I’m not sure when I will try for my first 100-mile bicycle ride — it could be the Seattle Century on July 28 or the Tour de Peaks on Aug. 12. But in the meantime, I’ll savor completing my longest ride to date (and my fifth ride overall), the Flying Wheels 65-mile course on June 9.
Unlike my last ride, the 7 Hills of Kirkland 40-mile course on May 28, the Flying Wheels ride was not jampacked with hills. There were three pretty significant climbs, particularly the two going up each side of the East Lake Sammamish Plateau, but there also were long, flat, fun stretches through the Snoqualmie Valley.
The Flying Wheels ride starts and ends at Marymoor Park, and heads eastward over the north side of the plateau, through Carnation and Duvall, and then back over the plateau’s south side, into Issaquah, and north to the park. The 100-mile version adds a leg from Duvall north to Snohomish and Monroe and back. See the course map. There are also 25-mile (different course entirely) and 45-mile (subset of 65-mile ride) courses.
The Cascade Bicycle Club organizers did a great job with this ride, which I pretty much completed at a 10 mph pace (roughly 6.5 hours or less of riding time) on my 7-speed Schwinn hybrid. Riders were pleasant and polite, there was more than enough food at all the stops, the hills were well-documented, and the course was easy to follow. I did not miss a turn, I’m happy to say, and enjoyed the ride, especially reaching the finish line and drinking that free chocolate milk.
Here are some short highlights:
- The uphills: You faced a steep, 400-foot climb right away at mile 5 when you had to climb Inglewood Hill Road into the city of Sammamish. Ames Lake Road and Stillwater Hill Road were other tough hills. But the worst, in my opinion, was the three-mile, 460-foot climb back up the plateau coming back west over S.E. 40th Street and Issaquah-Fall City Road. This one had several riders walking their bikes, but I’m happy to say I made it to the top riding all the way.
- The downhills: There were an equal number of downhills as uphills, but the most memorable for me was the mile-long, 10 percent drop on S.E. 43rd Way in Issaquah, not long after that last steep climb. Felt great! Riders flew down and went, “Weeeee!”
- The flat stretches: Boy, was it nice to ride in third gear for long stretches and be able to enjoy the Valley scenery. But I do want to talk about one stretch past Stillwater Hill out of Carnation. It felt like I was riding eastward toward the Idaho border; in other words, out seemingly in the middle of nowhere, with no clear destination. I seriously hoped I’d avoid a flat tire out there! Turns out, I was riding north (not east) and heading up toward the back side of Duvall. So nice to finally see some houses (and avoid a flat!).
- The food stops: The 65-mile course featured four stops, and I took advantage of each one. The stop at Carnation Elementary School had tons of food: muffins, bagels, peanut butter, jam, cookies, oranges, bananas, grapes — and we stopped there twice. I gorged myself both times. Two other stops had less food, but that’s OK; I ate enough at Carnation for the whole ride.
- The volunteers: I can’t say enough about how great the volunteer support was at this ride. A big thank you to all who gave their time on a Saturday to make this ride such a great experience.
- The finish line: After that major downhill into Issaquah, we rode up East Lake Sammamish Parkway back to Marymoor Park. I know this stretch very well, having driven it a car a hundred times. But on a bike takes much longer! So nice to finally turn in to the park and see the “Finish” sign. A beer garden was full of tired, happy riders. I took in the sights, drank my chocolate milk, and rode back to my car.
The weather, by the way, was sunny or overcast throughout the ride, and completely dry. Gotta love that.
My only regret is not starting early enough (I got to the park, but forgot my race bib and had to drive back home to get it). Had I started earlier, taking the turn right to Snohomish to do the 100-mile ride might have been an option. It wasn’t. But I will do this century next year, I swear.
In the meantime, this was a good tune-up for a century ride in the next month or two.
Thanks for reading. Till next time.