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The Trails of Redmond

By Josh Cohen March 22, 2010

From September to December my cycling life revolves around my cyclocross bike. Between taking it out for post-work training rides, racing it on the weekends, scrubbing it down on Sunday afternoons trying to get that last bit of mud unstuck from the bottom bracket shell, me and the Raleigh spend a lot of time together.

But once race season ends in December, the cross bike gets put away in lieu of road riding. Sure, I throw slick tires on it and take it out for road rides when the weather is bad and I want to baby my road bike, but that's hardly using a cross bike to it's full potential as an on-and-off-road machine. (For those who don't know: A cyclocross bike falls somewhere between road bike and mountain bike. It's got drop handlebars like a road bike, but wider, knobby tires.)

This Saturday I got an off-season chance to take full-advantage of my cross bike's capabilities on a 35-mile ride over fireroads, singletrack mountain bike trails, and paved roads in Redmond. It certainly wasn't a grand revelation that a cyclocross bike can be used for trail riding out-of-season. But, it's not something I get to do all that often, so I was thrilled to hear about plans for a group cross ride on Saturday. Friday night, Brian "Sally" Fornes, marketing rep for Raleigh, tweeted about the ride along with a picture of vague, handwritten directions and instructions to meet at 9a.m. sharp. The directions led me to the gravel parking lot at Sammamish River Regional Park, right alongside the Sammamish River trail. I met up with 11 other riders, including a handful of seriously fast local cross racers. It was clear from the outset that I'd have to push myself to hang with this crowd.



After brief pre-ride instructions from the ride leader—he basically summed up the route and told us that we'd stop and regroup every so often to ensure that nobody got dropped or lost in the woods (thank god)—we headed south on the Sammamish River trail.

After a mile, we cut left onto the Redmond Powerline Trail, a gravel and dirt trail that runs west to east along a powerline right-of-way. The trail begins with a steep, switchback climb up to a the top of the ridgeline. It continues with a series of descents and climbs on a loose gravel trail that we were sharing with plenty of hikers, equestrians, and other cyclists. After three or four miles we left the trail and headed south on a paved road. The short on-road section connected us to another section of off-road trails through the woods. It was like this for most of the ride. A few miles of trails would pop us out onto a road briefly before we connected to another chunk of single track.

Unfortunately, I cannot tell you the name of the trails we road on Saturday. This isn't because of some desire to protect locals-only knowledge (if the number of other dog-walkers, mountain bikers, and equestrians is any indicator, these are far from secret trails), I was just following the group blindly and honestly don't know where I was in greater detail than "Redmond, east of the Sammamish river." I'd say I have a solid sense of direction, but after just a handful of twists and turns in unfamiliar woods, it gets hard to say which way is north. I'll update with the names of the trails when I can track them down.

I can tell you that the trails were an absolute blast. Hammering through the woods on smooth singletrack, carving through swooping corners, and bombing down hills is a fantastic feeling. The pace was fast, but not so fast that I had to worry about bonking. After roughly two hours in the saddle (including plenty of stops to regroup and an extended stop to fix someone's flat), we made it to the halfway point to eat some food and take a few minutes to rest before the second half. The respite was high on a powerline ridge in a clearing in the woods. Despite being less than a mile from a suburban neighborhood, and less than 15 miles from Seattle as the crow flies, it felt pretty remote up there.

[caption id="attachment_32265" align="aligncenter" width="420" caption="Halfway there."][/caption]

It's typical for the pace to pick up on the second half of a ride. Everyone knows how much gas they've got left in the tank and it's fun to try and push your friends. I'm in no position to try and push the pace, but they certainly pushed the pace for me. Knowing I was only 17 miles from the end of the ride, I decided to do my best to match their speed. By the time we made it back to the Redmond Powerline trail, my legs were cooked. The long, gravel strewn climbs of the Powerline trail mixed with Saturday's sun did me in, and I had to watch the front of the group zoom off ahead for the last few miles of the ride. I rode the Powerline trail with a few other slower riders in the group and made it back to the parking lot at Sammamish River Regional Park.

[caption id="attachment_32266" align="aligncenter" width="420" caption="Sally Fornes enjoying the post-ride reward."][/caption]

We capped off the ride in proper cyclocross fashion with a cold, post-ride beer in the parking lot; well-deserved after four-hours of hard riding. Taking the cross bike out on the trails of Redmond was a perfect way to celebrate the first weekend of Spring.

If I can figure out where I was exactly, I'll definitely be heading back there soon.
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