What do you get when you bring together over 10,000 cyclists from 6 countries and 45 US states, about 35,000 sandwiches, hundreds of volunteers and “ride referees”, and over 202 miles of rolling countryside in the Pacific Northwest over 2 days in July? One of the biggest, best-supported and most fun bicycle events in the US – the Cascade Bicycle Club‘s Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic (or STP). Now in its 34th year, STP was begun as a race in 1979, but it has since become one of the largest supported recreational bike rides in the country – and the primary fundraising source for the advocacy efforts of the nonprofit Cascade Bicycle Club as they work to create a better community in the Puget Sound region through cycling.
Most STP riders tackle the North to South route over Saturday and Sunday, with an overnight rest stop in between the 2 cities, but about 10-15% of the riders blast through the entire 202 mile challenge in one day. Most of these dedicated one-day cyclists start their journey before 5AM, and don’t reach the finish line until the early evening in Portland – the fastest riders complete the course in about 10 hours, but most folks trickle in after 12 hours or more in the saddle! Of course the vast majority of STP participants find that splitting up the ride into 2 long days on the bike is enough of a challenge – especially since 18% of them are trying the event for the very first time. These 2-day riders finish up their first century ride on Saturday and then camp out in a series of well-organized campgrounds near the halfway point of the journey – then get up on Sunday and do it all over again.
So what makes STP so popular? After all, the 10,000 available spots fill up months before the start of the ride. We would definitely say that it’s the people that make the difference – although the beautiful Northwest countryside comes in a close second! Yeah, it sounds corny, but everyone we met was unfailingly friendly and happy to stop and say hi or talk about why they were riding. Plus we have to give a special shout-out to the Cascade Bicycle organizers and their army of supportive volunteers, who do an amazing job keeping this whole 200 mile rolling operation running smoothly – including 14 rest stops along the route, an array of halfway point campgrounds, along with the logistics of moving thousands of tents and pieces of luggage to exactly where they’re needed, like clockwork.
Every rider has a different reason for tackling this challenging adventure – but one of the most popular groups on the road was this collection of riders who completed the entire route on beach cruisers! What started out as 2 brothers raising money for the Living the Dream charity 9 years ago has grown into a crew of 19 single speed riders having a great time for a cause. They said that it wasn’t really the hills that were the most difficult to ride, but the flatter sections where they ran out of gearing and had to spin like mad to keep going!
We met this family and their bicycle built for 4 at the STP sign-in on the Friday before the ride. It takes some real family togetherness and coordination to get this big rig on the road, but when they dropped by our tent at the halfway point of the ride they were all smiles and ready for more! The whole family was outfitted in Performance gear from head-to-toe, so we made sure that all 8 of their water bottle cages were stocked with a brand new Performance bottle.
One day riders also came in all styles, from riders on full-on time trial bikes with carbon aero wheels, to folks who looked like they were on their everyday commuter. But most were like our friend Bill here, who rode his Scattante road bike the 202 miles in one day just for the personal challenge, checking in with us via social media along the way.
With 10 stores across the states of Washington and Oregon, Performance Bicycle has been involved with STP for a decade now, and our team of Spin Doctor mechanics was excited to once again help out this year. During the 2 days of the event, our teams ran 7 mechanic aid stations spread out over the 202 mile route. So what does it mean to provide mechanical support for 10,000 riders? It definitely makes for a busy 2 days! From the time they set up until the last riders trickled in, the team of 10 mechanics at our biggest aid station at the halfway point of Centralia College worked steadily from 9AM until 6PM on the first day of the ride. Our guys fixed flats, changed cables, trued wheels, lubed chains and pumped tires, with a smile, for whoever came by our tent – going out of their way to make sure that no mechanical problem was going to derail someone’s STP experience. At the end of the day in Centralia we determined that our team replaced or fixed: over 120 flats, over 20 tires, 12 chains and even 2 wheels (not counting the ones we could true enough to get back on the road)!
One of the advantages of being stationed at the halfway point in Centralia was that we literally got to see every rider that came through, on whatever bike brought them there. The array of bikes that people rode was staggering – it seemed that if you stood and watched you would see every single brand, make and model of bike roll by, from fully-faired recumbents to a custom carbon Calfee Dragonfly tandem (that one was a beauty – the newlywed couple riding it planned to complete a century ride a month). But the wide array of tandem bikes really caught our eye, so we couldn’t resist sharing this last album of just a few of the bicycles built for 2 that we saw at STP.
We can’t wait to go back to STP next year – we’re already making plans on how to have an even bigger and better presence at this amazing event!