Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bike to Work Commute - The Road Less Traveled

May is of course Bike to Work Month and there have been several kick-off events and challenges to celebrate locally.  What has not kicked-off has been the weather - it has not been conducive to bike commuting to say the least.  Combine that with various commitments and obligations and I have bike commuted to work a whopping 0 times in May.    I did use my bike on Cinco de Mayo to go to coffee, but that has been the extent of my bike as transport activities.

That all changed as today broke clear and relatively warm.  Though not my first bike commute of the year, it was one of the best in terms of fun and joy.  Total mileage for the round-trip is 23 and almost an equal mix of road and dirt.  This requires a trusty steed that is comfortable on both - a Gary Fisher Superfly with 29" wheels.  If I could only have one bike, this would be it.

The first part of the commute is rural with pretty light traffic.

It is nice to get warmed up climbing Baltimore to Old Palouse Highway and to 57th Ave. for a total of about 4 miles.  Then it is bike lane all the way down 57th to Hatch Road.

The current construction at the top of Hatch Road required a little creative off-road riding to circumnavigate.  It looks like it will really improve the ride and safety of the transition from Hatch to 57th when complete.  A welcome prospect for anyone who regularly rides this area.

Just after the construction, I had to cross the road to reach the secret entrance to the bluff trails.

Here is where the fun part of the commute begins - about 5 miles of High Drive Bluff Trails that offer some fast, twisty and scenic off-pavement riding.

The middle trail provides the most variety with both wooded and exposed areas.

The areas with full sun exposure are covered with flowering Eastern Washington balsamroots 
It is tough to keep your eyes on the trail when tempted by some of the scenic views.  I have several battle scares to prove it.  One thing you do not want to do is carry too much speed into some of the blind corners.  Not only could there be another cyclist or pedestrian, but many have off-camber slopes that can lead to unintended aerial launches.  

Finally the trail leads to a bend and climb where the view includes part of downtown, the west plains, and the far northwest.  Then you know it is just a few more minutes to downtown.

Today, I stopped the dirt segment of the commute at the park at 14th Avenue since I find the remainder of the trail a bit of a pain and not very inspiring.  Also, by cutting back to pavement it is a quick few blocks of easy pedaling and downhill riding to Two Wheel Transit World Headquarters on 1st Ave.  It is nice to have a few minutes to cool down before hitting the shop since the bathing facilities are somewhat limited.

The ride home is a the exact opposite with the exception that I sometimes ride down Hatch to Hangman Valley Road for some variety.  I feel incredibly blessed to have such an interesting commute - as if bike commuting is not fun already, this almost seems illegal.  If that is the case, I plan on breaking the law again this week.

See you on the trail and at the Bike to Work Week Kick-off Breakfast on May 16 in Riverfront Park.

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