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Highlight of the summer: Biking from Seattle to Portland

A perfect summer adventure to challenge yourself, make new friends, and see more of Washington

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I am probably just like you in that I am not a superhuman athlete with 10 marathons under my belt. I can’t deadlift 300 pounds, nor can I run a six-minute mile (not even close). My athletic abilities fall squarely into the bin of “normal.” 

I had promised myself that the summer after graduating, I would do something many people consider slightly insane: embark on the Seattle to Portland bicycle ride, 205 miles of hot pavement with 10,000 other cyclists. Why I chose this event to cap off my career as a college student, I don’t know. I’ve always enjoyed cycling, as well as opportunities to push myself. In addition, originally being from Portland made me feel as though it would be a pilgrimage back home, retracing a route I’ve done countless times by car, train, and bus, but never by bike. 

But, ultimately, the goal was to push myself and prove to my inner doubting voice that I was capable of working hard. Through telling the story of my own experience, I hope that reading my final article for The Daily will inspire you to think about trying the famed Northwest tradition and give you some tips on how to prepare for the ride.  

This year’s ride took place from July 14 to 15. It’s helpful to register for the ride as early as possible, because it’s a very popular ride and slots fill up quickly. 

While most people commence their training rides months in advance, my final quarter of school plus working two jobs kept me thoroughly swamped, and restricted the duration of rides I could commit to. In fact, the longest ride I achieved in my training was a meager 30-mile round trip cruise to Bothell, a fraction of the total mileage to Portland. 

However, I was riding a consistent six or so miles a day to work. This is a critical point for any prospective STP riders: Riding a few miles each day really goes a long way, even if it doesn’t feel like it, especially if your rides are hilly and strenuous (which most rides in Seattle are). Consistency is key. For students, try using bike rides to fill your study breaks instead of YouTube or even other workouts. Two to three months of consistent riding should give you enough time to comfortably train. 

Equal in importance is ensuring that you have a bike that are comfortable riding long distances. Road bikes are, for obvious reasons, preferable, though I witnessed more than one person pedalling to Portland on a modest commuter bike. A professional tuneup is also a must in your pre-ride ritual. For me, I took it as a perfect opportunity to gain some more simple bike mechanic skills.  

I took my bike to the ASUW Bike Shop, located in the HUB, where they patiently walked me through how to perform a basic tuneup for myself at no charge. If you don’t have the time to invest in learning these skills, they also offer their own tuneup services at an affordable cost. 

So, you’ve trained a bit, your bike is in good shape, and the ride is approaching fast. The actual ride is as straightforward as it gets: you hop on your bike and ride. However, I learned a few simple things that can really help. 

The ride features a single day and a two-day option. I did the two-day option, and I would strongly advise against the single day unless you are a serious cyclist.

I’ll reiterate what countless others have said: Drink more water than you thought you could drink. Take as many water bottles as you can; if your bike has one bottle cage on it, it’s usually quick work to attach another, which is what I did and it paid off. In addition, take full advantage of the water and snack stops every seven miles on the trip. “Hydrate or die,” as they say. 

Stretch as much as you can in the week before the ride and during every rest stop during the ride. Stretching is very simple, and if done consistently, it can help endurance enormously.

Finally, remember that you absolutely don’t have to be a gung-ho athlete to complete this ride. With some modest training, you can create another highlight for your summer and make some fantastic memories. 

Reach writer Tony Scigliano at Twitter: @earthtotones

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