It’s a long ways from Seattle, Washington to Portland, Oregon by bicycle. 203 to 206 miles, to be not quite precise, if you’re joining the some 10,000 cyclists pedaling the Group Health Seattle to Portland Bike Ride (STP) the weekend of July 16-17. Did I mention that’s a long ways?
My husband Brett and I have completed this fun and challenging ride as mere mortal, two-day riders three times–the last in 2013–and since our 2013 jerseys are showing some wear and our memories of the pain we experienced have faded over time, we decided to sign on for a fourth STP this year.
Go us! We can do it! What’s a few hundred miles over two days?
Actually, it’s a really long ways. Did I mention? And we only have (gulp!) four and a half months to train for it so we don’t die. Or worse, poop out. Time to get pedaling–and share what we’ve learned with other poor, brave STP wannabes, especially the ones who we innocently talked into registering over brews last week (apologies to Jenni and Rob). Anyway, the following training tips can help prepare you for the big day(s). Disclaimer: With only three STPs under our butts, we’re no experts; however, one can’t help reflecting on the things one did-and didn’t-do right during training when one pedals 200 plus miles over the course of two very long days. So here you go.
- Get your bike and gear ready so you can start training ASAP. If your bike hasn’t had a tune-up and safety check in forever, make that a priority. If you’re planning to purchase a super cool new ride, get it now so you two lovebirds have lots of time to get acquainted before the big day. Planning to go from a standard pedal to a clip-in or clipless system? Make the change ASAP so you can practice, practice, practice. Think safety, too. Before taking to the roads to train, ensure you have a good helmet, super bright lights, a mirror, and obnoxiously bright cycling clothes.
- Adopt a training plan. You’ll find a suggested training plan at https://www.cascade.org/rides-major-rides/group-health-stp-presented-alaska-airlines (click on Ride Details and then Preparing for STP). Confession: during our three prior STPs, we didn’t succeed in following this plan exactly, and in fact fell far short of the recommended weekly mileage, particularly in the higher ranges. What can I say? Life and terrible weather happen. The important thing is to embrace a plan that will motivate you to get out there and train several times a week most weeks, adding longer rides and hill work so your body adjusts to the rigors of riding two long, back-to-back days. Like us, you’ll probably still hurt, but not as much.
- Learn the rules of the road and proper safety etiquette when cycling in groups. During much of the STP, you’ll be riding on roads open to vehicular traffic so it’s important to be familiar with hand signals and bicycle laws (check out https://www.cascade.org/bicycle-traffic-laws). You’ll also want to learn how to ride safely in a group, as some of the biggest potential hazards you’ll face on the STP are the 9,999 other cyclists. Safe and proper cycling etiquette includes pulling off to the side and/or warning others when you’re about to stop, pointing out road hazards like potholes, giving other riders a shout when a car comes from behind, and trying not to turn drivers into irritated homicidal maniacs by hogging the road en mass. If you’ve never joined an organized group ride before, or if it’s been awhile, consider signing up for one as a practice shake-down before the STP.
- Get comfortable with handling your bike. Brett and I are fortunate to have a lovely paved rail trail a mere fifteen minutes from home where we can hone and brush up our bicycle handling skills in car-less safety. If you can spend time getting comfortable with handling your bike in various situations, you’ll be much more confident come STP weekend. Looking over your shoulder without veering, shifting gears smoothly, riding in a straight line, maneuvering around obstacles, and handling a water bottle without dropping it are just some of the skills a bicyclist needs. Hint: Designate one skill to work on per ride rather than tackle everything at once. For more handling basics, click here https://www.cascade.org/bicycle-handling-basics
Happy (and safe) riding!
Thanks for reading,
PS. Feel free to share your own training tips!