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Seattle To Portland
On July 14th the Rapha Continental Riders rode 205 miles at an average of 20.1 mph for 10 hours and 13 minutes. Seattle to Portland (STP) is the flattest, longest most boring 205 mile group ride ever perpetrated. And every year over 10,000 people from around the world show up and complete it. Most in two days, but a remarkable number in one.
It’s consistently hot and humid and goes almost without fail into a staggering headwind for hours at a time. It’s overcrowded with roadies in primal wear on titanium road bikes outfitted with tri-bars and snack pouches, week-end warriors on full-suspension department store mountain bikes, “gym” cyclists in short-shorts and make-up and beaming, blinding, sparkling commuters on their eighty pound apocalyptic survival machines. And artsy alternative types on tall and otherwise homemade bikes. And the surprisingly large faction of people who insist on riding one-wheeled or more than two-wheeled bike-like machines, often adorned in hand cranks and lycra fairings. For the most part everyone is unfamiliar with group riding and incapable of holding a line or passing safely. The route is never far from a freeway, strip mall, gun show, airport or industrial park. And it’s sometimes near all five simultaneously. This event is clearly not done for the atmosphere or unadulterated joy of it all.
Why would any racer or seasoned cyclist risk death and heat-stroke over and over again for a long dumb ride that doesn’t fit into even the most ambitious or demented of training schedules. In fact why does anyone do it?
Inspiration and humility. And entertainment, cycling pride (the loosest possible and most all encompassing idea of it) and for the humanity of it. And maybe because it’s hard and demanding and epic, and because it delivers all the glory through suffering you can take in a paceline led by a dude on a Bike Friday. Ok, and maybe because when else do you get to eat four pancakes, seven Little Debbie’s, a chunk of salmon jerky bought from an American Native in the front seat of a pick-up truck parked on the side of a road, four cokes, a tin of Pringles, three burritos, a plate of lasagna, two whoppers, a cheeseburger, three beers, five power bars, four gallons of water, seventeen electrolyte replacement drinks and a chocolate milkshake, in one day, without peeing or gaining weight. All the while supporting the Cascade Cycling Club and it’s partners.
That said, people watching and collective unity should not be underestimated. Witnessing a seventy year old breast cancer survivor ride a hybrid for two-hundred plus miles over sixteen hours is truly awe-inspiring. Because even if you’re a “real” cyclist with expert fitness and the right bike by the end of the you’re cooked, you’re done. You want to go home and be done with it all as soon as you possibly can. And while you’re filling your water bottle at mile 145 there she goes again, that lady on a hybrid turtle’ing her way south. That’s a wake-up call that rings 345 times throughout the day.
So that’s why you ride STP, because you get to people watch, eat a lot and pull 15 eleven year old cub scouts riding big wheels from Centralia to Longview.
"The steepest and hardest climb of the day is on the bridge from Southern Washington over the Columbia into Oregon. There’s no sidewalk, it’s over a mile long and it regularly trafficked by an average of six thousand cars an hour. And the only scenic, rolling and truly a treat to ride section is inconveniently located around mile 135, just after lunch, when the day is the hottest and your will to pedal and desire to live is the lowest."
– Daniel Pasley
"The thrill of riding into Portland, like when you’re forty miles or so out, and you’re willing for the first time all day to admit you might actually make it, is indelible and delicious. And almost makes it worth it. Almost."
– Greg Johnson