Back in April 2012 an editor from Falcon Guides contacted me to see if I’d be interested in writing a guidebook about the best Seattle area bike rides.
I’d be responsible for choosing 40 bike routes, writing a chapter about each ride, taking at least two photos for each ride, and producing a map and a cue sheet for each ride. Let’s not forget an introduction about bike riding in Seattle and a description for each of six regions.
Also, please make sure there’s blue sky showing in each photo.
Did the Seattle area really need another bike route guidebook? Sure, I was told. This one will include road rides, rail-trail rides and mountain biking rides all within the same cover.
I had never undertaken such a task, and told her so. She told me I’d be perfect for the assignment, and family and friends also encouraged me to jump in.
July 1 publication date
More than two years have passed since I signed on. Beginning Tuesday, “Best Bike Rides Seattle” will begin appearing in bookstores around the area.
That’s a long turn-around time for someone who worked in daily journalism. After agreeing to the contract, I spent a solid 16 months riding routes, taking photos, creating maps and writing descriptions.
Thank goodness for deadlines, otherwise I’d have 40 great bike rides still sitting in the mapping software on the computer. As it turns out, the guidebook follows the popular and time-tested template of other Falcon Guides with narratives, cue sheets, maps, color photos, and lists of bike shops and local attractions along each route.
Road, rail-trail & single track
Obviously I like these rides; I chose them. In addition to right-turn left-turn cue sheets, I try to tell stories in the narrative that will give cyclists a greater sense of where they’re riding and what they’re seeing.
Most of the bike rides are in the 5- to 35-mile range and can be completed in a few hours. Some of the shorter mileage rides are mountain bikes rides, however, where it can take a couple of hours to get just a few miles. Some longer mileage rides run the length of a rail-trail or encompass a large loop through the countryside or around a lake.
For longer epic-style rides, many of the routes are close enough or overlap so that bicyclists can combine them.
There are rides in downtown Seattle, the “near” and “far” east side, north into Snohomish County, south into Pierce County and across the Puget Sound to the west into Kitsap County.
Some rides visit shorelines with opportunities for beach combing, while others head deep into forests. I’ve pointed out museums and other roadside attractions along the routes, as well as campgrounds for turning the rides into overnighters.
One of the biggest challenges, and one of my biggest concerns, was keeping the bike routes up-to-date.
In Seattle especially, it seemed like every time I’d complete a route I’d read in the Seattle Bike Blog that a bike lane was being upgraded to a cycle track, or a trail segment was being reconfigured to make way for road construction. Then I’d head back out and ride that route again and re-map it with GPS.
One problem area is Montlake and Medina, where the State Route 520 replacement span across Lake Washington is realigning traditional bike routes. Same with waterfront along Alaskan Way, where the never-ending tunnel boring project has created bike route changes, with more on tap.
I tried to anticipate as many changes as possible, but it’s important to note that this book might be around for a long time and change is inevitable.
Choosing the routes
When I first started choosing and riding routes, I stopped to talk with a woman at Gas Works Park. She was new to recreational bicycling and had just finished a “great” ride on the Burke-Gilman Trail out to Golden Gardens Park and back. At other times, she’d ride up to Log Boom Park on the trail.
That was about the extent of her repertoire, however, as she didn’t feel safe riding in heavy traffic and didn’t know any other routes.
Later on, I chose a lot of the routes with her in mind — bike routes that avoided heavy traffic, didn’t have too many hills and could be ridden in just a few hours. Of course, hills and traffic cannot always be bypassed, but I give fair warning about them in the summaries.
If you live in the Seattle area or are planning to visit with your bike, I think you’ll find “Best Bike Rides Seattle” very useful.