After 2 years of looking up Dexter Avenue from the Fremont Bridge I decided to try it.
Gritted my teeth, changed gears, and climbed up that hill.
It wasn’t that bad. Sure I had to pause at the top to catch my breath but I did it and will do it again.
It’s been about two years since I decided to try my hand at riding a bike.
These days the notion of my riding my bike to work seems almost mundane.
Especially during the summer. The excuse to not ride mainly comes from having to lug a computer back and forth, or meetings, or some similar activity but the fear of doing the trip has all but disappeared.
Yet I am still no spandex wearing bike riding.
I do not feel comfortable have that sort of exposure and why I see a few larger gents wearing biking stretchy bike clothing I just don’t feel I can. Hell I still feel not fearing a jacket even on hot days. It’s a small quirk but one of my own. But recently I have had the idea of getting some bike knickers.
Which turned out to be an interesting time in trying on clothing.
I could either get a fit in the waist or the thighs. Sure there was one pair that fit pretty well in both but when I gazed into my reflection I was rewarded with moose knuckle that I would need to be lead singer in a band to pull off.
And I am no singer.
Hell I’m not even the back up tambourine player, I’m just some guy.
So I broke out a sewing machine and altered a pair of pants that I had been meaning to hem for at least 3 years.
Yesterday it was a beautiful day in the 80s and set out for my longest ride as I decided a voyage from my home in Ballard to Woodinville for a beer, a look around, and perhaps milkshake on the way back would be a good idea.
Now when I say “Longest trip” this has all the fanfare of being something for me. Sure only a few weeks ago I had done 31 miles without many issues but this was nearly 50. How near? Well 2 miles under had I gone stopped at the Sloop on the way back it would have been that magic number but considering my ride back took almost 4 hours because I putzed around it’s fine.
Around 3pm I decided to set out.
It being a hot day I put on a white linen shirt, grey undershirt, my brown knickers, tall wool socks and heavy boots, stuffed a bandanna into my pocket and filled a water bottle. First thing to note I should probably use my second water bottle. Not that I became dehydrated but I could have used more water at each stop and my 24 oz bottle just wasn’t enough. So the ride out was great. I made it past 192 Brewing in what felt like no time. I made excellent progress along this route and had no need to stop. It was sometime later when winding through Bothell that I made a minor mistake.
I should have taken the Sammamish River Trail but I kept on the Burke Gilman. Not a huge issue but the Burke suddenly dumps onto a road in Bothell.
And by road I don’t mean a nice divide one with a bike lane, well it had a bike lane for a while, but a 2 lane country road with a small shoulder. Yet it was fun.
Eventually I passed an area I recognized from Summer Concerts at San Michelle Winery but the thing is all the times I went down that road in a car it felt like nothing. On a bike it actually had some distance which makes me wonder just how long that road is and how fast I must have driven down it?
At Redhook there were a lot of bikes. I regret not taking a picture because many had cleared out by the time I left. Yet the one thing that was really different between me and them was the clothing. Bikes, accessories, hell attitudes I’m certain were very similar but I had not gone into typical bike wear. Still as much as I judged them for their choices on what to wear I wager each bike I passed or passed me made similar judgments about me.
Or maybe they didn’t, I don’t know.
What I know is my love of Redhook is mostly over. Sure it’s not a bad beer, by any stretch but, to be frank, it is not the glorious beer it once was to me. Perhaps I am more picky or it has grown too much but the distinct lovely flavor of the ESB that I enjoyed many years ago just doesn’t thrill me as much. That being said the Apple Ale was surprising and Long Hammer is still Long Hammer. Thought about getting the Blackhook but it was warm and a lighter beer sounded good.
Then back on my bike for the return trip.
Now why did it take me hours to return?
Well I went rather slowly. The trip up had been a good trip but I really enjoyed the way back. I stopped to chat on the phone twice at different times. Stopped into Third Place Books and noticed it had both changed and not changed, had a milkshake at Kidd Valley, and looked at the same expanse of Beach on NE 130th that is trying to be saved. The way back was really about enjoying the trip while the way up had been about getting there. About proving to myself I could do that trip.
Like when I biked to Chuck’s for the first time years ago this trip was about doing something I didn’t think I could do.
Now I have one small admission.
A number of years ago a coworker told me that he would drive out to Woodinville, do a load in, bike home, hang out, bike back, load out, and drive home.
At the time this seemed like an impossible journey and I was living much closer than I am now. Had I not been so taken with had tough that seemed and really thought about it I wonder what sort of Bicycle Adventures I could have had?
I wonder what sights I could have seen and where I could have gone?
Instead I am making up for lost time and capturing these trips when I can.
Still I look forward to all of the bike adventures I will have now that I realized distance is a thing.
And soon I will try my had at Dexter Hill.
Earlier this week I had wanted to go for a long ride.
Unfortunately life got in the way I couldn’t do it so when I suddenly there was only a matinee and evening free I decided to wave good bye to Seattle and see how far I could go by bike.
When i moved to Seattle I lived in the Lake City Neighborhood.
This was a mixed blessing in a lot of ways. For the most part I got to live in a part of Seattle I may not want to live in a gain but I also got to understand that while this was a far away neighborhood that didn’t have a lot of problems it was still not a great place to live. But honestly those 6 months I spent in Lake City weren’t terrible. Yes I was worried about finding work or using all my savings but it had moments of entertainment. I strolled the neighborhood a lot. Read a lot of odd books and learned many places that offered refills of coffee and didn’t mind if you stuck around all day.
One such place was called Third Place Commons in Lake Forest Park. The Honey Bear Bakery had free refills of drip and day old pastries there was an additional plus of a King County Library in the mall area so there were free books or books for buy from the book store. Also nearby was a park.
And the Burke Gilman trail.
At this point I would see bikes go by and wonder who would ride this far.
What manner of person would hop on a bike and go this far?
As I crossed that intersection and looked over I had my answer.
tt look me almost 8 years but I rode my bike from Capitol Hill, over the University Bridge, through UW, and then North until I got to Lake Forest Park. I had a goal of seeing how far I could go or to 192 Brewing whichever came first but as I passed Third Place Common I knew I could go the rest of the way for a drink and there wouldn’t be a problem.
Sure it I hadn’t gone 17 miles in a go but I beat my previous of 13 miles which I hardly count because it was so flat but so was the Burke Gilman and yet it was so good. Making that distance and not feeling like my body was failing me helped. It was so doable. I had no problems even if I felt out of place when I arrived at 192 and I was the only cyclist in normal clothes. This made me happy.
Sure some may have come way farther than I did or much faster or are training for a major ride but it was still good to know I don’t require special clothing to bike. And that is the real plus.
Even after 30 miles I contend that my clothing was fine. Sure my legs ache a bit from the strain but it is in a good work out way not in a “I hurt myself through stupidity way” and that is what matters. Good old soreness instead of real pain.
Also my ass does not hurt which means even though I still find a hard leather seat odd I am so happy I’m not butt hurt.
It being Bike Month and the weather cooperating has meant I am riding a lot more.
Also the fact my seat is no longer making me butt hurt has helped too. It is a fine thing in deed to get done with a ride and not have my have a stabbing pain when I sit nor the feeling a nerve being pinch in my thigh. All these things made me get the new saddle and while I was doubtful a hard leather seat would be comfortable I am definitely surprised by the outcome.
It is quite comfortable.
Surprisingly so in fact but that is a different story.
What has most interested me as I am starting to ride up more hills partially because I am dating someone that lives on Capitol Hill and partially because hills are not as daunting as they once were. Sure I still have gotten the nerve to ride up Dexter but I feel I could do it now. Haven’t tried just yet but I feel confident I could do it. Maybe some evening I shall give it a shot because I’d rather do it at night than during the day.
You know in case of failure.
But the big thing is how quickly I recover from these tough rides. I recall 2 years ago biking back from Gas Works Park and having to collapse on a chaise panting. Drinking nearly a quart of water and only then feeling a bit back to normal. Or biking to the Playhouse and having to drink a lot of water and sit in a chair for nearly 30 minutes before feeling ready to do anything else.
These days I still get to a place sweaty, some because of layers, some exertion, and some just because I am sweaty but I sit some water, cool down, and I am good. None of this prolonged recovery.
Sure none of my rides really top out at much more than 8 miles at a time but it is mixed terrain and takes some doing.
Didn’t think I would get to a point where all this biking seemed really possible but now I feel otherwise and tomorrow, even if the weather is against me, I plan to go for a longer ride.
Today I had a few different places to go and while driving was an option I don’t know if it was a good one.
First stop was at the UW where I attended a Workers Memorial Day. I had been at a similar event in Tacoma yesterday but unfortunately I couldn’t bike to that and had to drive. Perhaps some other time I will find a way but regardless this one was quite good. Started with a solo pipe “Amazing Grace” which no matter how well I feel still hits me. This set a good tone and I liked that this one didn’t focus exclusively on workers that had passed but the health and medical issues that workers are effected by. There was hope but a lot more about the difficulties and a point that was hit home is workers are less safe now then they were were 20 years ago.
Which is a hell of a thing.
Afterwards I spoke briefly with the president of the Washington State Labor Council and asked if he would take a picture with supporting workers trying to unionize in Oregon.
Which he did.
Then I hoped on my bike and back to the other job.
It was a nice trip around the east side of Lake Union and through the Seattle Center. I don’t get through Lake Union too much and honestly I am not as sure about the east side bike routes as I am about the west. Sure the west side route is just going through a parking lot and hoping for the best but it is still a route I know and can deal with.
And one I almost feel safe in.
Sure I could feel a lot safer but the fear factor has definitely diminished as I ride through there.
I stopped for a bike at Seattle Center. Do some work at the office and then to run “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well” at ACT.
That one mile between the Labor Temple is becoming very familiar to me.
I know how to get up and down 2nd and 4th quite well. Won’t say I completely like going those routes but they are efficient even if I had no idea that hill up 2nd so steep until I went up it on a Pronto Bike. That is the best way to find the steep hills in Seattle. Sure they are doable but they are all steep.
Then a calm quiet ride home.
This odd meander was about 16 or 17 miles.
I’ve done that amount on other bikes, and even this bike. I’ve done it before but the one thing that I really marveled at when I got home was how my ass was not sore.
Sure my knees a little stiff but my butt did not hurt from my seat as my old one did.
Even at the end when I would get this odd pain in one of my thighs from that seat was really the sign I needed to replace it. I’m glad I did and I like the one I got. It’s a good seat even if it squeaks a little but some oil on the springs should solve that.
And last thing the best picture from my trip. While waiting for the University Bridge to close I snapped this picture.
This is really what makes biking worth it.
Last year “Room with a View” got in the way of 30 days of Biking.
This year I didn’t have the same problem and have been riding most of this month.
It has been good to have this time riding even if I am a little split between my own bike, prontos, and taking random days off. Now I have not been much for long distance riding but doing my 12 miles a day have been getting easier and easier.
I have started going much of my route on the hardest gear. Sure a lot of it is flat so that isn’t too bad but I have been building up my distance and endurance.
So that got me to thinking about doing group rides.
Now I would thinking of trying a race but frankly competition seems uninteresting to me as does people taking the act of riding way too serious. I’d rather have a mellow ride with some other people just trying to get to some place.
Nothing major or nothing intense and nothing too rough.
Cascade offers a couple rides like that and I need to give it some real thought because that would be a good thing.
So past all I did a few things to my bike recently and am considering a couple others. The biggest change is I got a new seat. I payed a load of cash and bought a sprung leather saddle which I am still breaking in. The stiffness of leather made me think it was going to be like riding something really uncomfortable and while I won’t claim my first couple rides were really comfortable they were much more comfortable than I thought. In fact they were much more comfortable than my stock seat which actually really began to hurt my ass.
Live and learn I suppose.
Didn’t think that a hard piece of leather would actually be more comfortable than a foam covered plastic but it is. So strange to learn these things but I am.
I got those tassels for Christmas but didn’t add them because I lost a bar end plug and hadn’t found some. Then one rainy day I stopped at Velo to look for a seat cover and saw bar end plugs for 2 bucks so I got some. Then I drilled a hole, added the tassels, and my bike is styling a bit more.
Dig it and frankly it adds a charm I was lacking. My next want is to change the handlebars. I like the flat bar but I want something with more of a rise. Not huge ape hangers or even cruiser bars but just a bit more. Going to start hunting around and see what I can find. Probably first look at some used parts and then new but I feel swapping that out will make some sort of a difference and at least let me get more comfortable at altering my bike.
On occasion a well meaning friend or coworker will ask me this.
Often after a load out or at night or once when it was a bright Autumn day.
I appreciate the concern about my choice to bike but the thing is I have a bus pass and if I felt I couldn’t make it by bike I would bus. And if that failed there is always a taxi. It is nice and know I would miss it if people stopped but not necessary.
A few months ago I went to visit my parents and during that time I was to meet some people in Buena Park and my family lives in Long Beach. I had checked the route and it was trails or wide streets the whole way. I decided to borrow my brother’s bike and go. I knew that Al, my brother, doesn’t do as much night riding as me so I brought my lights. But it was a nice day and the route mostly flat, even if it was 13 miles each way, but my parents were concerned. They offered both a ride and use of their car. Now this one I almost took because I had concerns about getting home if I had an issue but then again figured I could work out a way home. Still I biked and met some folks for Sushi and at that one even asked if I wanted a lift around the block to the bar.
Now that is extreme. Around a block. Again nice but really unnecessary.
Like I said I appreciate this but it’s a little needless for most of my rides.