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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 10-10-10, 01:54 AM   #1
David Chen
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Just "commuted" from Seattle to Olympia

I'm pretty happy that I pulled this off. Maybe not really a commute, but my girlfriend and I travel every month and a half or so from Seattle to Olympia to visit our family members living there. My parents wanted me to come visit them this weekend and I've been considering getting a new bike, so I figure, why not bike there to really get a feel for what I'd like changed.

So, I spent some time convincing myself and my girlfriend that it was not a terrible idea. Sure, it's raining and it's more than double the distance of my previous longest ride, but the idea was pretty well stuck in my head. I convinced my girlfriend to be back up in case my bike broke down beyond a flat, if I got pretty lost, or something else. And to be my ride back up to Seattle.

Looked up a few bike routes from Seattle to Olympia and used Google Maps to plot my own course that combined the elements that I liked about each of them. For instance, not trying to get onto I-5 with my bike, though I suppose it's possible there's a trail underneath it.

The plotted route I ended up with was about 75 miles. I started out 8:30 and planned to get there around 17:30. I, uh, missed a few turns and ended up arriving closer to 18:30. There was quite a bit of time looking at maps and trying to figure out where I was and where to turn. My bike computer reports that actual riding time (as opposed to the time when I was stopped) was 7 hours and 55 minutes and a distance of 92.3 miles. Part of me wishes that I had missed a few more turns so that I could say that I did my first century, but I was pretty tired by the end of it.

Anyway, I was pretty happy that I didn't end up giving up or backing down from what seemed initially like a crazy idea, so I thought I'd share.

My current bike is a 2007 Marin Kentfield, which has served me pretty well. There was one incidence in the past where the front brake cable suddenly got caught on something and I ended up doing an endo down a parking ramp, but it's hard for me to say if it was a cheap component, bad maintenance on my part, or what. The rear derailleur cable also ended up getting frayed from what looked like a screw that was too long inside the brake/shifter rubbing against the cable. That did seem like poor design. The bottom bracket sometimes creaks after drying from the rain, but letting lube seep into it seems to fix that. Other than that, it works pretty well and has been pretty comfortable for me.

Some things I learned this ride:
  1. Bring more than 3 granola bars.
  2. If you need to refer to your printed out directions a lot, wipe your hands off of water first and store the directions in a waterproof container (like a ziploc). Otherwise, your directions are going to disintegrate.
  3. The bottom edge of the fenders is about where my shoes are in the lowest part of the stroke and when going through big puddles the water seems to spray to either side of the bottom part of the fender exactly onto the feet, which got my feet soaked a lot faster than the rain. Boo.
  4. I did wish for more hand positions than I had on my flat bar, but it didn't end up being as bad as I thought it would be.
  5. One of the things I was evaluating, and why I wanted to ride despite the rain, was to see how much I wished to have better stopping power to justify disc brakes. It turned out I didn't really need it in this trip, since I didn't really end up needing to ride in traffic much and there weren't really any steep descents. However, it did eat up the brake pads a lot faster than I anticipated. I have some Salmon Kool-Stops that will be replacing my current pads, so I'll see if they're better in that regard. During my actual commute to work, I have occasionally wished for better stopping power in the rain, but usually only a few times a year. So, I'm still not really certain if discs are a "must" for my next bike.
  6. I've decided 440mm chainstays are a minimum for me. I recently acquired an Arkel Bug since I hate riding with something on my back, but when I'm walking around a while after getting off the bike I always wish I had a backpack with weight distributed to both shoulders. With water bottles in the side pockets, I did end up with some heel strike occasionally.
  7. I do want gearing lower than the 28-28 I have on my Kentfield. I like keeping a cadence of 80 or higher, and even somewhat shallow hills started giving me issues in the last 20 miles or so after my legs were pretty tired.
  8. There are definitely some things I want to try differently with the route I picked, but who knows if the alternates are any better.
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Old 10-10-10, 02:02 AM   #2
rex_kramer
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Awesome!

And yeah, it might be a good idea to bring more food, lol. You probably burned close to 4000 calories and maybe replaced it with 600 or 700.
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Old 10-10-10, 10:40 AM   #3
David Chen
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Awesome!

And yeah, it might be a good idea to bring more food, lol. You probably burned close to 4000 calories and maybe replaced it with 600 or 700.
Well, actually, I did stop at a Starbucks for a tall mocha and at a Dairy Queen for a burger and some fries--the DQ was not my first choice, but I at the time was very hungry and I didn't see any other restaurants near by!
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Old 10-10-10, 11:20 AM   #4
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Congrats on the ride!

Since you may be doing this route again, 3 other ways to consider doing this trip:

1. One thing you might consider if you want to do this in the future is mixing in a little mass transit for part of the route. For example, you could take the new light rail system from downtown Seattle (right by King Station) all the way to Sea Tac. Easy to get bikes off and on the bike; gives you a nice break on part of the ride that isn't all that much fun anyway.

If you do the ride during the week, you could put your bike on the Sounder commuter rail, all the way to Tacoma.

2. Ride to West Seattle, take the ferry to Vashon Island, ride down Vashon Island, and take the ferry on the south end over to Tacoma. From there, proceed to Olympia.

3. Ride to downtown Seattle, take the ferry to Bremerton, and then ride south from Bremerton down to Olympia.

I think if I were doing this ride I'd try number 2 -- the ride over to the ferry in West Seattle is nice, and the ride down Vashon is always pleasant.

Last edited by BengeBoy; 10-10-10 at 11:49 AM.
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Old 10-10-10, 11:28 AM   #5
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Awesome!

And yeah, it might be a good idea to bring more food, lol. You probably burned close to 4000 calories and maybe replaced it with 600 or 700.
Yup, actually did LOL when I read that bit. But I also say, "well done!"

Given that one of my main reasons for riding is to be able to eat what I want, planning a route of that length would definitely involve substantial quantities of food!
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Old 10-10-10, 11:38 AM   #6
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Over the years. I've riveted a pieces of a laundry detergent bottle/dpc/unidentifiable piece of flexi plastic, on to the bottom of the mudguard (fender to you unenlightened ex-colonials). Kept feet dry enough except in torrential downpours
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Old 10-10-10, 06:12 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by David Chen View Post
Well, actually, I did stop at a Starbucks for a tall mocha and at a Dairy Queen for a burger and some fries--the DQ was not my first choice, but I at the time was very hungry and I didn't see any other restaurants near by!
lol. Sounds like me!
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Old 10-10-10, 08:15 PM   #8
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I rode from Olympia to Seattle via the Bremerton ferry a couple times in the past year. It's a great ride.
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Old 10-10-10, 09:23 PM   #9
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Awesome ride!! Got me thinking about riding down to my mother-in-law's place for Thanksgiving. Probably only about 40 miles. I wonder if my wife will let me????
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