Answers to important questions nobody has asked me yet.
Q. Might a short cut to avoid the masses keep me a little safer during the July 16-17 Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic?
A. A few years back I volunteered to ride with a friend in the thick of the cycling pack, as the Northwest’s biggest bike ride made its 200-mile voyage from Seattle to Portland.
At times, it was terrifying. If you choose to do this ride — and you really should do it once — be aware that many of the riders aren’t experienced cyclists. This isn’t all bad, this ride is a good way for many to get hooked on the sport.
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But it creates some sketchy moments when riders jump into your pace line without asking, treat traffic laws as suggestions or fail to call out hazards or signal when changing their line or pass.
Safety can never be guaranteed, but your odds go up when you can give yourself a little space.
On the STP, that can be hard to do for all but the fastest cyclists. But here’s a trick that works for many area cyclists: Turn the STP into the South Sound to Portland Bicycle Classic.
I tried this with a friend last year and it was enjoyable experience. We were the first to arrive at most of the rest stops until the fastest cyclists started catching up with us somewhere around Castle Rock.
Sure, our 160-mile day was shorter than most everybody else, but considering we’d both done the entire ride several times prior we didn’t feel like we missed much. Plus our wives and friends were grateful we weren’t hitting them up for a 3:30 a.m. ride to Seattle.
Definitely don’t take this approach if you’re doing your first STP. You really should experience the whole thing at least once. But if riding in the middle of 10,000 cyclists makes you a little uneasy, the South Sound to Portland Classic is worth considering.
Q. What’s the best way to cheat with my Fitbit?
A. Out of curiosity I started wearing a Fitbit fitness tracker earlier this year. I was surprised to see how drastically a busy work day sometimes limits my activity. On more than one occasion, I was lucky to log just 1 mile on days when work and other obligations seem to fill every nook of free time.
I had s few thoughts:
1. How can I carve out time to exercise on these days?
2. What if I asked somebody at the hardware store if I could tape the Fitbit to a paint shaking machine while I shopped?
Other variations on this idea included attaching it to my dog’s collar and my SUV.
Maybe you’ve had some of these same thoughts.
One day, a little bored and struggling to fill a few column inches, I indulged my curiosity. I attached the Fitbit to the front passenger side wheel and went for a drive.
Here’s what I learned. You could, in deed, cheat this way if you never drove faster than about 19 mph. Anything faster and it seems the device doesn’t register the movement. I ran errands for more than an hour and covered 38.6 miles. The Fitbit gave me credit for a little over 1.5 miles.
Considering that’s less than 20 minutes of exercise for some people, that seems like a pretty inefficient way to cheat. Plus, the little experiment ruined the Fitbit band.
The verdict: Just exercise.
Fitness pros I’ve talked to have mixed thoughts about these fitness trackers and others like it. I’ve talked to more than one that say they see their clients waving their arms or flicking the device when they’re otherwise inactive. Padding their stats. Perhaps, more focused on numbers than their fitness.
But others see it differently, a tool that motivates people to be more active.
What’s a healthy way to use a fitness tracker? Wear one for a week or two and get a feel for just how many steps or miles you log. Then make an effort to increase that number by 10 percent each week.
Assuming you’re getting there by being more active instead of more creative, your stats will soon be on the upswing. And so will your fitness level.
Q. Speaking of cheating, isn’t the Tour de France this month?
A. It is, but if you’re looking for something a little easier, closer and with less doping, the Tacoma Wheelmen’s Bicycle Club is hosting a ride on the final weekend of Le Tour.
Tour de Chambers Bay will be July 23 at 8 a.m. and the scenic 28-mile route starts at the coffee shop near the corner of 27th Street and Bridgeport Way in University Place and makes a round trip to DuPont.
The ride is designed to keep a casual pace and promises not to leave any riders behind. Visitors can participate in one Wheelmen ride without being a member. The group holds several rides each week that are usually free for its members. Membership is $15 per year.