FIVE THINGS is a weekly feature on the Banjo Brothers Blog. It’s a short interview about life and bicycles with a notable person. This week’s FIVE THINGS is with Elden Nelson, in some circles better known as Fat Cyclist.

It's hard to believe at one time he was actually fat with 200 pounds packed onto his diminutive 5'-7" frame. How did a bike obsessed "fast guy" get fat?  It was a perfect storm actually: a move, a new high pressure job, twin toddler daughters, a spouse (Susan) battling cancer and some health issues of his own. Uffda. He wanted to get back into form so he turned to a rarely prescribed weight-loss regimen of lots of riding combined with a heapin' helpin' of self-humiliation. The plan was to write a blog and post his weight. And write he did.

Back in the day, before social media ruined everything, the blog was epic. Sprinkle in a couple of lucky breaks, including a stint on the front pages of MSN Spaces and Elden would find his audience, a very large audience with unique visitors some days in excess of 100,000.

Nelson is a gifted writer and storyteller. He's funny, self-deprecating and captured in a fun way the obsessive nature of the typical bike nerd. It didn't matter if he was writing about his "grazing instinct", publishing fake news,  bike porn, funny ride stories, open letters, or recaps of the Leadville 100, his blog became a must-read for cyclists of all stripes.

At some point the Banjo Brothers reached out and started a working relationship with Fatty that would continue over the next several years. He also crossed paths with another Minnesota cycling industry brand, Twin Six who went on to produce some noteworthy collaborations with the fat one.

In 2007 life took a nasty turn for Nelson and his family. His wife's cancer returned. Fatty worked hard to keep the humor going and for the next two years he mixed humor with brutally honest updates about his wife Susan's condition. Despite the weight of his personal struggles Nelson used his newfound influence for good, raising awareness and money to fight cancer. He and Susan raised over $500,000 before she succumbed to metastatic breast cancer in August 2009.

For the next seven years Fatty would continue to write about bikes and raise money. He remarried. He built relationships with major cycling brands like Ibis, Specialized and SRAM.  Through events he dreamt up like "The 100 Miles of Nowhere" assorted contests he'd eventually raise over three million dollars for charities including The Livestrong Foundation Camp Kesem, and World Bicycle Relief. 

He's self-published two best-of Fat Cyclist Books, Comedian Mastermind which covers 2005-2007 and The Great Fatsby which covers the blogging years 2007-2010. Nelson said he'd make Kindle Edition's of both books free from 4/20-4/24.

These days Nelson is writing less and riding more. We were tickled when he reached out to ask us about the feature via Twitter and we couldn't resist asking if he'd give us his spin on Five Things. Enjoy.


FC:  Right now I’m completely obsessed with mountain biking on my 2018 Specialized Epic, which I’ve had for just about a month. Shimano XT Di2 drivetrain and brakes. ENVE 525 wheels. It’s a dream mountain bike. Even though I have several other bikes — a geared hardtail, a single speed, a road bike, and even a Tri bike (don’t ask) — I am not riding anything but the Epic.


Well, for one thing, it’s brand new so of course I always want to ride it. And also, I’m finding that I love full suspension. That’s new for me; this is the first not-hardtail I’ve ever loved. I’m finding with this bike that I’m riding over stuff that I’ve always picked my way through before. I’m shifting pretty much constantly what with the electomatronic shifting. And the 525 wheels are so abuseable (in a good way if that’s possible).

Banjo Brothers Five Things Fat Cyclist

But also, I’m riding mountain mostly exclusively because I’m weirded out by the road lately. I mean, we all have always lived with the risk of being killed by a car when we rode on the road. But now…the phones and the computer screens mounted into dashboards just scare me. People are more and more distracted on the road. On singletrack, that’s not a problem.


FC: I am riding my local trails. You should be jealous, because there is about 100 miles of singletrack I can get to from out my front door of my suburban-style house that is an eight-mile commute on a bike path to my high-tech company building . For realsies.

Here’s how that happened.

About ten years ago, when I moved from Seattle for a job, I bought a house in Alpine, Utah, because I loved the road and mountain bike riding in American Fork Canyon.

 And then the housing market crashed. Which is a bad thing unless you want to buy some land, cheap. Which a neighboring city did. And then — get this — this city built dozens upon dozens of miles of fantastic singletrack on it.

 Last week, they put in a bridge that connects the trails between a couple of MTB networks, so that now I can ride from home to singletrack, ride all day, and then come back home a completely different way, making an enormous loop.

For more than twenty years, I’ve been the guy who gets fat in the winter, then races himself lean in the summer, always culminating in racing the Leadville 100 (which I have now finished 20 times…one of around ten people who have done so).

 It’s not too different from being a kid who buys a house because it’s kind of close to a C+ amusement park (Magic Mountain, say), and then — completely unexpected — Disneyland moves in next door, with the Monorail stopping at your front door.

 When I see other mountain bikers on the trail, we tend to stop, look at each other, and say things like, “Can you believe this?” Because it’s damn near too good to be true.

 It really is.


FC: I love podcasts right now. I’m involved in making three different ones (The Paceline, The GU Pinnacle, and the American Fork Canyon Run Against Cancer.

 When I’m not recording a podcast, I’m probably listening to one. I used to record the CyclingTips podcast, but they fired me so they could afford to hire Caley Fretz. It was a good call; he’s much better than I was; I listen to that podcast every week.

 I also listen to Stay Tuned With Preet Bhahara and Welcome to Night Vale. And a lot of other podcasts, but those are my favorites. Neither of them have anything to do with cycling.



FC: I love sushi. Just love it so much. My wife and I go out for sushi rolls every Friday or Saturday night. The thing is, up until two years ago, you couldn’t get me to touch sushi. It scared me. I finally got pushed into it and now it’s my absolute favorite thing. I like it better than burritos, which I like a lot.

 Is there a lesson there or something? Probably, and that lesson would be, “Don’t start eating sushi, because it’s super expensive.


FC: My personal identity is currently stuck in my craw.

For about eleven years I was the guy who wrote a cycling blog pretty much every day. Now I don’t write about cycling at all. As in, this is the very first bike-related, bloglike thing I’ve written since I shuttered about a year and a half ago.

For more than twenty years, I’ve been the guy who gets fat in the winter, then races himself lean in the summer, always culminating in racing the Leadville 100 (which I have now finished 20 times…one of around ten people who have done so).

Now I don’t have a blog. And while I’m registered for the Leadville 100, I am absolutely not training for it. I’m not training at all. I’m just riding for fun, and I’m not stopping in the middle of rides to make a quick note about an idea for my next post. I’m…a…a…recreational rider.

Why did I quit blogging? Well, if you read the last year of posts, I think it’s pretty obvious that I was miserable. Why? Because I hated my job, and I simply couldn’t drag up the energy to write anymore.

I — not coincidentally — did have pretty much the fastest season of my racing life last year. It takes a certain kind of mental energy to put out the effort needed to be faster at 51 than you were at 30, but I had plenty of that kind of energy. Which is to say, I was fast because I was riding angry.

For what it’s worth, I actually finally quit in spite of the fact that I did not have a new job and did not know how long it would take for me to find one. It took some bravery to do that, but also it was scary.

Now I’ve found a new job (I’m a communications guy for Adobe), and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been professionally. And I’m having more fun on my bike than I have in a decade, but I’m also the slowest and fattest I’ve been in about a decade.

So I’m no longer the blogging racing guy who used to be fat; I’m the podcasting, riding guy who’s happy and once-again fat.

 It could be worse. Trust me.


A big Banjo Bros. thank you to Elden (Fatty) for participating in this week's edition of Banjo Brothers' Five Things.These short interviews about life and bicycles will appear every Friday on the Banjo Brothers Blog. If you liked this FIVE THINGS from Banjo Brothers you should check our our full series of past five things interviews.


Use the contact form on our website to send us a note. See you next Friday. Also, since you're here, we do need to mention, Banjo Brothers makes a whole line of tough, practical and affordable gear for cyclists.  Thanks for reading.


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