...now browsing by tag


SIR Spring Populaire 2017

Monday, March 13th, 2017
SIR Spring Populaire 2017 - A wet section of the BGT

A typical stretch of Spring Populaire 2017

This was the third Populaire I’ve done with the Seattle International Randonneurs and the third one where it rained. This was the rainiest of the bunch though.  The ride started 9am at Woodland Park in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle.  It started drizzling a few minutes before the start and was a good steady rain by the time we reached the Burke-Gillman Trail (BGT) heading toward Golden Gardens State Park.  By around mile 15 my cue sheet had completely disintegrated. By mile 21 my bicycle computer konked out.  I pretty much relied on the fact that the route was mostly a there and back to Redmond on the BGT and trying to stick with a group of riders.

SIR Spring Populaire 2017 - Pre-ride announcements

Pre-ride announcements

The downside of that though was that most of the ride was on rail trails.  We rode a stretch of the BGT to Golden Gardens, did the climb up to Loyal Heights, cut across to the Interurban which we rode north to the BGT Connecter.  The Connecter – which is a newly “signed route” – was one of the routes I’d worked out back when I lived on the eastside.  It features a long descent down to Lake Washington in Lake Forest Park.  A soaking wet descent on this day. Then it was pretty much the trail to the Redmond Whole Food Plaza which was a control and place for food/coffee/drying out.  I changed my socks there and grabbed some produce bags to try to keep them dry for the ride back. I also downloaded the route to my phone, but it being so wet I wasn’t sure I could really rely on the phone.  But since it was 11 miles back on the BGT I knew I was set for a while.

SIR Spring Populaire 2017 - Randos disppearing ahead

Randos disappearing ahead on the BGT

It was a slog back on the BGT, though there was a good 20 minutes without rain.  The fresh pair of socks in their shopping bags did a good job keeping my feet dry.  I was alone most of the time, once passed by about 8 randos who’s pace was definitely outstripping mine.  The next group that overtook me, I made a point of sticking with and was able to take advantage of their surviving cue sheets and GPS to get to the finish. This last bit climbed up into Ravenna, made it’s way under I-5 and then the final climb to Phinny Ridge.  As always the ride ended at Zeek’s Pizza where I had my usual Veggie Thai pizza and a couple of pints.

SIR Spring Populaire 2017 - Pumpkin Orange XO-1 at the finish

Pumpkin Orange XO-1 at the finish.

The rain had stopped when I left but a brutal wind out of the south (the direction home of course) had picked up. So I rode to UW and took the Light Rail to Beacon Hill. So good times all in all. Character was built.

Spring Populaire 2017 Route on RideWithGPS

Spring Populaire 2017 Route on RideWithGPS

My Photos here: SIR 2017 Spring Populaire
Ride info here: Spring Populaire
Map here: Ride with GPS map

Spring Populaire

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Echo, blinded by the setting sun

For various reasons this year I’m going to have extremely limited options for bicycle touring, most likely limited to overnights and three day weekends. For me what I really love about touring is the mindset that you get into, a form of mindfulness where you are in harmony with your surroundings, bicycle and body.  After all my touring I’ve found that I’ve been able to slip into this mindset on longer day rides, where I just let go of the thoughts and concerns of everyday life and just ride. I tend to have no problem coming up with rides that I like to do, but motivating to get up early and do really long rides can be lacking. This is one of the reasons why I really like the PNW summers where you can start late and still be rolling in the twilight well after 9pm.  But it isn’t summer year round and so I’ve finally decided that this is the year to dabble with randonneuring.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - The throngs preparing to set off

Almost every time I return from tour, I say to myself that this year I’ll start randonneuring in order to keep my tour fitness. Hasn’t happened.  But for the reasons listed above I finally made a start of it with the SIR 2015 populaire.  Not a brevet, so not quite randonneuring proper, but a good start. A 200k will certainly be in the cards for this spring, but I was happy to do my first organized ride in years.  Another stumbling block for me and randonneuring has been the early starts, but in the last year I’ve completely switched from being a night owl to being an early riser.  Now most rando events start pretty much well after my normal rising time.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Stripped down Atlantis

March 7th was the SIR/RUSA 100k Spring Populaire and it was a beautiful warm late winter day. It was no problem for me to ride to the start at Woodland Park about 8 miles away, arriving a good 30 minutes early.  It proved to be a well attended ride with over a 100 riders pre-registered and plenty more day of registrations.  I wandered around drinking the free coffee and checking out the diverse bicycles. As with any organized event, you are going to see all kinds of ‘cycles from classic 70s steel bicycles, to the au currant low-trail, big boxy bag, 650b machine, to the latest carbon fibre racing machine.  Some lovely bicycles there for sure. As for myself I was riding my venerable Atlantis, but stripped down about as much as I ever had.  While a populaire is not what I’d consider “big deal” distance, even with the ride to and from the start, I knew it’d be much faster than my usual “spacing out” pace.


The big group set off right at 9am riding along Green Lake in the morning sun. The day was already beginning to warm up and not too long from now I’d have to stop to remove my wool cardigan and switch to short fingered gloves.  The route took us east from Greenlake – including a short gravel stretch through Cowen Park – to the U-District and onto the Lake Washington Loop.  Then it was up to the I-90 Bridge Trail across to Mercer Island.  By this point things had sorted themselves out, with the fast riders jackrabbiting off and the rest of us settling into little groups of similar pace. I ended up riding with a group of guys from Olympia and Seattle who were perhaps just a bit faster than I would ride, pushing me nicely the whole way.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Gravel riding in Cowen Park

I’ve ridden all the parts of the ride many times and had even ridden the reverse of this one last autumn (modified to start and end at home of course) so it was familiar territory. But out on this sunny winter day, pushed on by 100+ riders it was definitely a different experience. Of course there was also the controls which I’ve not had to contend with before. No big deal; you just have a card with a series of locations that you either get signed by a SIR volunteer or you answer a question proving you were at the spot. It does require you to be self-policing for the most part, but really any cheating on the routes or anything is just cheating yourself.  There’s nothing to win, so no real point.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - On the I-90 bridge

The route worked it’s way around Issaquah (where I’ve rarely ridden to without a stop at the Issaquah Brew House!) then out on some more country roads as it worked it’s way to the Cedar River Trail. We had the first Info Control just outside of the (always) quite crowded Tiger Mountain Trailhead, where had to note what was written on a particular sign. Then it was back on the road to take nice wooded roads to the Cedar River Trail.  There was a short stretch here where I was riding alone and of course this was the one place where the sign for a turn was obscured and easy to miss. But I only rode fifty feet or so past it before feeling I should check it out looking back saw the sign.  Glad I did as it was above to do a long steep downhill dive that I wouldn’t have appreciated backtracking on.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Control with snacks!

Where we entered the Cedar River Trail there was another control, this one stocked with snacks and water and such. I got my card signed, refilled my bottles and ate a few snacks. It was about noon at this point and I realized that not bringing some real food with me was a mistake.  Snacks are fine for some quick energy but I’ve found on any decent length ride I need to eat some actual food. I compensated as best I could with peanuts and other snacks with some protein content, but pretty much figured getting to the pizza place at the finish was my best bet.  So back on the bicycle and on the Cedar River Trail.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Cedar River Trail

I figured the Cedar River Trail  was an opportunity for some easy, fast riding to eat up some of the remaining miles before returning to the city and the several climbs to the finish point. It did begin that way, but due to a constant headwind, it slowly wore me down. That and the aforementioned lack of food made for the last few miles on the trail to be kind of a slog.  Once I was in Renton though things perked up a bit. We wound through side roads until we reached the Renton Airfield and were back on the Lake WA Loop route.  It’s a pretty fast ride from here into Seattle Neighborhoods though Rainier Ave is a pretty trafficked and loud route.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Riding on Lake Washington

As we made it to the Rainier Beach portion of town there was a blocked off chunk of road, for some utility work it looked like. I hopped on the sidewalk and through a parking lot of a park to bypass it staying on route.  Past that it was a bit of a climb and then a descent down to Seward Park and we were back on the edge of Lake Washington. A lot more cyclists on this stretch of road, which is certainly on of the more popular Seattle Riding destinations.  It leaves the lake with a classic winding climb up in the Washington Park neighborhood and then across the arboretum.  This route through the arboretum is not one I’d done before (I just typically stay on the main road through) and it was I much nicer option, though a wide paved trail across the park.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - Riding into the Arboretum

Once out of the arboretum we cross the I-520 and were back in the U-District. The route took us on a short stretch of the Burke Gillman Trail to Fremont, up Stone Way and then Fremont Ave until we had climbed up Phinney Ridge – always nice to end your ride with a good climb! Phony Ridge featured the Zeeks Pizza where the ride ended.  I had completed my first SIR event at 5’20” – about middle of the pack it appears from the results.

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - The finish at Zeeks Pizza

I got into Zeeks and immediate ordered a Veggie Thai Pizza (my favorite thing from them) and a beer. Ended up hanging out with a few of the riders I’d ridden with for some of the time, plus several others. Everybody was really nice telling many a story of brevets past and speculating on those of the future.  The 200k was just the next weekend, but alas I had a prior commitment. But I will be back for the next one!

SIR Spring Populaire 2015 - The Sound, the Port and Mount Rainier (in the distance)

Feeling really well recovered I took a different, slightly longer, route home along the Seattle Waterfront. It was packed with people of course, so I set a nice leisurely pace. The sun was going down and everything was lit with the rich light of magic hour. I was feeling pretty good after this ride, which as I suspected I did at much faster pace than normal. But of course I did have to climb Beacon Hill to get back home – as noted always good to end your ride with a good climb.
Check out all of my pictures from this ride on Flickr: Spring Populaire 2015.

My own Spring Populaire

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008
Atlantis at Sandy's
My Atlantis at Sandy’s Espresso

I’ve been itching for a longer ride and I vowed to take one this Saturday. The week had been pretty mixed weather wise, with partially clear skies one moment and wind and rain the next. In other words it was spring. The reports were looking good for Saturday and when I awoke early (for me anyway) the day was sunny with some haze. I took my time in the morning enjoying breakfast and catching up on some internet that needed reading. Around 10am I was ready to get on with it, but as I was enjoying ‘Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me‘ I decided to do a bit of work on the bicycle before I set out.

I’d replaced my usual Panaracer Pasela’s with a Vittera Randoneaur on my rear wheel as it needed replacing and that was the widest tire I could find at a local store.  I can safely say that having used that tire in 26″ form on my Safari and now after a few hundred miles on my Atlantis that I just don’t care for the tire much. Perhaps it’s just that it’s narrower then I’m used to, or that it’s higher pressure but it just rode rougher and felt squirrelly. I’d gotten a replacement Pasela from Rivendell last week and I decided to put that on before I left.  While the wheel was off I noted how wore down my brake pads were so I decided to replace them as well. I’ve never been very satisfied with my pad replacements in the past – they never felt responsive enough. I vowed this time I’d fiddle with them till I had it down. It really is the last basic procedure I don’t have wired.  So with a bunch of adjusted and short little rides I’m happy to say I got them pretty well adjusted. Perhaps a bit aggressive on the front and a bit loose on the rear but overall a lot better then the old worn pads were feeling.

So now its about eleven, a bit warmer and I’m finally ready to head out.  I had done some research during the week on what route to take which I had several criteria. I wanted to ride someplace new or that I hadn’t been on for a while and I wanted to do at least 50 miles but knew I wasn’t ready for anything more then say 65-75. These two constraints of course were at odds – I’ve ridden extensively in a 50 mile radius and these days for new rides I usually end up with more epic rides.  One place I’ve turned to a lot for ride ideas is the archive of the Seattle International Randonneurs.  While randonneuring is a bit out of my current level of fitness and ability (their rides start at 200km which is the furtherest I’ve ridden to date) I share a lot of their style. I like to do unsupported rides, on the roads and am prepared for pretty much any weather and day and night riding. A lot of the SIR rides start not too far from me and weave through the valleys and mountain passes.  Their routes try to avoid majorly trafficked areas but don’t shy away from roads or ghettoize the cyclist onto trails or roads with bicycle lanes. So I often take bits and pieces of their rides and connect them up with my own routes.  For todays ride I choose to ride one of their “populaires” which are an easy 100km ride that they use to sucker people into randonneauring.

I did amend the route a tiny bit to as I’m about 8 miles from the start/finish point but was able to intersect with the route about 9 miles into it’s route. As I so often have to do I had to climb up the Sammamish valley wall, ride along this for a bit and then descend into Redmond.  I immediately felt a bit warm in my cardigan and unbuttoned a few of it’s buttons. For the first hour or so of this ride this would be a pattern; unbuttoning on the climbs button back down again as I descended or entered shade. It felt really nice out though, perfect cycling weather with sun, some high thin clouds and temps in the upper forties at this point.  I rode into Redmond and took East Lake Sammamish Parkway into Marymoor Park. At the west side of the park I was on todays route.  I was a bit unhappy with the level of squishiness in my rear brakes so I stopped and did a bit of roadside adjustment. I got them a bit better and set off.  I was now on West Lake Sammamish Parkway and my “populaire” had begun.

All things considered this was pretty early for me to be out ride, I often don’t start till after lunch. This, combined with it being such a nice day brought out the cyclists in droves.  Off the well documented club rides I rarely see other riders. I was pretty surprised then to see riders all along my route today. Primarily going the other direction but not always. The first part of this ride was the same as the Cascade Cycling Clubs Flying Wheels century ride (though mostly in reverse) and that I think explains a lot of the riders I saw – they were using a well known route. I’ve ridden a good chunk of that route myself but this one varied enough that there was a lot of new routes if not regions.  The first big hill of the ride was up Inglewood hill to the Sammamish Plateau.  A stiff climb but not one that goes on so long as to be come a grind.  Once I got to the top of the hill I was greeted with a stiff headwind. Where the Flying Wheels route goes straight, my route took a right onto a fairly busy shoulderless arterial. This was probably the least fun section of the route and I had some serious “close passers”, one guy in a van giving me less then a foot clearance. Annoying on a tow lane road which was not anywhere busy enough to warrant such behavior. Needless to say I was happy when the route turned off this road and onto more bicycle friendly streets. This point would have been the first control if this was really a rando event.

I was back on the Flying Wheels route that I’d done before, though I was riding the end of it reverse. It was kind of fun to do this route I’d done before going the other direction. Always worth doing a good ride both directions, lets you get the best feel for an area.  It was on this part that I saw a bunch of be-jerseyed riders whom I definitely suspect were following the Cascade route. The route was mostly through wooded suburbia at this point, past schools and single family houses. After a couple of miles it took a turn NE onto a winding descent from the plateau. This road had been a pretty good climb coming the other direction and it was good fun to bomb down it the other way. It had its own bit of a climb in the middle, but it was definitely more descending in this direction. Almost at the bottom the route took a right into the woods a nice stretch of pure country riding that I hadn’t done before. This was a great stretch, no traffic just a narrow road winding through the woods.  I was pushing against a headwind that got quite severe at points at this time but the road wound around enough that it wasn’t too bad. Eventually I came out of the woods, rode through some suburbia and then turned into the small town of Fall City.

Fall City
Fall City

For some reason I thought the route took a turn east at this point and climbed up to Snoqualmie Falls. Looking at my cue sheet in Fall City I found that it actually took a turn NW to Carnation. Well there was a stiff wind roaring down from the direction of the Falls so i wouldn’t miss that. On the other hand I’d planned on hitting up the Snoqualmie Brewery for lunch. Oh well, I decided to stick to the route and see what Carnation had to offer.  The route took a  road that followed the Snoqualmie river through farmland. This road was apparently closed at the end and thus there was no traffic to be seen. I did see a group of cyclists all kitted out in the same gear and horses and cows on the farms. Much prefer these sights!  Eventually the road ended and I had to weave through a barrier. Then I was on the heavily trafficked Carnation/Fall City road. This had a good shoulder though so overall it was fine.  I was passed by a group of four cyclists not too long after I turned onto this road, but they then pulled off just ahead of me as one of their members had some sort of adjustment to make. I pressed on and after a few more miles entered the small city of Carnation.

Pretty much just a small little dairy town Carnation has tried to pretty itself up as a bit of a tourist burg. But it doesn’t seem toSandy's Espresso have much by way of eateries.  So I ended up at the next control spot, Sandy’s Cafe. An espresso stand much beloved by the local randonneuring community, it is a place I’ve often stopped at myself.  I stripped off my cycling gear and at this point removed my leg warmers and cardigan. For the first time this year I was going to ride in shorts and a long sleeved t-shirt.  Inside as I waited for a chance to order there was a bit of a to do at the drive through windows. A guy waiting on his drink, shouted to the guy behind him that he should shut off his engine as it was loud and stank. That guy then jumped out of his car ran to the first guys car window an proceeded to spew an incredible range of expletives and threats at him. Apparently the guy in the car said something along the lines of  “You must be from Carnation” to which he was informed that yes he was and proud of it. With a lot more expletives of course. He was then advised to get out of his town.  Anyway his drinks came up and he took them and drove off. The townie then pulled up and was all sweetness and light apologizing for “scaring the customers” but made it clear that he had no choice. Ah humans.

Anyway I got my double tall cappuccino, a bottle of water and some sort of berry scone.  Leaving SandysAlas my cappuccino wasn’t very good, I like them dry and this was pretty much a latte. I think though the barista was stressed about the incident and she was trying to squeeze me in before the obnoxious townie.  I give her a pass. I rested for a bit, ate my scone (which was pretty decadent) and also some gorp. Feeling energized I set out in warm weather my bare white legs free for the first time in a long time.  The next 15 miles or so were up the flat Snoqualmie valley and was just prime country riding. The sun was warm but never hot, the wind was at my back and the road was mostly flat with gentle hills now and again. The route took a few side roads through farmland, derelict houses and one unpleasantly aromatic feedlot-esque place. Mostly the route was on W. Snoqualmie Valley Road which I’ve ridden a number of times in the past, though always the other direction. This time though at the road that I’ve often first joined this route I continued on W. Snoqualmie valley road and some genuinely new territory.

Snoqualmie River and the Cascade mountains

Out on these country roads you typically just see three types: the country folk usually in trucks, other cyclists, though not so often and motorcyclists. It seems that only motorcyclists enjoy going on drives in the country and honestly I’d say that’s for the best. Automobiles just have too much of an impact for too many people to be just driving recreationally.  On this stretch of road I saw a couple other cyclists going the other direction which was nice to see. A lot more friendly waving out in the country then you see closer to the city where the humorless roadies are out “training”.  Many motorcycles usually in little gangs out there winding them up on these narrow country roads.  I knew that eventually I’d have to climb out of the valley and it’d been a long stretch of easy going roads. Beautiful sights of snow tinged Cascade mountains, green farmland and the muddy Snoqualmaie river had been my companions for over an hour. But now the road began to wind up the valley wall and into the woods. The sights were that much more scenic when there were openings and I crossed several bridges over little streams that had carved deep cuts into the valley wall.

At last this road ended and I took a turn up the valley on Welch Road. This would have been another coWelch Roadntrol on the populaire but being just a wide spot in the road there was nothing there. Nothing but an epic hill that is. This hill went on for nearly two miles and had some decently steep sections on it. This was the only hill of the day that hit that grind point where it really wasn’t too much fun.  At this point I’d ridden about 45 miles and was definitely not as spry as earlier in the day. I also was feeling not having had lunch. Though I was keeping the calories going with nuts, candy bars and the like I tend to need a bit of real food over the course of a long ride.  Eventually Welch Road flattened out and I came onto Lost Lake. A tiny little lake out in the countryside it of course was completely surrounded by houses.  The road was now pleasantly flat with a bit of rolling hills and it worked it’s way past Lost Lake and then Echo Lake. After a short time on Echo Lake road was a fun little segment on first a gravel road and then a dirt path through the woods. Well more of a muddy path through the woods that had me dodging huge mud puddles throughout its short length. I always love little connectors and paths though the woods so this little route had me grinning.

The dirt path ended in a cul-de-sac for some big housing community. I wound through that and Dirt Pathended up on the Woodinville-Duvall road. This is a pretty heavily trafficked road that I’ve done many times – it is the route I’ve often taken to West Snoqualmie Valley road. Luckily today’s route was only on it for a couple of miles and then turn off into less trafficked roads. There are a number of roads that cut behind the Samamimish valley wall and the route took a nice selection of these to avoid busier roads and much climbing. This was familiar territory for me as we were just over the valley from Woodinville where I lived for years, so I’ve ridden these roads a lot. Eventually I came to the point where the route decided to cross the valley wall and I was off for one last climb. This hill wasn’t too bad though I was definitely feeling it at about 60 miles now. It also was getting cold enough that I was about ready to don my leg warmers and cardigan again, but as the route ended just a couple of miles ahead I figured I’d just wait till then.  After climbing up the valley there was a bit of a plateau and then a fast descent into the Sammamish valley. A short couple of miles on the Woodinville/Redmond Road and I was at the Redhook Brewery, the official beginning and end of the ride. Hooray!

Now obviously this wasn’t the beginning or end of my ride but I was hungry, tired and cold now so I figured I’d stop for dinner,Redhook put on my warmer clothes and then complete my ride.  Forecasters (the Redhook brewpub) was packed but I got a little table in the bar and soon enough was enjoying a Blackhook Porter. I rarely come to Forecasters as I think Redhook is kind of a mediocre beer, but Blackhook, especially on the Nitro is definitely drinkable. I ordered some snow crab ravioli in a Gorgonzola sauce and pretty much inhaled it. So without having spent too much time there I put on my warmer clothes and headed back out. Only about 6pm and still plenty of sun left in the day. I was out of water so I figured I’d ride up to a local Creamery and get and ice cream cone and refill my bottles there. This creamery was on the first part of the official route so I was able to stick with my route for now.

At Theno’s Dairy I got a bottle of water and a coffee ice cream cone. I just got the stTheno's Dairyandard cone but man was it a huge scoop of ice cream on there. I don’t eat ice cream too often, but of late when I do I’ve been rather obsessed with coffee ice cream. Very few are really good as they often use inferior coffee. Well I’m happy to report that Theno’s Dairy, who I knew made good Ice Cream from previous visits, makes a great coffee ice cream. I sat outside and savored my cone as the sun began to sink over the valley wall. One last climb up that valley and I was on my normal commute route. I was able to mindlessly take that route, choosing the shortest option as I was definitely done for the day. Soon enough I was back home done with ride as the sun was sinking over Lake Washington. A beautiful day and a beautiful country ride with a nice mix of hills, flats and always great scenery.

headin home
Headin’ home.

All told I rode 72 miles with about 6 hours in the saddle. According to the SIR info on this route there was 3250 feet of climbing. You can download the cure sheet for this route on the SIR page for the populaire this route was prepared for. My entire collection of photos from this ride can be found here.