Tuesday, June 3, 2008


My last training ride was quite different because it was around Seattle, Washington. A few weeks ago, I bought a new bicycle — a Ritchey Breakaway. The unique thing about this bicycle is that the frame comes apart into two pieces, and it comes with a suitcase that all the parts fit into. The suitcase is the size of normal large luggage, so it can be checked in at the airline without incurring an oversize baggage penalty.

Vaishali had a work conference in Seattle, and I decided to join her. The week before we went, I practiced packing and unpacking the bicycle. It takes me about an hour to do each. With more practice, I expect to do it faster. After packing the bike for the trip, I was able to also stuff clothes, shoes, and other small things into the suitcase. The weight limit was 50 pounds, and I easily slid underneath that at 45 pounds.

The bicycle going from assembled, to disassembled, to packed. Click on any image to see the larger image in detail.

My fear was that if I did not pack things correctly, the bicycle could be damaged if the bag was handled roughly, but it reached Seattle intact. I assembled it and found that everything was in working order. We spent Saturday and Sunday with our friends Prabha and Unmesh. Unmesh and I went for a pleasant 26 mile ride on the Burke Gilman Trail on Sunday.

Vaishali started her conference on Monday, and I had that whole day open for riding. I did some research before the trip to find the best place to ride. I decided on a route called the "Seven Hills of Kirkland". This is a 35 mile loop containing seven hills, starting in the city of Kirkland, which is about 15 miles from downtown Seattle. The biggest wildcard was the weather. Rain is the norm for Seattle, but I had been lucky that the forecast for Monday was no precipitation.

Click for interactive map.

I left the hotel room at 9:00am, crossed Lake Washington on the I-90 bridge (which has a wide separated pathway for pedestrians and cyclists), and pedaled across Mercer Island on a nice bike path. I then crossed another bridge and reached Bellevue. From here, I followed a route on city streets (most with bike lanes) north to Kirkland. Once I reached the "Seven Hills" route, I could see the route markings on the road. This was very convenient because I never needed to consult my map, as there were clear markings at all the relevant intersections.

Here is an example of the road markings. This one indicates "continue straight at the intersection".

I had not eaten breakfast, so I became quite hungry by midday. After completing four of the seven hills, I stopped around 1:00pm to eat lunch at a Subway. The hills were challenging, but not excessively steep. The inclines I usually train on are steeper and longer. I was keeping a slower pace that normal because I was on an unfamiliar route plus I had to watch to stay on my planned route.

Re-energized after lunch, I continued and finished the loop. The day was relatively cool (60's) but that was great riding weather because I never got too hot. I needed my jacket in the morning when I started and after lunch because I had cooled down, but the rest of the time I did not wear it.

After the loop, I retraced my morning route — back to Bellevue, then Mercer Island, then downtown Seattle. I returned to the hotel room at 4:30pm, and Vaishali was still in her meeting. After she was finished, I joined her and her coworkers for dinner. We walked to a nearby restaurant, and I ate a huge meal. I was pretty hungry after my 75 mile ride.

After dinner, I disassembled and packed the bicycle. I had to get up early (3:45am) the next day for my flight back home. I specifically chose a Tuesday flight so that I would have no restrictions on my ride Monday. The first trip with my bicycle was a complete success. Hopefully there will be many more to come.

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