Keys to a Safe STP -Portland Bicycling Club

Keys to a Safe STP

The Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic is a great ride and should be a great experience. You will traverse new country, meet new people, and see things you have never seen before. One time, I pulled into the Tenino rest stop, saw a rider get off his bike, lean it up against a tree, and (wait for it) light a cigarette! Not something you see every day.

Mostly, everyone has a good time. Sometimes, though, people get hurt, so…


There are people out there who don’t know anything, and there are others, apparently experienced riders, who don’t seem to care.

One particularly troublesome spot is only 10.5 miles into the ride at Seward Park. You will be coming, slightly downhill, southbound on Lake Washington Blvd. Note that, as you proceed south, Seward Park is on the left.    There are restrooms there, and people will be both turning into the park and coming back out. At the same point, there is a 90° right turn UP A STEEP HILL. Riders will be coming along with you (on a slight downslope, remember) at probably 15 mph or better. Suddenly, there will be left-turn traffic, bikes merging from the right, and riders who may not have downshifted for the hill turning right at speed who may stall out and maybe stop. Watch out for all of them. Slow down before the turn, and downshift sharply as you turn.


Drink often and top off your water bottles every chance you get. Use electrolyte additives to your water or use the commercially available sports drinks. (This is good practice any time, but especially on long rides in the summer.) As part of your training, practice reaching down for your water bottle so you can drink while you are rolling. If water bottles are awkward for you, invest in a hydration pack with a sippy tube.


You know the signals. Use them. Be courteous, and point out hazards to those behind you.

  • Call out “Car back!” for traffic approaching from the rear.
  • If you hear “Car back!” from someone behind you, pass the warning forward.
  • Pass only on the left, and call out (LOUDLY) to the rider you are passing, “On your left!” I say LOUDLY because there may be background noise and some people (like yours truly) don’t hear so well. (I check my mirror often, but I don’t stare at it.)
  • There really is only one hill worth the name, and that is the one coming out of Puyallup. Naturally, you personally are in shape and will take this hill in stride, but you may see someone else struggling. Give everyone a wide berth. Sometimes people just run out of gas and stop. If you need to stop, call out “STOPPING!” and pull over to the side.
  • If you need a breather at some point, pull over out of the way, stop, and look back like you are waiting for someone. 😉


Find an RPM cadence and a level of effort you can sustain. Find the gear combination that will give you that, shifting when necessary to keep that rhythm. Let the speed be whatever it is. Don’t blast out of the gate and not have anything left for the end of the day. Also, try to avoid extra effort to pass someone or to keep someone else from passing you.


Talk to people as you ride. Say “Hello” to people you pass again or who pass you.

As I said, the STP is a GREAT ride and a terrific experience for those who are prepared and alert. I personally have done the ride seven times, starting with my first year as a serious cyclist in 1999. Boy, are there things I wish I had known then! I have seen several people injured, seen several near misses by inattentive drivers, and was involved in a crash myself. Another rider managed to tap my rear wheel with his front wheel, sending him to the ground and to the hospital and me off the road and into the weeds (gratefully upright and unhurt).

I don’t mean to overplay or overstate the danger. It is minimal, but for the unwary it is real. Stay safe, have fun, and come say “Hello” after you cross the finish line. I’ll be down on 9th Avenue loading bikes for those returning to Seattle.

Dave McQuery, Membership Secretary

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