He wasn’t asked how many pairs of durable Spandex shorts and jerseys he has at the ready, but when avid cyclist and author Mike McQuaide was queried as to how many bikes he currently owns, the answer wasn’t that surprising.
“I have five,” the Bellingham resident says. “Two road bikes, a cyclocross bike and two mountain bikes. I know some people live by the ethos ‘you can never have too many shoes;’ mine is, ‘you can never have too many bikes.’”
This life lesson comes in handy when McQuaide is doing active research for the writing that goes hand in hand with his riding. Take, for example, McQuaide’s latest guidebook, a handy primer dubbed 75 Classic Rides in Washington.
Not content to rest on his well-toned laurels and let others do the hard work for him, McQuaide spent serious time on his bike(s), logging the mileage required to put together a compendium of dozens of his favorite excursions.
“What sets this book apart is that it’s perhaps a tad more adventurous than other bike books,” McQuaide says. “I sought out each area’s signature climb or other physical feature. For example, if you’re an avid cyclist and you’re in Wenatchee, you’re going want to climb Badger Mountain, just like if you’re in Bellingham and Whatcom County, you have to climb the road to Artist Point—that’s sort of a cycling rite of passage.”
Other differences between his guidebooks and others, he says, include the fact that the routes are likely longer than usual. Many are between 30 and 80 miles, but for those who are looking for shorter or longer routes, he also offers options for both minimizing or maximizing the excursions.
Whether he’s focusing on routes along the Columbia and Yakima rivers, across the Okanogan Highlands, or across the Skagit flats, McQuaide says, once again, that what he was trying to do was capitalize on any given area’s signature terrain features.
Not surprisingly, one of his favorite rides—number 34 in the book—is one that’s close to home, focusing on the miles between Everson and the aforementioned Artist Point.
“As far as I’m concerned, you just can’t beat the last 10 miles of the Mt. Baker Highway to Artist Point,” he says. “The views are stunningly beautiful and somehow only get better the higher up you go. Of course, the climb gets harder, but it’s like you’re being rewarded with each difficult pedal stroke.”
Choosing a favorite outside of Whatcom County isn’t as easy, but McQuaide says contenders include the Tonasket-Oroville Loop, as well as rides at Hurricane Ridge, Mt. Rainier, Walla Walla, and the Palouse.
As for the most difficult climb, well, that’s a little easier to figure out.
“I train a lot, so I’m usually prepared for whatever I’m getting into,” he says, “but the first time I rode the McNeil Canyon climb outside of Chelan—one of the steepest, toughest climbs in the state—I found myself in numerous spots of bother, largely because it was a crazy hot July afternoon and, also, it was one of my first rides after coming back from a broken collarbone and the screaming-fast descent had me scared to death.”
But he persevered, the ride made the cut and McQuaide continues to average about 150 to 200 miles per week on his various conveyances.
He’ll take a break from riding to share images and stories from 75 Classic Rides in Washington Wed., June 20 at REI, and hopes other cyclists will show up to take a look at where he’s been—and where they, too, can go.
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