Community Events: 2013 Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic

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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.

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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.

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Living the Dream cruiser bike crew

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!

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Bicycle built for a family of 4

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.

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Bill and his Scattante road bike

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.

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One of our Spin Doctor mechanics, ready to help in Centralia, WA

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)!

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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.

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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!

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!

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