Rides to Remember

Rides to Remember

It’s been a difficult year, but cycling has provided one way to deal with the challenges we’ve faced. Whether riding alone or with a good friend, it’s allowed us to get away from it all, recharge and return with new energy to tackle what lies ahead – and have a lot of fun! Looking back, there have been many memorable rides in the last 12 months.

The year started with a wonderful adventure. To test the Horse All-Road, Steve and I headed into the Cascade foothills on a course that was as remote as it was challenging. We didn’t expect snow… It was cold, wet and muddy, and yet it’s etched in our memories as one of the best rides we’ve ever done. The full story and the Horse test was published in Bicycle Quarterly 71.

February brought sunshine, and Ryan Hamilton and I headed to Index on favorite roads… only to encounter snow in the foothills and flooded roads in the lowlands. Read more about this adventure here.

Remembering March 1 is a bit melancholic. This was the last time our small band, aka ‘BQ Team,’ rode together as a group. It had just become clear at this point that Covid was spreading, and the future seemed very uncertain. While we could, we enjoyed another great winter ride in the foothills, with some gravel thrown in for good measure.

While the world tried to figure out what was safe and what wasn’t, we went on socially distant team rides. On this April weekend, Mark rode our course on Saturday, while Steve and I went on Sunday – in opposite directions. It was fun – the full story (and video clip) is here.

In May, Natsuko and I headed to Drunken Charlie Lake. It’s not a long ride, and we could even see the lights of Seattle and Bellevue far in the distance from our campspot, but it felt like it was a world away from our daily lives. We saw a bear, discovered the well-hidden Drunken Charlie Lake, and enjoyed a weekend of cyclotouring. Natsuko wrote about this adventure in Bicycle Quarterly 72.

June saw my first attempt to reach the remote Humptulips Ridge on the southern edge of the Olympic Mountains. My goal was to take the first ferry across the Puget Sound, ride 200 miles (320 km) to Humptulips Ridge and back, and then return with the last ferry. It was an ambitious goal, and the terrain was even more rugged than I expected. I didn’t make it all the way to the Ridge… nor did I make the last ferry. So I ended up riding 200 miles, to reach another ferry terminal with a very late ferry. I discovered some amazing gravel roads, and I vowed to return…

In July, Natsuko and I headed to Naches Pass. We camped with a view of Mount Rainier in the distance. The following day, we enjoyed exploring the paths that Native Americans traced as the shortest connection between the mighty Columbia River and the Puget Sounds, before European settlers used them to traverse the Cascade Mountains. The story of this ride was published in Bicycle Quarterly 73 (together with the test of the Belladonna bike).

In August, Ted King came to visit. We headed into the heart of the Cascade Mountains to chat about future tire projects and enjoy a grand day out. Read the story of this ride here.

September: Tire testing is not just riding in the mountains. The real science consists of somewhat boring rolldown tests under carefully controlled conditions. Late summer in Seattle is perfect for this: There are many days with absolutely no wind, and temperatures are relatively constant. We’ve refined our tire tests so we can discern even very small differences in rolling resistance. The first installment of these tests was published in Bicycle Quarterly 73.

Lael Wilcox came to Seattle in October. We traversed the central Cascade Mountains in a 200-mile, 20-hour ride the first day she was here. Later in the week, we headed to Humptulips Ridge . And we made all the way this time! We discovered a road that climbs the ridge on one side, then traverses a narrow gap to descend on the other side. It was a few hours of pure cycling bliss. Just as much fun was a ride in the foothills where Rue joined us for a wonderful outing. Lael’s story of discovering the Cascade Mountains is in the current Bicycle Quarterly.

In November, we were back to testing – this time the performance of bikes. Mark and I have developed a method where we race side-by-side with a known “reference bike” to assess the performance of the best Bicycle Quarterly test bikes. We won’t give away too much when we say that the OPEN MIN.D. racer surprised us. The full test of the amazing MIN.D. is in the current Bicycle Quarterly.

December saw another great adventure, but we’ll keep that secret for now, since it’ll be a bike test feature in the Spring 2021 Bicycle Quarterly.

I’m grateful for all those wonderful rides and for the friends who’ve made them possible. What were your most memorable rides this year?

Photo credits: Ted King (Photo 1), Steve Frey (Photo 2), Rugile Kaldyte (Photo 11), Ryan Hamilton (Photo 13).

Share this post

Comments (3)

  • Ford Bailey

    Thanks for a great year riding on your tires ! I got my new pair of Humptulips tires and I am blown away by how light, fast and quiet they are. The Extralight casing is amazingly thin and supple. I’m looking forward to riding these tires a lot !

    Great work !

    Ford in Ghent, NY

    December 28, 2020 at 8:33 am
  • Daniel M

    Biking, camping, and backpacking are the things that keep me sane in a normal year, so in 2020 they became crucial coping and survival mechanisms for me. Thankfully for those of us in the East Bay area (Berkeley / Oakland, CA), we received the blessing of a new bike lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge at the end of 2019, which led to numerous fond memories of riding to Mt. Tam, the Marin Headlands, and the wild Pacific, suddenly from our doorsteps in under two hours with no trains or ferries required.

    But my most memorable ride took place in February, just before distancing and lockdowns became part of everyday life, when I spent 8 days on an unsupported tour in and around Death Valley, mostly on horrifically rough 4×4 roads, on a bike that I built from the hubs up specifically for desert touring. Going without water caches forced me to rely on local sources and to carry enough for a pair of dry overnights. That and the contrast between a sunny morning at 200 feet below sea level early in the trip and cresting an 8000-foot pass in a snowstorm on the final day gave me profound respect for the people who originally lived and worked in the region, plus great appreciation for the miraculous invention that is the bicycle.

    December 28, 2020 at 8:36 am
    • Daniel M

      Edit: “… suddenly reachable from our doorsteps…” Arrgh.

      December 28, 2020 at 8:39 am

Comments are closed.