Community Events: 2012 Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic

So what do you get when you cross 10,000 riders from 40 states and 3 countries, over 26,000 sandwiches, and 204 miles of beautiful riding from Seattle, Washington to Portland, Oregon? Well, if you are the Cascade Bicycle Club, you end up with the 33rd Annual Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic. Started as a time trial race between the Seattle and Portland City Halls, the Group Health STP has become one of the largest recreational rides in the country, completed by a amazing range of cyclists – from those who had never ridden more than 30 miles to those who wanted to set a new personal record. This year Performance Bicycle was proud to support all of the riders with mechanical support, from check-in at the University of Washington in Seattle, all the way to the finish line at Holladay Park in Portland.

At check-in you really get a sense of how big an event STP really is. The evening before the big ride, the queue of excited riders stretched across the Husky Stadium parking lot – there to check-in and drop off supplies for checkpoints along the route. The organized team with the Cascade Bicycle Club handled the good-natured crowd with aplomb, making sure that bikes, camping gear and supplies were packed away for the right destination the next day.

The STP ride is, at its heart, a group experience. Riders showed up in couples, groups and outright crowds – ready to test themselves and enjoy the ride. And not many folks were having more fun than the “Gypsy Wagon Race Team” seen above! This friendly band of Canadians make the trek down in their battered passenger van, and were quickly making friends in the parking lot – which had become an impromptu campsite for many riders and their support teams. Hanging out and meeting fellow cyclists is an important part of the STP experience.

The next morning, the STP ride kicked off  from the UW campus, with the first waves leaving at 5:30 AM, and our teams were already up  and on the way to various support stations along the route. With over 200 miles of roads to cover, it takes quite an operation to make sure that riders are safe and fueled up for the long ride. Performance Bicycle teams from our stores in Oregon and Washington state organized and staffed several pit stops along the route, but our main base of operations for the day was the halfway point in Centralia, Washington. 

With our workstands, water bottles, Clif Shot Energy Gel and repair supplies ready to go, our motivated Performance team was primed for action by 9:00 AM, when the very first riders rolled in under overcast skies. The first wave of riders were mostly made up of the one-day finishers – hardy cyclists who were on a mission to ride over 200 miles in one shot. Still in good spirits, these riders usually only stopped for a few moments to refuel, get minor repairs sorted out, and then hop right back on their bikes to continue their journey. But these early crowd heralded the start of a busy day for our team – once this tidal wave of cyclists started rolling in, our mechanics basically worked non-stop until 7:00 PM at night!

We saw bikes and bike riders of every shape and size, from young to old, from novice to expert. As the day wore on, the mix of riders changed over to the 2-day crowd – folks who were looking for a more leisurely weekend of riding with friends (as long as you consider back-to-back century rides leisurely, of course). Since we had 6 mechanics wrenching away, pumping up tires and fixing flats, we had plenty of time to chat with folks as they dropped by. It was awesome to hear that for many riders this was far and away the longest they had ever ridden their bikes – the level of support and camaraderie of the STP ride had inspired them to try something they had never thought they could do on a bike. Of course with that many riders out on the road, we had plenty to do. Our guys went through a countless amount of tubes and tires, trued many a wheel, field-repaired STI shifters and balky derailleurs – we did whatever we could to keep people on the road so that they could enjoy the rest of their ride. You can get a taste of what our day was like with this “Mechanic cam” action we shot with our trusty GoPro HD Hero cam:

As the morning changed to afternoon, riders kept rolling in to the halfway point at Centralia College. Just when you thought the ride was starting to slow down, another wave of happy but exhausted riders would come streaming by our tent. Apparently it’s hard to gauge 10,000 riders, because we kept thinking, “there can’t be any more coming” when another wave would roll in! But our dedicated Performance crew was always ready to help, even if they didn’t get a real break until we left at 7:00 PM. Since our team was made up of associates from many stores across the region, they saw many of their regular customers come rolling by. Plus we were excited to see how many riders were riding in Performance cycling gear and on Scattante, Fuji and GT bicycles that they purchased in one of our stores.

Eventually the seemingly endless crowds did start to wane, as the last of the 2-day riders made it to the halfway point. To make the most of their STP experience, most participants camp out with a few thousand of their newest friends at an array of campsites. As you can see above, the central quad of Centralia College became an impromptu tent city, full of tired cyclists resting up for their second century ride in as many days!

The final day of STP was the big finish to a weekend of cycling fun. The 2-day riders were up early once again to hit the road south to Portland on a typically damp Northwest day (although the sun did make an appearanc later). Once again riders pedaled through a century ride, finishing in a festival atmosphere in Holladay Park. Fans, friends and fellow cyclists lined the finishing roads like it was the end of a Tour de France stage, cheering on the riders as they rode in.

Soon the park was packed with cyclists, happy to be finished and ready to get cleaned up, but also soaking in the atmosphere and fellowship with thousands of other STP finishers and their supporters. You could tell that most people wanted to savor their moment of accomplishment, although maybe they were just too worn out to worry about getting changed out of their bike gear!

Everyone from our Performance Bicycle team had a blast supporting the riders at the 2012 Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic - our long hours were more than paid back by the thanks we received from all of the folks we helped get back on the road to enjoy this great event. We can’t wait to come back next year with an even bigger and better presence – and maybe next year we’ll even have a few Performance riders out on the road to get the full STP experience. Head on over to the Performance Bike Facebook page to see the rest of our photos from this year’s STP, and we hope to see you on the road from Seattle to Portland in 2013!

Wordless Wednesday

Bike to Work Day: Portraits from our Home Office

We love to ride, so we’re pretty serious about National Bike to Work Day. Check out the collage below for just a few of the folks who pedaled in to work today at our home office here in North Carolina!

League of American Bicyclists Guest Post: National Bike Month

It’s National Bike to Work Week, so we’re turning our blog over to our friends from the the League of American Bicyclists, the driving force behind National Bike Month.  Read on below to find out more about what they’re doing to build a Bicycle Friendly America, and also find out what communities have been recognized as Bicycle Friendly Communities this year.

Whether you’re a daily bike commuter or just curious about the benefits of bicycling, May is your time to shine.

For the past 50 years, the League of American Bicyclists has hosted and organized National Bike Month to celebrate cycling and encourage new and longtime riders to get back in the saddle. For decades, we’ve designated and promoted Bike to Work Week — this week! — and Bike to Work Day, and the number of bicycle commuters has continued to rise.

How are you celebrating Bike Month this year? Check our website or contact your local advocacy organization to find an event in your area! And, no matter how you’re celebrating, don’t forget to sign up for the National Bike Challenge, a new friendly competition that kicked off May 1, aiming to unite 50,000 Americans to ride 10 million miles this summer!

But, while we’re all fired up about Bike Month, that’s just the beginning of the League’s efforts to make bicycling safe, accessible and enjoyable for all.  All year long, we’re working to protect your rights and make your ride better, wherever you’re going.

Just this morning, for instance, we announced the largest round of Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC) in the program’s history. By evaluating and recognizing investment in bicycling promotion, education programs, infrastructure and pro-bicycling policies, the BFC program is revolutionizing the way communities evaluate their quality of life. With this impressive round, there are now 214 BFCs in 47 states — and the program works. While bike commuting rose 40 percent nationwide between 2000 and 2010, it jumped a staggering 77 percent in the largest BFCs.

The BFA program goes beyond cities and counties, too. The League also provides guidance and technical support through our Bicycle Friendly Business and Bicycle Friendly University programs, making workplaces and higher education more accommodating and accessible for cyclists. And we work with states, too: On May 22, we’ll release our latest Bicycle Friendly State Rankings, which showcases progress in areas like infrastructure, policies and education.

Beyond the Bicycle Friendly America program, we work with League members and organizations across the country to deliver our Smart Cycling education courses. From the basics of Traffic Skills 101 to targeted training, like Group Riding, the League curricula remains the gold standard for bicycle safety and skills for riders of all ages.

Based in Washington, D.C., the League is also your advocate on Capitol Hill. Each year, we convene the National Bike Summit, drawing hundreds of advocates, enthusiasts, retailers and policymakers to learn about federal transportation issues and lobby their members of Congress for funding and policies that meet the needs and rights of the growing number of bicyclists nationwide. This year we had a record crowd of more than 800 attendees. Mark your calendar now for the 2013 Summit, so you can tell your members of Congress that Bicycling Means Business.

And, of course, the League is committed to building the movement by connecting you to clubs and rides in your community, and sharing stories and innovations on our daily blog. Join the conversation by subscribing to our blog, becoming a fan on Facebook or following us on Twitter. We welcome your energy and ideas — with your help we’ll build a Bicycle Friendly America where every month is National Bike Month!

The League of American Bicyclists promotes bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation, and works through advocacy and education for a bicycle-friendly America. The League represents the interests of America’s 57 million bicyclists, including its 300,000 members and affiliates. For more information or to support the League, visit www.bikeleague.org.

Zach’s Training Diary: The Beginning

We know that for many of you, cycling is about the journey and not the destination. It’s the same story for Zach, who works here at our home office in North Carolina. His passion for cycling has changed his life for the better and he’s graciously agreed to share his story right here on our blog, as he trains throughout the season to get ready for the epic Alpine Loop Grand Fondo this fall.

As a 30 year old, 5’ 11” father and husband, online calculators tell me I’m supposed to be around 180 pounds. My “ideal cycling weight”, according to Bicycling Magazine, is 172 pounds.

In September of 2012, I plan to do one of the hardest one-day rides in the US, the Alpine Loop Grand Fondo, hosted by world class mountain bike racer Jeremiah Bishop. The ride is over 100 miles long and climbs 11,000 feet on both pavement and gravel roads. It will be the hardest ride I’ve done in my four years as a cyclist, and this is my story.

I rode bicycles when I was younger. My father, aside from being my hero, was also a dedicated triathlete and road cyclist. As a kid it was my dream to be able to keep up with him on the road and if all went according to plan, eventually be faster than he was. Fast-forward just about ten years. I had gone to college, graduated and was out in the real world, working at a desk job. Before I knew it, I had gone from my high school weight of around 185 pounds, to an astonishing, and scary, 276 pounds.

I was sitting in my office one day when I received a call from my Dad. He and my brother had decided to do a sprint triathlon, and wanted me to join in. “It’ll be like old times.” Dad said. “It’ll be me and my boys.” I figured why not? I signed up for the triathlon, and decided to start “training.” Part of my training was commuting on my clapped-out mountain bike that was rusty and grimy from years of abuse and neglect. So, I started riding a bike regularly for the first time in almost ten years. I’ll be honest, it sucked.

I felt like a fish out of water. I didn’t know what to wear. It was kind of scary riding next to cars. It was really hot in the middle of the North Carolina summer where the humidity is something you can reach out and grab. Most of all, it was just really, really, hard. Even though the commute was only four miles, it had long and steep hills with a backpack slammed full of work attire, lunch, and various electronics. It took weeks to get into a routine. I would forget lunch frequently, or forget a shirt, or belt, or my phone. You get the idea.

I was ready to quit this commuting business several times, but the promise of doing the triathlon with my dad and brother kept me going. After about a month of commuting and training, I jumped on the scale and realized that I had lost weight for the first time in years. While what I was doing was tough, it seemed to be getting a little easier, was giving me numbers driven results, and was actually fun. I began to take my triathlon training a bit more seriously (the cycling aspect, that is). I started talking to some friends about cycling, and started visiting local bike shops. Soon thereafter, I realized that if I wanted to get to work faster and easier, and if I wanted to be a bit more competitive during my triathlon, I was going to need a road bike with those bigger wheels and skinnier tires.

I jumped for a $300 road bike off craigslist (lovingly named ‘ole blue). It was too small for me, but I didn’t know that at the time. Throughout the next year or so I did the triathlon, rode in regular weekly group rides, and got involved with a local team who raised money and rode bicycles to fight Multiple Sclerosis. I was riding almost every day, whether to work or on a group ride, or just out by myself. It was fun, a LOT of fun, and I was feeling great. Oh yeah, and I was losing a ton of weight as a byproduct.

Cycling was changing my life. I was getting more fit, was in a great mood, was productive at work, and was actually starting to get dates with hot women (one of which I tricked into marrying me). I got so into cycling that when a sales position opened at one of the local bike shops, I made a career change from a stable 8-5 to an hourly wage plus commission retail sales job. I joined a local race club and started trying my hand at criteriums and road races – where I continue to fail miserably, but have too much fun to quit. I became great friends with people of all ages and backgrounds all through the common bond of cycling. I was riding and I was hooked – the lifestyle had consumed me.

After a few years in the local retail shops, my wife and I had twins. Family life and a retail work schedule don’t mix very well, so I applied for a position here at Performance Bicycle’s home office and here I am, telling my story. I’m 203 pounds now, which is still a hefty load to carry. While I’ve gotten stronger on the bike since I first started riding my old mountain bike, I still get dropped on the hills at the local weekly world championships out of Wilson Park. Seriously, I am so slow on hills!

I have a burning desire to become a better climber, get faster on my bike, and reach my “ideal” weight of 180 pounds. To do this I know I have to put a lot of work in. I have to eat right, not drink too much beer, ride bikes and work out as much as time allows. I’ve got a job that takes a lot of time during the week, plus I love spending as much time with my wife and kids as possible, so time is limited when it comes to training for a ride such as the Alpine Loop Grand Fondo. But, it’s going to be worth it.

I do this for myself and my need to ride, but I also do it for my family. I want to be as healthy as possible so I can live a long and full life with my wife, and be there for my daughters as they grow old. Anytime I head out for a local group ride, or a race, or even just a solo ride, my wife tells me as I’m walking out the door, or lining up for the start, “Go get ‘em darlin’!” That’s what I’m going to do, and I’m going to share my journey with you.

Rails to Trails Guest Post: National Bike Month

Throughout National Bike Month we are highlighting the efforts of some of our advocacy partners who are making a difference for cyclists throughout the US. Last week we turned our blog over to our friends from People for Bikes, and this week we’re letting the good folks at the Rails to Trails Conservancy lead the train. Read on below to find out what they’re doing to make cycling safer and more accessible, and how you can help.

I bet most of you have a good trail or bike path close by, right? Yeah, I do – the Capital Crescent Trail between Maryland and Washington, D.C. I ride it each day to work, and sometimes on the weekend to meet buddies in the city.

For those of us fortunate enough to have access to a trail, bike lanes or just some wide-open space, riding a bike to get around is a pretty simple, visceral pleasure. The wind in your face, the adrenaline pumping… you save time, save money and generally feel good about things. Simple.

But as basic as this joy seems to those of us who ride regularly, in many parts of America there are significant barriers to this simple activity. In a landscape often designed for cars to the exclusion of walking or biking, millions of Americans lack a safe and convenient place to ride at all, let alone a network of trails, bike lanes and paths that enable others to ride to work, to school, to visit friends or go shopping.

Riding the new Windsor/Ash bicycle boulevard in Columbia, Mo.

That’s what drives us at Rails to Trails Conservancy. We have an ambitious target—referred to here in our office as the Big Hairy Audacious Goal—to put 90 percent of Americans within three miles of a trail system by 2020.

We are working toward that goal by helping communities develop rail-trail projects, by supporting trail-based business and residential development, by working hard on Capitol Hill and with state and local governments for policies and funding that recognize the importance of biking to our transportation system, and by building a movement of people who love their trails and want to spread that love!

Opening day of the Windsor/Ash bicycle boulevard in Columbia, Mo.

National Bike Month this year is a particularly significant one for us, as it marks the release of a report on active transportation we have been eagerly anticipating. Launched by Congress in 2005—and with management support from RTC—the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP) dedicated $25 million to each of four communities to invest in biking and walking infrastructure. The idea was to see what this kind of unprecedented, targeted investment could do to change and grow a culture of biking and walking in these communities.

Essentially, it was an experiment into whether Americans were interested in non-motorized transportation – whether, to borrow loosely from a famous baseball movie about a guy in a cornfield, “If we build it, will they come?”

The results came in last week, and just three years into the pilot the change in transportation behavior tells a truly compelling story.

Across the four communities, counts revealed a 49 percent increase in biking. Compared to a national increase of 15 percent from 2001 to 2009, that spike is astounding. In just three years, the pilot communities achieved triple the expansion in biking activity the rest of America took eight years to realize.

Building the Cal Park-Hill Tunnel path to San Francisco in Marin County, Calif.

Although the pilot program did involve education and safety programs, a huge part of this increase was directly tied to infrastructure – physically providing safe, convenient and direct pathways that actually take people where they need to go.

In Columbia, Mo., the new Windsor/Ash bicycle boulevard completed in 2010 resulted in a 124 percent increase in bicycle traffic. In Marin County, Calif., the new Cal Park-Hill Tunnel path to San Francisco—constructed through a hillside and alongside active rail tracks—resulted in a 400 percent increase in weekday bicyclists. Nearby, the new Alameda Del Prado bicycle lanes increased weekday bicycle traffic by 366 percent and weekend bicycle traffic by 540 percent.

No question, if we build it, they will come. Big time.

Heading into the Cal Park-Hill Tunnel path in Marin County, Calif.

So what does this mean for you? Well, right now the U.S. Congress is debating whether to dedicate any transportation funding to biking and walking infrastructure, as part of a new federal transportation bill. Many of our Congressional representatives believe that money spent on enabling biking and walking is “frivolous,” and a waste of taxpayer dollars that should be spent exclusively on roads.

Rails to Trails Conservancy is doing everything we can to make sure our transportation system provides a better balance and gives people the healthier, cheaper, cleaner and greener option to bike and walk. If you have a moment, tell your representative that a car-only landscape isn’t the way you want to roll, and that being able to bike is an important part of your transportation future.

It’s a critical time – every voice and every vote counts.

Happy National Bike Month, everyone!

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday

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