Viva la Resolucion!

I was sweating my way through spin class last week, exploring the contours of my pain cave while building up a nice calorie deficit to offset the next day’s Christmas Eve fondue feast. Suddenly a chilling thought occurred to me: they’re coming. Hordes of bodies, clad in shiny new workout clothes, descending like zombies. You can’t stop the onslaught.

Resolutionaries.

Every January, like clockwork, it happens: I have to get to spin class 30 minutes early just to get a bike. Parking spot in the club’s lot? Forget it. Lockers jammed, lines for the drinking fountain, people wandering like lost children in a mall.

And bless their hearts, they’ve made that New Year’s resolution. This is the year they’re going to get in shape, use that membership, be more disciplined. Do that thing they don’t enjoy but know they should do: work out.

And, boy, does it make me glad to be a cyclist. Because my favorite biking moment is pretty much every time I get on one.

I look at the new people in the gym in January (most of ‘em have cleared out by February), trudging resolutely through their new routine. And I reflect on my approach to “working out”: If I wake up in the winter and it’s sunny, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Can I sneak in a ride today?”

My point is that – and I’ll guess that we feel the same about this – riding a bike isn’t really working out for me. It’s fun. It’s… riding a bike! Sure, I like to go fast, and push myself, and yes, maybe pass a few younger guys on the big climb. But the key is that I get to just go out and ride my bike, regularly, through some beautiful places, which I enjoy tremendously. And, oh yeah, get a good workout.

OK, so riding bikes isn’t exactly a complete and balanced workout. Like many of us, I have arms like a praying mantis, and I’m living a pirate’s dream – I have a sunken chest. And I’m aware of the dangers of osteoporosis, so I do other activities I enjoy that actually use the upper half of my body and jar my skeleton a bit. But I stay in pretty killer shape compared to most people, and I eat almost all the things I like.

Because I love my workout – I mean, riding my bike.

So I’ll leave you with this thought as we approach January 1: Sure, you can set some goals – mileage, feet climbed, maybe ride a great week-long tour(!) – but here’s a good idea for a New Year’s resolution: Every time you get on a bike, remember how much you love it. (Even when you lose a bet and have to wear a tiara…)

Mountains? We’ve got your mountains, right here

Whoever named this sure got it right. The series of mountain peaks looked like a serrated carving knife slicing through a cerulean sky. Standing in a park in Stanley, Idaho, the sight of the Sawtooth Range filled me with awe… all over again.

Sawtooths and the Snake

I was out with Sanna, our executive director, and Kim Conklin, our caterer, scouting the 2017 Idaho Bicycle Ride route, and we were standing on top of a hill in Stanley, in the city park that will be our IBR home for a night next summer. And even though I’ve seen the Sawtooths before, they always have the same effect on me. Same thing for the Wallowas, and the North Cascades, and the Three Sisters, and Shasta, and… you get the idea. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing the majesty of mountains.

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It’s a Northwest thing. Let me tell you a true story: I was hired a few years back to start a bike tour in the Adirondack Park of upstate New York. The first time I went there for a meeting, I flew in a tiny plane into a tiny airport tucked into the thickly wooded, lake-strewn park, at sunset. It was damn pretty. The next day someone asked me how my trip was. I said, honestly, “Great – it was really cool coming in over those hills and dropping into the airport.” The person gave me a strange look and said, “Those were mountains. The Adirondack Mountains.” Whoops! I didn’t bother trying to explain that the mountains I live near have snow on top, and rise up around 10,000 feet.

My point here? Both the 2017 BRNW routes showcase mountains, in a way that really speaks to me – and will, I think, for anyone who pedals them. There’s something about the sense of scale you get when you’re looking at – or riding up – a massive, craggy volcanic peak that humbles you, at the same time it inspires you.

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OBR offers a feast of mountains. We’re starting almost literally in the shadow of the Three Sisters; our first day goes up and over Mount Bachelor. We’ll have the chance to ride the rim of what remains of Mount Mazama – now filled by Crater Lake. We’ll zig-zag between Cascade peaks for days as we cross multiple passes on back roads. And on the final day we’ll stand at the Dee Wright Observatory on McKenzie Pass and marvel at the 360-degree panorama of peaks.

In Idaho, we’ll slide past Idaho’s highest peak, Mount Borah – just one in a long string of the Lost River Range that will loom over our shoulders for all of Day 2. We’ll skirt the Lemhi Range on Day 3, slipping through water-carved canyons, and loop around the Salmon River Mountains for the next few days. We’ll come around a bend just before Stanley on Day 6 and gasp as the Sawtooths are revealed, framed like a postcard. And then we’ll scale Galena Pass and wind down through the Smoky Mountains on our final day.

Beartooth Pass

I’ve had the good fortune to ride my bike all over the Northwest. Coastline, rain forests, agricultural valleys, urban pathways, red-rock canyons, high desert, vast plains… I enjoy ’em all. But give me just one week to ride if it were my last, and I’d head straight for the mountains.

Bike tours: I’ll have mine well done, please

Last summer I got the chance to do something I’ve never done: ride a week-long bike tour, without working on the tour. Since I got started in the biz, I’ve always had a daily job on every tour I’ve ever been on – either marketing it or directing it. When Sanna Phinney and I started talking last year about me taking over as Executive Director when she retires in 2017, she suggested I come on one of her rides, to get a taste. So I rode part of the Washington Bicycle Ride last summer.

Trout Lake, Washington

And I have to say, being a rider on a tour is one great life. Eat, ride, eat, ride, hang out, meet some good people, eat some more, get some sleep, repeat – all in some really beautiful places.

And here’s the biggest surprise I got: There’s more than one way to run a bike tour.

See, I learned about bike tours by helping out Cycle Oregon with their marketing, for six years. Cycle Oregon is one of the gold standards for tours, an extremely well-run event. When I got the chance to start up a couple new tours of my own, in different states, I relied on the knowledge I’d gained watching them run their tour, and adapted that model to the tours I started.

Rest Stop

And then when I rode my first BRNW event, I found out what most of you already know from experience: These folks also know how to put on a great ride – and they do a lot of things their own way.

Things I love about a BRNW tour: First of all, as a tour size, for me 300 riders is right in the Goldilocks Zone: not too many, not too few… juuust right. You’ve got real substance as a group of that size, and yet by the end of the week you can know pretty much everyone (if you want).

Kim preparing dinner

And then there’s the eat-and-drink model. See, I never stop for lunch on a 70-mile Saturday ride with my friends; we just graze along the way. And then we hit it hard on the food when we finish. So having lunch in camp, after two amazing rest stops along the way? Brilliant. And then, free snacks and drinks all afternoon? This must be what heaven looks like. (Kudos for the quality and volume of food, too – Kim and her crew, plus the Camp Central and Rest Stop teams, really know how to take care of riders.)

Now, as an event director, it’s my job to pay attention to the details. So I took note of how everything was done on WBR, and my conclusion is that the BRNW team has it dialed in, like a really good resort: they’ve thought of pretty much everything, and it looks kind of effortless. You don’t see all the work that goes into it unless you’re looking, because it runs smoothly.

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This all comes together because of two things: in-depth, detail-oriented planning, and really dedicated people. One of the things I enjoy about the tour world is how much the crews care about the riders having a great experience; the people who end up staffing these events tend to be giving, nurturing… and hard-working. BRNW has this ethic, through and through.

So I’m excited to come into such a good organization… but my underlying message to you is this: I really hope you come on one or both of our 2017 rides. Because I can heartily endorse them – not as an event organizer, but as a rider.