Rides: Flying Wheels Summer Century

By | June 5, 2014

I have a definite love hate relationship with Cascade’s Flying Wheels Summer Century.  Considered a major tune-up for the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic.  Cascade claims if you can handle the full century, you are on pace to ride STP in one day.  I am not so sure if that is true, but Flying Wheels is a challenging course.  I have ridden three Flying Wheels and it has always been my first century of the year.  As a result, I remember Flying Wheels as a suffer fest.  Will my fourth Flying Wheels be any different?

The Ride

Crowded climbing on Flying Wheels' first climb

Crowded climbing on Flying Wheels’ first climb

Flying Wheels Summer Century has 23, 41, 63 and 96 mile options.  The ride starts and ends in in Redmond’s Marymore Park.  From there, it heads down the east side of Lake Samamish, then abruptly turns away from the lake and uphill.  The climbs on Flying Wheels can be a bit tricky with so many people of differing fitness and experience levels.  In addition to your legs, your patience will get plenty of exercise.  Be proud of yourself when you roll past someone who had to get off and walk.  It is a small victory.

Once you get past some of the congestion you find yourself in the Valley and much of the route features the Snoqualmie River.  It is some great scenery and some fantastic riding.  The 96 mile route takes three big loops past towns that include:

Near the 80 mile mark, the ride has a special treat, a big climb out of the valley back towards Lake Samamish and the finish line.  Congratulations you have earned your finish line brew!  So that is the route, what do I think of the ride.


Impromptu phone stop in a nice setting!

Impromptu phone stop in a nice setting!

The scenery on Flying wheels cannot be beat.  The valley is spectacular.  The riding is good too with plenty of varying terrain.  It is certainly challenging.  Be ready for a lot of climbing, and fast pacelines through the valley.  You will not be bored on this ride.  I have had my fair share of issues with Cascades support, but it is consistent.  I know what to expect the route has plenty of Dan Henrys to mark the way.  The Food stops are reasonable and well stocked.


For many fair weather novice cyclists such as myself, Flying Wheels can come pretty early in the cycling season.  It is not a particularly easy ride which can make it quite the suffer fest.  If you are not prepared for the longer route,  you should seriously consider one of the shorter route options.   You will enjoy it much more.  The scenery and roads on flying wheels are fantastic,  but unfortunately cyclists are not alone on those roads.  The valley around Carnation, Duvall, Fall City and Monroe is very popular with cyclists.  You can expect to see large numbers of cyclists on these roads most any weekend.  They give a big boost to some of the local bakeries and coffee shops.  However, all of these cyclists get in the way of the locals trying to go about their business.  A certain percentage of them feel inclined to take out their frustrations on the cyclists they pass.  I saw plenty of cyclists riding 3-4 wide taking up the entire lane on windy two lane roads.  I also saw and heard a few driver honk and rev their engines and honk their horns in frustration.  There is no place for this behavior.  I used to ride the valley a lot, but tend to avoid riding there due to aggressive drivers.  It is a real shame.  Cascade does a good job organizing their rides.  It is clear that they do a lot of them.  They have plenty of food at the ride stops, but it tends to be pre-packaged.   Picture lots of Nutter Butters, rice crispy treats and other pre-packaged foods.  At the end of the table you will find the bagels, peanut butter and jelly, bananas and fruits.  It certainly is acceptable, but is far from inspiring eating the same things ride after ride and year after year.  96 miles?  Why is it called a century if they are shorting us four miles?  It should be renamed Flying Wheels Summer 96 miles.

How did I do?

Flying Wheels is typically a suffer fest for me.   I usually end up fighting leg cramps by the end.  As a result I was quite apprehensive about this one.  However, I have been putting in my saddle time this year.  I have been averaging over 100 miles a week for a couple months now.  My fourth Flying Wheels was definitely my strongest.  I ran into some friends that I ride with in Tacoma a few miles into the ride.  They were nice enough to let me tag along which went a long way towards making my ride more enjoyable.  Thank you!

15k on the ol' flight deck!  An accomplishment I am very proud of!

I rolled over 15k on the ol’ flight deck during Flying Wheels! I am very proud of this accomplishment!


I was not alone on my bike at Flying Wheels.  I had CYCLEBUTTCRACK with me!  I have to confess that sales continue to be slow which is incredibly frustrating.  However, participating in rides like Flying Wheels gives me fantastic feedback.  This time I did something a little different.  I brought both jerseys with me and switched at the halfway mark.  I heard the standard, ‘Is your jersey supposed to look like a BUTTCRACK?’  How am I supposed to respond?  My first instinct is sarcasm 🙂  On the whole I was blown away by the positive feedback for both jerseys.  I lost count of the positive comments I received!  It was awesome!  Thank you to my fellow Flying Wheels riders.





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