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No Whiners: It's all about the patch 

It's all about the patch.

The 2009 version of Bend's Big Fat Tour this past weekend was epic as usual. I don't really know that because I was a wimp and only did the two-day recreational ride rather than the three-day "Epic" (I had to work Friday - that's my excuse). But I did see what riders looked like after completing all 148 miles of dirt and lava rock and I think the name was appropriate.

Now in its 15th year, the BBFT is the brainchild of Paul Thomasberg, who constructs new routes each year designed to test the mettle of the toughest mountain bikers. This year, the weather forecast was downright horrendous, which would have added to the "epicness" for sure, but instead riders were blessed with three days of perfect trail and riding conditions.

Friday's 51-mile ride started at Paulina Falls, climbed Paulina Peak, went past East Lake, north through the Lava Cast Forest, onto the Blackrock Trail and finished in Sunriver.

Saturday's 76-mile ride started at Dutchman Flat, circumnavigated Mt. Bachelor, traveled on the Flagline, treated riders to the new Wanoga trails and then went down COD and through Shevlin Park to finish at Aspen Hall. I only did the recreational version which evaded the brutal circumnavigation of Bachelor (I worked the MBSEF ski swap in the morning - that's my excuse). It was actually my first time on the "Funner" trail in the new Wanoga complex and the banked turns truly are funner. After I finished, I had time to go home, shower, take a nap and walk the dog before returning to the Big Fat Party, where I witnessed Epic riders straggling in 10 hours after embarking on their journey. They were the ones who looked like zombies at the party. And if you asked any of them how the ride was, they could only reply with one word - "Epic."

Sunday's 21-mile ride started at Scout Lake (near Suttle Lake) and climbed a picturesque red cinder road to the summit of Cache Mountain where we were treated to a 360-degree views of the Cascades. I'd never ridden Cache Mountain before, so it was fun to check out the singletrack through old burn areas, thick green manzanita and fiery orange vine maples.

The BBFT ( costs $99 for 3 days. That includes shuttles, food at rest stops, mechanical support, a Saturday night party, a T-shirt, a pint glass and, of course, comraderie. Most of the riders are from out of town and as we were climbing up Cache Mountain, a cyclist from Team Dirt in Corvallis told me, "It's a great way to get to know the singletrack around here."

Before the ride, I wondered why a local would bother signing up for the BBFT. After all, we can just go ride these trails whenever we want. First of all, it is a fundraiser for the Central Oregon Trail Alliance and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Oregon. Secondly, it got me out on some trails I actually had never ridden before, which is really cool. Cooler, yet, is the patch.

It's small round patch embroidered with with the word "Whiners" with a red circle and slash. The No Whiners patch is a true badge of honor. About 20 out of the 175 riders this year were awarded the patch for completing every one of the 148 miles. The patch is serious stuff. At the post-ride patch ceremony, riders are required to stand up in front of a jury of their riding peers and confirm that they deserve a patch. Even Bend's Olympic mountain bike racer, Adam Craig, confessed that it was hard when he received his patch.

I have to admit now, I kind of want a patch next year.

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