I had rode with once came up and called me by name. While we rode I always had people around me as we talked and got to know each other, we started going up a hill (a rare occurrence on a flock ride) as I got slower and slower the people I rode with also rode slower and slower, keeping with me and encouraging me.

This is something I will not forget anytime soon.

The Flock of Cycles has held a special place in my heart since that first ride. Now I got the chance to interview Marcel Means, the current President of Flock of Cycles and easily the nicest man I have ever met. Normally I would write something at the end of the interview to wrap things up. I think that Marcel's final comment says it all

Enjoy the Interview.

First a little background. How long have you been into cycling and how/why did you start riding?

I have been riding full time since 2008, after my wife bought me a bike as a present. My wife has always been active and wanted to get me into fitness. She bought me a bike because she felt I would enjoy cycling and help me to get more active. I was hooked fell in love with cycling, sold one of our cars and started commuting to work by bike.

What kind of riding do you enjoy?

I enjoy the Tuesday Team Decaf rides. It is a moderate to fast pace 25 mile ride that starts on Tuesdays during the summer. It starts in front of Tazzo D’Oro coffee shop in Highland Park.

Do you commute on your bike? 
Describe an average day of riding?

I commute daily to work. My commute to work and back is a total of about 8 miles. I also commute to school. My total commute to school and back is about 20 miles. My commute is peaceful and helps me clear my head. I commute all year round. I have commuted in below 0 temperatures, snow, ice, rain, and heat. I ride no matter the weather and I enjoy every minute of it.

You mentioned riding in the cold and wet weather. How do you prepare and ride in these challenging conditions?

I started by reading the Bike Pittsburgh Message Board, learning what other all-season bike riders do to prepare. I also read lots of different cycling blogs for advice. Mostly I have learned through trial and error. Over the last few years I have learned what works and what doesn't work. I suppose the winter commute takes the most planning. I usually wake up a little earlier in the morning to gear up in my winter cycling clothing and head out. It is a lot easier than people think, and winter cycling doesn't make me a super hero, it just means I read up on what apparel to wear before I head out.

What kind of things do you enjoy aside from riding?

I enjoy spending time with my family. I have a very loving wife and a joyful daughter. I also enjoy anything that involves fitness. I am currently pursuing a career in fitness and health.

What is “Flock of cycles” and when did you get involved with it?

Here is the official Flock of Cycles Mission.
Flock of Cycles strives to promote safe road use by increasing public understanding of the presence of bicycle riders on the roadways and encouraging responsible cycling practices through exemplification and education.  We are working to bring people together and make Pittsburgh a fun and safe place to ride bikes.   We are an organization with no paid staff, fully supported by community volunteers. Flock of Cycles is about the community. It’s about family and friends. We love cycling, we love Pittsburgh and we love the cycling community.

How/why was the “Flock of cycles” Formed?

I was not part of Flock in the beginning. Nick Drombosky created Flock, he had the vision of educating both drivers and cyclist of the joys of cycling and safer roads. He built Flock into the great organization it is today. My involvement came last year. Nick was moving on to new projects and needed someone to take over the Organization. Myself and a few others answered the call knowing how important Flock of Cycles is to the Community.

How would you describe the monthly party ride / what can someone expect on their first ride?

The monthly rides are best described as fun. The Pittsburgh Bike Part Rides are filled with great people, Music, Food, Dancing, Costumes, and bikes. It is a family friendly ride (bring your kids). We ride together we ride slowly, the pace is slow so that we can have conversations while we ride.

Marcel at Bikefest Party

What are the rules for the monthly party ride?

We obey all traffic laws. We also are respectful to the community, other cyclist, pedestrians, and vehicles. We ride safe and respectful. 

What are the goal of Flock of Cycles?

Our goal is to help make the streets safer for cyclist and educate both drivers and cyclist about safe commuting.

What are you trying to promote?

Simply the love of cycling.

What have been some of the challenges you have faced since taking charge of Flock of Cycles?

The transition from the old Flock of Cycles Board of directors to the new has been a very smooth transition. Thankfully Nick is still around as our advisor when we need him. We are a group of volunteers that provide a free service, but at times the free service cost money. At times that can be challenging.

What can people do to help Flock of Cycles?

They can donate time or money. We always need volunteers. We also have projects we are working on, exciting projects, that once we get funding we will launch.

Can you tell us about some of these projects?

The exciting new projects. Every time I think about them I smile. Flock of Cycles has always been destined to be more than the once a month Pittsburgh Party Rides. We are about giving to the community. We are working on projects that are about safe cycling for everyone of all ages. At these early stages it would be premature for me to reveal these projects and events we have planned. I hope in the near future Flock will make an official statement or unveiling. All I can say is we plan to get more involved with the community in our efforts to make Pittsburgh a fun place to ride bikes.

What has affected you the most in your time as president of Flock of Cycles?

The love I have received from the community. I feel the cycling community has welcomed and accepted me with great love. I am so thankful for that.

What, in your opinion is the most important part of the Flock Party ride?
i.e. what makes a Flock ride a Flock ride?

The people. The people are great, diverse. I love the cycling community. Flock wouldn’t be Flock without the great people who come out to ride with us.

What do you think about rides such as Critical Mass and Alleycat races that are known for their rather loose interpretation of traffic laws?

With anything you only hear about when bad things happen. Alleycat races and Critical Mass are important parts of the cycling community. With anything if a few (or one) do something crazy that means everyone does. Not all cyclist run lights, and not all Alleycat or Critical Mass rides are crazy.

Have you noticed any anti-cyclist actions from people, while on a flock ride or while riding during your normal day?

More on my everyday commute than on a Flock ride. I have noticed a slight decline in angry drivers over the last year. With more bike lanes and awareness things have gotten a little easier. There is still a long way to go.

How do you deal with it?

I ride safe and predictable. I also kill them with kindness. I am not a combative person, I defuse the situation by not engaging.

How if at all has the hit and run deaths of last summer and the attack on the cyclist affected the way you ride?

The hit and run assaults on cyclist makes me realize how important our work at Flock of Cycles is. The hit and runs have strengthened my resolve. I  ride more, and I am more determined to help make the streets of Pittsburgh safer for everyone.

Many cyclists believe that with the growing number of cyclist there is also a growing anti-cycling sentiment among the general public?
What can we as cyclists do to promote a greater acceptance of cycling among non-cyclist?

Stay the course. Don’t back down, cycling is here to stay, Historically our country has fought against change, or people who are seen as different. A cycling civil rights is on the horizon and I plan to be apart of it.

If there was just one message that you would like to communicate about cycling what would it be?

Cycling is for everyone, despite your age, race or fitness level. Everyone is welcome. Cycling =Love, peace, and happiness.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday Brunch - April 14 2013

I'm starting something new here on FGOB and I'm calling it Sunday Brunch. Think of it as a wrap up of the previous week. Things I saw,did, read, and noticed that didn't seem to rate a posting all on their own. Think of it as a buffet of little tasty tidbits.

Clean Bottle Vs Regular Bottle
Yesterday while washing dishes I had gathered up my water bottles and decided to give them all a good scrubbing, followed by santizing them in the santizing solution I use for brewing. I wahsed the bottles including 2 clean bottles, let them sit in the sanitizer for 15 min then put them in the dish drain to dry. I didnt think of them again until this morning when I was putting things away. I was surprised to see there was still droplets of water inside the regular water bottles and the Clean Bottles were both completly dry. Always good to see something that does what it claims to.

I have this problem with water bottles, I'm almost ashamed to admit it. I can never remember them. I washed 12 of them yesterday and the reason I own so many is that when I leave my house for a bike ride it is even chances that I forgot  to put a water bottle on my bike.  It is more than an even chance that while I forgot to put the water bottle on my bike it is sitting on the table filled and ready to go. I sometimes wonder if my bottle feel let down, if they got all excited about getting to go on a ride then i just abandonded them. I kinda feel like a jerk now.

Classic Car Cruise.
Yesterday I went to a Classic Car Cruise in the front of the Penn Hills High School. It seems the Musical this year is a mix of classic 50's songs, Hence the car cruise. (did I mention that Girl Scout Cookies were on sale) Not only did I go but I wore my Thick Bikes Shirt and while walking around with my 6 year old nephew he asked me "What kind of car is this" pointing to a car. I was going to answer "A red one" Since is was red but instead I told him "it's a car like all the rest. it runs on dead Dinosaurs, Pollutes the air and makes you fat." I'm still not sure how I feel about that answer.

Cycling Expo
Last sunday I went to the cycling expo. It was nice and I expected to write a whole post about it but there really wasn't all that much to write about. I don't know what I was expecting but it was heavy on the selling and light on the advocacy. (Flock of cycles was there and I had a great time hanging with my friends, Bike PGH was also there) I got a subscription to DirtRag Magazine and picked up a new headlight for my bike. (Cateye eco) that I will write about as soon as I get a chance to try it out.

My milage for the week is a shameful 6.21 miles. I wouldnt even have that if not for the laps I did around the school today.  I find it interesting that I can go for a ride on the trail alone or with friends and the miles click by as I'm enjoying myself. but ride a few laps around the school and I'm going crazy after the first couple of laps. I rode until I couldnt take it anymore.

The Wheel Mill
I saw on facebook on friday that The Wheel Mill has opened (indoor mountain biking). Yet another place to mock me. I wonder how long till I make it down there for a little riding. I also wonder how long from the time I get there to the time I wreck and kill myself.  I'm betting to long for the first and way to short for the second.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bicycle Dreams - Full Version

Photo Credit: Transporte Ativo via Compfight cc

Here is the full "finished" version of the poem. I say "Finished" since I am always tweaking and changing my poems. Especially if I get the chance to perform them live. (Not often) Here is the Poem, if I can find a way to record it and post it I will do so.

Bicycle Dreams

The walls of my cubicle close in on me.

Institutional incarceration

4 walls - 40 hours - 5 days
Indoors, while sun and wind mock me
During all too short lunchtime reprieves
The dreams begin - Bicycle dreams
Dreams of escape and freedom
Dreams of trails trees and sharrows
Sitting at my desk
I hear the ticking of the chain
I hear the hum of the rubber on the road
I dream of escaping these walls
I dream Bicycle Dreams

2 wheels - 24 gears - and open skies
Dreams of inconsequential destinations and
Life changing journeys.
Trying to get lost and working at staying that way
Lost to the world, Lost with my friends
Each of us dreaming our bicycle dreams separately
Dreams fulfilled of trails taken
Dreams regretted of those passed by
Nightmares of hills of climbing to the stars
And descending into the valleys
Wind whipped and laughing giving voice to silent dreams.

Bicycle dreams - Frames dancing
multicolored fantasies of steel and carbon
sliding across sunset skies on
whispered wheels of wishes
On tubes like hearts
once broken

Pulled out
Patched and
Made stronger for the damage

Bicycle dreams
outpacing reality and its fear
outpacing my weak and feeble excuse for a life

A life
that clings to me,
           drags at me
                  pulls me to the side.

That weak and feeble excuse for a life
That lies to me
That tells me

I’m too old
          I’m too slow
                I’m too fat

Half truths that taunt me in my weakness
I am Old, Slow and Fat
But I get on my bike and ride
And thats no dream

Im thinking I would really like to make a video to go along with this.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


This had been going around facebook today and when I got home from work I took a look at it.

Bias against cyclists is Rampant and unfair (Michigan Auto Law)

This is no surprise to me. I have seen it growing for the past few years. People who would never advocate hurting anyone will say the coldest most psycotic things about a cyclist that has "Made" them a few seconds late. When I hear these things I often think about offering to do the same things to their own mother, sisters, daughters.

You would be surprised how upset they get at the idea of someone saying something so cold about someone they care about. I guess turnabout isn't really fair play. Here are a few quotes from the article.

"The lawyers defending the trucking company refused to accept any responsibility for his death. They said he caused his own death, and then they said it didn’t really matter because an 83-year-old man isn’t worth very much money."

"There were many people who were quite willing to assign blame against him for just riding a bicycle. And there are many people willing to forgive clear negligence if the victim is on a bicycle."

I see this all to often. During most of my family gatherings I find myself talking to one of my relatives who will eventually bring up that he has seen someone on a bike do something illegal (run a red light, blow a stop sign) but doesn't understand what I am doing when I walk to the window and look out on the road and say "That car is speeding, and that car is speeding, and that car is speeding"When I bluntly point out that he is more than willing to break traffic laws that don't suit him but get angry when someone else does the exact same thing. You may think I'm getting a little ranty!

I am.

If this bothers you, well tough. I'm not going to pretend to understand why a person can kill another person and it is called murder or negligent homicide or manslaughter, unless the killer is in a car and the victim is on a bicycle. Then it's a 500$ fine and 3 points. Besides it was clearly the cyclist fault since he was riding on "my" road.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pedal for the Pantry

Saturday was the day of the Pedal for the Pantry and let say first off that I was not only humbled by the number of people showed up and participated, but Gobsmacked at the number and diversity of the people who came out.  Above is a picture I took of part of Team Fatguy heading to Polish Hill and to our second stop (Wholey's Market). There was around a hundred riders join in the fun and Team Fatguy had 14 people going out for the slow, easier ride. (Map posted below of approx route)

Create Maps or search from 80 million at MapMyRide

What really grabbed me about the Pedal for the Pantry ride was the numbers of different people. I saw your typical "Line of Sight" bike messengers, your typical "Full Kit" roadies and several people on BSO's who showed up and had a great time.  Both the longer ride and the shorter ride were modeled after and Alleycat style of race. Each ride had a manifest - A list of stores and Items that should be purchased at each store. Riders who got to all the stores and back to the endpoint of the Race first won.
My first ever Spoke Card
However it should be known that unlike many Alleycat races it was strongly suggested that all rules of the rode should be followed. Even to the point of announcing that anyone caught doing otherwise would be Disqualified.

You might be wondering how the day went, and how much food was collected by all these crazy riders?

I'm getting there.

You see it became "A thing" to tell the people working at the registers (and those waiting in line with all of us) what we were up to. I ended up talking to the guy in line in front of me about what we were doing and what a great day it had turned out to be.  As I was walking out of the store he approached me and handed me a monetary donation for the food bank.  I know I can't be the only one this happened to. The day was full of stories

The guy who walked down to the store and brought back several cases of canned goods just to get a better chance at the raffles. 

The Father and son from Erie who came down for a film festival and ended up coming along for the ride. 

The Girl who wrecked and still came in third place for the woman. 

If someone did the ride and ended up without a story they simply weren't trying.

So how did we do?

 If you're thinking that looks like a a lot of stuff to haul by bike you would be right. The final totals for the night were.

987 pounds of non-perishible food
187 pounds of non-food (diapers, laundry detergent, and bathroom tissue)
1164 pounds of donated goods gathered & delivered by bike inside of 4 hours.
-- According to the Food bank people it is a weeks worth of Groceries for 200 Families.

Again I repeat myself by saying I was Gobsmacked.

It has taken me these past couple of days to think about what I saw and try to find these words. I know that I wasn't the only one staring at all this food with tears in my eyes thinking about all the people riding all over the city collecting the food and bringing it back to make sure that the people who need it can get it. Just some quick napkin math tells me that the group rode about 2300 miles most in small groups or ones and twos.

I wanted this post to be about what a great group of cyclists we have in Pittsburgh, but the truth is we aren't anything special (at least things like this should be the norm) A need was made known and more importantly someone showed us a way to meet that need. All of us know there are people in need but we all feel overwhelmed at the idea of doing something on our own. But as a group we end up doing so much more than we ever thought we could.

I could go on to tell you about the prizes that were awarded or list the people who won prizes. Then I realized that those things don't really matter and I would like to believe (I do believe) that just as many people would show up if there were no prizes. Those who raced hard raced hard because that is just the kind of people they are. The others rode the way they do because that is just the kind of people they (we) are. 

I for one can't wait to do this again.

Arts and Crafts

I did a little Arts and Crafts tonight and "Modified" a Flock of Cycles T-Shirt that I happen to have laying around. It worked OK but Im gonna look into finding a better way to do this.