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Riding into Autumn

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010
Kitsap Color Classic 2010 -15Atlantis in Poulsbo

The primary reason I’m a member of the Cascade Cycling Club is to support their advocacy work, but I do try to do one of their rides every year or so. Previously I’ve ridden Chilly Hilly (reports on these rides here) and RSVP (my report here), but the one other ride of theirs that I’ve wanted to do for a while is  the Kitsap Color Classic (hereafter KCC). The KCC takes place on the Kitsap Peninsula upon which I’ve ridden a section of before:  Hood Canal Bridge to Kingston on my 2004 tour, in which you can see some pictures of the most of route from the ferry to near where I live now. Not being able to do Chilly Hilly this year and with work and my summer tour more or less counting out their summer rides (not that I was all that interested in their big, crowded multi-day rides to be honest) I signed up for the KCC just a couple of days before the online registration deadline. It’s only been about three weeks since I’ve returned from my tour and I’m trying to keep my riding up as opposed to years past where I enter into a post-tour doldrums. This seemed an ideal way to keep on riding into autumn.

KCC  LogoThe last of Cascade’s organized rides the Kitsap Color Classic has previously been held in the first week of October, but due to the inconsistent weather they moved it this year to the last Sunday in September.  Now autumn in the Pacific NW is highly variable, some years September is the best month of the year, sunny, crisp with cool nights and the trees starting to change color. Other years it can rain the whole month; this September is apparently nearly at a record level of rainfall. There have still been plenty of nice days and its not been all that cold but when its rained it really has rained.  The day before the ride was beautiful with clear skies and temperatures in the low 70s, but a stiff wind broadcast the change that was about to occur.  During the night this wind blew in clouds and a steady rain began to fall.  I got up early after a fairly poor nights sleep to this wind and rain, but even at dawn it wasn’t very cold. This is the famous “pineapple express“: warm moist air from the tropics on a beeline for the Northwest.  I donned rain gear and set off around 7am in a pretty steady rain.

Kitsap Color Classic 2010 -0On the Ferry to Kingston

I’d say most of the people who do these Cascade rides drive to the ride, which frankly just strikes me as odd.  This difference in mindset perhaps explains part of the reason I don’t really do many club rides: it’s just a completely different culture.  This can also be seen in that I rode my touring bicycle, fully prepared for about any contingency as opposed to the plastic bicycles prepared only for a race with a support vehicle that the bulk of the (non-racer) riders utilized. If I had driven to the ride I could have gotten up about an hour later and would have missed most of the rain. As it was I rode a quite familiar route from Kirkland to Shoreline and then down into Edmonds where the “start line” is and I picked up my registration.  I tend to take the latest start time on these rides as it misses the early birds which seem to be the bulk of the riders (the other distinguishing feature of myself and most other club members) but I’d made this ride quick enough that I ended up on the middle of the three ferries you can take to the peninsula.  There was only a hundred or so other riders on this ferry – indicative of the fairly low numbers of riders that do this ride (I didn’t see a bib number greater than about 380) also perhaps reduced thanks to the rain. On the ferry I got a coffee to help warm up and changed my socks – this was a great move as with the fresh socks (and coffee!) I felt a lot better, almost dry. As we approached Kingston, I could see that the clouds were breaking up a bit and it looked like the whole day wouldn’t be in rain. After about twenty minutes on the ferry we docked, the cars were let out and off we rode.

Kitsap Color Classic 2010 -4Riding from Kingston to Port Gamble

The first part of these rides are always the least pleasant: the scrum of riders jostling into position and there usually is a bit of a climb right off a ferry which of course the wide variety of riders all handle differently. As I was riding in this group I began to wonder why I do these rides at all; even with the rain the early morning ride by myself was a lot more enjoyable to me.  But after a couple of miles we reached the Kingston “food stop” which is at the beginning of the ride as this ride is actually three loops that all start and stop at this point.  I didn’t need to stop at this point, so I just rode on with a fraction of the peloton remaining.  As I said this ride is three loops on the Kitsap Peninsula of fourteen, twenty-five and thirty-six miles that you can string together as you please. If you do all three loops you end up encircling the peninsula and have done about sixty-five miles.  The ride to Edmonds and back would add about thirty-six miles to my ride so if I did the whole loop I’d end up at over a hundred miles. Not impossible of course but on this day I didn’t think I’d be riding quite that much. So I set off on the longest loop figuring I’d add one of the others as I saw fit.

Kitsap Color Classic 2010 -5Riding from Port Gamble to the Hood Canal Bridge.

I’d set off with a half-dozen other riders or so but we began to string out along the route as we progressed. I’d ride with a couple other rides just in sight ahead or a few behind, passed every once in a while or occasionally even passing a rider myself. But most of the time I was riding by myself on these great roads.  My mood changed from wondering why I had done this, to thinking this was the best Cascade ride yet.  I love these kind of roads, they are the typical PNW back roads: in trees, winding through valleys with farms, rolling hills, mostly light traffic and the occasional quaint little town. The weather too was slowly improving; a bit of drizzle in the beginning gave way to merely overcast skies and finally patches of blue began to appear.  The first little town we approached was Port Gamble, which was celebrating their Old Mill Days.  Due to the increased traffic expected for this we were mostly routed around the town. Perhaps because it was still early, perhaps due to the rain, their was little traffic and the crowds were pretty spare.  From Port Gamble it was mostly valley riding which was fantastic – along green farms, among trees, mostly flat. When we reached the intersection with the Hood Canal Bridge though we were now on highways which while not as pleasant weren’t bad riding either, the route would always go off these highways when it could, so it was never too long on them.

Kitsap Color Classic 2010 -9Entering Poulsbo

A bit more than half way ’round the thirty-six mile loop was the cute little town of Poulsbo.  Here was the other food stop in a water front town, which I took advantage of.  The clouds had mostly cleared up at this point and while there was wind it was now quite pleasant riding. I hung out at the park for maybe a half an hour, eating a bit, refilling my water bottle and checking out the park. The park was in front of a harbor with many nice looking sailboats, had a boardwalk along the all of the harbor and various other amenities. The city of Pouslbo had a number of good looking pubs and restaurants – too bad the ride didn’t end here!

Kitsap Color Classic 2010 -14Poulsbo Harbor

There had been a few hills, or grades really on the route so far, but exiting Poulsbo was the first (and pretty much only) steep climb on this route. It was short though and while I drove me to the small ring it wasn’t very onerous.  The route then descended back to the water and wended along the coast for a bit before diving back into the woods. I did a good long stretch here without seeing many other riders and apart from damp roads this was some of the best riding of the day.  A couple of parts the road would dive down into the trees, like riding into a a tunnel.

Kitsap Color Classic 2010 -18Riding from Poulsbo to Kingston

Kitsap Color Classic 2010 -22There was another section of highway, a bit more along the water, some farmland and then suburbia as I approached Kingston.  As enjoyable as this whole day had been I was feeling fairly tired already.  The riding wasn’t the issue for the most part I think it was how poorly I’d slept the night before.  I decided to have lunch in Kingston (it was now around 12:30) and see how things went from there. I’d been wanting to return to the Main Street Ale House since I was last there on my 2004 tour so I jumped at the chance. The pub was pretty empty, which was a bit unexpected as all the nearby pubs are always packed when I’ve done Cascade rides – another indication how sparsely attended this ride was (or I suppose everyone was still out riding).  I had a beer and some prawns and really felt much better after this. But I was just so tired, so I decided I was done for the day – I still had the eighteen mile ride home afterall.  I walked around Kingstons main street a bit and then rode down to the ferry which was unloading cars. Only a few minutes later bicycles were loaded – pretty much perfect timing. Cars were then loaded and we left the peninsula and the end of my Kitsap Color Classic.  The weather had completely turned now and it was warm with blue skies and big fluffy clouds.  It was a much more pleasant ride home then it had been on the way here.

Kitsap Color Classic 2010 -27Sailboat reveling in this windy day

This is definitely a ride I’ll do again – there are those other two loops waiting for me after-all. I think on a day that I was feeling better I could do the full loop even with the ride to the ferry – perhaps a goal for next year. I made it home around 3:45pm with a total of 76.5 miles ridden.

See all the photos I took of the Kitsap Color Classic in my KCC Set on Flickr.

RSVP and Back Again – final thoughts

Sunday, September 14th, 2008
My Atlantis in Victoria
My Atlantis in Victoria

I had a great time on this trip both on the group ride and even more so on my solo return home.  I said in the past that the reason I do Chilly Hilly every year is to remind myself why I don’t do large group rides.  I missed Chilly Hilly this year but RSVP filled that role.  I’d wanted to do RSVP for a while as I’d wanted to experience the group ride but without the total insanity of STP.  I’m a self-supported cyclotourist at heart and the vast amount of hand holding and the rigidity of these rides just doesn’t appeal.  As I mentioned at the beginning of these reports, it is just a totally different type of rider that can drive to a ride, do the ride as if they were a racer with noting on their bicycle but a single water bottle and then get shuttled back home. Again I think its this whole racer/cycling as a sport mentality.  Which though I may seem to sneer at it, really is fine,  I’m glad people are out riding.  For me though, its about independence, fending for oneself, seeing new sights, finding new routes and most importantly being able to slow down and think.. That just doesn’t happen if you are going too fast or riding too far.  Ones focus is totally different. So I tried to treat RSVP like a tour, not worrying about rushing through, seeing the sights and so on. But I still was in the saddle nearly all the time and I wouldn’t do those spur of the moment sight seeing or talking with locals and so on that occur on tour.  My pace is always much faster then normal on group rides and this was no exception.  Day 1 was the fastest century I’ve ever done, if still slow by roadie standards.  I think in general I prefer the one day rides, if I’m going to dedicate more then a day for a club ride I’d rather tour or do an S24O where I can get some thinking done. One thing I should say is that Cascade does a great job running these rides and much thanks to all the staff and volunteers that work so hard for these events.

Once I hit the solo portion of this trip it was just like I was one a tour.  I can’t really describe how different I felt, but all the things I mention above immediately kicked in. I took my time, I’d stop for whatever, I didn’t worry too much about pace. I did have a bit of schedule to make so that kept me motivated but in general I was riding at the pace of a one who is able to contemplate his surroundings. What this really brought home to me was that I wish I’d done a full on tour this year. Yes my other vacations (including Japan which starts tomorrow!) are all fantastic experiences, but I love touring more then about anything and I’ll miss getting more then this taste this year.

A final word on equipment for this trip. I was basically on a credit card tour so I was going pretty minimal with just my Paladin Saddlebag. That worked great for this purpose and it held four days worth of clothes, supplies, toiletries and so one perfectly.  Could easily do a week long credit card tour with just his bag I think.. My Atlantis kicked ass as always even though I had a bit of troubles on the first day. I should have replaced my chain before I set out, I’d actually thought about it but chose not to. A mistake. Otherwise it performed great, I really can’t get over how comfortable I am on this bicycle.  The only new kit I had was the Jack Brown tires which I can say I love. They handle so great and are just a tad rougher then my 37mm Panaracer Pasalas I’m used to. So far they are holding up so I hope I can use these as my primary non touring tires from now on.

So that’s it, another nice trip with only its shortness as my one regret. I’m off to Japan tomorrow and when I come back it’ll be into autumn here. The first half of October is often very nice so hopefully a bit more rec riding is in my future. And then it’ll just be winter commuting and the rare ride in the cold.  Next year though I’m definitely going to do a real tour, hopefully the longest one yet.

I would ride 10,000 miles

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

9999.9So while on the trek described in the previous post, I rolled my odometer on the Atlantis to 10,000 miles. Sure some people ride that every year (or more) but its taken me around 2.5 years to hit that goal.  My Atlantis is all grown up now.  Also seems to have hit some sort of limit on the various mid-range components. Lots of stuff seems to be getting worn at about this point. I’ll probably want to give the bicycle a pretty good overhaul in the near future.

This event occurred around mile 110 of 114 on my RSVP ride. I was almost at the finish but still had to get these shots. Expect a full report on that ride including the exciting 10k event shortly.  I’m crazy busy with work right now and just havn’t found time to sort photos and write reports. But it will happen.


RSVP and Back Again: setting off

Friday, August 15th, 2008

RSVP LogoSo the day has come, my big cycling event for this year: Cascade Cycling Clubs RSVP ride.  Packing I’d guess 275 miles of riding into four days, in between about the busiest I’ve been at work in a long time. Tired yes, but I feel pretty good cycling wise. My rides of late really have not taken the toll on me they would have earlier in the year. My conditioning is up but also I’ve gotten better at balancing the calories, liquids and other things one needs in a ride.  So this will be a nice test, though not quite up there with a long tour. A bit more mileage on the first couple of days then I tend to do on tour, but no load to speak of on the bicycle besides myself.

The weather has been ideal cycling weather of late, temps rarely climbing above 80, nice mix of clouds and sun, little rain. But just as this ride begins things take a turn toward the warm.  It is projected to be in the low 90s today and a tad cooler tomorrow.  These of course are the days where the bulk of this trips riding will be done. Luckily the highs aren’t quite as high the further north you go. So leaving Seattle around 7am it’ll be comfortable and then hopefully by the heat of the day one is nearer to Bellingham where the high is a good 8 degrees less.  Saturday is supposed to be a few degrees cooler on average and again it is a bit lower projected for Bellingham.  Hope that all works anyway, long distances in the heat takes it toll. Guess I don’t have to worry so much about the rain gear though.

Time to go and damn its early – as I’ve said before this is why I rarely do these events. Lack of sleep sure doesn’t help for long rides, but I’ll abide.  Anyway I’m off, expect reports on my return.

The four day plan

day 1:
“¢ Bus and ride to Warren G. Magnuson Park
“¢ RSVP Day 1

day 2:

“¢ RSVP Day 2
“¢ Party in Vancouver!

day 3
“¢ Downtown Vancouver to Tsawwassen Ferry landing
“¢ Ferry to Sidney
“¢ Sidney to Victoria via Lochside trail

day 4
“¢ Hang in Victoria
“¢ Victoria Clipper to Seattle
“¢ Seattle to Kirkland This is pretty much straight up from the pier through town to the I-90 trail and then the Lake Washington Loop route to downtown Kirkland and home.

My Atlantis for the ride. So early I had to use the flash!

An August Evening Ride

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Jack BrownAs I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m doing the a ride to Vancouver with my cycling club this year. Well the ride is this Friday, August 15th, so this past weekend was the last weekend prior.  I took this opportunity to get my bicycle ship shape and ready for the ride.

I had noticed the signs of a sidewall failure on my front tire so a couple of weeks back ordered a new pair.  I’ve really liked the Panaracer Pasalas that I’ve used on the Atlantis since I’ve gotten it but there is not denying the large number of sidewall failures I and others have had. So I’ve decided to adopt a dual tire strategy where I’m going to use the Rivendell designed (though still Panaracer produced) Jack Brown tires for normal use and Schwalbe Marathon tires for touring use.  The Jack Browns come in a lighter and heavier version of which I chose the later for the increased puncture resistance. They have a sweet checkered tread and a funky logo such as a tire named Jack Brown deserves. They fit a lot tighter on my rims and inflated to around 60psi have a nice rounded look. These tires at 33.33333 are the narrowest tires I’ve used since I was a teenager. When I installed my Silver Shifters earlier this year I also replaced the shifter cables. Well I cut the front cable a bit short and I paid the price for that – it had frayed and no was only a few strands short of breaking. So I replaced that as well doing a better job on the length this time.  These being the major repairs I then adjusted my brakes to a nice level of stopping power and gave my drivetrain a complete cleaning from the cassette to the chain.  A wipe down of the whole bicycle completed my working on the bicycle.


My Atlantis post tune up in a park in Mill Creek

As always it took a bit longer then I had hoped and I needed to get in a decent ride to keep my fitness up.  Also I needed lunch, so I set out as soon as I had cleaned up for my old friend the Celtic Bayou. As I crossed Rose Hill it began to rain on me in clearly some sort of cosmic vengeance for having so thoroughly cleaned my drive-train. But I have to say everything was so smooth and so quiet and the new tires felt great. The hugged the curves on the fast descent and seemed to have a bit less rolling resistance (though of course that’s nearly impossible to actually tell from a ride). It was mid afternoon on a cloudy/drizzly Saturday and the Celtic Bayou was packed. Ended up spending more time there then anticipated but I enjoyed my grilled cheese and a couple of beers. It rained pretty steadily most of the time I was there so it was nice timing all things considered. It was around 4:30 when I set out from there, planning to get a good 40-50 mile ride in.

gravel road

I had to try out the new tires on some gravel.

I knew I didn’t have enough daylight for a truly adventurous ride but I also didn’t want to just do one of my typical routes. So I decided to do a semi urban ride putting together a number of area routes.  I began by taking the Woodinville-Redmond road which while rather heavily trafficked has a good shoulder and rolling hills. As I neared the Hollywood Hills I passed NE 144th Street, a residential dead-end street that has about the steepest hill I’ve ever seen. I’ve passed this many times and on the spur of the moment I decided to ride up it for once. Not too long a hill, maybe a 1/3 of a mile, but it is about the steepest thing I’ve ridden up. My front wheel was often just about leaving the ground which I’ve noticed only happens when the slope is great then about 15%. It maintains its steepness for the duration too, only at the actual top does it slack of and have a flat round about. A fun little addition to what wouldn’t be a too hilly day of riding.  From here I returned to the Redmond-Woodinville road now taking a part the skirts the traffic and rides through some light industrial areas.

Urban rainy roads

Bothell-Everett Highway: urban, rainy, traffic. What not to love?

I continue on these back roads ’til I get to Bothell and then wend my way through that little town (I-5 from the new pedestrian overpasstaking a nice long hill) then some unincorporated areas and finally I get onto the Bothell-Everett Highway. Pretty much as unpleasant as it sounds, but it has a good shoulder and is pretty flat.  It began raining as I descended that hill in Bothell so at this juncture I was riding on a fairly busy road in a light rain.  Just past Mill Creek one can turn off the highway go past a park and then intersect with the Interurban trail. This point is just past the mid-point of that trail and when I’ve done similar rides in the past I’ve ridden to the northern end of the trail before returning south. Not having much daylight left I forgo this option but I did go just enough north to check out the new overpass they have built for the trail. Previously you had to ride on the sidewalk over I-5 with entry and exit ramps everywhere and it was not a real good time. It still forces a bad sidewalk riding chunk but hopefully they’ll route it through a little cul-de-sac and eliminate that.

Drive in Movie Theater along the Interurban Trail.

Entering the Interurban trail at this point you ride up a little residential street past one of the last Interurbandrive-in movie theaters in the region. There was a couple of cars lined up, waiting to catch the double feature of  Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Dark Night. There was a drive-in on Whidbey Island that used to be a favorite activity for me as a late teen.  A couple of buddies and myself would borrow the ‘rents van and abuse various substances as we watched cheesy movies. Good times. I’m always happy to see this drive-in still hanging on. Past the drive-in the interurban runs straight with very gentle rolling hills. There was a stiff headwind at this point but the clouds were tearing away and it was the magic hour light-wise. Even with the headwind I made good time up the trail. The trail crosses from one side of the I-5 to the other three or four times over its length and I had do one of these at the Alderwood mall. From there the trail continues on through Montlake Terrance a finally coming to an end in Shoreline (though it is supposed to continue on nearly to Seattle). I bailed out at its old ending on the edge of Shoreline and took a route around a golf course and Ballinger Lake and then crossed the I-5 at a nice low traffic spot.

Interurban in the magic hour
The interurban at the magic hour.

From there was was wandering downhill to Lake Forest Park and the Burke Gillman trail. As I rRainbowode up a short section of the BGT there was a fantastic double rainbow. Riding in the rain isn’t a preferred activity(especially after just cleaning the bicycle) but if you refuse to do so you deny yourself beautiful experiences like this.  Additionally the smell of the road on a hot summer day just after the rain, the level of green on plants washed of their dust, and a general feeling of freshness all of these are glorious experiences lost on those who only ride in dry weather. Things are fairly automatic at this point – well trod roads for the last ten miles home. Of course Big Finn Hill is one of those well trod roads and it always is a bit of effort. Following that is a screaming descent into Juanita and then yet another climb up the again oft traveled Market Street. After that its the last mile home which I reached around 9:30 and another great day of bicycling comes to a close. I put in 55 miles total which isn’t too bad considering the late start and the weather conditions.

For all of my pictures from this ride, check out my flickr set: An August Evening Ride.

Rainbow closup
Double Rainbow. Nice payoff for the rainy ride.

Hills, seven of ’em

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

AtlantisA couple of Sunday’s back after a drought of non commuting rides I set out from my house wending through the Kirkland Suburbia.  I wasn’t sure where I was going exactly, but there really are only three directions to go from my house due to Lake Washington and I’d been concentrated more on the eastern and southern directions. As I rode up and down the hills that paralleled the main northern street, I recalled that I had started to ride the 7 Hills of Kirkland ride a month or so back and had cut it short due to breaking a spoke. I was paralleling the start of that ride at this point so after cresting the last hill I turned onto what would be the first descent of the ride. The 7 Hills ride is a classic charity ride that goes one every year.  It packs 3000 feet of climbing into the basic 40 mile (64 kilometer) route with a metric and full century options.  I had no cue sheet, I was just following the Dan Henrys that were still visible. Following old rides via Dan Henry’s is an activity I greatly enjoy, the wayfinding aspects add a lot of pleasure.

I’d of course waited to about 1:30 in the afternoon to start this ride, part of the reason why I hadn’t done the official one (7am start time). It was a great temperature this afternoon, in the mid 60s, with threatening clouds but the promise of sun behind them. The first hill (that I was doing) was Juanita Hill and it is one I’ve done pretty often.  Kirkland’s location between Bothell and Bellevue with Lake Washington on the western side means that to go west you either need to go north and cross via Juanita Hill or South and cross at the I-90 Bridge (or go all the way around via the Lake Washington Loop).  So this was a pretty familiar hill and while it goes on for a couple of miles, it is pretty stair-stepy with no real significant grades.  Before completing the full series of climbs the route takes a sharp left and a really nice wooded descent down to the waterfront.
Juanita Hill
Hill No. 2: Juanita Hill

At the base of the hill is O.O. Denny park which I stopped at for lunch. I had brought a sandwich and a cookie acquired from a convenient Starbucks and I spent a bit of time at the park eating and walking around.  It was pretty empty this day, but with theO.O. Denny Park big threatening clouds that wasn’t too surprising. There were a couple of families there but apart from a little girl playing in the water near where I was eating I didn’t really encounter many people.  After giving the park a nice check-out (I hadn’t stopped here before)  I climbing back on my bicycle and set off for the next hill. The route wends along the shoreline for a mile or so, offering tantalizing glimpses of the water in-between the luxury houses that line the shore. Its nice riding for the most part, as only residents and (the clearly few) visitors to the park using the road.  As the shoulder is pretty minimal at this point the lack of traffic is nice.  Eventually the road turns north and there is a little bit of an ascent.  This levels off for a few hundred feet and then the climb back up begins in earnest.

Seminary Hill
Hill No 3 – Seminary Hill

This is the Hill on the route that I’ve ridden the least.  Before my aborted attempt at this ride a month back I’d never actually taken this route.  Well this is a pretty good hill, last for over a mile and with several sections of pretty descent grades – of course one of these is right at the end.  Its not a killer hill though, totally manageable with just steady grinding. I was glad for the cloud cover as I worked my way to the top which ends with a traffic signal. As I brought it to a stop a roadie came up behind me and as I waited for the light, he checked the traffic and then blew through the light. It changed just as he was finishing the turn so I set off right behind him.  After taking two climbs on pretty much one hill the route now rewards you with a nice long descent. The route goes back down the backside of Big Finn Hill in about a two mile descent.  It bottoms out in Kenmore at the end of Lake Washington where it meets the Sammamish river.  The route turns northeast taking back roads through an industrial till it meets up with the Burke-Gillman Trail.  The route takes the trail for a mile or two turning off the trail at a trestle that crosses the Sammamish River.

Norway Hill
Hill No 4- Norway Hill, lower section

The route then takes these nicely wooded back roads that are mostly flat but with a couple tiny bumps till at last it runs south onto the longest climb of the ride – Norway Hill. This hill is in two parts with a very short flat segment (and a stop sign) in between the two segments.  I’ve ridden both segments before, but mainly the lower section as yTop of Norway Hillou can continue up from there into Kirkland. The lower section gently rises then takes a series of right angle turns, climbing all the while. There are a couple of steep segments here but nothing off the hook.  It is a deeply shaded route through a gap up the valley wall.  The steepest part is right at the final switchback and then it is a gently rising straight segment to the stop sign.  A sharp right and you begin climbing again immediately up the second segment.  This part also twists its way up, up, up with the steepest sections of the whole climb at one point.  It comes to the end with some nice scenic views over the Sammamish valley and out towards Seattle. The descent from Norway Hill is akin to the climb in that it is completely shaded, steep and with several sharp curves. It t-bones into a fairly busy road at the bottom sapping an otherwise screaming descent.  A circuitous roue through suburbia with a mixture of flat easy riding
and some straightforward ups and downs follows this big hill. On a fairly major arterial the road dips down, under I-405 and then begins the climb up Kingsgate Hill.

Kingsgate Hill
Hill No 5 – Kingsgate Hill

This hill is a ruler straight, steady climb with the steepest section right at the beginning and end. Right after you dip down below the interstate there is a fairly steep, short bit to a traffic signal which luckily I made.  Then its pretty steady, fairly gentle climbing for a pace, flatting out almost completely for a short segment then a longer, steeper section to another traffic signal.  After this signal there is a final not too hard of a grade to yet another signal. A left at this signal takes you past a church where, if you were on the real ride, there would be a mid ride refreshments.  I took a swig of water and rode on.  The route follows the top of the valley wall through several neighborhoods and with two major descents back down into the valley.  The second of these is a long, gently curving, well paved road that I hit the max speed of this ride at over 36mph.  The base of this hill is actually only about a mile up from the turn off to Norway Hill  – this route is super compact riding up and down the Sammamish valley wall over and over again.  At a convenience store on this road I bought bottled water and a Key Lime Almond Joy. I love key lime pie and was tempted by this candy bar. It was horrific, not recommended.

Winery Hill
Hill No 6 – Winery Hill

The road is now the Woodinville-Redmond road, a nice flat route through light industrial and the Woodinville Wine region.  At the point where the road curves north, this route turns south and up Winery Hill.  This is by far the toughest hill of the whole route, fairly long but easily the steepest.  It begins with a short, very steep section on beat up asphalt with a railway crossing at the top. The hill then regains its grade curving up and up with a long run-out at the end. But if you take a hard right directly after the railroad tracks you can take a steeper, longer route up. That was the way the 7 Hills planners chose to go.  The section right Redmondafter the tracks crossing is the steepest, something like an 18% grade. There are several hard turns and the roads are really the private roads of a housing development. Eventually you reach the top of the valley walls and there is the climb out in the picture above. On the real ride there is a piper at the top of this section playing you to the top of this tough climb.  The route then parallels the portion of the ride from the top of Kingsgate Hill, past the food stop at the church and then a back hill descent back into the valley.  A nice couple of mile long flat section on Willows Road then follows.  This ends with a bit of a climb to an intersection with Redmond Way. You turn onto this road then a quick right, followed by another right and you are on the start of the Rose Hill climb.

The last section of Rose Hill
Hill No 7 – Rose Hill

The final hill of the official route is Rose Hill, the longest of all the hills. This one goes on for over two miles with three stop lights breaking up the climb.  The first section is the steepest, climbing quickly up from the valley with an S curve at the steepest section.  I ride this hill all the time as it is one of the most direct routes from where I live in Kirkland to points east. So I know every jot and jiggle of this hill and pace myself accordingly.  It was now early evening and the big bad clouds had mostly rolled away without dropping any rain.  I was feeling about ready to pack it in for dinner but I knew I had to ride the one hill I’d sort of bypassed before I’d settled on doing this route.  But I had to get back to the start first and I stuck with the route to see how it’d get there. It turned south before the absolute final gentle climb to the summit of Rose Hill (all the hard parts were done though) and took the nicely wooded roads through the Bridle Trails neighborhood of Kirkland.  These roads take you into the edge of Bellevue and from here the route took a quick jaunt to Lake Washington Blvd and back into Kirkland. Following this waterfront road, the route takes you through downtown Kirkland finally turning into Waverly Park.

Waverly Park
Waverly Park – the Start/Finish line

It was now mostly sunny and the park was filled with people taking in the sun, having a picnic dinner and enjoying the waterfront.  The official ride begins and ends at this park and would be packed with cyclists, food, merchandise and well wishers.  That being a month ago it was just filled with people out enjoying this summer day.  I didn’t linger long but headed out to the beginning of the official ride but the final hill of my version: Market Hill.  Market street is just off the main street of Kirkland and is a long straight not too tough a hill. It goes on for a while and there is often a decent amount of traffic but over all not too hard.  Its a good enough way to start and/or end a hill oriented route. Just past the summit was where I’d joined the route so I took at right at that point and took my circuitous route home.

Market Hill
Hill No 1 – Market Hill

I arrived home at 6:30pm having done just over 44 miles (71km) total.  Overall I have to say this is a great ride and one I didn’t find that tough. Perhaps it’s because I ride in this area all the time, doing some of these hills in my daily commute.  I’ll have to actually do the official ride some year, perhaps doing one of the longer options.

Click here to see my all the pictures from this ride on Flickr.
The official 7 Hills of Kirkland homepage
Bikely map of the 7 Hills route.

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.

Mixed Terrain Ride

Monday, January 14th, 2008

Entering Watershed Park

I had nothing going on this Sunday and was itching to get out on my bicycle. It was almost perfectly clear weather with little wind and with a week of clouds and rain forecast I wanted a bit of this winter sun. As usual I dawdled around my house until the early afternoon and didn’t set out till around 1pm. This was okay on this particular day as I figured a nice four hour ride would suffice – this would be my first longer ride in three weeks, it was pretty cold and I was still riding the Safari which I find uncomfortable for too long of rides. So I set off with thoughts of doing that classic loop around Lake Sammamish. A favorite early season ride of mine I figured it’d be and ideal ride this morning. About 30-40 miles, depending on options, it would perfectly fit the constraints of time and distance I was under.

My Safari in the park

First though I wanted to cut through this park that I had first ridden through in late November (I lost the pictures of that ride in a computer problem I had in early December last year). This park has a nice network of trails that were within my abilities to handle and actually were easily ridden with the Atlantis so I thought it’d be fun to return on the more trail oriented Safari.  There’s been plenty of rain so I wasn’t sure of the trail conditions but they turned out to be totally fine. Only in the inital climb up to the ridge did I have to push the bicycle due to lack of traction. Possibly with more off-road oriented tires even that would have been okay. At the top of the ridge is this large concrete bowl that must have formerly had a huge cistern or some such but now was abandoned. I was assuming that I’d be able to find a trail out of this park that would put me on a route toward the lake so I took the paths here in the direction I needed to go. This put me on a couple of sections of the park trails that I hadn’t ridden before including a fun descent into a little valley. From there I found a path in the direction I needed to go and headed on. This trail was right along I-405 and was pretty sketchy, I rode when I could and walked a few sections. It was real narrow, overgrown and rough. Fun though.  It came out behind an apartment complex pretty much where I’d figured it would and I made my way to the 520 trail.

Mount Rainier as seen from the park

This trail runs along interstate 520 from Redmond to where the 405 and 520 intersect. Its got some good ups and downs for a cycling trail which keeps it a bit interesting. Riding right next to the freeway a little less so, but it does give one a greater appreciation for the less trafficked portion of the ride. This trail ends right at Lake Sammamish Parkway, the road that runs all the way around the lake. I’ve written up this route at length in this post, so I won’t go too much into it. But it was a fantastic day for riding; very comfortable in the sun, a bit chilly in the shade with fantastic views all along. I saw a lot of other cyclists which is nice, often this early in the year even on nice days like this I only see a few other riders.

West Lake Sammamish Parkway

My timing had been right on and for the first time in a long while I rode the east side of the loop in the daylight. I often am chasing daylight at this point as I tend to ride home from Redmond and thus it’s toward the end of my ride. I was feeling really good on this part of the ride better then I had on the other side of the lake. Perhaps it was because I was more in the sun here, the other side being more shaded. Possibly a slight headwind had just made it a little tougher. Either way I kept up a steady pace and ended up at Marymoor park where this route ends at around 4pm. From here its about 6-7 miles home though its about 3 miles of climbing. That was a bit tougher at this point – it was well in the shade and the sun was finally about done for the day. Still its a familiar route so I just slogged along and soon enough I was home. It was twilight at this point but still light. A perfect amount of riding for the amount of time I had and the level of fitness I was in. All told it was 36 miles, not too far really, but just right on this day. For more pictures of this ride checkout my First Ride 08 photoset on Flickr.

Sunset over Kirkland and Lake Washington.

First Ride 2008

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008
Safari in the park
My Safari on the way to work.

Finally after far too long (almost three weeks) I’m back on the bicycle today. As you can see from the above photo, I rode in on my back-up bicycle. As initially planned I was kitted out in rain gear, had loaded up the Atlantis and headed out Tuesday morning. I actually was about 20 minutes earlier then normal and thought I’d do a couple of extra miles. I did a quick swing around the cul-de-sac in my block and my right pedal felt wonky. I headed back home and saw that it wasn’t threaded straight. I grabbed my pedal wrench and as I unscrewed it found it wobbly. This was a bad sign and it turns out my fears were justified – the threads were stripped. I think I did this when I put on that intermediate set of bad pedals -they had been very difficult to get on. Anyway this was lame, yet another problem and now it was too late to get the backup bicycle ready to go. So the car again.

One of my complaints w/r/t the backup bicycle is that it is insufficiently lit for my current commute. Also I had pulled my little Cateye light from it to use as a standlight on the Atlantis. I was tired of switching this light and as I said it is a tiny light and not good enough for seeing at night (okay for visibility). I decided that as a backup bicycle the Safari was useless without a light good enough to at least do my current commute on. So I went to REI after work and bought the brightest Cateye without an external battery pack they had. This is far brighter then my current one, so I expect it will suffice – I’ll know for sure tonight. So while I await for parts to fix the Atlantis I should be set.

Riding in today I experienced that familiar sensation of joy to be back on the bicycle clashing with the physical sensations of not having ridden for three weeks. Add to that some lingering congestion from this long running cold that had kept me off the bicycle for so long and I was definitely feeling it. Still it was so good to be back riding and I felt like this exercise was the final step of recovery. So it was just my usual commute, but I’m back baby!

Plateaus and Valleys

Thursday, November 15th, 2007
My Atlantis heading downards

I’ve been working a lot of late and that has cut into my rec riding. So when after a week of long hours it was determined that we didn’t need to work over the weekend I took full advantage of this. I still wanted to sleep in and laze about a bit so as I usual I got off to a fairly late start. This is more of a constraint as we ride into the waning of the year, with the light more limited and the temperatures dropping more severely. But I have my bright lights and my layers of clothing so I figured I’d live with some inevitable after hours riding. I also wanted to do a different route instead of an old favorite, or a free form wander – I had dreams of new roads and different sights. So I found the cue sheet from Cascade Cycling Clubs annual Flying Wheels Century ride online and decided this would be my route. This was a good choice as it’s start point was only six miles from me and it had 50, 70 and 100 mile options – so I could make the ride as long as I felt up to.

The little trail behind the Redmond Town CenterI set off from home around a bit after noon and heading up the Sammamish Valley wall that lies between me and Redmond (the self-proclaimed “Cycling Capital of the Northwest”). I have to ride over this every day on my commute so a familiar hill to me, though I took one my more infrequent routes. It was immediately clear what a fantastic day this was for early November – mostly clear, with some painterly fluffy clouds, cool and crisp but warmer in the sun. In fact in my wool shirt, cardigan, leg warmers and socks I was a bit warm when I was climbing. As I had left around my usual lunch time I pulled into Larry’s Market in Redmond for a panini and stocked up on the usual cycling supplies – water, granola bars and the like. I ducked onto the little trail behind Larry’s and took a shortcut to Lake Sammamish Parkway. Not too much later I passed Marymoor Park and I was on the Flying Wheels route for an afternoon of hills and valleys.

The route began at Marymoor Park and then quickly turned onto East Lake Sammamish Parkway. From where I was at Larry’s I rode a bit on the trail that runs behind the Redmond Town Center directly to Lake Sammamish Parkway, skipping the park. Lake Sammamish Parkway is a familiar route that I’ve ridden many many times, sometimes for the loop around the lake, sometimes as a connector to other rides. Today’s ride only had about 4-5 miles on it before turning east up the first longer climb on the route: Inglewood Hill. This half mile long climb, with grades up to 12%, wends up from the lakeside bringing you up to the Sammamish Plateau. From the top the route gently makes it’s way through suburbia into the stripmall city of the Sammamish Highlands. Outside of this things climb again for a decent interval. As I reached the top of this an old man doing some yardwork informed me that “…the hard part is done – it’s all downhill from here”, to which I breathlessly replied “excellent”! Indeed it was downhill, a descent grade at first and then some flats and gentle grades. I followed the signage to Union Hill road grateful that for once that meant I was going down one of these hills. At last Snoqualmie valley opened up in front me and I exited the woods for this wide valley and its farmland.

A bigger concern then you'd thinkFrom the valley floor was the option for the three loops. With the sun behind the valley walls and it already feeling a lot cooler I knew I really didn’t have the luxury for the longer routes. So choosing the easy fifty mile loop I rode up the valley past the Nestle Training center (what exactly is it they are training for?) and at the red barn turned toward Carnation. Riding into Carnation I decided to stop for a bit of a break at Sandy’s espresso – a popular destination amongst long distance riders. I enjoyed a really well made double cappuccino (dry as god intended) and a home made cookie. Remembering the banana in my hobo bag was also a welcome occurrence. I didn’t spend too much time there, daylight was not long for this part of the world, so I saddled up and rode out. The route heads through town and then crossing the Tolt river and immediately you hang a right onto Tolt river road.

I’ve ridden this road before and there is a long, steady climb after you ride over small one lane bridge. But the Flying Wheels route had me take an immediate left after the bridge onto what turned out to be my favorite section of the ride. A mostly flat meander through farmland, past a golf course and just generally fantastic country riding. A narrow road, pretty much one of those you’d have to pull over to pass if you were in a car, I saw only a couple of cars the entire time I was there. A protected wetland was on one side if it initially with gnarled trees, swamp grass and lots of birds. The sky was streaked with fragmented clouds which had a golden hue to them from the “magic hour” sunlight. The wetland opened up as I passed the golf course (the only thing marring this road) and then there was wide feilds and the cascades in the background. Really an enjoyable ride that bypassed the Tolt hill. However after this nice country road intersected with the Redmond-Fall City Road the cue sheet informed me I was beginning a three mile climb.

A beautiful evening on a beautiful road

A bit intimated by the length of that climb I pulled over and unbutton my cardigan and rolled up the sleeves – I knew this would be a hot effort. I ate a granola bar and then set up. The road when up and curved around and then flattened out. Spray painted on the road just before this was the note that this was the half-way point, which gelled with the cue sheet.  The road stretched ahead for a bit and then bent steeply upwards into the trees. This was a decent bit of climbing, steep for a bit and then it curved and became a bit more gentle. The climb was like this for about a mile and half – up and then flattening out with a few hairpin curves. After this mile and a half though there was a fairly long descent, also with some curves. Well I thought to myself this isn’t a three mile climb, I’m sure it’ll climb again at the end but a half mile descent in the middle really just means I was climb something like 2.25 miles out of three. Or really a 1.5 mile climb and then later a .6 mile climb. So really it turned out to not be that bad.  Once I did the final section of climbing I was back on top of the Sammamish plateau. I rode on the ridge for a bit and as I passed a school that was an official food stop on Flying Wheels my cue sheet ran out. It had wanted legal sized paper and I only had letter and for some reason acrobat just stopped printing instead of printing on another sheet. But I’d been able to follow the Dan Henry’s for most of this ride so I figured I’d take that last turn and keep my eyes peeled.

Wending up to the Sammamimsh PlateauI was out of water, so as this part of the route was in a strip mall bit of the City of Sammamish I pulled over at a Shell station and bought a large bottle. I refilled my bottles from this an ate some walnuts and cranberries. The sun was pretty much set now and it was twilight now with the clouds painted by the setting sun. I turned on all my blinkies and my dynohub and set off down the hill. This hill descended for over a mile and then hit East Lake Sammamish Parkway about five miles south of where I had turned off it before. It was nearly dark now, very deep twilight, with a few high clouds still beautifully lit up. However this road was a big shoulder, I had great lighting so I didn’t really have a problem with the lack of light. It was getting cold but nothing like vigorous exercise to warm you up. So I put it into gear and headed home. During this part of ride I was passed by two single riders and a pair of riders. The first two had absolutely no lighting and only the first audibly signaled. It was still a bit light when he did and he was hauling ass so I suppose he didn’t ride too much in the dark. The second rider though, passed me in the pitch darkness, didn’t signal so I wasn’t able to move over for him and he just swung into the road. Crazy. When I was less then a mile to Marymoor park I was passed by the two riders and they gave me a jaunty greeting as they passed and then continued with their conversation. They had full lights on the front, one looked like it was generator based, and plenty of blinkies, rear lights and reflective clothing. Much more like it, I suspect these practical riders were randonneurs used to riding in the darkness.

Sunset on the ParkwayNot long after they passed me I was at the turnoff to Marymoor Park, which I took and I was done with the official ride. The Flying Wheels “50 mile” route turned out to be about 43 miles but the extra 12 miles I had to ride to get to and from the start point would push it to a 55 mile ride for me. I stopped briefly in the park to use the facilities and pull on my rain jacket (I was cold now) and then set out to repeat the route I had taken in. The climb up the Sammamish valley wall immediately warmed me up and I was too hot in the jacket. I was definitely worn out, its a fascinating thing that 50 miles in the cold is as tough as 100 miles in the summer. Also I guess the long tiring hours I’ve been doing at work probably added to this. Anyway I finally crested the long two mile climb up the valley and then descended to my house. Now I was glad for the jacket! After 55 miles I arrived home at 6pm and after a shower when out for some hot and sour soup and a green curry. A great late fall ride.

Total miles: 55.1 in about 5 hours ride time
See my gallery of pictures (and check out the slick new slideshow!)
Check out a map of this route at Bikely – you can see the three cutoff loops for the different distances.
Download pdfs of Cascades official map and cue sheet.