A Mid-Summer Ride to Spada Lake

A Mid-Summer Ride to Spada Lake

“Let’s go to Spada Lake,” suggested Steve when we discussed where to head for a one-day ride. Now that the entire BQ Team is vaccinated, we can return to our long-missed team rides.

Steve mapped a route that combined favorite gravel and paved roads through the Cascade foothills to Sultan. From there, it’s an out-and-back to Spada Lake high in the mountains.

We met at 6:30 in Seattle’s University District and headed through the city and the suburbs on ‘secret’ routes that avoid busy streets and are worth riding for their own sake. (The route is linked below.)

By the time the city awoke, we were already heading into the hills on the Pipeline Trail, named after the water pipeline that carries Seattle’s drinking water from the mountains to the city. The sun was getting warm, and it promised to be a glorious summer day.

What bikes to ride for an all-day ride that’s mostly paved, but has some gravel as well? Mark opted for his 6-Hands Randonneuse (right), Steve for his Frek (left, a 1980s Trek he’s converted to a 650B randonneur bike), while I chose the Firefly (middle) for its wider tires (and because I wanted to test the new Berthoud ‘Sans Decaleur’ handlebar bag).

I knew that knobby tires weren’t necessary for this ride, but I didn’t have time to change to smooth Rat Trap Pass tires, and I knew the Humptulips Ridge knobbies wouldn’t hold me back. These are still the first prototypes from last summer – wide tires last a long time. (For all of you who want all-black Humptulips Ridge tires, please be patient. We’ll offer them eventually, once the supply situation improves a bit.)

There’s a wonderful network of gravel roads that criss-cross the Cascade foothills. We passed the turn-off to Drunken Charlie Lake – a great destination in its own right.

We rode by waterfalls and enjoyed empty roads for a few hours, before emerging in the Skykomish River valley.

Past Sultan, the serious climbing started. The road points up in a series of stairsteps. Climbing beautiful roads with friends is fun – itt put a smile on the faces of Steve and Mark.

The pavement didn’t last long, and the change of surface was welcome. It’s also one of the reasons why there’s so little traffic on this road.

The road got steeper as it gained elevation…

… and then we reached the top, followed by a quick descent to Spada Lake.

The lake made a great picnic spot. It was hard to believe that just a few hours earlier, we had left from the middle of the city, and now we were high in the mountains, enjoying this amazing spot all by ourselves.

Then we climbed back to the pass. In the mountains, the up- and downhills feel so different that riding an out-and-back course doesn’t really impart a sense of déja-vu. The roads feel new and exciting in both directions.

BQ team rides are not races by any means, but we enjoy riding at a spirited pace. We had been averaging a little over 25 km/h (15.5 mph) until then, and the relentless ups and downs started to take a toll. It was time for another short break.

We bought some ice cream and snacks in Sultan and headed to the river on a trail we’d never explored before. Cycling across gravel bars is fun when you’ve got wide tires, but only my 54s were unfazed by the sandy spots where my friends’ 42s fishtailed wildly. We enjoyed another ten minutes or so off the bike before continuing our ride back.

After another hour in the hill, a few quick descents dropped us back to Lake Washington. A nice spin along the lakeshore followed, then we said Good-Bye and headed home. It was another good day on the bike!

Further reading:
This ride on Strava (with route sheet)

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