Seattle and surrounding areas have a huge network of trails and roads.
CROSSING Interstate 90 by bike for the first time was deafening and mildly terrifying. But once my bicycling buddy and I coasted our way across the water and found East Mercer Way to start a loop of Mercer Island, we settled into a comfortable, chatty pace, enjoying the lush views and gentle hills.
I had been reassured the Mercer loop was perfect for new cyclists. But halfway in, even I noticed our ride was leisurely; everyone going the opposite way looked sweatier than us. After we huffed our way up the only real hill, Lisa, a vet of the grueling Ramrod ride around Mount Rainier, remembered why our clockwise loop felt unfamiliar: Except for that hill, we had picked the easy way around.
Lisa’s sidekick was not upset about this. Just getting on my bike was a breakthrough. I’ve owned one for years, but mostly it’s sat indoors. With some friendly encouragement, I have been spinning about once a week for a couple months to get ready for summer cycling. I even bought some bike accessories/clothing/gear, but don’t get me started on that. For now, we will stick with the more pleasant topic of good bike routes for new but enthusiastic riders.
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Seattle and surrounding areas have a huge network of trails and roads. Here are some cyclist-endorsed routes that are gently ambitious for new riders. They generally avoid major traffic routes, and they are not the Burke-Gilman. (Not that we are bashing the Burke. We love the Burke. Ride the Burke.)
Mercer Island Loop: The loop is accessible from Seattle via I-90. Start at the I-90 Bridge Bike Trailhead, ride across to Mercer Island. Follow the trail across the north end of Mercer Island to East Mercer Way. There will be some light traffic as you go around the island.
Extend your ride: On your return, follow the signs to Lake Washington Boulevard. Head south to Seward Park, loop the park, then return along the lake shore to the I-90 trailhead.
I-90 to Mercer Loop miles: 18. Add Lake Washington Boulevard/Seward Park loop: 12 miles. For a King County bike map, see http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/Roads/Bicycling.aspx.
Scenic Seattle Tour: Go from artsy/urban to scenic with a ride that starts at the Olympic Sculpture Park and ends at beautiful Discovery Park. From Broad Street and Western Avenue, head north on the Elliott Bay Trail. Continue through Myrtle Edwards Park into Magnolia. At Terminal 91, turn north onto 20th Avenue West; you will follow roads with light traffic to the park. 20th turns into Gilman Avenue West, then West Government Way.
Extend your ride: At Discovery Park, add miles by riding through the park, or go back the way you came.
Estimated miles: About 10 miles round trip, not counting about three miles in Discovery Park. A Seattle interactive bike map: http://web1.seattle.gov/SDOT/BikeMap.
Centennial Trail, Snohomish County: This dedicated paved trail is built on the old Burlington-Northern Railroad line. The trail starts in Snohomish and ends in Arlington. You can make it as long or as short as you like.
Extend your ride: Do the whole trail and back.
Snohomish to Arlington, miles, one way: 17.5. For a map, see http://www1.co.snohomish.wa.us/departments/parks/park_information/park_directory/regional_parks/centennial_trail.htm.A good tool for checking out mileage is Ridewithgps.com.