By Evelyn Spence and Courtney Buchanan
Source: Bicycling Magazine
Yes, it’s hilly. Yes, it’s wet. But Seattle still pops as one of the top urban cycling destinations in the country.
Home to the 14,000-strong Cascade Bicycle Club—the biggest in the United States—Seattle’s cycling community encompasses everything from Capitol Hill hipsters and hard-core advocates to the carbon-fiber and spandex crowd. Thanks to a couple of good urban bike parks, there’s also a surprisingly vibrant mountain-bike scene. Despite some steep hills, commuters are dedicated here; nearly 4 percent of the population crisscrosses the city on two wheels. Look for a bike-share program, with 50 kiosks and 500 bikes, later this year.
The classic spin is the flat, 20-mile-long Burke-Gilman Trail, a former railroad route, which passes Gasworks Park and the University of Washington, then hugs the western shore of Lake Washington. Take a ferry across Puget Sound to ride the 28-mile Bainbridge Island loop—you’ll see rolling country roads, farm stands, and views of the water. Train with locals on Mercer Island on a 14-mile perimeter circuit of sweeping turns with scarcely a traffic light.
The Seattle metro area boasts more than 100 bike shops; even up-and-coming neighborhoods like Beacon Hill (Hello Bicycle) and Georgetown (Bike So Good) have their own. Get free air 24-7 at Counterbalance Bicycles, right on the Burke (which also lets you borrow a bike while yours is in the shop). Dutch Bike Co. sells classic Euro-style cruisers, pulls locally roasted espresso, and shares a building with an oyster bar that serves mollusks fresh from Puget Sound. Take advantage of the indoor bike parking at Peddler Brewing Company.
Seattle hosts organized rides all year; there’s a century almost every summer weekend. The Seattle Bike Swap (February) features 100 booths selling used frames and parts. The Seattle Bicycle Expo (March) is the largest consumer show on the West Coast. Pedaler’s Fair (April) showcases bike crafts. And Spoke & Food (July) offers deep discounts at restaurants all over town if you get to them by bike.
Though Seattle gets just 38 inches of rain annually (less than New York and Atlanta), it’s spread over a drizzly 155 days—and the city averages only 58 sunny days a year, almost all in July, August, and September. Don’t walk out the door without a waterproof layer. And rest assured: It’s perfectly acceptable here to put fenders on your racing bike.
1) Locks/Fish Ladder: Watch sockeye, steelhead, and coho salmon swim upstream.
2) Ballard Avenue: This historic district is considered café and pub central.
3) Brouwer’s: Choose from 300 bottled beers and 50-plus microbrews on tap.
4) Ivar’s Salmon House: The eatery is famous for its white clam chowder with bacon.
5) Olympic Sculpture Park: Admire works by Alexander Calder, Richard Serra, and Claes Oldenburg.
Located on the waterfront in downtown Seattle, The Bicycle Repair Shop is unlike other bike shops: it repairs bikes but doesn’t sell them. The heart of its mission is to enhance customers’ current bicycles to make them as good as new, instead of suggesting a new bike. Shop employee Michael Longfield said that the only two reasons he would suggest a new bike is if it doesn’t fit or it’s entirely broken. Most of the customers are commuters who ride their bikes every day 2 to 40 miles; therefore, speedy repairs are necessary. “Ninety percent of our work is done same-day. You drop off your bike in the morning and pick up your bike after work,” said Longfield. “We’re kind of like the bicycle dry cleaners.” As the sole bike rental shop in downtown Seattle, the shop offers maps and suggested rides (including the one in this story) to visitors and tourists.