A silly idea came to mind last April while visiting Seattle. Let’s do the Seattle to Portland bike ride on a tandem! I easily talked Jenna into being the stoker and we booked our tickets for July 11. Team Jelli had a mission of being first tandem across the line.
We had never ridden a tandem until two days prior to the event. As the race drew closer, I realized this was going to be a much more daunting task than planned. The Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic consists of 10,000 riders, 206 miles, and a little over five thousand feet of climbing. Riders are given one- or two-day ride options. Team Jelli obviously chose the one-day event because we thought we were legit.
One day prior to the race, we practiced starting and stopping, maneuvering, hand signals, and getting all our measurements correct. Jenna and I soon realized tandem riding was a lot different than riding solo.
Key goals for race:
#1) Don’t fight. #2) Be happy. #3) Break ten hours.
Sadly, none of these goals were accomplished. Well, #1 and 2 were completed for the first seven hours, but due to a tragic ending to our ride, we failed at everything. More on this later…
Uncle Derek dropped us off at the University of Washington (the official start of the race) at 4:30AM.
The start time for one-day riders was 4:45AM. We quickly dropped off our bags, practiced a little more tandem riding, and crossed the start line at 4:50AM.
There was quite a bit of weaving in-and-out of course clutter early on. The STP is more of a social, fun event, but Team Jelli took it pretty seriously. Well, at least I did…
We surged quite a bit to get the big packs off our wheel. No one drafts Team Jelli.
Tandem riding was a lot of fun. It gave Jenna the opportunity to experience riding in a pack. We flew on the flats and descents. I got tired of leading the pace lines, so I began bossing people to take their turn up front.
Riding hills was a major pain in the butt. We got dropped by old grandmas on any kind of ascent.
The first 100 miles to Centralia flew by. I took a quick peak at my Garmin and we were averaging over 21MPH. I thought I had sub 10 hours in the bag. Jelli was happy, spunky, and having a blast. Jenna was singing, tooting the horn, and telling funny jokes. We were having fun!
These good times soon came to an end. It started raining, we got stuck behind a couple trains, and I began craving McDonalds french fries.
Still hammering away.
Jenna and I took minimal breaks for the first five hours. Around mile 130, we both started to fatigue. Our five minute breaks soon doubled, then tripled… then we just didn’t give a shit anymore. It was pure survival. We stopped at McDonalds for some french fries at mile 175.
This little guy who was hammering with us early on went “night night” in the bushes. He had to take medical to Portland.
It was a daunting task finishing the last 70 miles of this ride. We pushed it way too hard at the beginning. Halfway through the ride, we heard that there was only one pack ahead of us. We both worked hard to try to catch the group, but this unfortunately caused our epic meltdown. For the most part, Jenna and I got along fine and worked well as a team. That is, until the finish line at mile 206.
I normally do a flying dismount when I get off my bike (riding solo). Completely exhausted and braindead, I forgot that Jenna was on the back. I unclipped, swung my leg over the bike, and lost my grip on the handlebars.
Poor Jenna had no control as I watched her slowly fall over into the grass. Luckily, there were no injuries to her or damages to the bike. It was a perfect ending to our disastrous final four hours. I watched Jenna lay on the ground, still clipped into the pedals, with the tandem on top of her… in front of hundreds of spectators. I remember the announcer saying, “Boy, you’re gonna be in a lot of trouble tonight!” I picked her off the ground as she screamed a few choice words and punched me. I deserved it.
I still feel bad to this day. Please forgive me Jenna! 🙂
Total time: 10 hours 36 minutes, 206 miles (19.3 MPH), 5,200 feet climbing
Other than the ending to our ride, we met some great people along the way, experienced some amazing views, and had many entertaining moments. There’s no one else I’d rather share this great bucket-list experience other than Jenna. I commend anyone who does this ride in one day as it’s no easy feat.
Special thanks to our homestay in Portland, Janice and Houston! We hobbled around Portland the next day visiting Jenna’s family, eating ice cream (Salt and Straw), went tax-free Lululemon shopping, wandered Saturday Market, and walked down 23rd Avenue. If Jenna ever forgives me, Team Jelli may be back for more next year!
Here’s a video of our crazy day!