Monday, July 30, 2007

Cougar Mountain aka The Zoo Climb

I'd heard about 'the zoo' climb before, but had no idea where it was - but lo and behold, somebody saved the route on my site,! (as a side-note this is how I know the site is working - not just saving my own routes but discovering new ones!)

The climb is 2.5 miles long, and gives you over 1K feet of elevation gain! This is about twice as big as Tolt Hill Road, which used to be the best (or worst, depending on how you feel about climbing) local climb I knew about. Probably the hardest local climb excluding the mountain passes like Snoqualmie and Stevens.

The Ascent:

The first section of this climb is probably a good 10% grade, and it seems to fluctuate between 7 and 10%, but I'm estimating, so I can't be sure. My rear tire was skidding a bit going up, due to the dampness that was still on the ground and the steepness of the road! About half-way there's a small plateau of sorts to give your legs a rest, but once you turn onto 60th St the rollers start, and they seem to get steeper and steeper! Some of them towards the end must've been over 10%, at least it felt that way. Once at the top you can take a hard left and continue up the mountain for a quarter-mile or so, which I now call it the "bonus climb."

The Descent:

You might think that since this is such a big climb that the descent would be a screamingly-fast one, but it's not! The hair-pin turns force you to keep your speed way down, and I almost learned this the hard way: I was coming down the first hairpin, my bike started to drift more and more towards the guard-rail on the right side of the road, and the wet mold next to it! It's a scary feeling when you know you can't slam on the brakes due to the damp ground, and you can't do a hard turn 'cause you'll slip, so I just had to ride it through while tapping the brakes! I came within maybe less than a foot of the edge, and got to peer down the steep slope that probably drops a good 40 or 50 feet! Scary sight indeed. Next time I'm gonna go as slow as a snail around those turns!

The Views:

You might also think that being 1,100 feet above sea-level you'd be able to see the city and lots of cool sights, but you can't; there are lots of tall trees blocking most of the views! You can see Lake Sammammish pretty well, and the Eastside as well. Definitely puts 'hills' like those around Bellevue into perspective, that's for sure! The 'bonus climb' had a little clearing that gave a pretty good view of the Cascades, but that was about as good as it got.

To sum it up, this is a great climb, but don't get your hopes up about a fast descent - Tolt is better for that.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

July 2007 Critical Mass Conquers Aurora Bridge Again

The scene at Westlake Center yesterday (photo from flickr):

I made it to Critical Mass yesterday, and the turnout was huge, as it usually is in the summer months. Must've been 300 or more people! The Westlake Center was full of cyclists of all types: smokers on fixies, freds on commuter bikes, squids covered in lycra, and a tall bike!

Two frowning cops watched as the 'peloton' rolled out just after 6 PM, heading down Pine St towards 1st Ave. After a slow and winding route we ended up on Highway 99, aka Aurora! I've done the bridge two other times with my fellow Massers, and it never loses its appeal! (99 is a four-lane, 50 mph highway that goes through Seattle, normally off-limits to cycles)

Some peeps at the front tried to make the mass go right and exit just before the bridge, but they must've been new to the area.. Once you're riding with 400 people on Aurora you might as well go to at least Fremont! A buddy and I corralled some peeps to keep going straight and alas, we did, we went over the bridge.

There were cyclists covering up all four north-bound lanes of the bridge, and extending across the whole length of it! It must've been a half-mile long at that point!! We ended up going through Fremont and towards Golden Gardens, but I turned back towards Capitol Hill before we got there, it was time to go home.

Remember, last Friday of every month at 5:30 PM at the Westlake Center. Don't live in Seattle? There's probably a CM in your town too!

Seattle To Carnation and Back - Hilly and Fun

Yesterday I rode out to Carnation and back, for a total of 106 km (60+ miles), and lots of climbing. It was basically a tour of major Eastside hills, excluding 'the Zoo', which I have yet to try out. Once I got to the top of Tolt Hill Road I just turned around and came back - this is where I hit my max speed for the day of 77 km/h! (roughly 45 mph). This isn't too hard to do going down a 10% grade for a mile with no stop lights!

This ride is mostly suburban and country riding, with awesome views of the Cascade Mountains and Mt Si. Lots of rolling hills and small climbs - Mercer Island, for instance, has a number of little climbs. But these don't even compare to the big ones I hit on the way out.

Click on the image to see the full elevation profile of my ride:

Hills covered on the way out East were:

  • The climb on 32nd Ave up from Eastgate towards Issaquah: not too steep but lasts for a mile or so
  • Going up Issaquah-Fall City Road in Issaquah: The sign at the top reads 9% for 3/4 mile, and I can attest to it! Unfortunately there's no bike lane until you get to the top, the shoulder is only about a foot wide for most of the climb.
  • Tolt Hill Road: 10% for one mile, this is the toughest part of my route. It's not too bad at first, but after a short plateau it kicks up to 10% indeed - hard but I got to where I can kinda sprint over the top, this will help in next year's Carnation Hills Time Trial.
Going (West) back to Seattle you've got:
  • The rolling hills heading back up the plateau on Issaquah-Fall City Road - almost zero cars out here, but no shoulder so use caution.
  • The climb back up Newport Way - not very steep at all, but lasts for at least a mile and a half, good shoulder.
  • Back up Capitol Hill - After getting off the I-90 Trail I follow 20th Ave over to Jefferson and then up 12th ave. Not very steep at all but is a few miles of steady uphill.
Here's what the route looks like in Google Earth - the large incline on the right is Tolt Hill Road: (pic facing West towards Seattle)

(Btw, anyone can generate their own maps in Google Earth using my site,


Distance: 106.6 km
Avg Speed: 25.9 km/h
Max Observed Speed: 77 km/h (going down Tolt!)
Time on Bike: 4 hours, 7 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours, 25 minutes

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Cycling with Metric Measurements

Having watched a few weeks of Le Tour, you can't help but notice that the race is (obviously, it's held in Europe!) using the metric system - 10 km to the finish line, the peloton is averaging 40 kph etc. Of course, Versus will do the conversions for the U.S., but I'm starting to think that I'd like to get to know the measurement system used by most of the world a bit better. (I doubt the U.S. would ever switch though - reminds me I'll have to move to Europe one day!)

So I changed the settings on my cyclo-computer to use metric, and now instead of cruising at a cool 20-22 mph, I'm looking at speeds of 32-35 kph! Obviously the same speed, but all of a sudden the numbers look so much bigger, it throws off my perception of how fast I'm going. Which can be a good thing if you find yourself checking your cyclo-computer more than the road ahead of you, as I sometimes do!

So the hilly lake washington loop is now a whopping 81 km!! Makes it sound much more enticing, doesn't it? The Seattle-to-Portland ride is 321 km - doesn't that sound crazy! (As if 200 miles doesn't sound crazy enough). I'm gonna do the lake wa loop today - let's see if I can keep up a speed of 31 kilometers an hour! (My site has a tool to do the conversions)

Anyone else out there using metric?

Update: I only achieved 26 km/h

Monday, July 23, 2007

Floyd Was Here!

Floyd Landis was in Seattle recently, and guess who's friend got to meet him?! Yup, my riding buddy Dennis Kindred had the chance to meet Floyd during his recent visit to's HQ here in Seattle. From Dennis:

I just met Floyd Landis. He signed his book for me and best of all...

I got a GREAT picture of us both!!!! He happens to be a pretty f*ckin'
funny guy.


It wouldn't be worth posting this if I didn't have this photo to go with it, so here ya go!!

Damn, I wish we could have taken Floyd on a tour of Seattle hills - I'd love to see how fast he could ascend up Queen Anne's south face!!

Wondering what else Floyd is up to these days? Check out his blog for the latest Floyd news.

Friday, July 20, 2007

2007 STP Photos

Just ordered some photos from this year's STP double-century! Once I get the larger versions I'll throw 'em up here, but for now here are some tiny versions.

Here's Dennis and I a few miles into the ride:

Not sure exactly where these were taken:

Here I am finishing (and finished) in Portland:

Here's me (on left) and Dennis in Portland, proudly holding our STP one-day patches!

Can't wait 'till next year!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tour of Eastside Hills

Today's ride, the tour of eastside hills, will feature some great climbs, roughly 90 miles of hilly Northwest roads - the steepest being Tolt Hill Road out in Carnation - a 10% grade for a mile! This will be about the 10th time I'll do that climb, and I can't say it ever gets any easier. Well maybe the 2nd time it was a little easier but since then it's been about the same - really hard.. 43rd Ave (out in Issaquah) is tough too, and you can tell the traffic isn't used to riders on that road, they buzz pretty close.

Towns/suburbs I'll pass through: Seattle, Renton, Issaquah, Fall City, Carnation, Redmond, Woodinville, Bothell, and then back to Seattle. From looking at the elevation profile, it looks like there are 6 or 7 major climbs - each maxing out at 400 or 500 feet.

Check out what the route looks like in Google Earth:

According to my cyclo-computer I got back in May, I've done 1,620 miles! If I keep up this pace I could probably do 4-5k miles this year, maybe more. I can't wait to see it hit 2,000 miles, which should happen maybe even this month!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I'm Sorry But That's Fucking Funny!

Saw this pic posted to the .83 forum and just had to throw it up here:

Monday, July 16, 2007

STP Hit and Run - Driver Caught

I was just watching the local news when a story about a cyclist hit by a car during the Seattle-to-Portland ride:

NEAR GOBLE, Ore. -- A Seattle man and two other cyclists were injured in a hit-and-run accident while they were participating in the Seattle-to-Portland ride on Sunday, according to Oregon State Police.

Police said a 1999 Jeep Cherokee was driving on Highway 30 when it crossed the fog line and collided into a cyclist around 9:22 a.m. Two other cyclists collided into the fallen man and his bike and were also injured, police said. [link]
Sounds like the hit cyclist suffered 'serious injuries,' probably some broken bones and nasty road rash. Well they caught the drunk fuck that was behind the wheel, so at least there was a positive end to the story.

I'm really not surprised that it happened on Highway 30 either - sure, it could've been anywhere (there are drunk drivers all over the world, after all), but that last 50 miles of the ride does seem especially dangerous. Cascade, can this (please) be your wake-up call that the STP route needs to avoid roads like Highway 30??

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The 2007 STP - Two Hundred and Ten Miles in One Day

At 4:45 the one-day STP (about 2,000 riders I'm told) rolled out to cheers, and with the sun not even up yet we headed off. One woman fell in the first few feet of the ride, that had to be a hard start to the day! I hope she made it..

It was weird looking at my cyclo-computer and knowing that the 0.01 miles it read would eventually read 200-something later that day.. I still think the hardest part of a double-century is the mental side, although the physical toll can't be discounted.

Once we got onto open road the pace lines were plenty to choose from. We ended up on a 50+ person-paceline that was going a good 22-24 mph, and then jumped onto a 25-27 mph paceline and stuck with that for at least 20 miles. Thanks to everyone that pulled me for so long! Sure, I took some pulls at the front of a few of the lines, but some of them are so long and unorganized that you can sit on the back forever.

We finished the first half of the ride by 10:45 A.M., rolling into the half-way festival at the Centralia Community College. Our average speed at this point is still 20+ mph, which is way faster than my usual, but with so many pacelines to choose from it's not too hard to keep your speed up.

After a huge plate of spaghetti and some more sun-block and we were off once again at 11:30 or so. After Centralia is where you start hitting the really tiny/wacky towns that dot the route. Winlock has the World's Largest Egg which sits proudly on their 'main' street. (From my quick searching it looks like there's some dispute as to who's got the biggest egg, but their egg is just about all Winlock's got going for it!)

I love the interesting town-names that dot Washington and Oregon! Tenino, Bucoda, Yelm, Vader, Puyallup, Goble - too bad some of the towns' names don't match their atmosphere!

At mile 150 we took another break, and at this point were starting to get a sense of just how hard it is to do a double-century. It was about 3:00 P.M. and we were definitely slowing down. Dousing my head with cold water of course helped, but at some point I can only eat so many Odwalla Bars, and I can only drink so much Propel. I'm human god-dammit! I should start eating more food made for humans; I'm not an robotic athelete who's sole purpose in life is to consume energy gels and eat odd-tasting 'energy bars.' Luckily the organizers of the STP always have bananas and bagels at the rest stops, guess I'm not the only human in the pack! But at some point even real food doesn't seem to give me a boost. If only I could've had some Phad Kee Mao! Now that would've helped..

The organizers of the ride ( do a great job with the route, taking you on some of the most scenic country roads of Washington State, and showing you some of the most quirky towns along the way. But once in Oregon they decide to throw you on a four-lane highway (Highway 30) for the last 50 miles of the ride! The last 30 miles of hwy 30 are nasty strip-malls and cars pulling in and out of them.

Maybe they're trying to make us hate Oregon? That would make sense because Highway 30 has nothing but fast-moving traffic and worthless towns that weren't even towns. I suppose this is the 'quickest' way to Portland, but can't they tack on 10 or 20 miles somewhere and put us back on country roads? Sure, it's better than the interstate but it stands in stark contrast to the rest of the ride.

So I was beat at the end, and was glad it was over fore sure. But it felt great to accomplish a new milestone, a double-century! Next year I'll try to see just how fast I can do it!

Total Distance: 210 miles (4 miles from my house to the start)
Total Elapsed Time: 14.5 hours
Total Saddle Time: 10.5 hours
Overall Average Speed: 19.1 mph
Flats: 1
Roadkill seen: 7+ (including two birds stuffed in a drain in Portland, go figure)
Mountains seen in the distance: 3 (Rainer, St. Helens, Hood)
Energy left at the end of the ride: zero

Update: got some pics of me during the STP - see here.

Friday, July 13, 2007

STP starts in less than twelve hours!!

At 4:45 AM tomorrow about 1,000 cyclists (including me) will start a 206-mile journey: the Seattle-to-Portland ride. The fastest will do it in 10 hours or less, while the slowest will take 16 hours, and of course some will give up. The one-day finish festival closes at 9 PM, so that gives us 16 hours and 15 minutes to 'officially' complete it. I think my riding partner and I will make it in about 14 or 15 hours, but we'll see how it goes. I really hope we make it before the close or we won't get our special one-day patches!

I think the hardest part about the day will be getting up so friggin' early (roughly 3 AM!), but I'm probably wrong and the hardest part of the ride will be after 150 miles or so, when I'm dead tired and way sun-burned. In total I'll do about 209 or 210 miles, since I'm riding from my apt on Capitol Hill to the start in the U-district.

My cycling log's graph shows the spike in my mileage over the last few months:

As you can see this will be my longest ride in quite a while! I hope to top it one day with an even longer ride.

Check out an approximation of the STP in 3D using Google Earth. (and turn on elevation exaggeration!). Don't have Google Earth? Here's what the route looks like, but you can zoom in and see the elevation profile in 3D!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Partial STP - Seattle to Spanaway and Back

Yesterday I set out (and did) the first 60 miles of the STP, following the spray-painted symbols all the way to Spanaway, and then rode back for a total of about 120 miles. There's only one notable climb in the whole first 60 miles of the route, which made it a quick ride; I was holding 22-25 mph on the flats, and made it down there in about three hours.

As a side-note, why oh why did they choose dark purple for the spray-paint color? It's on dark asphalt after all! I'm sure there's a reason, but those symbols aren't the easiest to see if you ask me. Maybe neon green would be better next year...

Just past Puyallup (yes that's really the name of a town around here!) there's 'The Hill', a one-mile ~7% grade, which is talked about as if it's the Alp d'Huez f-in climb... I saw people walking up it during the 2005 STP! Come on folks, that hill isn't even as bad as climbing 10th ave up Capitol Hill.

The way back from Spanaway was a totally different ride; 20+ mph headwind, tons of traffic (especially around Kent, which I now officially hate), and I was starting to tire a bit. I can't wait to roll with 1k other riders, that'll keep the traffic at bay!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

STP Training and the Three Feet Campaign

I'm still preparing for next weekend's Seattle-to-Portland double-century, although I haven't been getting in the miles I'd like to. Dennis and I did the Lake Wa loop yesterday, putting in a hot 55 miles with some nice hills. The STP-training guide says to do a 140-miler a few weeks before the big day, but screw it, I'm going for the mind over matter! I've been putting in 100-200 miles per week in the last few weeks, so hopefully that'll be enough saddle-time. (Oh yeah, and don't forget the ass cream!)

My longest ride in a day was 110 miles during the first day of the 2005 STP. 206 miles will take a long time, but it will be a great ride. I wonder if the route is similar to the 2005 route? I'll have to study the map and check it..

As a side-note, check out Cascade's Give Cyclists Three-Feet campaign, it's a great idea!

I'm lucky if I get a foot of space from cars on some roads here in the North West... as I'm sure is the same across many a car-opolis in the U.S. and all over the congested globe.