Sunday, May 12, 2013

Seattle 2013 Day 2: Duthie Hill Mountain Biking

Seattle 2013 Day 2: Duthie Hill Mountain Biking

Here comes the best biking experience I've ever had. Ready? Go!

I woke up early again and just got up, ready to rock. Had some coffee and prepped to head out and get the Zipcar. I was heading for breakfast and then going to go right out to get the bike rental, so I was all set in my biking clothes before heading out of the hotel. Amazingly, Seattle has Zipcar so it was SUPER easy to get a great car and super close to my hotel. Alex lent me his GoPro HD camera plus a handlebar mount for my bike, so that was super exciting too and awesome to be able to get footage of the bike ride.

Felt like a reasonable time for a ridiculous "selfie" in my biking clothes
First up was The Crumpet Shop at Pike Place Market, a tasty place with some tasty crumpets, good conversation with new friends, and tasty bottomless tea. Boom! Some good energy and carbs and protein to get me rolling for the day. Then off to 826 Seattle, the Seattle version of San Francisco's 826 Valencia!! Similarly to SF, the one in Seattle is also a creative writing workshop with a funny "front" to it which sells silly/hilarious merchandise that benefits the non-profit.

826 Valencia... Seattle edition!!
So cool, 826 Seattle is a Space Travel Supply store :)
So cool
Can't be exchanged
A funny Canadian bar beside 826 Seattle
I chatted with the girl there at 826 Seattle and that was super cool to see it. It is a very similar vibe to 826 Valencia. It's a "Space Travel Supply Store" and I'm so glad I made the trip out there while I had the car. It was just by chance that my hotel had a book from the students at 826 Seattle that I'd seen the night before... serendipitous! I bought a cool space travel shirt, and also a hilarious red "panic button".

Then, off to the bike shop. I decided to rent from the very excellent Recycled Cycles bike shop right by the University of Washington (known colloquially as "U-Dub"... hilariously similar to Waterloo's "U-Dubs"). The bike shop was incredibly well-organized, the price was right at only $30 for the whole day... and the bike was already sized and fit to my height before I even arrived. Amazing. The bike was really awesome hardtail called a "Kona Blast". The pedals had sharp grips on which would make sure my feet would stay in place, and the brakes were hydraulic disc brakes - you can stop on a dime with these things. The guy in the store instructed me on how to stick a "break stopper" into the brake pad section when you take the wheel off to get it into the car - he said that's necessary since these are special brakes. I stuffed the bike into the Zipcar Mazda 3 and off to Duthie Hill in Issaquah, Washington!

My bike rental, a Kona Blast, and Zipcar
The drive out to Duthie was beautiful, lots of amazing mountain views, some cool bridges to drive over and I drove past the Bellevue area... so fancy. That's the area where the early Microsoft employees live, I heard :) As I got closer to the outdoorsy area near Issaquah, there was a really funny and awesome house which was a friggin' castle with a gate and a drawbridge. Epic. There was so much rain yesterday that I was worried about the weather today, but it was perfect. Totally dry, no rain.

Parked near Duthie Hill, putting the wheel back on
I parked near a school (as instructed by the excellent Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance - a great group that maintains the Duthie Hill Moutain Bike Park), re-attached my brakes and wheel, attached the GoPro HD camera to the handlebars, and off I went!

Duthie Hill has a pretty epic setup, it starts with a bike down an amazing platform into the clearing area. This area has practice jumps at different heights so you can try out harder features without being in the middle of a trail and at your own pace. It also had a "berm" practice area where you could easily practice these kinds of banked turns. Amazing. All the trails started and then ended back at the clearing. It was so amazing.

The boardwalk was a great start and then it was so exciting to get to the main clearing. There were flowy parts, "berms", jumps, "skinnies", "log rides" and other cool stuff to practice. I tried a few and then hit the first trail "Boot Camp"! It was EPIC!!!!!!!!!! WOW. Best mountain biking EVER. This was on-par or even more exciting than the biking I did in Queenstown in New Zealand. I just LOVED it. I'm glad I did a few trail jumps first to build my confidence as there was a little bit of that stuff on the trails.

Trail Map
Starting out at Duthie
Boardwalk on the way into the park
Skinny feature
"Berm" turn
Another sweet berm
A cool jump that I didn't do :)
Some friends I made that were doing crazy jumps
Berm turn practice area
My favourite feature
A little break at Duthie Hill at my favourite "roller coaster" feature
This was so fun
The bike "Kona Blast" was friggin' amazing. The brakes really are excellent, and I notice an insane amount of precision that you can get from these. Really makes me know I need to take my poor bike in for a service! The retail price on this bike is about double what my Gary Fisher was, so certainly there are some better things about it. The Avid breaks with hydraulic discs were definitely the most impressive. The Rock Shox shock absorber was also amazing, and is definitely better than what I have at home.

The trails had a bunch of "optional features" which you could choose to do or not do at the time of biking. I tried a short "log ride" which was fun. The "berm" turns were my favourite part - so fun! I actually watched a couple of YouTube videos a couple nights before leaving for Seattle to get an idea of how to do them. That really helped. Riding those berms was actually quite a bit like being at a ski park, you were just on a bike instead. Very fun. It reminded me of New Zealand biking in Queenstown, but better.

After "Boot Camp", I did the "Movin' On" trail, which was much more "technical" - it had tighter turns and turns while on an incline. It was a bit tougher, but still fun. There was a roller coaster feature that was SO cool and I was so excited for, that was great. I biked past a few skinnies that looked crazy and had jumps and stuff attached, it was nuts. Back to the clearing, and I made some new friends from Bellingham. They said they knew I was Canadian, I asked why and they said it was because I said, "Cheers!" Hilarious.

After just these 2 trails, I had sweated clear through my hoodie and took it off, I was steaming. So the plan for the rest of the afternoon was going to be my Arc'Teryx only with the pit zips open - a better plan. That was much better. After some snacks, I turned the GoPro back on and headed back out. Next was the "Step it Up" trail, which was also incredible. A little harder than Boot Camp but I liked it more than Movin' On. Then some jumps in the clearing area, I did the easy one first and then did the second one. Then I mastered the berm track!

At this point my battery on the camera was getting low, but at least I'd gotten some great footage already. I did Boot Camp again, the Movin' On, then Boot Camp again twice more. I had so much fun out there. I was going to also bike at Soaring Eagle and Pioneer Park, but this was so amazing that I just stayed at Duthie longer.

I had my iPhone GPS going the whole time to track my exercise, elevation and speed and so on, using the Strava app. Check out the results here:

After all of this epicness, I biked back to the Zipcar and packed up the bike, and then headed to Stumptown coffee. Literally as I pulled out of the main street driving away from Duthie, the rain started. What amazing luck! On the highway, the rain got a bit stronger, but it was ok. It was a nice change from the hours and hours of exercise.

Stumptown Coffee
I had a great time at Stumptown Coffee and then dropped the bike back at Recycled Cycles. There was LOTS of traffic back into Seattle, so I was glad I had rented the car for the whole day and not painted myself into a corner with a specific return time. After dropping off the car, it was definitely time for a bath. I rested my sore muscles and basked in the epic enjoyment of a brilliant day out. I had a pretty bad ankle bruise which was not great - next time I need to ask for shin guards or just buy some. Those pedals were excellent, but the one time I slammed my shin into them when I wiped out was not great. I got a couple other scratches too, but nothing too crazy. :)

A huge ice cream
Some guys playing road-bike polo
For dinner, I went to Quinn's Pub and got a burger, fish and potato croquettes, and some arugula salad. Very tasty and good food after a long day of exercise. Then to Molly Moon's Ice Cream for dessert (kindof like a Humphrey Slocombe of Seattle), and to a nice bookshop. The amazing day ended with an amazing evening, including viewing of a very strange and hilarious game of polo played by guys on road bikes.

What an awesome day. :)

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