Fat, fat, fat. There, I said it. So, let’s leave euphemisms aside. For one thing, euphemisms isn’t the easiest word to spell, and we’ve got more important things to do, like climbing the hill to Eagle Tower in Wisconsin’s Peninsula Park. So, here are the basics to get your sorry butt in gear.
First, make sure you’re ready for the challenge. My preparation began in 1988, riding my bicycle three or four paper-flat miles each day to and from my job as a bicycle mechanic at Champaign Cycle in Champaign, Illinois, stopping long enough only for a bottomless cup of coffee, a copy of the Chicago Tribune and a cinnamon roll as big as my head.
Because of health concerns, I have since abandoned the Chicago Tribune.
Second, make sure you’ve got a low gear. I’ve got a 28-tooth chainring up front and a 36-tooth cog on the big end of a nine-speed cassette. Gears that are this low have no self-respect at all. They’re perfect—you can shame them into climbing almost any hill.
Third, if you’re riding your tandem, make sure your stoker is at fighting weight, and, this is important, not looking for a fight. Also, make sure your stoker is on the back of the tandem before you begin your ascent. For one reason or another, a stoker on foot is loath to push the bicycle to its destination, even with your encouragement.
Fourth, keep pedaling. You’re going to be doing it a while.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “I thought all the great hill climbers were 6-foot-1 and weighted 129 pounds, not 5-foot-7 and 250.” You’re thinking, “What can a fat guy teach me about hill climbing?”
More than you’d think, and plenty more than a skinny guy. Heck, I can’t stay on a skinny guy’s wheel long enough to stick a pump in his spokes, let alone ask him a question. If you have the same problem, who are you going to listen to, me wheezing next to you or Mr. Next-County-Ahead?
I thought so.