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  1. #1
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    Moving to Seattle, giving up my car.

    Hey guys,

    I always told myself that it would be very fun to move to a big city and ride my bike everywhere I needed to go. After my recent trip to Seattle, I have decided to move there in Feb/March. I am selling my car, and plan on getting a nice ss/fg when I get there. I am fairly new to biking, and very new to fixed gear (went on about five decent fg rides so far). I plan on training on an indoor trainer over the winter (it gets well below 20 degrees here on a daily basis) just to get my leg muscles in a bit better shape.

    I was just wondering what concerns I should have about giving up my car and using a bike as my main method of transportation. Any problems or difficulties I may run into? I will be living right near the Market Place, and hopefully finding a job within five miles of that area. From what I saw Seattle has many hills, so I plan on running a front and rear brake. Would you guys suggest using it as a single speed at first to get used to riding around heavy traffic (I have never done this before)? Or do you think I will be fine jumping right into riding fixed gear?

    Also, what are some nice bike shops in the area that I can check out when it comes time to purchase my bike?

    Thanks in advance for any help.

  2. #2
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Welcome (eventually) to Seattle.

    The Cascade Cycling club has a lot of cycling resources in the area - message boards, links to local governments that have route maps, and a full list of area bike shops:

    www.cascade.org.

    I'm afraid that - ever since the invention of the derailleur - I've been a fan of gears so I can't help you on the fixie / SS front. My impression is that a store called Velo Shop on Capitol Hill is fixie friendly.

  3. #3
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    The hills are steep, and there are lots of them.
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  4. #4
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    with 60-70" gearing you'll do fine on a fixed gear in this town. and you'll be in a great spot as far as bus routes go too! (there are bike racks on the buses)

    check out elliot bay bikes, also in the Pike Place Market area (they'll have at least a bianchi track bike on the floor), counterbalance (lower queen-anne area), and Velo Bike Shop (on capitol hill, sells bianchi & masi track bikes). btw Velo is more of a roadie/commuter shop, but they know how to sell/build fixed gears too.

    or Recycled Cycles in the u-district, they have new raleighs as well as a big selection good used bikes.

    you'll be fine running fixed in town, but two brakes will help. there may be some hills you'll have to avoid (like queen anne), then again i've done almost all the seattle hills on a fixed gear, so it depends on your level of fitness.

    i think you'll enjoy being carfree here - i'm in that boat as well and find that this is a great city for it!
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    Point83 is one of Seattle's other bicycle clubs: http://point83.com/ (the forums are where the real activity is). They have two rides every week, rain or shine, and it's a great way to learn how to get around the city, not to mention where the good bars, restaurants, parks and hangout spots are. There's no membership fee or official roster, you just show up and ride.

    My girlfriend and I are currently carless in Seattle and manage quite well. We will be getting a Flexcar in the near future, but for now when a load is too bulky or heavy to transport by bike, we use a taxi or a friend. We do the vast majority of our grocery shopping, errands, and getting around by bike or bus. I would recommend moving to a neighborhood with good walkability and a grocery store within a mile or two of your residence (I live in Ballard and love it). You'll also want to figure out how you like to carry stuff by bike; most people prefer panniers, I use a big messenger bag (PAC Designs Ultimate) and lots of people like messenger backpacks (Ortlieb, Chrome, Sealine, etc..). Whatever bag or cargo option you choose, remember it needs to be waterproof.

    And speaking of which, fenders are almost a necessity in Seattle. I rode most of one winter without them, and will never go back. Wool is about the best clothing material, whether you go with the more traditional bike styling (tights, shorts, jersey and so forth) or something else. It doesn't rain all the time here, but often enough and unpredictably enough that you want to be ready for wet anytime.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the responses guys, they are appreciated. Everyone in Seattle is so helpful! I will make sure to get a waterproof messenger bag, because that is how I will transport groceries and whatnot from one place to another. I plan on walking most of the time when it is raining, but I do realize this will be hard to predict at times. I will look into fenders, but I first want to work on getting a bike that I enjoy. I will be living at the Green Tortoise Hostel when I first arrive, doing trade work for them for a few months. So, I am close enough that I can walk to the market and get food and carry it back. Anyone know of any actual grocery stores in that area? I don't believe I saw any.

    I also noticed the buses have bike racks, which is awesome. I will take advantage of this if I need to get somewhere that is too far that I can not make it by just bike. I really hope that giving up my car will help me get into better shape, and that I feel healthier from doing such a thing.

    I will check out the websites and bike shops that were mentioned; I believe I walked by a few that were mentioned when I was on my trip. I went up to Capitol Hill twice, so I know exactly where that area is. I also went to Bellvue and Freemont while there. Freemont seemed like the place to be. If there is a place more happening than Freemont, please let me know.

    Thanks again guys. If anyone wants to get together and get some drinks or whatever once I get there, just let me know. I won't really know anyone, but from what I can tell, it is not hard to meet new people in Seattle. Can't wait to get back on the West Coast!
    Last edited by bkowa092; 11-24-08 at 07:36 PM.

  7. #7
    **** that mattm's Avatar
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    there's a whole foods downtown, on denny street (walkable from the market). and i think there's another grocery in belltown (closer to the mkt).

    regarding fremont: it's a nice area, but if you want "happening" then broadway and/or pine st (e.g. capitol hill) is where all the "cool" hipsters hang out on the weekends. check out bars like Linda's, the Cha Cha, and the War Room, all good spots (on the hill).

    also capitol hill is closer to downtown, which i like. but you can't really go wrong in seattle as long as you don't live on the east side (apologies to all east-siders!)
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    Quote Originally Posted by bkowa092 View Post
    I also noticed the buses have bike racks, which is awesome. I will take advantage of this if I need to get somewhere that is too far that I can not make it by just bike. I really hope that giving up my car will help me get into better shape, and that I feel healthier from doing such a thing.
    If you end up with a 9-5 schedule, the buses' bike racks fill up very quickly during rush hours.

    Quote Originally Posted by bkowa092 View Post
    I will check out the websites and bike shops that were mentioned; I believe I walked by a few that were mentioned when I was on my trip. I went up to Capitol Hill twice, so I know exactly where that area is. I also went to Bellvue and Freemont while there. Freemont seemed like the place to be. If there is a place more happening than Freemont, please let me know.
    Fremont is a great neighborhood. Lots of bars, cafes, and restaurants, very close to downtown and a few other good neighborhoods: Wallingford, Queen Anne, Ballard, U District.

    Quote Originally Posted by bkowa092 View Post
    Thanks again guys. If anyone wants to get together and get some drinks or whatever once I get there, just let me know. I won't really know anyone, but from what I can tell, it is not hard to meet new people in Seattle. Can't wait to get back on the East Coast!
    Some find that people in the PNW are passive aggressive and not particularly sociable, thus making it hard to meet people. I haven't really had that experience, but just a heads up.

  9. #9
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by vaticdart View Post
    And speaking of which, fenders are almost a necessity in Seattle. I rode most of one winter without them, and will never go back... It doesn't rain all the time here, but often enough and unpredictably enough that you want to be ready for wet anytime.
    +1 on the fenders.

    Many, many days in the fall/winter it isn't actually "raining" but it's kind of drizzly so you don't mind being outside. However, the streets are WET pretty much 24/7, even if it isn't raining, so if you don't have fenders your feet, legs and bike will end up pretty wet and dirty. Fenders stop a lot of that.

  10. #10
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    Thanks for all the info. I guess I didn't give Capitol Hill a fair chance, since I only went there on a Monday night. I went to Freemont on Friday and Saturday though, which is probably why I think it is the "happening" place to be.

    About people not wanting to make friends, I already made quite a few in Seattle. I am a very friendly person and fairly outgoing, so I'm sure that helped a bit.

    I think you guys convinced me to get fenders. Function > Form.

  11. #11
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    I haven't ridden much over in Seattle, but when I have I can't imagine doing it without gears any more than I would want to go without them here. There are some killer hills over there.

  12. #12
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    Also popular are the waterproof backpacks, even messengers use them. I think Ortlieb has one, I'm sure there are others. If you are going to do everything on your bike, carrying weight as often as you will be easier and less damaging if it's balanced on both shoulders.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Re: Seattle bikes....this would be an interesting Seattle bike -- a fixie frame + internal rear hub.


    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/harris/b...os8/index.html

    Another twist on this showed up at Bike Hugger last week - they spotted a Salsa Casseroll frame at Aaron's Bike Repair (West Seattle) with an internal rear hub (check out the comments section; Aaron's, the owner of the shop, discusses his preferences for internal hubs for Seattle riders).

    http://bikehugger.com/2008/11/the_racemuter.htm



    And another from Hiawatha Cyclery - Surly Crosscheck with internal gear plus bar-end shifter:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/hiawath...7604007257815/


    I am thinking about an internal hub bike as my next project...just finished a restoration yesterday, gotta keep busy. I think internal hubs make sense in Seattle.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dlester View Post
    I haven't ridden much over in Seattle, but when I have I can't imagine doing it without gears any more than I would want to go without them here. There are some killer hills over there.
    I love my gears, but know plenty of people who ride fixies. It just takes killer legs and the ability to tack up hills.

    I've heard that the most horrible noise in the world when approaching a steep hill on a fixie is that sound of everyone in front of you downshifting...

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattm View Post
    also capitol hill is closer to downtown, which i like. but you can't really go wrong in seattle as long as you don't live on the east side (apologies to all east-siders!)
    The east side is good, only if you work on the east side. The transportation from one side of Lake Washington to the other is very limited.
    - I-90 bridge path
    - Burke-Gilman Trail
    - Bus it across the 520 (no bikes on the 520 bridge)
    We moved from Cap. Hill to the east side when we both got jobs on this side of the lake. The "rush" hour trip across the lake is absolutely intolerable. I can ride the BG Trail around the north end of the lake faster than most people can drive across the 520 bridge when it's backed up.

  16. #16
    Senior Member swc7916's Avatar
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    You're fairly new to biking, you're not in shape yet, and you've never ridden in traffic before but you've already decided on a fixed-gear bicycle as your primary mode of transportation? I'm sorry, but if there must be some sort of reasoning behind this that I'm missing. What have you got against a geared bicycle? Is this an image thing or what?

    Seattle is hilly - If you're not going downhill, you're going uphill. Get a geared bike, get in shape, learn how to ride in traffic and later on get a fixed-gear bike as your second bike.

  17. #17
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swc7916 View Post
    You're fairly new to biking, you're not in shape yet, and you've never ridden in traffic before but you've already decided on a fixed-gear bicycle as your primary mode of transportation? I'm sorry, but if there must be some sort of reasoning behind this that I'm missing. What have you got against a geared bicycle? Is this an image thing or what?

    Seattle is hilly - If you're not going downhill, you're going uphill. Get a geared bike, get in shape, learn how to ride in traffic and later on get a fixed-gear bike as your second bike.
    I don't see any issue with starting out riding on an fg bike in Seattle. He's already said that he plans on running brakes, so stopping isn't going to be an issue even with the hills.
    The hills, however, are unavoidable. Until the OP is in some killer shape (or he decides to run an insanely low gear) then there are a few hills that I can think of which just ain't happening. There's a few streets coming up from the waterfront that have greater than 25% grade for a few sections... but with some crafty route selection anyone can avoid the worst of Seattle's hills.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by swc7916 View Post
    You're fairly new to biking, you're not in shape yet, and you've never ridden in traffic before but you've already decided on a fixed-gear bicycle as your primary mode of transportation? I'm sorry, but if there must be some sort of reasoning behind this that I'm missing. What have you got against a geared bicycle? Is this an image thing or what?
    i don't think riding a fixed gear (with brakes) is any more dangerous than a regular bike.. and it'll whip her/him into shape quick! if you want to build muscle, this is definitely one way to do it.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member swc7916's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CliftonGK1 View Post
    I don't see any issue with starting out riding on an fg bike in Seattle. He's already said that he plans on running brakes, so stopping isn't going to be an issue even with the hills.
    The hills, however, are unavoidable. Until the OP is in some killer shape (or he decides to run an insanely low gear) then there are a few hills that I can think of which just ain't happening. There's a few streets coming up from the waterfront that have greater than 25% grade for a few sections... but with some crafty route selection anyone can avoid the worst of Seattle's hills.
    I thought that I was pointing out the obvious: The OP is unnecessarily handicapping himself with the choice of a fg bike, particularly considering his admitted lack of experience and fitness. I have ridden bicycles for most of my life but I have to admit that I have never ridden a fixed-gear ("track") bike, but I can't imagine how much fun it would be to go down some steep hill on a wet street in traffic on a bike that doesn't coast. Even on flat ground there are windy conditions where I want to have a gear choice.

    Maybe I reading something between the lines that isn't there, but I get the impression that the OP has decided on a fg because that's what the "cool people" ride.

  20. #20
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Another idea for a Seattle bike - the Swobo Dixon; not a SS/FG, but a bit of style:

    http://www.rei.com/product/783268

    A revised version of an REI commuter. Zero style points, extremely practical for Seattle (internal hub, disc brakes, etc.).

    http://www.rei.com/product/774424

    Or, just get a 'cross bike (like the Redline Conquest or Kona Jake the Snake) and throw a rack on the back.

  21. #21
    **** that mattm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swc7916 View Post
    Maybe I reading something between the lines that isn't there, but I get the impression that the OP has decided on a fg because that's what the "cool people" ride.
    not to be too contrarian, but technically most people ride geared bikes. so wouldn't that make them the "followers"? =]

    (for the record i ride a geared bike, and have a fixed geared one)
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  22. #22
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    swc7916, if you read my first post I asked if the forum would suggest starting with a single speed bike. I have decided that is what I am going to do, because it will give me the ability to coast until I get used to riding in traffic/riding down massive hills. I am not starting with a ss/fg for fashion or because it is the "cool" thing to do. To be honest, I am the furthest thing from a hipster you will ever meet. I am simply planning a ss/fg because I love my fixed gear that I have now. From the few rides I went on, I have gotten much more enjoyment then I ever have on my geared bike. I am also doing it so that I can challenge myself to get into better shape.
    Last edited by bkowa092; 11-25-08 at 03:44 PM.

  23. #23
    Senior Member swc7916's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattm View Post
    not to be too contrarian, but technically most people ride geared bikes. so wouldn't that make them the "followers"? =]

    (for the record i ride a geared bike, and have a fixed geared one)
    Very good observation...What I really meant is multi-geared. Being the Super Randonneur that you are and having multiple bikes, I'll bet that you pick the bike for the occasion; you would probably not choose to ride your fixed-gear on a brevet unless it was for some kind of personal challenge.

    BTW: I really enjoy your cyclinginseattle blog; you have an entertaining style and the photography is quite good.

    Quote Originally Posted by bkowa092 View Post
    swc7916, if you read my first post I asked if the forum would suggest starting with a single speed bike. I have decided that is what I am going to do, because it will give me the ability to coast until I get used to riding in traffic/riding down bike hills. I am not starting with a ss/fg for fashion or because it is the "cool" thing to do. To be honest, I am the furthest thing from a hipster you will ever meet. I am simply planning a ss/fg because I love my fixed gear that I have now. From the few rides I went on, I have gotten much more enjoyment then I ever have on my geared bike. I am also doing it so that I can challenge myself to get into better shape.
    I did read your first post and I thought that I explained why I disagreed with your decision. Good luck with the move and I hope everything works out well for you.
    Last edited by swc7916; 11-25-08 at 02:52 PM.

  24. #24
    **** that mattm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swc7916 View Post
    Very good observation...What I really meant is multi-geared. Being the Super Randonneur that you are and having multiple bikes, I'll bet that you pick the bike for the occasion; you would probably not choose to ride your fixed-gear on a brevet unless it was for some kind of personal challenge.
    indeed, certain bikes are better for certain occasions. i started out riding in seattle on a fixed gear, and even did my first century (and STP!) on one. and after that STP i realized that fixed gear wasn't a good match with my knees & LD riding.

    so eventually i felt the need for gears, but i got by fine for a few years without them.

    where i'm coming from is that riding fixed in seattle would make just about anyone a stronger rider, even a beginner. sure you might curse the lack of gears a few times, but once you and your legs get used to it, things will be fine. and like clifton said, you can usually skirt any scary hills around town.

    (and with two brakes, safety isn't really an issue outside of pedal-strike)

    on the other hand - if the OP was saying he's going to move to seattle, buy a fixed gear, then let it collect dust until it's time for RAMROD, that'd be a different story, i'd agree with you. but for tooling around town, just about any bike will do.

    BTW: I really enjoy your cyclinginseattle blog; you have an entertaining style and the photography is quite good.
    thx for reading the blog!
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  25. #25
    Senior Member swc7916's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattm View Post
    i realized that fixed gear wasn't a good match with my knees
    That's another thing that I was thinking but didn't say: I asked a salesperson at the Kirkland Montlake Cycle store about a single-speed Salsa that they had on the floor and he told me that he rode one for a while but stopped because it was hurting his knees.

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