Rides to RememberJan Heine
2022 feels like it’s been a long year. So much has happened, it sometimes seems almost like a miracle that we’ve been able to ride our bikes at all! Looking back, there have been some wonderful rides.
The year started with the test of the Ritchey Ascent (above). What started as a nice winter ride into the foothills of the Cascade Mountains turned into an adventure when we encountered snow—lots of it. We suddenly remembered that it had indeed snowed heavily a few weeks earlier in the lowlands, but we had already forgotten this episode in Seattle. Here in the foothills, cold air flowing out of the mountains had kept the snow on the ground. Riding above the bridge guard rails on Forest Service Roads was a new experience! So was descending an icy slope in moonlight, but we were rewarded by an (unplanned) night at the wonderful Bush House inn in Index. (The full story of that ride, and our impressions of the Ritchey Ascent, are in Bicycle Quarterly 79.)
That adventure didn’t keep us out of the mountains, but we did stay out of the backcountry until the snow melted. February saw a few mellow outings to Index, always a fun ride in wintertime. Above is Ryan on Reiter Road, one of our favorites. (Route and ride info are on Strava.)
Also in February, JaBig started his incredible tour around the United States. I rode northward to meet him as he made his way down from the Canadian border. It was fun to encounter JaBig in person after having known him remotely for so long. We had a great ride into Seattle, chatting about almost everything except bikes. (We touched upon those briefly as well.) Finding a new friend was a highlight of the year. The story of that ride is in this Journal post.
March was a reminder that not all rides are pleasant spins or stimulating adventures: The 200 km randonneur brevet was wet and cold, mostly flat, and my legs weren’t really interested in pedaling hard. The weather was so forbidding that there are no useful photos from this ride at all. My notes say: “Still fun, especially now that it’s over!” (Route and ride are on Strava.)
April was marked by illness—who hasn’t dealt with that over the past year?—but I managed to get in one good ride. I had to pick up something in Tacoma, and rather than take the train, I rode there on a new route through the valley. I discovered abandoned roads across the ridge just east of Tacoma and felt, for just 20 minutes, like I was on a remote mountain pass. (Ride and route are on Strava.)
May saw us ramp up preparations for Unbound XL with a 24-hour ride. Mark and I charted a 500-kilometer route around the Olympic Peninsula that included some interesting gravel roads. It didn’t go according to plan. Already the first foray into the mountains near Bon Jon Pass brought us onto roads that existed only on Google Maps, but not in the real world (above). We retreated to familiar roads along the Hood Canal, but even those turned out to be challenging with washouts and landslides. We made it through even though the highway was not passable for cars.
After that, we enjoyed a wonderful ride on deserted roads. All-night rides, especially with friends, are incredibly special. After a few hours on the road, we’d talked about many things, and now we rode together mostly in silence. It was quiet, there was no traffic, and there was less to see in the dark, so we heard sounds that we wouldn’t have noticed during the day. On good bikes, the distance passed almost effortlessly at night. It was a meditative experience, augmented by the adrenaline of vigorous exercise.
Seeing the day break over the Pacific Ocean was a big rush of excitement: Through the night, we had ridden all the way to the edge of the continent. I was on my Oregon Outback Rene Herse (right), but Mark’s bike for Unbound XL wasn’t finished yet, so he rode his trusty 6-Hands (left). Breakfast at the historic lodge at Lake Quinault restored our spirits, but then the roads near Humptulips Ridge were impassable due to blown-down trees. We deviated far to the south and finally had Mark’s wife Jane pick us up near Olympia! Not exactly a success, but a worth while adventure nonetheless. (Ride and course are on Strava.)
Ready or not, Unbound XL was on our calendar in June. It was fun, it was challenging, and it was a great test for our bikes and tires. (Zero issues with our Endurance casing Rat Trap Pass tires.) Most of all, we found a wonderful sense of community among the riders. Once the field had sorted itself out, the super-fast pros were ahead, and everybody else was working together to conquer the distance, not each other. The stories of Mark and my rides, as well as the new bike Mark rode, are in Bicycle Quarterly 79. (Route and ride are on Strava.)
July saw a return to my favorite roads in the Dark Divide, the area between the huge volcanos Tahoma (Mount Rainier), Klickitat (Mount Adams) and Loowit (Mount Saint Helens). The occasion was the 3 Volcano 300 km brevet, and it was a grand day out on the bike. The story of that ride is in this Journal post.
Every time Ted King comes to Seattle, we try to meet for an epic ride. On this August day, we went into the heart of the Cascade Mountains to scout a future bikepacking route. In the process, we traversed Chinook, Cayuse and Naches Passes before heading on to Haller Pass. We discovered some great roads as well as some dead-ends. Ted made a fun video about our outing. Highly recommended!
September was the last opportunity for a grand adventure in the mountains before the first snow made the high passes impassable. Testing the Distance 45, a hand-made production bike from France’s Cycles Victoire, provided a good excuse to head into the Sawtooth Mountains on roads so remote that only one other rider had ever recorded a ride on Strava. The full report and test of the Distance will be in the Spring 2023 Bicycle Quarterly.
October saw a highlight of my season: the Arkansas High Country Race. Ted King and Hailey Moore had told epic stories of never-ending hills, remote roads and beautiful landscapes. Arkansas fully lived up to its reputation. The 500-mile ride over the South Loop was one I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Most of all, the community of riders and organizers around this ride is something truly special. More about the race is in this Journal post. The full story is in the current edition of Bicycle Quarterly (BQ 81).
The prototype for the OPEN × Rene Herse frames arrived in November. It was immediately pressed into service on some lovely late-season rides with the BQ Team—and in Seattle’s annual cyclocross finale at Woodland Park. The story of those rides is here.
December took Natsuko and me to Japan for the launch of the Japanese edition of our book The All-Road Bike Revolution. It was a privilege to be invited to an epic mixed-surface ride with a group of magazine editors and industry insiders. We rode up and down steep mountain roads on the Boso Peninsula, admired great scenery, and enjoyed the company of new-found friends. We’ll report from this trip once we’ve sorted through our notes and images.
In between these big adventures were many rides large and small. Most were comparatively uneventful, but every outing on a bike creates great memories. Now we’re planning rides and adventures for 2023. How about you?
- Bicycle Quarterly is full of wonderful stories of adventures by Lael Wilcox, Ted King, Hailey Moore, Krysten Koehn and many others.