Rocket Ride – Seattle Washington

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I’ve done a ton of organized rides all over the world.  Most bigger cities here in the US have their Tuesday night “World Championships” and such.  But, the Saturday morning Rocket Ride in Kenmore, Washington tops the list as the continuously fastest group “training ride” I’ve ever done.

I’d run into Todd Herriott, czar of HSP, Herriott Sports Performance,  and he said I should head over to Log Boom Park, in Kenmore, right on the North end of Lake Washigton,  on Saturday, for a brisk ride.

Maybe Todd doesn’t know the definition of brisk, but  my definition of brisk, isn’t his.  The phrase he should have said is “a super fast training race”.    I wasn’t really mentally prepared for it when we took off.

Keith, Catherine and I got on our bikes around 7 am and headed North.  We stopped and got some coffee at the Freemont Coffee Company and then got on the Burke-Gilman trail that goes straight up to Log Boom Park.  It was a little longer than I’d anticipated and we had to ride pretty quick to get there just at 9.  There were a couple large groups of riders meeting at the same time.

I went over to use the restroom, Catherine did too, and when we came out, the Rocket Ride had already departed.  Keith had waited and I did a little time trial to catch us back up.  They got stuck at the first light, if not, I probably would have missed the whole experience.

When we got back on, Catherine instantly rode up and planted herself in pretty good position towards the front, maybe 8-10 riders back.  Keith and I were at the tailend, I just kind of getting an overview of the composition of the group.  There were probably around 50 guys, nearly all looking like “real bike racers”.

Not very far into the ride, there was a pretty good sized hill ahead.  I was still at the back and when we started up the hill, someone jumped pretty hard at the front.  I could see that it looked like a race at the front, but I thought someone was just screwing  around.  But, no, it wasn’t anyone just messing around, it was pretty much game on.  I hesitated, still thinking I was missing something.  That was until I saw Catherine completely explode and start drifting back like a rock.

I didn’t blame her, she was in the same boat as most of the group.  It was carnage.  I started moving up and didn’t get a chance to give Catherine a push.  I couldn’t tell how long the hill was and didn’t have the energy to keep her on.

And that was a good thing, because the hill just kept going.  It was another surprise.  I don’t know how long the first climb was, but it was probably between a mile and two.  By the time were at the top, there were maybe 15 guys left.   And the attacks were constant.   I had that bad blood taste in my lungs, and it was just the start.

And that is how it went for the next two hours.  A group of somewhere between 10-20 guys just hammering.  I had no idea where the ride went, so I was kind of just hanging back.  I took a few pulls when we seemed to be heading on the same road.

There were a ton of weird turns, cut-offs through parks etc., early on, so I was a bit apprehensive about sitting on the front.  Plus there was a surprising amount of elevation gain.  Every hill we hit, someone would take off like it was the finish of a race.  I was in denial most of the ride.

I can’t do the whole play-by -play, but it was consistently fast the whole way.  There was a bunch of speed changes at the front.  We’d be in a single echelon and would be going 26mph, then 31, then 28.  I don’t really have that in my quiver right now, so it was hurting me.

And I was hurt.  Not really hurt enough to think I was ever going to get shelled or anything, but hurt enough that I wanted to have more form so I could just shell these guys once and for all and then get back to a normal Saturday morning ride.  But, that was never going to happen.

So, we rode close to 2 hours at pretty much race pace.  We got stopped at a bunch of stop lights and we just sat there nicely and waited for the light to change green.  But you needed to be ready for that, because it was game on just about when you got your foot clipped in.

It seemed like we were getting towards the end, when we got stopped by another like light.  I asked this guy, named Steve, if that was the end.  He chuckled and said no.  He said a few more rollers and a climb.

We keep going pretty good, but it seemed like everyone was running out of juice.  Guys had been getting popped the last few miles on the short hills.  There were probably 10 guys left, then a couple more got dropped right towards the end..

I didn’t know where the finish was.  After the fact, I would have thought that someone would have told me where they sprint, but no one was really talking much the whole day.  It was sort of weird in that respect.

We went over the top of a short hill and there was a steep descent, kicking up to a steep roller.  A couple guys took off and I realized, too late, that there was a stop ahead sign at the top.  They looked like they were going full out, but it was too late for me to catch them, so I just cruised up the last climb.  There were 8 of us left.

I was sort of hurt at the end.  I had nearly 20 miles there, plus I was freezing the whole day.  I’d taken off my knee warmers at the start, thinking it was going to warm up some.  It only got colder.  My hands were freezing too.  I’d say half my being semi-wasted was from the cold and the other half was from the effort.  An unexpected effort.

I am pretty sure that is how it goes every Saturday.  I kind of said, under my breathe, something like , “that was pretty hard”. The guy next to me said that there were only Cat. 1’s left.

No one seemed like anything was out of the usual.   When I downloaded my Garmin to Strava, I had the 7th fastest 2014 Rocket Ride time, so, it was okay fast, even for them.  If we hadn’t got stopped at so many long lights, we would have been a few minutes faster.

We rolled to a Starbucks and all stopped and got coffee.  Everyone was super friendly then.  Just a normal Saturday bike ride.

After coffee, we rolled back to the park and then I headed the hour back to Seattle.  Keith and Catherine had gotten lost, so they had turned around and rode back earlier.  They had nearly 50 miles, so it wasn’t a waste.  I had 84 at the end.  It was a much harder 80 miles than the Nosco Ride just 5 days earlier.

It was the hardest I’d ridden since I broke my hip at the end of May.  Harder than Chequamegon, but maybe I was more “race fit” then.  It was the fastest I’ve ridden on a road bike for the last 5 months, for sure.

So, if you’re ever in the Seattle area and want to get hammered on Saturday, you know where to go.


This was the weather the whole day.  Plus, it was pretty strung out.  I was at a disadvantage, not knowing where we were going or where the climbs were.

This was the weather the whole day. Plus, it was pretty strung out. I was at a disadvantage, not knowing where we were going or where the climbs were.

rocketridefinishThis is the finish hill.  I grabbed the photo off Abdy Bokanev’s website.  He has a little photo expose on the ride here.


IMG_3861I rode the Burke-Gilman Trail both ways to the ride.  It was pretty direct and nice.  There were a ton of people using it down by the University.

I bonked on the way back and had to stop for food.  I drank a quart of chocolate milk before I had a chance to pay for it.

I bonked on the way back and had to stop for food. I drank a quart of chocolate milk before I had a chance to pay for it.

Catherine fell on a wet descent and ripped up here jersey pretty good and smashed her helmet.  It could have been worse.

Catherine fell on a wet descent and ripped up her jersey pretty good and smashed her helmet. It could have been worse.







31 thoughts on “Rocket Ride – Seattle Washington

  1. SB

    I’ve wondered which of the local hammerfests are the fastest / toughest… seems like you’d be one of the few people who’s ridden enough of them to say, Steve. Thanks for the report.

  2. Bob

    Kudos to you Steve because most riders won’t show up to another groups ride, where they’re at a distinct disadvantage, not knowing the route, distance, and strength of the riders. I’ve done what you did, and it can be very tough.
    Most people are just not that secure.

  3. Johnny Bugno

    and sometimes people wonder why roadies are asocial? A psychologist would have a field day with those crazies. Wonder when the last time they read a book or did some yard-work?

  4. olmowebb

    We have a local Saturday “World’s” ride here in South Denver as well. It used to happen from January 1, until the first races in late March. Now it happens anytime there isn’t a race during the season, and then every Saturday from September until April. I’ve noticed most weeks it’s at least 50 riders, close to 100 after the first of the year (fewer right now because of cross).

    I jump in there once a month until after the first of the year, but it seems too much right now, when I’d rather go for long easy rides. Problem is, I can’t get anyone to ride easy with me because everyone wants to do the “World’s” hammerfest every week. I still feel this isn’t the best approach to training, or enjoyment.

  5. jed schneider

    You know, I would have used to have hated this sort of ride, and I can definitely sympathize with the criticisms of it in the comments, but now that I’m on the other side, and never race, I also see the appeal. For me, personally, I’m not really into doing a criterium anymore. There’s certainly nothing on the race calendar that I know of that compares to the feel of an open road kermesse or an open road race in Europe. And this ride, sounds just like the ‘take no prisoners’ kermesse racing I did in Belgium (without the benefit of traffic control). Sounds kinda fun. Maybe not in November, unless you’ve got cross nationals coming up. Nice to have it though, I’m sure.

    I’m sure part of it that drives rides like this one (as well as grand fondo attendance) is that there hardly any such thing as road racing anymore. Just crits and maybe, if you’re lucky, circuit races. I love crit racing, just not interested in doing it anymore, but what I really miss is the feel of a peleton on the open road at full throttle. The cost and the planning it takes to do that kind of race in the US is too litigious and too expensive for anyone to do except for the UCI races. Even races at the next level are uninteresting to me. Altoona, Redlands, Fitchburg, Joe Martin, etc, etc. They are mostly gone or so controlled by trade teams riding tempo you might as well go do a training ride by yourself.

    If I could ride to this ride, get some racing in, and ride home, well that sounds way better to me than driving an hour (or three) to a crit, sitting around and waiting for my race, racing in a parking lot, sitting around and waiting for my money, and then driving home. I have so little time to dedicate to time on the bike, the last thing I want to do with my allocated time is in the preparation of riding. When it comes down to it, all I really care about is that little bit of time in the game. So, yeh, sign me up. sounds fun to me.

  6. channel_zero

    Well, FYI, USA Cycling is doing nothing to develop the sport at the grassroots level, so of course road racing is mostly dead. They are happy to take your money and pass it to USACDF though…

  7. Steve Tilford Post author

    Spice-You can say they are assholes because of that photo? Wow. That was the final sprint. They don’t seem to be doing anything wrong from my perspective.

  8. Fabio C.

    By the way… the weather there is like that most of the time …. I used to live there in WA and some group rides you must have fenders on your road bike to ride in the group. Most rides you are riding in wet, damp and light rain days. Enjoy the ride ….

  9. Steve Tilford Post author

    Johnny-I’m pretty sure most of the guys on the ride could read. I think they wanted to ride their bikes, with friends, instead of yard work that day.

  10. Bill K

    Back in my younger days, I’d love to get out there at 7:00AM on Saturday, to ride with the 1-2’s. The times that I could hang through the hilly sections made my month. (most times would end up riding back with the guys who “didn’t have it”). There were crashes at least once a month, because of weather, or just people making mistakes…..

    Those were the days.

  11. biscuit

    Best thing about the Rocket Ride and the breakneck speed they go – no one forces anyone to attend. Everyone shows up on their own free will and gets what they expect (or more). I personally did yard work, read a book and attended a different ride – which low and behold pretty much went as I expected it. What a great country we live in to be able to choose what we want to do. BTW, that first hill, Norway, is .5 miles to the first stop sign where it turns right, then 1 more mile to the top. For reference my 3x repeat interval downloads are: 03:05min, .56 miles, 293avg watts for the .5 mile first step and 08:35min, 1.49 miles, 245av watts for the full hill. I’d estimate Rocket Ride pace is more like 5 minutes for the full hill. All in all it’s about the same as the Joe Martin TT except a tad bit steeper, slightly shorter with similar false flat toward the end.

  12. Brad

    Steve- we were honored to have you there. Obviously, you get it. Clearly, some of the other commenters don’t. The good news is that any of them can come out and put it all out there any Saturday when they’re not raking leaves. You are a true baller, and I’m glad to have had you with us. Next time, faster. And rain. Glad you came

  13. john h

    The weather and terrain remind me of the Ardennes in spring, so beautiful for riding… If you are dressed right. Gotta get up to Seattle with my bike I guess. Great write up.

  14. peter k

    If you thought that was fast, then there are several rides that you might check out in the east. Gimbel’s Ride in Yonkers, NY, Rock Creek Ride meeting at Tilden ST NW, Washington DC, the CAT1-2 Ride leaving from Wilson Park, Carrboro, NC

  15. Sean YD

    …except that crossing the center-line on an uphill is never a good idea, regardless of whether it’s a sanctioned race or a group ride.

  16. Spice

    the one dude is over the yellow line, while the other guys are taking up the entire lane. It’s not a “race” and just doesn’t look good to cars if seen.

  17. gr8bike

    As someone who’s spent a lot of time getting dropped off the back of that ride, nice to hear an outside perspective from the front. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday morning, and luckily doesn’t leave any energy for yardwork!

  18. usedtorace

    Great write-up on this ride. I also love Jed Schneider’s comment. I’m in the exact same boat. With a pretty demanding job, two kids and lots of other interests, “formal” racing just does not interest me in the slightest, unless it is running a 5k or something. However, group rides offer the feel of a classic road race lacking so much in the U.S. these days. I’ll probably never race a criterium again, but I sure as hell am training for next season’s Tue Nite Worlds. Speaking of group rides in the country, two come to mind that are/were super brutal. I don’t know if they run them anymore, but the Wed. Nite Worlds in Lincoln Nebraska were some of the group hardest rides I’ve ever done, esp. in the days of guys like Hajo Drees. Also, Chattanooga TN had a couple of group rides that would destroy any self-respecting Cat. 2.

  19. Jeremy

    As it turns out, a lot of highly competitive cyclists are well-educated, and well-rounded. They don’t just have energy while on the bike. Having a strong commitment to something like cycling is generally and indicator of behavior opposite to what you’re assuming…And regarding your suggestion that roadies are asocial, this is a group ride attended by more than 50 people, who all get coffee afterward, not a bunch of guys on solo rides comparing Strava stats afterward. In what way is that asocial? I’m primarily an XC racer. We’re the hermits…out in the woods, best way to race is solo or with one other rider…

  20. Jeremy

    This is one day a week, and the group is full of really fast people…I suppose they all got fast using the wrong approach to training?

  21. olmowebb

    Funny, I’m always at the front of the group when I show up, which is once a month. I don’t think doing a group ride every week makes you fast or slow necessarily. My point is that there is more to riding than doing the same group, same route, every week most of the year. It’s nice to try something new every so often.

  22. Steve M Cullen


    Great to have you at our team ride. An honor to roll beside you. It’s a great workout and social event and not for everyone (but it works for us). You rode really well for not knowing the course ( should’ve been a little more clear about the end sprint: it’s the fifth hill at the end). Very few guys can make it to the end of that thing, it’s a great challenge. I though you were just being a badass with out the knee warmers, but now I know. Last time Andy shot the ride, it was 40 and raining. Hard stuff. Glad you got some good weather. Come on back, ya hear.


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