Hatched by an offhanded tweet, I ended up using my bicycle to travel from Abbotsford BC to Seattle Washington. The need for the travel was attending [WordCamp Seattle][wcsea].
The route is fairly straight forward. Head down Highway 9 and hang a right at Seattle. Then work your way to your actual destination. You can download my route from [Abbotsford to Seattle][garas] or [Seattle to Abbotsford][garsa] for your Garmin device.
Highway 9 is a beautiful ride. The first 100km or so are mainly on a normal country road. I did not encounter much traffic at all and the views down the valley’s were amazing.
The later part of the ride is on a 4 lane highway, but even with the traffic, the shoulder is huge and clean and the views are awesome.
As you can see above, I actually build routes for the rides so that I could follow them with my [Garmin Edge 500][ge5]. The 500 does not do turn by turn directions but it does put a line down on the screen for you to follow, sort of. I found that many times the screen would be blank, with just a little mark showing me. A number of times it would do this as a turn was coming up leaving me to use the directions taped to my top tube (since a backup is always a good idea). The 500 did quickly let me know I was off route (within a few meter’s) but with no line on the screen I just didn’t know where I was. I actually had to turn the data roaming on so I could check the map on my iPhone. I had studied the route well so as soon as I saw the map I knew where I was, but it was annoying to have the screen go blank. I’d certainly use the route feature again but I would not rely on it after the performance I got on this ride.
It’s my understanding that the [Edge 800][e8] does do better with routes. I does do true turn by turn directions. I’m not going to upgrade from my 500 to the 800 but if I’m ever looking to replace the 500 I’ll save a bit extra for the 800.
One of my big concerns before I started the ride was getting extra water and food on the way down. That proved to be an entirely unfounded concern. There are little General Stores and gas stations at least every hour, if not closer. It’s a still a good idea to leave fully loaded with the training food you’re used to, but getting water (or Gatorade) is easy. I did’n find any stretches of over 2 hours (2 bottles should get you that far) with no place to refuel.
### Hardest Part
The hardest part of the ride was all the hills at the end. After you’ve already been on the bike for 150km you have 4 rated climbs. One Cat3 then 3 Cat4 climbs. The Cat 3 was easy enough, just get a decent gear and spin it out. The Cat 4’s were hard though. They are probably just long enough to be a categorized climb, and have short spurts of up to 30% grade (really steep). Tackling those on fresh legs is a daunting task for many, and it was a really daunting task for me with that type of distance in my legs. It certainly would have been nice to have a compact crankset for the end of the ride.
I even have to admit that one of the climbs defeated me with a longish stretch of 30%. I had to walk till it flattened out.
On the way back the short punchy hills were first up on my list, so they were hard but I got over them all on fresher legs. The biggest thing I noticed on the ride back is that I just didn’t have the top climbing speed in my legs. I could roll along in the flats at my normal cruising speed (27km – 32km) just fine but the hills really slowed me down.
### Mechanical Issues
In the last 20km of the ride I actually got a bit something (nail maybe) through my rear tire. I was lucky in that I flicked it out and finished off the ride without the tire going flat. It was just a slow leak which was flat the next morning. While the tire might have been useable, I didn’t want to risk it for the long ride back home. I ended up purchasing a new tire and 2 tubes (then I had 2 spares just in case). The local shop had the winter tires I normally use, [Continental Gatorskins][cg], so at least it’s a tire I’ll use again. The really sucky part is that I had just put on my new summer rubber a week earlier, so there was $50 down the drain.
Now that you’ve read all the boring text I’ve embedded the rides below so you can see how hard I worked. Strava rated both the rides as ‘Epic’ as far as my effort went, and I’d agree.
### Abbotsford -> Seattle
### Seattle -> Abbotsford
[cg]: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000NGT2VY/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=strugwithfait-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B000NGT2VY “Continental Gatorskin’s on Amazon”
[wcsea]: http://2012.seattle.wordcamp.org/ “WordCamp Seattle 2012”
[garsa]: http://connect.garmin.com/course/1244648 “Seattle to Abbotsford – cycling route”
[garas]: http://connect.garmin.com/course/1244618 “Abbotsford to Seattle – cycling route”
[ge5]: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003L1CAFI/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=strugwithfait-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B003L1CAFI “Garmin Edge 500”
[e8]: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0041O5X8A/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=strugwithfait-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0041O5X8A “Garmin Edge 800”