Posted by: fizzhogg | April 7, 2012

The Unfat Project – Portland Edition

Greetings from the Pacific Northwest, where sunshine is as rare as a conservatively dressed individual.

So I have been up here in beautiful Portland (and it is beautiful) since the 22nd of March. I have not weighed myself since March 21st, when I clocked in at 209.

I have been working a lot, sitting a lot, walking a lot, sleeping little, and eating… not a lot, but at odd hours. I have worked very hard at keeping my appetite for destruction in check.

I have ridden once.

The weekends are the only time for me to ride, and one weekend I had my family here, another weekend I finished work at 3am Saturday morning, then it rained cold and hard Saturday and Sunday, but there was one Saturday that arrived with sun and temps in the high 50’s.

I rented this steed from the wonderful folks at Waterfront Bicycles:

The Fuji Acr 2.0 — an aluminum machine painted sinister black, with Shimano 105 components and a compact ring. For $60, you get that plus a full tire repair kit and extra tube, and all the tools you need – for 24hrs. Good deal.

The Waterfront man pointed me toward a well-known paved bike trail that runs along the Willamette river, then meets up with other paved bike trails, and eventually forms a 40-mile loop, ending up right back downtown where it begins. Perfect.

I set out on my ride and quickly discovered that the toughest part of riding in Portland on a sunny day is navigating through the throngs of people all out trying to suck up as much dry brightness as possible before the next rain.

The first couple of miles were like riding through a cornfield of humans and dogs, as well as all the other cyclists out. One thing I noticed about Portlandia cyclists… they don’t do the fellow rider wave. Or nod. Or blink.

They get on with their business. I guess it’s because it is such a part of life here that doing the fellow rider acknowledgement would be like if motorists all waved to each other as we drove around town. Okay, I get that.

I did take note that the few riders who did acknowledge my waves and nods were other fully kitted roadies. Not all of them, but maybe 30%. And the massive amount of commuter cyclists I encountered? I’d say less than 10% returned my wave or nod.

The bike trail took me over the river and back the other way. I started out by all those buildings and greenish spirals in the photo below:

As I rode, the trail population dwindled and I would was able to get in short bursts of 15-18mph. This is a guess as I had no HAL 9000 of any kind on my rent-a-Fuji.

Then, all of a sudden, I had to stop and snap a photo just for Steve. I have no idea why this thing was sitting there in the water – there was no information, no historical marker, nothing – but I knew I had to grab a shot of:

Yep. Just your average, everyday submarine on a river. I looked but could not find Sean Connery nor Alec Baldwin.

As I traveled farther from downtown the trail lost a lot of its pedestrian population. I cranked the pedals and got into a nice rhythm, which I guessed was probably around 20mph.

That’s when I was passed by a big guy on a Cannondale carrying an extra wheel on his back. This guy blew by me and, of course, I could not let it go. I took my crop to the Fuji’s backside and gave chase… and chased… and chased…

And when I realized I was going to blow up before ever catching this guy’s wheel, er, wheels, I decided I must record the incident:

That’s as close as I ever got to him before we caught some dog-walker traffic. But once beyond the canines and their unaware owners, Wheelman was gone and never to be seen again.

I am guessing I rode between 24 and 28mph chasing this guy. I was in my second to last gear, in the big ring, and I was cranking. For probably a mile or more. Maybe even two. I really have no idea. But thank God for the dog-walkers. As I watched him disappear, I sucked down a Gu, drank, and decided to take it easy for a while and enjoy the scenery.

Soon, the river spun off one way and I turned another, and was riding along beautiful creeks and mini waterfalls, and through moss-covered forests of trees. And the city planners in this particular area (now about 15-20 miles from downtown Portland) did something really nice — all along this perfectly paved, 10-foot wide bike trail they created some really cool wooden walking trails to keep cyclists and pedestrians separated.

Yes, there were some walkers on the pavement, and I saw some cyclists on the wood, but mostly it kept things nice and safe for everyone.

I found no hills on this day and didn’t mind. I was just enjoying the experience of seeing new sights.

Eventually, I made it to the Columbia River, though it was far enough away from the trail that photos were pointless… or maybe by that time I was just too into the ride to pull the iPhone anymore.

At the end, my journey from Waterfront Bicycles and back took 2 hours and fifty-seven minutes. I did stop to take some photos, but other than that, I was pedaling. I don’t know how far I rode. If I had to guess, I’d say… average of maybe 14mph for 3 hours… so yeah, probably right around the 40-mile neighborhood.

I felt great after and was so thankful for the weather.

I have not weighed myself once since arriving here. I will not until I return to Cycling Mecca next week. Will I be back up over 210? Will I have dropped even more weight without cycling, but just managing my eating? All will be revealed in next week’s post. Until then…

Eat better.

Ride your bike.

Catch that dude with the third wheel.



Watch out for the road idiots


  1. That sub is a diesel-powered attack submarine, which the Internet informs me is the USS Blueback. It is moored next to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, which you surely pedalled past without noticing (and that speaks volumes about the museum’s marketing). The Blueback was decommissioned around 1990 and was once a ground-breaking design. Nowadays, all submarines are nuclear powered.

    The lack of gestures from fellow cyclists fits a trend I have observed, one which you seized upon in this post. The less novel cycling is in a community, the less likely greetings will be exchanged between cyclists. I noticed this immediately upon my arrival in Canberra, another city with a strong cycling community. Here’s hoping we’ll reach the day when cyclists completely ignore one another!

  2. I’m doing most of my riding on a local trail while I ease my back into things. Almost nobody does any kind of acknowledgement. The only slight nods I’ve seen have been between fully kitted folks. I guess even when there are lots of other cyclists, some things must be recognized.

    Sounds like you picked one good ride.

  3. SInce you have an iPhone, a good Hal9000 substitute is the free app from Strava. It is simple to use (unlike some other free GPS apps) and will save your ride to your Strava account immediately after you are done. If you are not really using your Strava account you can export your uploaded file later and move it to your favorite GPS site. On a fully charged iPhone, I have gotten 5+ hour rides in using the app as a substitute when other cycling computers are not available (as long as the iPhone never loses service during the ride – and thus wastes power searching for service).

  4. As always beautiful prose to go with a beautiful locale mate. I’ve said it before, but you Sir are a writer!

  5. As always, beautiful prose to go with a beautiful locale, I’ve said it before, but you Sir are a writer!

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