The Perfect Seattle Bike Ride
I recently asked one of my good biking friends how long his commute was to and from his shop. "Well," he said, "sometimes it's six miles, sometimes it's ten, and sometimes when the weather is so nice that I just can't get off my bike, it's forty." Biking is an activity that just gets better with time; you become stronger, more fearless (for better or for worse), and that joy that can only come from coasting down a massive hill after you've just reached the top? It never goes away, but rather, intensifies. Those Seattle hills are not for the faint of heart, but I'll still wholeheartedly advocate that biking is the best way to get around our sprawling - but small - city, if only for those incredible views. I have a friend that recently moved out past Tukwila, and she bikes along Lake Washington Blvd. every day on her way into work. Elegant, tangled greenery on her left, and Mt. Rainier and Lake Washington on her right. There are few cities in the world that offer that kind of picture along a morning commute! We live in a busy world, but sometimes - just sometimes - the perfect storm of biking ingredients converges: the weather is that perfect mixture of too hot in the sun and breezy on the coast down, I'm wearing my favorite t-shirt, I don't have anywhere in particular to be, and the playlist in my ears makes me continue straight instead of turning into my driveway. On my bike, the world really is my oyster. The rides below are an ode to that anytime, any day bike ride.
The Saturday Morning Ride
First, wake up. Ideally, it would be a lovely sunny day, the kind where you actually need sunglasses. Biking is one of those sports where it's okay to start late. You'll end up needing less layers, and you'll cover more ground in less time, so sleep in!
Whenever I cover more than thirty miles in a day, I'll dress and eat for it. Start out with shorts over leggings, a breezy t-shirt, and a jacket with pockets that you can stuff goodies in. Be prepared to shed layers later. Have some potassium and some protein. My go-to is a banana, apple, or if they are in season, a nectarine - all with a hefty spoonful of almond butter. Pack some snacks! You tend to burn way more calories when you're biking, which means you need to snack more. I usually eat a protein-filled snack once every fifteen miles. Walnuts, almond butter, hard-boiled eggs, avocados, and scones are my go-to biking snacks. Pack a bag with snacks, headphones, your phone, wallet, a book, electrolyte tablets (I like Nuun) and a warmer layer, just in case. Don't forget your two water bottles and your tube repair kit!
Check your bike. Nothing too crazy, but make sure you have enough air in your tires (you can check your tires for the amount of air, measured by PSI, that should be in them) and I usually oil my chain. Grab your helmet and those sunglasses, and you're ready to head out the door.
This Saturday, we're doing the Centennial Trail - taking the Burke-Gilman to Snohomish, and then jumping on the Centennial Trail from Snohomish to Arlington. You'll be riding through some of Washington state's most quaint towns, and the Centennial trail is famously flat, because you're biking over a former railroad, leveled and paved over to create one of the best trails in the state.
Remember to take some time to stop through all of the towns along the way - you'll be biking through Snohomish, Pilchuk, Arlington and more. My favorite stops include the Historic District of Snohomish (don't miss the Maltby Cafe for breakfast, or the Snohomish Bakery on First) and the Natural Food Co-op in Arlington. Stay hungry for the ride.
Plan ahead - the Centennial Trail is 29 miles long, which means you can easily make it back to Seattle before dinner.
The Thursday After-Work Ride
Every summer, starting in July, Red Hook brewery hosts Moonlight Cinemas every Thursday evening - movie nights starting at dusk - at their headquarters in Woodinville.
This ride is best done with friends, at least two or three. Plan to leave work around 4pm so you can have a luxurious ride in the sun while it's still warm. This ride is also perfect for after work - you literally jump on the Burke-Gilman and don't get off until you see the sign for the Red Hook Brewery, so no thinking - just chatting and biking - for the next forty miles.
I like to arrive at Red Hook around 630pm, so I have plenty of time to lay out a blanket on the grass before the movie begins at 9pm. The best part is that you feel like you deserve that burger, so enjoy it! Just make sure you have a ride back to Seattle, since jumping on that bike after a movie and food isn't the most fun thing in the world, and there's really no bus that goes back to Seattle.
The Lengthen-Your-Morning-Commute Ride
I'm an early riser, but I like having a long morning, and I don't often get out the door until 8am. Lately though, I've been trying to lengthen my mornings outside of my apartment, by getting out the door an hour earlier and spending that hour on my bike.
Sometimes I really enjoy my daily commute, and other days it's simply that - a commute. It's usually days like this that are great for changing the way I bike to work, either lengthening my typical short 20 minute commute to 30, or sometimes even 45 minutes. I like mapping out the roundabout routes that I will be taking in my head as I go, watching the pieces fall into place like a puzzle, but for those that have less experience with Seattle bike paths, I recommend using this awesome interactive bike map of Seattle to learn more about the different types of paths that are close by your neighborhood. My favorite long morning commute starts in Capitol Hill, down Aloha, one of my favorite Seattle streets. I love the turn-of-the-century homes and the huge trees that have been there since Seattle was founded that curve over the street. Take a right on 23rd and coast down this busy street. Be careful of cars; there's a bike path, but it can get busy. Take 23rd all the way to Yesler, where you'll take a left. Continue on Yesler all the way to the end - there are a couple of hills that you'll need to take up, but after all of those downhills, that burn feels great. Once you reach the end, you'll have some options - take a right on 32nd to continue down through Frink Park, or take a left to coast down Alder. Either way you'll end up on Lake Washington Blvd. Grab a coffee at the Starbucks on Leschi, or continue on until you get to the I-90 floating bridge. Hop onto the I-90 trail until 23rd, where you'll take a right. Continue back on 23rd until taking a left on Yesler. Now, follow this new bike path all the way down into Pioneer Square - but just make sure you pause around 6th Ave S and Yesler to admire my favorite, quintessential Seattle view: the Smith Tower on your right, and a slice of the Puget Sound through the middle.
As an alternative, bike to Wandering Goose on 15th in Capitol Hill, order an Americano, juice and veggie hash, and spend your hour before work reading. Either choice on this choose-your-own-adventure morning is guaranteed to end well!