home Pacific NW Magazine home

Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Taste Northwest Living Now & Then

On Fitness
A Ride to Portland
Preparations for STP take many forms
spacer Photo
Before getting to the starting line for the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, riders can go through a range of equipment, training and even etiquette preparation.
If you've entertained thoughts of trying this year's Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic (STP), July 12-13, there can be anywhere from a few details to a few hundred of them to consider, depending on your approach. For those thinking about joining the nearly 8,000 folks in the 200-mile ride, here are some of many considerations, compiled with the help of three local bike authorities, coaches Mike Eddy and Craig Undem, and Heather Johnston, one of the founders of the nonprofit group Northwest Women's Cycling. (Their phone numbers and Web sites are listed at right.)


Make an appointment to have your bike tuned up. Eddy says already by June many bicycle shops often have a long list for tune-ups, so don't put it off until then.

• Does your bike fit? A good fit can mean more comfortable and more efficient riding. A poor-fitting bike can cause not only saddle soreness but also nerve damage. Variables include height of seat, top and handlebar tubes; tube; angle of saddle; and discrepancies in user leg length and whether one's feet tend to pronate or supinate (turn in or out). Include a rotational analysis while you're on the bike. Many bicycle shops offer bike fits, price generally ranging from $40 to $125, depending on how much it includes. Do yours soon to help training be efficient and injury free.

• Practice with any new equipment, such as clipless pedals.

• Check other equipment, such as lights and water bottle, and gear for cold and/or rainy weather. (Eddy calls the 1997 STP the "Swim to Portland.")
Fitness Notebook
Fitness news you can use
Cycling help
· The Cascade Bicycle Club (206-522-3222; puts on the Seattle to Portland Classic; its Web site has not only STP information but also a calendar of rides and training seminars (which run through May), links to more clubs and other helpful information.
· Mike Eddy can be reached at 425-869-2453 or He charges $50 an hour.
· Craig Undem is at 206-938-1091 or, where custom training packages begin at $22 a month.
· Heather Johnston holds Monday-night rides for women who have just begun. For information:
· has training information, other coach links and downloads.
· May is Bike to Work Month, and May 17 Bike to Work Day. See the Cascade site (above) for details.
It's alive!
· "Interactive Functional Anatomy" might be intended as a teaching resource and reference tool for health professionals, but this DVD's computer graphics — derived from full-body MRI scans — offer a fascinating look at how the body works. Features include 77 surface-anatomy video clips of muscle function; a complete high-resolution 3-D model of human musculature that can be rotated and seen layer by layer, with labels and texts for specific structures; and information for patients on common problems such as sprains, tendinitis and repetitive motion syndromes. ($124.95, Primal Pictures; 800-747-4457;
Training the body

• Consult your doctor before beginning to train.

• Seek coaching help (see below).

• Protect that seat. Undem says using Assos Chamois Crème in your shorts is one of his best-kept training secrets ($14.95; Eddy likes Neosporin, among others.

• Train for volume (time/distance) first, then intensity.

• Try using a heart-rate monitor to help train, gauge progress and watch for signs of overtraining.

• Take indoor cycling classes. "I've heard lots of other coaches say people come out of spin classes as intermediate riders," Johnston says, though they still need bike and pack-riding skills.

• Train to burn fat more efficiently. Eddy says this involves riding at least two hours at a time (to burn off stored carbohydrates and then draw more from fat) at about 50 percent of your maximum heart rate, two to three times a week.

• Use the Cascade Bicycle Club's Flying Wheels event as an STP rehearsal. The June 21 event starts at Marymoor Park in Redmond and features scenic cycling loops of 25, 50, 70 and 100 miles.

• As STP approaches, aim to get your average training speed near your STP target pace. If you aim to complete the ride in one 12-hour day, for example, you'll need to average around 17 mph, Eddy says.

• The last two weeks before STP, focus on recovery: less mileage, more rest, but keep your cadence and speed high, Undem says.

Training for your surroundings

• Learn to ride among a group. "It's gonna be this huge pack of riders all the way there," says Eddy. Group-riding etiquette includes pointing out holes, letting fellow riders know when you make a move, looking over your shoulder before passing, keeping a soft and relaxed grip (not straight arms with locked elbows) to absorb sudden movements, and asking before joining another line of riders.

• Join a local cycling club. More experienced riders can help you learn about everything from bike fitting to riding behind a rider for a break from wind resistance. That can be important for STP, when often the entire trip is into a headwind, Undem says. "This skill is called drafting, and it is something that takes practice and good coaching to do well."

• Know the rules of the road. State law, Eddy says, allows riders to be two abreast on a roadway and doesn't require them to pull out of the way of cars until five vehicles are lined up behind, but just as motorists should be courteous of cyclists, riders also should share the road with motorists.

• Eat and drink regularly. Johnston likes whole-food nutrition best but says if you use energy goo, she recommends one every 30 minutes or a bar every hour. Eddy advises one to two 16-ounce bottles of water or diluted (2 to 1) sports drink an hour, but cautions against drinking too much, which can cause symptoms similar to dehydration, such as cramping.

• Practice taking your water bottle out of its holder and drinking while riding.

• Practice eating while riding. "If your body doesn't agree with something," Johnston said, "you don't want to find out" the morning of the big ride.

Molly Martin is assistant editor of Pacific Northwest magazine. She can be reached at 206-464-8243, or P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111.

More On Fitness columns

Cover Story Plant Life On Fitness Taste Northwest Living Now & Then home
Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company