Pacific Northwest - Would this bike be practical in the Tacoma/Olympia area?
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10-16-11, 12:18 PM
I am thinking about buying a WorkCycles Secret Service (or a very similar bike) 8 speed.
We're currently living in the DC area where it's relatively flat. We are a military family and it looks like our next duty location (within the next 6 months) will be Fort Lewis.
I am wondering how practical it would be to ride a bike like this in either of those towns. We're trying to go down to one car as a family, so it would be my primary form of transportation (along with my toddler) year-round. Thanks!
10-16-11, 03:15 PM
Looks do-able. You'll definitely want to opt for the 8-speed because of the rolling hills in the area. Fenders are a must 8-9 months out of the year! :)
10-17-11, 10:39 PM
If you live on base you will have a very difficult time getting from the base to anywhere there are services a young family needs.
Main Gate takes you onto I-5 where traffic is terrible.
Eastgate dumps you into the woods where it is a 10 mile ride to the nearest services
Northgate puts you on Eastgate (??) road which is rural and ends up in the "back side" of Lakewood. The nearest services are about five miles.
Madigan Gate puts you either onto I-5 or into Tillicum where there are no grocery stores, pharmacies, or anything else that might be useful
Logistics Gate puts you onto I-5
Main Gate is onto Bridgeport Way which is a very busy four lane road that is terrible for bicycles
East Gate puts you onto a rural road that is incredibly dangerous to ride because of the volume of traffic, its speed and total lack of shoulders... and it is five miles to any useful services
If you live off base anywhere within 5 miles a three speed will be fine... unless you live in trendy and expensive Steilicoom which is very steep hills.
Dupont is very bike friendly as is much of Lakewood - but it is hard to get onto the base, via bicycle from either of them.
The Roy/Yelm area is popular with Ft Lewis families and is pretty good for riding - mostly flat and decent roads but it is a long ride onto the base via the Eastgate.
I've been bicycling around JBLM for 30 years and drive buses and trucks on base for a civilian contractor.
Feel free to send me a PM with more questions
10-17-11, 11:08 PM
I don't think I could handle a bike that heavy around there unless I just stuck to the flat parts. And many parts of the area are flat. Most of Tacoma is on a plateau but downtown Tacoma is down low so all the east/west streets out of downtown are steep. West Olympia has some steepness to it but the rest is pretty flat.
10-18-11, 05:12 AM
We won't be living on base unless we are forced to (and from what I've heard of the housing situation, it seems unlikely). I know it could all change when we get there since neither of us have ever been to that area of Washington, but we're leaning towards Olympia or Tacoma proper for now.
10-18-11, 09:03 AM
I've lived in Tacoma off and on for 30 of the last 46 years and my family lived in Olympia for 3 years. I periodically worked in Olympia for several years. I've been a bicyclist that entire time.
Both cities are nice and family oriented. Olympia has a much nicer traditional downtown area but Tacoma is working hard to revive their downtown.
Many parts of north, west, and east Tacoma are rather hilly and would require more than 3 gears, particularly if you are carrying any load. Downtown Tacoma is at the bottom of a 200' - 300' hill (it is on the shores of Puget Sound) and is a hard ride out. South Tacoma (where I live - 11 miles from main gate JBLM) to Lakewood and on to JBLM is mostly flat with decent bike lanes and streets.
Most of Lacey (where my family lived) and Olympia is fairly flat but again, downtown is at the bottom of a longish hill since it too is on the shores of Puget Sound.
I'd get a mountain bike or hybrid with low gears and the ability to easily carry a rear rack and bags/panniers if I wanted my bike to be my 2nd car.
It does not rain that much in Puget Sound but the roads are damp, dirty, slippery about 27 days a month from mid-October thru late June. The typical weather November thru June is short periods of heavy rain, long periods of intermittent rain or mist, and even longer periods of gloomy low clouds with overall dampness.
It is pretty hard to ride without having road spray from your tires and all the cars tires. Anything you carry on the bike needs to be in waterproof bags. You'll need good rain gear that will keep you clean and dry in all that dampness. My wife and I were all weather riders but could pick our riding times to avoid the downpours and steady rain - but most of our winter rides were damp and dirty.
PS - I grew up in Arlington/Fairfax, Virgina where we lived for 10 years. My family moved from Fairfax to Olympia. My mother hated Olympia and my father loved Olympia. She was a big city girl who loved shopping, museums, and city life. My father was a farm boy/veterinarian and fisherman. He thought he had died and gone to heaven when he arrived in Olympia.
My sister and father kept horses at their Lacey house and would ride them down to the Nisqually river to fish most afternoons. My mother made the family move back to DC after three years in Olympia.
10-18-11, 08:07 PM
Thanks for all the advice! We both hate it here in the DC area (southern Alexandria) and we're looking forward to getting away. I am from downstate Illinois and have been thinking Olympia might better suit my tastes, but near downtown Tacoma sounds promising too. I tend to shy away from big cities and like places in the 20K-200K range. My husband is more of a city kid being from San Francisco - but he also lived his life without a car until he was 23 or 24 being a resident there, so Tacoma might be a good middle ground.
That bike I was looking at was 8-speed, and I am thinking now that I am definitely going to postpone the purchase until we get out there. The only place I've found in the US carrying those bikes is only a couple hours away (Portland) after all.
I may try to get a used Raleigh soon and fix it up while we are here, and I am thinking about a Specialized Ariel (with a bunch of fixin's: fenders, lights, rack, etc.) as well. I have great pannier bags from my last bike (we were in Germany where it rained a lot too).
Do you have any specific recommendations regarding bikes and carrying kids in that area? We got a hand-me-down Chariot trailer for free, which may be enough, but I kinda like the set up of having my child on the bike with me better. If that isn't a good idea in that area, please let me know, as I've also been looking at buying a bike seat.
10-18-11, 08:46 PM
Oh, I'd definitely wait to get out here before purchase. There are a couple of good bike shops in Oly, but for the widest selection of Dutch style bikes I'd hit Seattle or Portland for bike shopping. A bonus if you buy your bike in Portland before becoming a WA resident is that there's no sales tax. I wouldn't be surprised if there was an entire store dedicated to that style of bike in Portland. I swear I've heard of one, can't recall the name, though.
I'm not aware of any area-specific kid passenger or bike laws or difficulties. A lot of folks around here tote their kids on the back of Big Dummies or similar bikes. They rig up railings for them and load 'em up. I see parents with multiple kids loaded up in Bakfiets' cargo holds also. Those are nice because the cargo hold is in front of you so you can keep an eye on the youngin. Pretty much need a garage to own one of them though because getting them up stairs or through doorways is a chore.
A-Ha! Clever Cycles is the place I was thinking of in Portland. They carry Work Cycles, Linus Bikes, Big Dummies, an array of cargo and work bikes. I'm sure Seattle has a similar joint but doubt Oly or Tacoma do.
10-18-11, 09:09 PM
Yes, the guys at Clever Cycles are the ones I've been talking to - very friendly, great on the phone and I can't wait to visit. The WorkCycles Secret Service is what I have my eye on, but I will wait until I can test ride (I hope within the next few months). I know Seattle has some Dutch bike places, but Clever Cycles has been incredibly helpful already, so I will try to go there if that's the bike I decide upon.
10-22-11, 07:16 PM
A few blocks away from Clever Cycles is Splendid Cycles (http://www.splendidcycles.com/), another shop that found a niche to fill. This shop's specialty is the cargo-type bikes, such as the Bullet by Larry Vs. Harry, and the cargo boxes to go with them.
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