Friday, May 24, 2013

massive transit series - part 1

You are either on the bus or off the bus. 

A series on busing it to dirt.  Flying the green flag, busting a lung and toking on some good loam.  This first trip to Duthie was a no-brainer; as for the last few years I’ve heard you can actually ride through the Grand Ridge trail system to get there and my sound transit schedule indeed had a listing for express buses that take you to Issaquah.

I’m a bus-o-holic; sometimes to save money on gas, sometimes for the environment, but mostly for the added adventure.  I frequently use mass transit to make my “skinny tired” urban rambler rides more interesting.  It is cool to eliminate the “out and back “ part of your rides or to lengthen your “loop rides”.  For instance, taking the 94 to Yelm for an evening ride back to oly on the chehalis western trail which turn out to be quite spiritual.  Taking the 605 to Tacoma to ride the maze of suburbia all the way up to Seattle and busing back can be super fun stuff.  Grabbing the 594 to Seattle to catch ferries and ride through Vashon Island back home? (one of my annual summer favorites!).  A few years ago I also discovered that the Grays Harbor bus will drop you off at either of the Summit Lake access roads along Highway 8, or even at the straddleline entrance to the capitol forest.  It is really cool not to have to load or unload (especially wet, muddy gear from) your vehicle while your mind is on the ride, or while you are enjoying the pleasant buzz you have after finishing. 

I’ve decided to raise the bar this summer and am anticipating several epic adventures.  How much radness can one attain in our puget sound region by taking the bus - how “Massive” can one make it?  I seek to find the answer in this summer long endeavor.  This is the story of my first trip; 

“Massive Transit – Duthie by Bus”

The 605 to Tacoma then the 594 to Seattle, no biggy, have done it a ton of times, although the new route that I have never taken was the 554 to Issaquah.  Getting droppped off into downtown Seattle after you have slowly been intoxicated by the sweet hum of the coach style Seattle express bus’ “white noise” was quite the reality check.  Bam!, you are in a big city with lots of people everywhere and some anxiety about the next bus to catch.  Riding  through Westlake Park was a hoot, in that its trees had turned into an artistic exhibit titled “The Blue Trees”, which is a public display meant to encourage awareness about deforestation.  How fitting it was that I was on my mountain bike headed for the woods!

Caught the 554 to Issaquah at the origin of its route, which was nice and easy, first person on the bus.  It was one of those really long buses that has a pivot in it’s middle.  I had never ridden in one of these before.  As I was headed towards the back the driver went around a turn, and the circular spot in the flooring at it’s pivot point started to move under me like a fun house, was this a flash back? Was I aloud to walk over the moving floor while the bus was in motion?  Weirdness, and took a deep breath on the fact that no one was watching me in this moment.  Upon finally settling into one of the back seats, the scenery was epic on this sunny day as we headed out over Lake Washington passing sammamish.

 I was lucky to realize that this 554 route didn’t end in downtown Issaquah, but actually headed up the big hill to its actual terminus in the Issaquah Highlands.  Just a little over a mile away from Central Park, which was my gateway point for accessing the Grand Ridge trail system = awesome!

 The day was sunny and perfect, and not too hot.  The Grand Ridge trail system was a rather familiar scenario; a climb up to its high point and then some ripping descent down on its northern section towards Duthie.  Some sick moments were had, I was thinking shit - this is almost better than Duthie!, (on some of it’s maxed out tread lines) and its spring flower filled woods made for some good solitude. 

It was good to pass a few riders, then get passed by them, as I headed up one last ascent approaching the Issaquah – Fall City road crossing.  The woods were beautiful down in a boggy area that had the perfect boardwalk through it.   

Finally reached the gate at the south Duthie service road entrance.  Stopped for lunch, then un-weighted my pack of an extra sandwich, mojo bar, extra h2o, my recovery drink and extra layers, as i would be back to this spot in an hour or so (wrapped them up and stashed them under some nearby sword ferns).  Headed up the road and was going to hit the first left connector onto “Movin’ On” to do a sampler of all of the “XC”, and some of the “Freeride” trails, in a clockwise fashion. 

Taking “Movin’ On” down, I soon found myself at the base of the massive jump lines, the place where I had witnessed Robbie Wright and Phil Sundbaum send massive air during the “Go Huck Yourself Jump Jam” last year.  Ironically both riders of which I have actually ridden with at kent west fenwick skatepark, 10 or more years ago (back when they were still kids).  The thoughts of sessioning some of these lines crossed my mind, but there was still a long ride back ahead of me. 

Unfortunately on this epic; I was clipped in, sans pads or full face helmet...  Opted for the easier “Jabulani” trail and warmed up my radness with its flowy and pump filled lines.  Then headed over to “Step It Up” and was stoked on how a “XC” trail could get that rad!  Segments of peddling followed by sections of flow, over and over again – and discovering one more thing that I was missing, a “dropper seatpost”.  The trail changed all the time.  Despite being a “XC” trail, I found myself in want of getting seat cleareance every minute or so through its changes from peddly to descent flow.  Three quarters of the way through its loop I arrived at the drop in to the pinnacle of my journey, aka “Ryan’s Eternal Flow”... the topping on the cake to say the least. “Ryan’s Eternal Flow” is a freeride line that was suitable for clipless peddles, a wonderland of a halfpipe styled line carving back and forth, in and out, with just the right amount of speed to get up to the other side at each turn, I was in heaven, truly stoked and at the top of my endorphin levels!!! 
Took a break afterwards in the central area of duthie to reflect and woof down one of my chocolate almond coconut mojo bars.  This place is amazing.  Noticed the different types of riders gathering in their own little groups in this area.  From the full on DH rig crews, to the walmart bike families, enjoying their day in such a benchmark of a place.  Thank you EMBA, thank you King County Parks, you fucking hit the nail on the head with this one! 

“Bootcamp” was up next, as I was at the “5-oclock” position on my clockwise sampler loop.  Was going to take the connector at its top point to head back out on the southern service access road.  But there was one more trail on the map, just past the connector and it seemed that I had just enough energy.  The name “Deuces Wild” didn’t click in my head till I saw the “dual” starting ramps at its drop in point.  Did someone say “Dual Slalom Course?”  No shit!  didn’t know that Duthie had one of these and  not particularly labeled on their maps, just called “Deuces Wild”, now I get it!  Manually dropped my seatpost all the way down and dropped in.  My bmx background and hard-tailed soul riding style kicked it into full gear as I was yearning for these sleekly dialed and smoothed roller styled lines, I pinned the fuck out of that track, and wished to come back soon to practice that trail over and over again, let us pray!  And it was ultra fun NOT being in a race on it and being able to criss-cross to the top line or the bottom line, depending on the moment. 

That was it!  It was a smiley faced dopamine withdraw the whole way back.  Especially the north side Grand Ridge ascent (that was so pinned & stellar on it’s prior descent).  I was bonked a little and had to take breaks, walk some sections and ration my last hydration sustenance.  Upon hitting the high point I had one last segment of radness ahead - the descent down to Issaquah.  I decided to hit the more direct line towards the “Coal Mine” trailhead vs the rowdier segment towards the “High Point” trailhead.  The first few minutes of which delivered, until hitting wider and wider gravel filled washed out styled openness.  But finally upon reaching the Issaquah/Highpoint gravel rail trail towards Issaqauh, a sense of achievement and a sweet zen feeling aired in me. 

Dropping down into town was almost a victory parade, as I was in the late afternoon traffic of Issaquah on my mtn bike and feeling pretty bold.  I pulled up to the first 554 bus stop and was within five minutes of its scheduled departure back to Seattle and ultimately back home to Olympia.

 Thank you Grand Ridge, thank you Duthie, thank you “Massive Transit” and thank you Oly Dirt, for some love and epicness!


There are a few things I’ve learned that I should point out if any one reading wants to give “massive transit” a try.  The rack tire slots on Intercity Transit (IT), Pierce Transit (PT) and Grays Harbor Transit  buses are spec’d a little less than 2.5”.  If you are running fatty knobs you’ll have to finesse and/or man-handle the rubber to get it to slide into the tire slots (or you can partially deflate, then inflate after).  Also the swing arm on some IT/PT racks doesn’t pull out far enough to come up and over 29” wheels unless you are running a 1.9” tire or less.  Most of the Sound Transit (ST) buses seem to do a better job at both of these problems.  The ST buses that are running the racks with room for three bikes have wider plastic tire troughs that fit both fat width or large circumference just fine, (although there are a number of ST buses that are still running the older IT/PT style steel ‘2-bike’ racks).  And one more thing to mention about the ‘3 bike’ ST racks is if you are running 30"or wider bars I would recommend not using the slot closest to the windshield.  I had one segment of this trip where my mtn bike was the only bike on the rack in that inside slot, and during the whole trip whenever the bus hit larger bumps, (the rack had some ‘up and down’ play in it enough that) my bars would smack into the windshield, quite loudly in fact, making me nervous and fearful that it would crack it.

And of course one of the most important things to remember about bike-a-busing is to always try to get to the origin of the bus  route, maybe even 10 to fifteen minutes before departure to stake your claim for your slot on the rack.

get your summer epics on!


  1. Great adventure! I want to go on the next one.

  2. This is a type of epic ive never thought about trying. Till now at least!

  3. YES!! This has inspired me in so many ways. Looking forward to a season of non traditional epics.

  4. I think we need to plan an Olympia Massive Transit Epic.

  5. oh crap, i didn't mean to say anything... SSSSHHHHhhh.... hopefully there will be room on the rack when i try to hit up green mtn next time via kitsap transit(which has an especially narrow time window/ connection schedule and only a two bike rack, i.e. if there is no spot for your bike you are screwed!) to get home through shelton...