Unlike road runs, the Seattle area does not offer enough organized bicycle rides throughout the year for me to do. So when two rides I like to do each year were on the same weekend, such as the Memorial Day weekend, I signed up to do both.
This is probably not a good idea without checking with my wife first. Liz did not raise a stink about it, but she did wonder why I hadn’t thought about the possibility of us getting away somewhere for the weekend. Good idea for next time this comes up. Ask first — before I sign up for two bicycle rides that keep us at home in a hot, muggy house much of the weekend.
There’s my mea culpa. Lesson learned. But, yes, I did both rides: the 2017 Emerald City Bike Ride on Sunday (May 28) and the 7 Hills of Kirkland on Monday (May 29). And I felt I got my money’s worth out of both.
I worried about this being a physical challenge, but it was really no big deal. That’s because the Emerald City Bike Ride was a flat, scenic, 25-mile ride that offered fast riding on freeways and major roadways that were closed for the morning. The 7 Hills of Kirkland was much more hilly and challenging, but I did the traditional 38-mile route instead of the far more ambitious metric century (60 miles) or full century (100 miles).
I had enough gas left over from Sunday’s jaunt to tackle the major hills in Monday’s more serious ride.
Scenic ride over freeways free of cars a big draw
Give area cyclists a chance to ride on Interstate 5, State Route 520 and Interstate 90 and you will get a strong turnout. Some 7,000 cyclists rode in Sunday’s Emerald City Bike Ride, including lots of casual riders and parents riding with their children. The freeway lanes and express lanes were closed to car traffic to allow only bicyclists.
Many elite riders started and finished early. Many other cyclists stopped on the bridges and freeway viewpoints to snap selfies and pictures with views of Puget Sound, Lake Washington and Mount Rainier in the background. The photo opportunities were incredible.
A year ago in April, this ride was first held to celebrate the opening of the new Evergreen Point Floating Bridge over Lake Washington. I did that ride and the turnout was similar — about 7,000 riders — for a 21-mile course that went both directions on the 520 bridge and also included the I-5 express lanes.
In an effort to make this ride an annual event, the organizers, the Cascade Bicycle Club, created more of a loop course for 2017. The start and finish lines were next to Safeco Field, and the 25-mile loop ran from I-5 in Seattle to 520 to Medina and old Bellevue and then back to Seattle on the I-90 express lanes.
For me, it was a thrill to ride on the closed freeways with thousands of others, and to see so many enjoying themselves on a bike. It took me two-and-a-half hours to ride, due to all my stops to take pictures. But the only real challenge was getting to the starting line by the 7:45 a.m. starting time, and I did.
The 7 Hills of Kirkland more for hardcore riders
It was my fifth time doing this annual Memorial Day event, sponsored by EvergreenHealth and held to raise money for sheltering the region’s homeless. I wasn’t all that worn out after Sunday’s ride, so I got to the 7 Hills of Kirkland starting line in downtown Kirkland’s Marina Park in OK shape.
But, as I said, I decided not to ride the metric century route, as I did in 2016 and 2015, but opted for the traditional 38-mile route. That meant seven hills and 3,023 feet of elevation — instead of 11 hills and 4,635 feet of climbing as in the metric century. (The full century has 14 hills and a horrific 7,036 feet of elevation; I don’t know when I am going to try this very difficult ride.)
I’m happy to say that I conquered all seven hills, as I usually do, and finished the ride in four hours. Four of the hills — Seminary Hill near Kenmore, Norway Hill in Bothell, Winery Hill in Woodinville and Rose Hill spread over Redmond and Kirkland — are tougher than the others. At 390 feet of climbing, Winery Hill overlooking Chateau Ste. Michelle is not the biggest hill, but is clearly the steepest. I continue to need to weave back and forth up the hill (which is not very safe, by the way), just to make it to the top.
About 1,100 cyclists, most of them serious riders who are experienced at hill climbing, did the ride. I talked to several who, like me, participated in Sunday’s ride as well.
The 7 Hills ride is for a great cause, so I always appreciate the chance to do it. I also like the tradition of having strawberry shortcake at the finish line.
Next up is my annual 100-mile ride
These were my 29th and 30th organized rides since I started bicycling in 2011, and my fourth and fifth rides of 2017.
Congrats to friends Katherine Long and Geoff Hazel for doing Sunday’s Emerald City Bike Ride, even though I did not see them among the huge throng of riders who participated. And congrats to friends Richard Mareno and Doug Cooley, who completed Monday’s ride. Thanks also to the great support crew riders, one of whom insisted on taking a picture of me at the top of Seminary Hill.
It’s time for my annual 100-mile ride. Again this year, it will be the Flying Wheels Summer Century ride on Saturday, June 10. I’ve checked with Liz, and it’s OK.
I’m looking forward to another new Flying Wheels course. This one goes deeper north into Snohomish County, extending north of the city of Snohomish, than it has in the past. I’m hoping for good weather and safe bicycling.
Then, it’s back to running.
Thanks for reading! Till next time.