2023 is the second year that we partnered with Cascade Bicycle Club to invite youth and Riders of Color to participate in the annual Seattle to Portland bike ride. This partnership is a reflection of both organizations’ commitment to anti-racism and diversity in cycling. This year, we had over 40 youth and adult riders! Amidst the high heat and scorching sun, each rider was able to have an experience of their own – riding this for themselves, their family and/or their community. For this blog, we wanted people to share their story in whatever medium felt the most authentic. Thank you to those that contributed!
Frances Tung (she/her)
a Q & A…
Why did you decide to participate in STP this year?
My best friend from childhood, Ellen, mentioned to me that she had signed up for STP and asked me if I was also interested in joining. I thought, “Oh it’s that ride I heard about a long time ago!” I joined a 40 mile Bike Works STP training just to see how it would go, and I was so impressed at how welcoming and supportive the group was. It was my first group ride and I was feeling quite nervous, but I knew I was in a friendly space when I walked in the door. Jim greeted me and asked me if I had any questions or needed help with any quick fixes on my bike before the ride.
The training ride was challenging, but I made it all in one piece and I really loved the camaraderie of group riding and meeting so many other riders who I easily meshed with. I later decided I was going to sign up for STP and see this thing through!
What does participating in STP as a rider of color mean to you?
For me, being a minority typically means being noticeably different from others in a group setting. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me, sometimes it is uncomfortable, and sometimes it feels intimidating or like I don’t belong in a space. By participating in STP as a rider of color in a large group of other riders of color, I felt like I was in a safe and supportive space. I also hope to have shown other riders of color that we have a strong community, and they are welcome here.
“By participating in STP as a rider of color in a large group of other riders of color, I felt like I was in a safe and supportive space.”
Please share a high, low and hilarious from the weekend.
High: Making a stop at the kids splash park on the first day after suffering through 90+ degree temperatures with no shade. I took off my shoes, went straight for the waterfall, and it felt absolutely amazing.
Low: Getting only 3 hours of sleep at the Centralia campground due to uncomfortable camping setup, bright lights, weird noises, etc. And then having to wake up at 4 am to hit the road.
Hilarious: Seeing the STP support riders wearing unicorn outfits with fluffy tutus on their bikes! Also, some really creative helmet decorations, custom printed jerseys, and other fun bike attire.
How did participating in STP impact you?
Confidence: I feel more confident in my physical ability and ability to train for an endurance sport. Training for STP was the first time I’ve ever seriously trained for a sports event and now I know that I am capable of so much more than I previously thought I was.
Community: I knew I needed to train for this ride, so I joined nearly every scheduled weekend training ride and set up a few impromptu rides. Over time, I gradually got to know my fellow riders better and felt like a member of this community. My goal now is to give back to this community that has provided me with such a wonderful experience and friendships!
“Over time, I gradually got to know my fellow riders better and felt like a member of this community. My goal now is to give back to this community that has provided me with such a wonderful experience and friendships!”
Mobility: Now that I am much more confident in riding my bike, I use it frequently as a mode of transportation! I have used my bike to commute to work, run errands, meet up with friends, and just for fun. There is something that feels so special and neighborly about biking down the road to a friend’s house to hang out.
Achievement: I have a tendency to minimize my accomplishments, but with STP under my belt, I’ve found that I’ve surprised and impressed a lot of my friends who have been cycling for way longer than me and who I had looked up to as “very experienced hardcore bike people.” Now, I consider myself an experienced bike person too!
Please share an experience from STP that stood out to you! It can be your own experience or something that you witnessed.
Riding with the Party B pace group was the highlight of the entire experience. I made it through the whole ride with the leadership of the volunteer ride leaders and collaborative team spirit. The whole group stuck together through mechanical issues, medical issues, the searing heat, crazy cars zooming past, and more. Riding for 8+ hours a day is a lot of time, and I enjoyed the moments where we got to ride side-by-side and crack jokes, sing songs together, and just have some good chats about life.
a personal essay…
This past summer, I completed the Seattle to Portland ride with the support of Bike Works and Ampersand Bikes Club. This experience showed me not only what I was physically able to accomplish, but also what I could accomplish with the support of others.
In March, I moved from Ballard to Beacon Hill, in part to be closer to Bike Works in Columbia City in preparation for the training rides for STP that I missed out on in the prior year, due to knee pain. I knew that the early start times of the training rides would be more bearable with a 15 minute commute to the start as opposed to a 1+ hour commute. That month, I started anticipating all of the various biking activities that I would accomplish over the summer in order to make up for missing out in the previous year. With my STP, RSVP, RefugeFest, and various bikepacking trip registrations all in place, I started my training.
Training turned out to be a slog. I previously looked forward to social rides I had done with ABC as primarily fun bonding experiences, secondary to becoming a stronger rider. The training rides represented the complete opposite. Memories of riding in the rain, trying to stay warm and dry in the narrow sections of shoulders on fast highways still haunt me today. Those moments made me question whether my goals for the summer actually encompassed what I wanted to do or whether they just acted as filler for the FOMO I frequently felt. Another training ride focused on hills had me cursing Jim’s name (sorry Jim) and massaging my sore legs.
“Memories of riding in the rain, trying to stay warm and dry in the narrow sections of shoulders on fast highways still haunt me today.”
The final training ride, a practice century, had me questioning everything about the upcoming rides for the summer. I later learned that I hadn’t been properly rehydrating myself with electrolytes in addition to water during that ride, causing me to feel quite depleted. A minor seat adjustment turned out extremely consequential the next morning when I woke up with knee pain and had to limp throughout the day. After consulting others on the ride and doing some deep soul searching, I decided to back out of doing the full 200+ miles of STP. I worried that pushing myself for the ride would cause more permanent injury to my knees that would put me out of commission for the other activities I had planned in August. After talking to Jim, my new plan included only 50 miles of riding on the first day and volunteering on the second day. Despite reluctantly putting my body first instead of riding through the pain, as I had done in 2022, I was met with full support from my peers.
Come the day of the race, I joked that I would make it from UW to Beacon Hill and then call for a support ride from Bike Works. However, I made it to the lunch halfway point high on the camaraderie of the ride and the energy of those in my pace group. (Go Party B). I decided to keep going and see. Miles 50-70 proved taxing as the sun beat down full force as we rode on exposed highway. Our pace leaders kindly pulled us through these long stretches. At mile 70, Bike Works had suggested a smaller rest stop from the main one. This turned out to be a core memory of that first day. As we pulled up to a small playground with a spray park, I quickly anticipated how the cool water would feel on my sweaty skin. I later learned it was 90 degrees while we splashed around. From there, we had a much needed respite from cars and rode on the Yelm – Tenino trail, singing along to songs and having a merry time. I still didn’t feel any knee pain and continued on. At mile 90, friends provided some much needed electrolytes, and I decided to push through the last 10 miles. STP photographers captured my crying face as we rode into the first day finish. I had gone from thinking I would ride only 50 miles to completing the first day.
“As we pulled up to a small playground with a spray park, I quickly anticipated how the cool water would feel on my sweaty skin.”
The celebration at the camp revived me almost as much as my $5 shower. We ate and shared stories of how we arrived at this point through our physical selves and also our connections with each other. After setting up my tent, I asked Jim if it would be okay for me to ride the second day and not volunteer. He said it was not a problem and I could ride as much or as little as I wanted. He added that he wasn’t surprised I ended up riding more. I still remain grateful for the flexibility and peace of mind he gave me, allowing me to participate in the capacity that I felt comfortable with and allowing me to adjust as I gathered more information.
The next day, I learned why people wake up early to ride. The cool air and quiet roads provided a gentle warm up for the day ahead. We encountered some rolling hills that a few of us started gaining speed and energy on. A fellow group member pulled up beside us and reminded us that we were exceeding the agreed upon pace. I had thoughts of splitting up into two separate groups to accommodate the now differing paces, but quickly pushed those down and sat with the small disappointment that we had to slow down. Later, a group member stopped suddenly after getting stung by a bee. Everyone circled to help and ensure nothing severe happened. After everything resolved and we resumed riding, I realized, this is why we stick together. To take care of each other.
“I realized, this is why we stick together. To take care of each other.”
Throughout the ride, this kept happening. People kept supporting each other, looking out for each other, and being there for one another. This came in the form of giving each other snacks, sunscreen, and water. And also making sure that we stuck together. As a typically independent person, it felt foreign to me to allow myself to be taken care of by others. As I leaned into it, all I felt was love. Love in the leaders pulling me, love in the constant offer of electrolytes, love in the support vehicles always nearby, love in the way we communicated as we rode shouting out, “Bike passing!”
“As a typically independent person, it felt foreign to me to allow myself to be taken care of by others. As I leaned into it, all I felt was love. Love in the leaders pulling me, love in the constant offer of electrolytes, love in the support vehicles always nearby, love in the way we communicated as we rode shouting out, “Bike passing!”
I saw those around us completing the ride physically, riding silently among strangers. And I saw them start to emulate our ways as we modeled a different way of riding, one where we looked out for each other.
As we continued to ride on the second day, I started to feel twinges in my knees. I had hopes of now completing all 200 miles and recognized the familiar disappointment that that might not happen. At mile 175, we pulled into a rest stop with Bike Works folks and I started icing my knees. After learning that the remainder of the ride before University of Portland would be much of the same exposed riding on highway, I posed the idea of getting a ride to University of Portland. A smile immediately spread across my face and I knew that that was the right decision. Everyone supported me, and nobody pushed me, saying it was only 30 more miles. I received the support ride to University of Portland and met up with everyone else from all the pace groups.
Some had been waiting for over 2 hours, having ridden a much spicier pace, and others had yet to reach this point. As a group, we aimed to ride together into the finish line. The end of the ride remains surreal in my head as I had already cried 3-4 times during the weekend from the emotionality of it all, along with the extreme physical exertion and lack of sleep.
In the end, I rode 185 miles, and I say I completed STP. My perfectionist tendencies struggle with this, however I remind myself, that in essence, I rode this in the capacity I could, and nobody can take this experience away from me. I call this weekend a momentous weekend in my life, showing me everything that community can do for you.
“I rode this in the capacity I could, and nobody can take this experience away from me. I call this weekend a momentous weekend in my life, showing me everything that community can do for you.”
I have spent the past year plus searching for community and people I belong with. Finding ABC and Bike Works changed my life and I feel so buoyed by all those surrounding me.
Finally, some specific notes I want to include about the training rides and the things Jim tried to emphasize in the training rides that I didn’t fully get until the actual ride:
Riding on the highway sucks. I hated this during the training rides, however, having the experience helped immensely with this during STP. Riding in the extreme heat and among fast cars overwhelmed me during STP. But I know that it would have overwhelmed me even more emotionally had we not trained for this.
Keeping breaks short felt a bit contrived during the training rides. Getting into the habit of doing this helped during STP, especially during mornings when trying to maximize cooler temperatures and also to keep momentum going.