Category Archives: Winter Solstice Ride

2013 Winter Solstice Ride

Robert Higdon provides us with a second report on the 2013 Winter Solstice Ride. Robert is SIR’s resident graphic designer. You can view his professional portfolio and random musings at Bunnyhawk.

2013 Winter Solstice Ride
By Robert Higdon

Never too late to ride“If I get a flat, I’m going to bag this ride.” So stated Mark Thomas, one of the hardiest randonneurs I know. A man with roughly six zillion kilometers under his belt this year alone. That statement said a lot about the ride we were just starting. It didn’t qualify us for anything. It was overnight. It was cold and very wet.

Somewhere around 30 of us talked ourselves into at least starting the damn thing. We holed up at Peet’s Coffee in Redmond and drank coffee to build up our nerves. It was my first actual (paperwork legitimate) rando ride in nearly two years. After PBP, I decided to take some time off from the sport for a bit… maybe just keep it “200k and under” for a while. Somehow that turned into two years without a single ride over 100k. Regardless, I did need the time to recalibrate. It was damn good to see the old crew again, though. There are so many smiling (delusional?) faces in that crowd.

We got rolling at 8:00pm sharp. My only plan was to stick with Mark Thomas and Joe Platzner and catch up. If I could rope Hahn Rossman in with the slow group, all the better. On the ride through Marymoor Hahn dropped something from his saddlebag and I slowed down with him in hopes of keeping the group together. One turn later, Vinnie had a mechanical that Hahn and I stopped to help fix. It was maybe 45 seconds in total time off the bike. I never saw the “main group” again that night.

Hahn in from a cocktail partyI could have been in much worse company, though. Hahn is a talking machine and we had a lot to catch up on. There’s a lot of gossip to cover, between bike building, cyclocross, and rando culture.

On Mercer Island, Hahn showed me an awesome little gravel side cut to a road that I’ve taken probably a couple hundred times over my short cycling lifetime. Finding new paths is still a simple joy for me. If that ever stops entertaining me, I’ll probably stop riding all together.

We passed by my apartment for the first of two times on this ride. At this point, it was only 30k into the ride. I joked about grabbing a beer quick beer at home. Hahn had just come from a cocktail party. We kept rolling.

My usual commute to work followed—toward Renton. The Cedar River Trail led us to a much-needed manned control with hot cocoa. SIR really knows how to man a control, especially at night. We are coddled up here in Seattle.

Hahn and I hooked on with a couple other randos for the slog back up toward our starting point (but only the half way point) in Redmond. Most of our rides up here are loop circuits, but this one was a loose figure 8. It kept things fairly easy and well lit—great for an overnight ride—but with too many options to bail for my liking. We opted for any and all gravel routes along the way.

Once we finally got to our gas station control in Redmond, one member of our small group was talking about quitting. He had legitimate reasons to, but we egged him on as much as possible anyway. He rode along for the rest of the ride. Suffering loves company.

There is nothing quite like rolling back out into a cold, rainy night after just “warming up” inside a mini-mart. It’s really…character building.

The ride back down Lake Sammamish rolled right on by, but I really started to hit my wall (one of many that night, to be honest) around the East Renton Highlands. I seemed constantly on the verge of being dropped and I had no cue sheet on me. It was a rookie move. I constantly considered my bail out options. Certainly someone would pity me enough to pick me up in the middle of the night in Renton right? Hahn kept nudging me along though, both with words and general company. We finally hit the south end of Lake Washington.

We made a little bathroom stop at Seward Park. I switched out to my (soon to be soaked) third pair of gloves. It was a real test of my current cycling gear. Most of my old clothing is getting a little long in the tooth. My legs were warm with the exception of that part in my legging with the giant hole in it.

As if in a sick joke, the second time we passed my apartment was 160k in to the 200k ride. “Hahn, I’ve got a plan. We both stop at our houses tonight, and I’ll take you out in the morning to pick up your truck. Just imagine a nice hot shower.” He turned to me, “This is the home stretch man.” “I know…I’m…joking.” Passing by my apartment literally hurt my heart.

We eventually hit the Burke Gilman Trail. It was a long slog up and over the northern tip of Lake Washington. He was correct—it was the home stretch—but the ride never seemed to want to end. We passed the occasional super-early morning jogger, seemingly angry at the fact that they were up so early and exercising in the dark with headlamps on. They must have been thinking the exact same thing we were; “What the hell are those cyclists doing out here at this time?” I didn’t know. I still don’t.

Eventually, our beacon of light reached us. I’ve never been so happy to see a Peet’s Coffee open. We finished at 6:00am—the exact moment they opened for the day. The sweet women working the counter let us drip all over their floors and served us bathtub sized cups of mediocre—albeit delicious to me at this point—coffee. I had an awesome croissant with “flour flown in from Paris,” according to the barista. Fancy.

A week later, my shoes just finished drying out. Here I am again. Back in the thick of it. What am I doing?

Welcome to the 2014 randonneur season.

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Because the night belongs to Randos…

By Chris Heg

The Winter Solstice night ride is a 4 year old tradition invented by our own Joe Platzner. The rest of the world is slowly catching on.


Mark looks doubtful, Vinnie looks happy, James looks relaxed, and Robert, in pink, looks amused.

This year’s version was very wet – the rain never really stopped all night. Fortunately, it wasn’t too cold. Some of these events have been close to freezing. This time the temperature was in the mid 40’s and slowly rising through the night. Despite being wet through I could maintain a fairly comfortable equilibrium as long as I kept riding. Stopping caused a quick chill. Sort of like being a shark but instead of not being able to breath when you stop moving you just shiver a lot. Great incentive to stay on the bike though!


The start control. I would guess we had about 25 riders at the start.

One flat at 25 miles but otherwise no issues. Good times: riding alone, with old friends, and with new friends, on good trails and empty roads. Sign me up. 🙂

P.S. I have to put a plug in for my Busch&Muller Luxos-U headlight. The best light I’ve ever had by a long shot.


The “Rain Tree”, a decorated tree at Redmond City Hall that we passed near the finish. There was also a megawatt Christmas light display at a little house on Logan Ave. in Renton.


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Remembering the 2010 Winter Solstice Ride

Following on Kevin Brightbill’s report on the 2011 Winter Solstice Ride we have Steve Frey’s report on the 2010 edition. This year’s ride starts at 8:00 PM on Saturday the 21st of December. Find out about it on the SIR Web Site. Steve writes a cautionary tale of obsession and bicycling in the Pacific Northwest at The Randonoodler Blog.

Solstice – Waiting for the Eastern Glow
By Steve Frey

This past Saturday night I rode the Seattle Randonneur’s Second Annual Winter Solstice Ride. Yes, I know we missed the actual solstice by three days, but for working stiffs like me doing the ride on Tuesday night would make for a rough day at work on Wednesday. Besides, from the saddle of a bike one long, cold, wet night looks much like any other.

The idea of the solstice ride is to take advantage of the longest night of the year by spending as much of it as possible on a bike. It’s a 200k ride that starts at 8:30pm, so if you ride slow enough you can roll into the finish just as the sun is peaking over the eastern hills. That of course assumes the sun does any peaking at all which it rarely does around the Winter solstice in western Washington. The ride was also billed as a Festivus celebration so it included the traditional Festivus pole, airing of grievances, and feats of strength.


About 25 of my hardy randonneuring buddies showed up at the start at Peet’s Coffee in Redmond. Also at the start was a documentary film maker named Dan McComb. Dan is working on a feature length documentary called Beyond Naked that follows some “ordinary” folks as they prepare to ride in the Fremont Solstice Parade naked bike ride. Somehow Dan heard about our ride and decided to incorporate it into his film. I suppose our solstice ride makes a nice compliment to the annual naked ride in Fremont because of the obvious similarities. For instance, riders in both events probably wish they had more clothes on at times, and in both events many of the people who see the riders probably think they’re totally crazy or maybe just dumb. It’s also possible Dan, desperate for material, just Googled “bikes and solstice” and we were the only thing that came up.

I decided to decorate my bike for the event, so I zip-tied and duct taped some battery powered christmas lights to the frame and the wheels. Though it’s hard to make out the lights, here she is anxious to roll outside Peet’s at the start.

The lights were a big hit, especially once we got away from street lights of the city though the high-speed wobble that comes from duct-taping battery packs to the rims is a little spooky on the high-speed descents. A weight weenie I am not.

0341 Leschi - North Bend - Leschi

The route was a big loop that went from Redmond up to North Bend, then through Issaquah, Maple Valley, Renton and up around the north end of Lake Washington back to Redmond. It was about 38 degrees at the start and the moon and stars were out which was a bad sign. Clear skys mean cold and ice.

Sure enough as soon as we came over Novelty Hill into the Snoqualmie Valley, the temperature dropped and the roads turned very icy. I had ridden the first part of the ride with some of the “fast boys”, but at that point they all decided that while the idea of an all night ride sounded neat in theory, it wasn’t worth risking a broken hip or dislocted shoulder for. So the fast boys all turned around and rode home. I decided to press on, so I slowed down and waited for some other riders to catch up. At least if I crashed and broke my hip there would be someone there to call 911. Not long after I was joined by a group of familiar faces including Greg Cox, Mark Van de Camp, Warb Beebe, Bill Dussler and Michael (whose last name I’ve forgotten).

As we started to climb up out of the valley toward Snoqualmie Falls the wind picked up and the temperature with it. We traded icy roads for vicious head winds which, all things considered, seemed like a reasonable trade. With tempertures back into the upper 30s the riding was almost comfortable for the next few hours.

By far the nicest part of the ride for me was from Fall City to Issaquah on the Issaquah Fall City Rd. The wind had died down and it was warm enough to keep the roads wet instead of icy. Dan and his film crew (of one) drove along and filmed our little group as we rode the winding ups and downs. It sort of made us feel like we were something special.

Halfway through the ride we stopped at a minimart for a bite to eat. It was 1:30am and the ride was going pretty well, considering. But as we pulled out the rain started to fall and within a few minutes it turned to snow. As we rode up May Valley road we were soaked by big fat snowflakes mixed with sleet and rain. Lovely stuff.

The snow and sleet continued for about an hour and a half as we continued on down to Maple Valley where Joe Platzner had kindly parked his RV and was serving up hot cup of noodles, coffee and other snacks. Dan and his film crew were there too and they filmed us gobbling down noodles. Dan asked me some questions about why we do what we do and I gave completely incoherent answers which I’m going to blame on the time (about 3:30am), the cold (about 35 degrees) and on my IQ (low 70s). Hopefully none of that interview makes it past the editing process.

Another shot of my bike in the dark:


From Maple Valley on, the ride was uneventful and pleasant. There wasn’t a lot of talking as we were all ready to get to the end and get out of the cold. Led Zeppelin’s Battle of Evermore was playing in my head (“Oh well, the night is long, the beads of time pass slow/Tired eyes on the sunrise, waiting for the eastern glow”). We timed it right as the sun was indeed starting to show itself as we rolled into the parking lot at Peet’s Coffee. I think it was around 7:00am when we finished.

As with all good randonneuring events, the painful memories of cold, rain, snow, wrong turns and endless hills had almost completely evaporated as I loaded my bike into the car for the drive home. Thanks to Joe P for throwing a heck of a Festivus party!


You can view a trailer of Dan McComb’s documentary on the 2010 Winter Solstice ride here.

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Remembering the 2011 Winter Solstice Ride

In anticipation of Joe Platzner’s 5th Annual Winter Solstice Ride here is Kevin Brightbill’s report on the 2011 edition. This year’s ride starts at 8:00 PM on Saturday the 21st of December. Find out about it on the SIR Web Site. Kevin’s report originally appeared on his blog,

Darkness and cold
By Kevin Brightbill

Or: Seattle International Randonneurs’ Winter Solstice 200K.
But I like my title more.

Unfortunately, the boreal forces of late December were none too kind to my crappy (but feisty) little point-and-shoot ride companion, so this recap will be short on images and long on text. Because sometimes you don’t want to watch A New Hope, you’d prefer to read some crappy novelization about the inner workings of the Mos Eisley cantina. Right?

Anyway, the setting for this little jaunt is, of course, its main allure. To my surprise, SIR was able to snag about 40 pre-registered riders; and, even better, most if not all of them were at that IHOP parking lot in Issaquah shortly before seven p.m. on a December Wednesday night.

The first few miles of the day — sorry, night — moved along briskly. I knocked my shifters down into a way-too-easy gear, willing to sacrifice ideal pedaling efficiency in exchange for the benefit of pumping blood into my legs at a quicker pace. Thanks to a small wardrobe of clothing I wore on my person and a relatively tepid 35-degree starting temperature, I actually started to overheat; I thought of taking off a poly/wool midlayer, but at that point I was slowly being dropped by most SIR folks and I did not want to completely lose sight of those comforting tail lights.

I rolled along Lake Sammamish Parkway for a good while, and at a “T” in the road I saw a rare brevet sight: a young female randonneuse. Anne from [some part of the greater Seattle area whose name I forget], who works for a recycling company and is an experienced cyclotouriste and had crossed paths with SIR by chance in Eastern Washington earlier this year (I believe her quotation was “a small army of riders with reflective sashes”). After a little researching, she picked the Solstice ride as her first brevet.

We teamed up, got very slightly lost, pulled into a Shell station, reversed our course, then cut into Marymoor Park. Anne and I chatted through a few miles of multi-use path, but apparently the topic of brevet formatting never came up; when I pulled over at the first info control, she zoomed onward without a word, and I would not see her again that night. So it goes.

Not entirely sure if I was then solely in possession of the lantern rouge honor, I left the info control at a brisk pace and cut through the small town of Woodinville. Gentle rolling hills took me through god-knows-where (my sense of Seattle geography is terrible), and I was briefly excited at the idea of taking a turn onto Spaghetti Street, only to be disappointed when the sign actually read “Springhetti”.

I saw some fellow randonneurs at the Snohomish 7-11 and was grateful for a little bit of social interaction. However, the small pack of four or five which had arrived before me was held up by one rider’s flat tire; I grabbed a donut and chugged some slushy Powerade, then decided to ride off alone and let them catch up rather than linger outside with the temperature now in the high 20s.

The next four-ish hours were almost comically simple: 20 miles north on the Centennial bike trail into Arlington, a control stop at a Safeway, then a u-turn and 20 miles south back into Snohomish. Perhaps in a daytime, warm-weather ride that stretch of a ride would be boring; that night, however, it was welcomingly simple.

And sure enough, the 7-11 party did catch up to me maybe five miles after the convenience store; and, at just the right time, as I was starting to physically and mentally tire of those cold (by then, 25 degrees) and solitary miles. Companionship and a little bit of a slipstream made the rest of the stretch into Arlington a relative breeze, even as my little computer dropped down two more degrees to its night’s low of 23. The Centennial path glistened dangerously with little crystals, but our pack made it out of and back into Snohomish without incident.

Our return route took us southeast out of Snohomish, towards Monroe and later Carnation. The “23” digits in front of me refused to move in either direction, and I kept up with the pack at a steady fifteen-ish miles per hour. My body remained mostly happy, though; as icicles accumulated in my beard, and frost gathered on every forward-facing surface of my bicycle, only my toes were complaining about the temperature.

The small pack was pulled apart by the ride’s only notable climb, heading due west out of Fall City to get back into Issaquah. Eight of us finished with times between 11:15 and 11:35, and mediocre but delightfully warm IHOP breakfast fare was our reward.

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Winter Solstice 200K

Joe says: “The fifth annual SIR Winter Solstice 200K will take place on Saturday the 21st of December.  We roll at 8PM.  Hilarity ensues.  Details to follow.”

Seattle Randonneurs from Dan McComb on Vimeo.

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