Seattle International Randonneurs (SIR) superstition holds that the better the weather on the pre-ride, the worse the weather on the actual ride—and vice versa. Fortunately for those superstitious riders among us, we’ve devised a new tactic: We sent the organizers off to California to ride in poor weather while a group of volunteers stayed behind to suffer in sunny Seattle. That should balance things out.
The Spring Populaire conveniently begins from the Woodland Park soccer fields just south of Green Lake. This is close to the Greenlake Park and Ride and several bus lines, so should be fairly easy to get to. While the ride starts at a civilized 9 AM, please be sure to arrive early to get signed in. If this is your first ride with SIR, we recommend that you show up at 8:30 AM; we’ll help get you oriented and set to go with your cue sheet and control card. What’s a control card, you ask. It’s your passport, or manifest, for the ride and you’ll turn it in at the finish to serve as your proof of passage through the ride’s checkpoints.
From Woodland Park, you’ll roll out at a neutral pace, turning left from the parking lot to depart north on East Greenlake Way N. In just 3 kilometers, you get your first taste of a randonneuring control (a checkpoint) at Cowen Park. This is an info control, so check your card for the question and your surroundings for the answer. If SIR volunteers are present (hint, hint), they can sign your card in lieu of the answer. The route then goes through Cowen and Ravenna parks along a dirt and gravel path. Keep speed low and be courteous to pedestrian and canine visitors to the park—randonneuring isn’t a race, so there’s no need to zip through this section.
At the park’s southeasterly end, you’ll leave the path and get back on the roads briefly to connect with the Burke Gilman Trail, which will take you to Montlake Bridge and across the cut. Counterintuitively, you’ll ride a couple blocks on a wide sidewalk to make the connection to the 520 bike path and into Madison Valley (if you find yourself crossing the 520 bridge over Lake Washington, you’ve gone the wrong way). This zig-zagging route to Lake Washington will be familiar to many locals and there are way-finding signs for bikes, but your cue sheet or GPS unit is a helpful back-up if you don’t know the dance steps.
Zigs and zags now past, you’ll ride south along the edge of Lake Washington to Leschi and the I90 bridge. If our weather gambit paid off, you’ll get lovely views of downtown Bellevue and Mt Rainier in the distance. If it didn’t, put on your rain jackets and get low for the ride over the lake and across Mercer Island.
In Factoria, you’ll get to warm up with some nice climbing and then descend SE Newport Way. The shoulder is likely to be narrower than usual as it’s about halfway filled with sand and gravel, courtesy of snowpocalypse. There’s also a newish traffic circle toward the bottom (author’s note: I should have recorded its exact location, but it’s about kilometer 36), but if you continue along straight through it and stay on Newport, you’ll do just fine. The narrow shoulder conditions continue through Issaquah and on to Squak Valley Park, where you’ll pull off the road for another info control (answer the question on your card). This park does have a bathroom, but if you need more than a toilet at this point in the ride (~42km), just pedal along a bit farther to the Tiger Mountain Country Store about 4 km down the road. Well, up the road, as you’ll climb about 50 meters on your way there.
A couple more roads and you’ll reach the staffed control at the Cedar River Trail parking lot. Have your card ready for SIR volunteers to sign or stamp to indicate your passage. Then you can get back to it, riding the trail toward Renton. There isn’t really a ton to say about the trail, but three notes come to mind: First, take care at the road crossings as traffic can be fast and drivers may not be looking for you. Second, though it goes without saying, be courteous with other trail users and give notice and space when passing. Third, from Ron Regis Park (about kilometer 67) to the end of the trail, there’s a posted speed limit of 10 miles per hour. It’s tempting to ride faster, particularly if you’re getting behind on time, but there is a $101 fine for speeding on your bike through this section. Better to keep it mellow and make up time elsewhere. Depending on the weather, you’ll want to be attentive to ice/frost in this area, too.
Several turns through Renton and you’ll be back to Lake Washington, where you can put in a bit of speed stay ahead of the ride’s 3:40 PM cut-off time. Though if you get the same headwind we had on the pre-ride, that speed will be hard-earned. Nevertheless, take a moment to appreciate Lake Washington Boulevard, designed by the Olmsted Brothers and constructed beginning in 1904. With its many beautiful turns, hills, and views, it’s easy to see how this road made the National Register of Historic Places in 2017 and has been popular with cyclists for the past century. And if that’s not scenic enough for you, the route soon detours into the Washington Park Arboretum. Ride slowly and admire the trees—you’ll be sharing the path with walkers who are likely not expecting a large group of cyclists to join them on their dendrological stroll.
Then it’s back across the Montlake Bridge and onto the Burke, though you’ll go west rather than returning the way you came. In Fremont, you’ll leave the trail and start climbing: First on Stone Way, then on Fremont Avenue. The climb up to Phinney Ridge may feel steep and long, but it’s only 90 meters gain over 3 kilometers. OK, so maybe its steep. But there are stoplights along the way…. Ok, so maybe I’m not helping. But at the finish there’s beer, pizza, and good company, so it’s worth that last effort. Remember to turn your card in to the volunteers at the end, thank them for their work, and give yourself a high-five. You did it!
Get all the ride details here: https://www.seattlerando.org/content.aspx?page_id=4002&club_id=928629&item_id=896674