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FAT City: Fat Tires and the Skinny on Body Fat 

click to enlarge Fat fun on the Metolius Windigo.
  • Fat fun on the Metolius Windigo.
Fat fun on the Metolius Windigo.
The organizers of Bend's Big Fat Tour (BBFT) called me up recently to invite me to ride in their 14th annual mountain biking event October 17-19th. Unfortunately, I had to take a rain check, but I'll be there next year for sure simply because founder Paul Thomasberg waxes so poetic about it:

Why sign up for this ride of attrition?

Camaraderie, effort, not competition

60 plus miles of sweet single track!

Gnarly sections, be careful don't stack

The sun glistening on snow through the trees

Pace yourself carefully, it's not a breeze

High alpine meadows, swift flowing streams

Finish this ride, it'll give you sweet dreams

Your mind gets euphoric after miles of trail

Tunnel vision comes, you're riding a rail

Challenge yourself and settle the score

Heighten your senses like never before

When you get to the park the end is near

Just three more miles to burritos and beer

Train for endurance and get ready to ride

Doing the Epic fills your soul with great pride.

This event, which has been around long before Bend became discovered as a top U.S. mountain biking town, showcases the best of what we have to offer. The BBFT includes three days of fully supported, guided and shuttled singletrack mountain biking bliss and proceeds go to help COTA, MBSEF and Kids on Bikes. Friday is the Round Mountain/Lookout Mountain Loop. It's a scenic 35-mile ride with 5800 feet of climbing and descending. I did this ride last spring when the wildflowers were ablaze, but this is also a gorgeous time of year in the Ochocos too. Saturday is the 80-mile "Epic" (with 50-mile and 37-mile options), which includes a circumnavigation of Mt. Bachelor and the classic Metolius Windigo trail, and the Sunday Finale is the Cache Mountain Loop near Suttle Lake.

Thomasberg, whose mantra is "It's about the ride," says he staked out the last possible weekend in the season to hold such an event because of the "possibility for top to bottom riding without dust." The weather is always a question mark in October, but the fresh snow on the buttes this past weekend can make for exquisite tread if it melts or an interesting challenge if more accumulates. If the latter happens, organizer Woody Starr says it will be an opportunity for riders to learn, "Wow, I can ride in the snow, maybe I just need better gloves!" While stressing the recreational nature of the event, Starr says that the BBFT is about getting people to go a little farther than they normally would. "People can find out that they are not as much of a pansy as they think they are."

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I braved the calipers last week. Those who have ever had their body fat measured know the feeling of vulnerability. Having gotten a bit pudgy, I've avoided the calipers like the plague for a few years. I blamed it on a consulting job that required me to drive all over the state and attend too many lunch meetings. I blamed it on the "pound a year rule" - metabolism gradually slows resulting in a gain of a pound for each year after college. Somehow this summer, I finally got motivated to cut the carbs and get within striking distance of my undergrad form.

For outdoor athletes, the value of body fat testing is not in a single number, but in monitoring changes. Yes, you can compare your percentage of fat to that of a female college athlete (19% on average) or even Lance (his was about 5% when I used to test him), but a couple of pinches plugged into a generic formula provides notoriously inaccurate results. Ideally, have the same practitioner utilizing the same technique estimate your percentage of body fat on a regular basis to assess the effectiveness of your nutrition and training regimens and progress toward goals.

There are several venues in Bend for body fat testing, including COCC which does hydrostatic (underwater) testing as well as skinfold measurements. Cathy Sassin of Intrafitt conducts body fat checks for $10 for anyone interested. Her next testing session is Saturday, October 11, 11am-noon at the Rebound Sports Performance Lab. Cathy says, "If your body is utilizing fat efficiently, you will look like the athlete you are," and she provides nutritional counseling to help you get there. For more information, contact her at

My challenge will be to see if I can maintain or even improve my body composition throughout the long, cold, dark winter when curling up in front of the fireplace while Toblerone beckons. And, no, sadly, Toblerone is not my pet name for a ski hunk from the Alps.


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