Bicycling Notes

Last Sunday, Tom and I tried out what is surely the flattest bike route in the Seattle area, the Green River Trail. It’s south of town, starting in Tukwila. We rode to the end of the dedicated bike trail and back to the car for a total of 28 to 30 miles. We’ve gotten so used to Seattle’s hills that we were surprised how far we rode with relatively little effort.
Seattle’s Burke-Gilman trail, like the Green River Trail and many others, follows the former route of a railroad track, so it’s pretty flat too, compared to most Seattle bike rides. The Burke-Gilman is right here in town, so we use it more often and have come to think of it as a flat route—but it isn’t. A 28-mile ride on that one wears us out. The Green River Trail made us realize what a difference even subtle slopes make in the speed and energy of the ride, let alone how tired you’ll be afterward.
I think we really helped ourselves by going on some long rides in January and February in preparation for the Chilly Hilly ride (33 miles around Bainbridge Island on February 29). It was good to get acclimated to spending a long time on the bike, both for improving stamina and for toughening the rear end.
Monday, I rode my bike back from the bus stop after work, and I had to make a side trip to Madison Park, a small business district almost at the lake’s edge. Afterward, I decided to ride all the way up Madison (a main through street) to the top of Capitol Hill, the hill in the middle of town. From the lake to the top of the hill may be the biggest elevation gain you can get inside Seattle, though I’m not sure. Anyway, Tom and I both remember this direct route across town as being so long and steep that we had to get off and push the bikes during our first year in town. We quickly learned less direct but slightly flatter routes and avoided Madison ever since. Lately we’ve been talking about giving it a try again, now that we think we’re all toughened up.
The hill turned out to be neither as long nor as steep and difficult as I remembered. It looks intimidating from the halfway mark, as you’ve come uphill out of Madison Park, because you see the street swoop down and way up again in the seeming distance, higher than the hill you’re looking from. I wondered if I’d make it. Not hesitating to go into my lowest gear when the hill got steep, I went slowly, but I could have gone farther if I hadn’t come to the top of the hill. Once the effort was over, I started getting cold right away so I went home (downhill).
I shouldn’t get overconfident. Today, in a cold and pouring rain, I started to ride home from the bus stop, hit a pothole deep under a puddle in the street, and got a flat tire. I trudged to the bus stop with the bike and rode to my destination, dripping, trying not to touch anyone with my sodden backpack.