Editor’s note: Bellingham-based author Mike McQuaide is an avid road cyclist and mountain biker, with a few Ironman triathlons under his bike chain. He will be the first presenter in our fall line-up of the Cascade Presentation Series, offering advice and riding inspiration from the best road biking routes across the state as mentioned in his newest book, “75 Classic Rides Washington: The Best Road Biking Routes.” The presentation will take place Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. at REI Seattle, 222 Yale Ave. N.
November always strikes me as a good time to reflect on my most recent cycling year. The weather’s crummy, the roads are wet and, though I’ve been throwing down at some local cyclocross races—as much as I’m capable of throwing down, that is—my weekly mileage these days is fairly low. (November’s also a good time for me to catch up on all the calzones, strombolis and peanut butter milkshakes that I’ve refrained from over the past year, but I digress … )
So, here’s a look back on my 2012 ridin’!
I began 2012 by running January’s Orcas Island 25K and didn’t start turning the cranks with any real authority until sometime in February. For a break from March’s annual winds and April showers, I headed east across the mountains to the roads and trails in the swath of cycling nirvana that is Chelan and Wenatchee. It’s a land of low-traffic roads, smooth cross-country trails and a sky-high golden orb that radiates warmth. There’re big climbs (McNeil Canyon and Badger Mountain), fun swooping trails (Wenatchee’s Foothills trails and Echo Ridge above Manson) and just all-around spectacular scenery. (Interestingly, I met Jay Inslee at the top of way-steep Badger Mountain; he was out for a ride on his way-posh Specialized Roubaix SL4.)
In May, my riding buddies John Clark, Scott Young and I—we call ourselves the Titanium Cowboys—got in our first centuryof the year at the Skagit Spring Classic. I also headed east again; this time to pedal the paved forest service roads north of Winthrop and up into the Okanogan Highlands above tiny Tonasket. Again, spectacular scenery and mostly deserted roads.
June was the Summer Wheels Flying Century, which took place on a typical Juneuary day (chilly, rainy, windy, etc.) and the magical Chelan Century Challenge (fun riding up and down the vineyards and orchards above Manson as well as climbing that pointy stick-in-the-eye known as McNeil Canyon: 2,200 feet of elevation gain in 5 miles!). Also in June, the excellent Tom Meloy introduced me to the terrific mountain biking that’s to be had at Grand Ridge and Duthie Hill Bike Park.
In July, I latched on to the great Tour de Whatcom Express Train—Bellingham’s Rusty Dodge, Logan Wetzel, Scott Alexander, and about 15 other fast folks—and hung on for as long as I could (about 60 miles) on the way to my fastest century ever (4:33). Also in July, I had the opportunity to ride about 20 miles with the Chain Gang, some Atlanta-based riders who were finishing up an 800-mile, multi-day bike trip. The four riders, all in their 60s and 70s started by riding STP (Seattle-to-Portland), then headed east along the Gorge before turning north through Goldendale, Yakima, Ellensburg, Leavenworth, Chelan, Winthrop, Washington Pass, Marblemount and up through Bellingham to Lynden. Very inspirational!
In August and September, I officially added gravel grinding to my repertoire by riding a mix of paved and gravel forest service roads on some epic and near-epic routes. First, an 80-mile loop from Winthrop to Conconully and back that featured almost 11,000 feet of climbing and temps that reached 102 degrees! Two weeks later, a killer climb from Mazama to Slate Peak (7,488 feet) the highest point in Washington State that you can reach by road. These first two were with local riding legend Brian Ecker. And lastly, a shortish but steep ride to Twin Lakes near Mount Baker, followed by a 2-mile run up to Winchester Lookout.
Shortly after the Mount Baker Hill Climb (Ride 542) in mid-September, I began making up for my calzone-stromboli-peanut butter milkshake deficit and a few weeks after that cyclocross season started. Which brings us to now.
It’s been a terrific cycling year but y’know, there’s no reason that next year won’t be even better! Hope to see you next Tuesday night at REI!