A little over 2 months ago, March 4th to be exact, I pushed, pulled and dragged my way through rain and too much snow to complete my first Tour de Lake Whatcom in a little over 11 hours. Yesterday I revisited this route around Lake Whatcom and as I hoped, had a completely different experience than the first time around. Same route, but sunny, dry, warm, no snow and completed in a little less than 4-1/2 hours, proving my prediction that I couldn’t do worse than my low-bar first time around. I included a couple of then and now photos in the gallery to show the dramatic difference between the conditions during each of the two rides.
Now, with another more normal loop in the book, I think I will be able to add this ride into a riding routine during the warmer months of the year. It’s definitely a challenging ride, but I know now that it is a very predictable ride with easy route finding and some awesome scenery.
Let’s look at a few of the challenges. First, it’s 35+ miles which isn’t in itself a ride in the park. Second, those 35 miles include 2700+ feet of elevation gain which happens mostly all at once. Thirdly, the elevation gain, as well as about a third of the ride happen on gravel so you need to have a bike/tires/skill to do both road and gravel miles. As with other of my mixed rides, I rode Whitey for his Schwalbe Big Ben tires which when aired up were pretty nice on the pavement and when aired down worked well on the gravel & crushed rocks, even the faster downhill sections. So tires were great, but I am coming to the conclusion that I need to make some gearing changes. As it stands, I am geared too high. I have a gap between a fast hiking speed and a minimum pedaling speed. I’d like to change out maybe the rear cassette so that I am geared more like a mountain bike.
Lastly, for the challenges of this route, you need to get up pretty darn early because I am not really certain of the legality of riding the first part of the Wickersham Truck Trail from the Hwy 9 side, so I try to hit this before the chickens wake. Yesterday I was pedaling away from Whatcom Falls Park a bit before 5:00 am. It seems like this road is/should be open for hiking and biking because the signs are about being off limits to motorized vehicles, but there are also a lot of No Trespass signs, but they seem to be aimed at keeping you from venturing off the road. Google Maps will route this as a hike or a bike ride, but not as a drive in a car so maybe they know something of the overall legality? I don’t really know and I can’t tell you that it’s okay to do, only that I’ve done it twice now and haven’t had an issue.
Leaving super early is something I tend to do on a lot of my rides. The views are great as the sun rises and the traffic can’t be beat in the earliest hours of the day. For example, on yesterday’s 5 am ride along 15 miles or so of mostly Lake Whatcom Blvd had me seeing only 6-7 cars. You just can’t beat that for safety and enjoyment.
Can’t wait for the next time I do my Tour de Lake Whatcom.