North Cascades Highway – WOW


Photo by Peng Chuang

Sunday brought perhaps the best cycling adventure yet in Washington state – an early-season trek up the renowned North Cascades Highway to Rainy Pass (Paula) and Washington Pass (Timothy).

The views and the sounds (waterfalls providing the backdrop to an unending climb) are beyond spectacular. Physically it’s a tough grind even for the best climbers among us. For the worst climbers (that would be Paula) it’s an even greater challenge, but certainly doable. And the glorious descent – ecstasy.

One of our Cascade friends organized the trip. After a two-hour drive from Seattle, we gathered in Newhalem to use the restrooms and then continued the drive to the Colonial Creek Campground. Most of the rest of the group drove another 1.5 miles UP to an overlook before starting. Thanks to a miscommunication, Timothy and I were among a small group who wound up starting at Colonial Creek – meaning an extra 1.5 miles of climb to kick off the ride.

The weather was perfect (though a wind tunnel at our Newhalem stop nearly carried us to Kansas, making us more than a little nervous about the upcoming ride … but all was calm once we started riding). Temps were in the low- to mid- 70’s for most of the climb. I briefly saw an 83-degree reading on one of the unshaded sections – another argument to make this trip early in the season.

The state DOT closes the highway for the winter; watch for reopening announcements if you plan to do this ride in the springtime. Also, be sure to carry a hydration pack and plenty of snacks; no water or food is available along the route.

Timothy finished the day with 65.1 miles and 6,014 feet of elevation; I cut it a bit short with 55.3 miles and 4,977 feet. This was a day after our 74-mile PACES ride (more on PACES in a later post), so not a bad effort for a couple of out-of-shape kids …



Marinoni: A delightful film, a memorable character


Timothy admires two Marinoni bikes brought by their owners to the screening of “Marinoni: The Fire in the Frame.”

Guiseppe Marinoni is the perfect mix of irresistible: a 75-year-old irascible charmer who builds steel bikes by hand — and who broke the hour record in the 75-79 age group and wants to set another record at age 80.

We got to “know” Marinoni last night through a Cascade screening of filmmaker Tony Girardin’s “Marioni: The Fire in the Frame.”  It’s a delightful, life-affirming portrait and a testament to the power of spirit and will.

That’s not just through Marinoni’s story, but also through poignant observations of Jocelyn Lovell, who dominated Canadian road cycling in the 1970s and early ’80s before a bike vs. truck accident left him a quadriplegic at age 33. What’s more, the uniting of Marinoni and Lovell, both symbolically through a bike and later in person, is deeply moving.

Seattle’s Grand Illusion Cinema is screening the film tonight through May 5. If you love bikes, handcrafted steel frames, track racing, any kind of racing, any kind of riding, or charming characters, we urge you to see it!


Marinoni bikes brought by their owners to a screening of “Marinoni: The Fire in the Frame.”

Track cycling’s high-intensity workout benefits

My relatively late-in-life discovery of track cycling last year ignited a passion for lots of reasons: It’s fast, thrilling, dynamic, strategic, rain-free, and it has no hills.

Track racing and training 11411677_1646654132216718_1999859508247321128_oalso gave me an added benefit: It got me into much better shape overall than all my miles of “regular” riding had.

After a summer of track racing, I started getting PRs on road climbs — even though I’d barely gone near a hill for months.

I knew about the benefits of high-intensity interval training, and of course had done many an interval workout in my high school and college days on the running track. But until I discovered track cycling, I hadn’t bothered with those kinds of workouts on the bike. It seemed more fun simply to ride (and to work on hills).

Among came track: a magical sort of enforced high-intensity workout — you bust your guts, but you have a great time doing it and you make fabulous friends.

This New York Times story about a Canadian study describes how it’s possible to get a fantastic workout crammed into a relatively short period of time. That’s great for the time-starved among us, and I loved seeing some of the science.

Now: Go try some track! The Jerry Baker Memorial Velodrome in Redmond  has terrific adult track classes  along with bikes you can use. That’s how I got my start last year. I started the class terrified by the no-brakes thing and the track banking (I was sure I’d slide down!) and a few fun hours later, I was hooked. I bought a track bike two days later (though if I’d wanted, I could have just kept using velodrome bikes).

(Photo Credit: Peter Mayer). (Whine: Why can’t I add a normal photo credit in