Full moons and tall bikes

Full moons and tall bikes

A long time ago (spring 2008) in a place far, far away (West Seattle), a bicycle shop owner named Aaron Goss launched a weekly event called Ride to the Nines, which later became known as the Dress Up Ride. The ride had it all: a scenic route, an enthusiastic cast of bike enthusiasts and a distinguished host with lots of nice bikes to loan out. The only problem? Modern Seattleites are busy people, and one night a week is a lot of time to spend two-wheeling it around the beach. So Aaron took a cue from his pioneering sister, who organizes a monthly full moon ride in Oregon City. Aaron found that 12 was the magic number, and the Full Moon Bike Ride became a monthly hit.

Flash forward to late spring 2011. A bike-friendly mayor named McGinn calls the shots in Seattle, gas prices hover around $4 a gallon, and a fresh-faced cycling blogger searches high and low for a casual community ride. Luckily, said blogger has Meetup.com on his side and decides Aaron's Full Moon Bike Ride sounds like a winner.

The ride meets (you guessed it) every full moon at 7pm at Aaron's Bicycle Repair in West Seattle. I looked forward to joining up with the cycling group, but my dreams almost crashed and burned before they even got off the ground. I was held up late and had to hustle to make it to West Seattle in time. First, I rode up the slithering Chief Sealth Trail, through Beacon Hill, and across (or was it below?) the bridge to West Seattle. Being a bit directionally challenged, I've yet to figure out the proper way to get my bike and myself across the two ship cannels that separate West Seattle from Georgetown.

Luckily, zigzagging through Seattle on my trusty steed (a Trek 2300 road bike) has gotten me in shape and I made good time. I was greeted by Aaron himself, who told me I'd just made the time cut.  Less than a minute later, sixteen other cyclists and I pedaled up the congested California Road and were greeted by cheers, friendly waves and motorists who seemed happy to pull aside and give us the right of way. I settled in behind a woman on a beach cruiser and her Labrador poodle mix, who between the two of them, managed to embody all that was great about this casual ride. While they pedalled and trotted comfortably along, I sat back on my silly racing bike, fighting the urge to lean down into my drop handlebars and spring myself up the road. Remembering Aaron's motto, "No one gets left behind!" I decided that next time around, I'd borrow one of Aaron's comfortable commuter bikes like most of the other riders did.

We cut through residential West Seattle and made our way to Alki Beach, an ideal spot to casually coast while chatting with other cyclists. I quickly got to know Eric, a graphic designer who runs a cycling blog of his own, and Nick, a bagel expert who, like me, hails from the corn fields of Indiana. I also spent some time pedaling alongside the ride organizer himself. Aaron's the kind of guy who talks to you like an old friend from the start, and he also knows a thing or two about bicycles. What's more? He's the only person to get me to question my derision for one-frame-on-top-of-the-other tall bikes, which I previously regarded as merely dangerous and obnoxious. In the hands (legs?) of a bike expert like Aaron, the tall bike doesn't seem so silly, and though it does elicit attention, it also shouts to non-cyclists, "Hey! I'm a big bike, and you're gonna share the road with me, whether you like it or not!"

We stopped for dinner at Pegasus, a pizza joint on Alki Avenue, and waited a good, long while for the sun to set. Unfortunately, the clouds stuck around long after the sun went down. We made our way further down Alki Beach, enjoying the sweeping view of the Seattle skyline. After hitting the northern tip of Alki, we shifted down to our tiniest gears and spun our way up to Hamilton Viewpoint Park. The view was great, but those pesky Puget Sound clouds wouldn't budge. While Aaron patched a flat tire in the park, I decided to peel out and head home. My path back to Capitol Hill was obstructed by a stubborn train stopped on the tracks. Luckily, I'd chosen the right vehicle for the trip. Chuckling at cars stuck behind me, I tossed my bike on my shoulder and climbed over a steel rod, connecting two railroad cars. Full moon or no, I resolved, this was a hell of a night to be out on a bike.