LEGENDS OF THE BIKE PATH

the shadow of a cyclist on a bike path from the rider's perspective

Of the many outdoor activities that Seattle has to offer, the Burke-Gilman Trail brings together the most amount of people day-to-day. The 19-mile biking/walking path has the potential to take riders all the way from the Puget Sound to the top of Lake Washington and beyond. What lies within that 19-mile stretch are some of the city’s best restaurants, burgeoning breweries, one state university, and of course, a handful of different types of riders.

Here are some of the more common species you might find cruising the Burke-Gilman (and maybe your own home bike path) on a daily basis.

(* = the author is either currently or at some point fallen in this category)

*THE TIME TRIALIST (Spandex-Tightiest)

Comfortable in groups or pedaling solo, the Strava obsessed Time Trialist, also known as a Pathlete, has one thing on its mind: speed. Its goal will be achieved with little regard for other riders or pedestrians, often saving its oxygen for muscle performance instead of vocal efforts to warn others of their presence.

THE SILENT TYPE (Warning-Minimus)

Usually riding a stylish retro steel frame commuter, this introvert is too consumed with internally parsing a free form poem or the day’s lecture to offer outwardly verbal warnings of their presence.

*THE BREWERY BOMBER (IPA-Drinkum)

Riding a singlespeed picked up off the Internet for no more than $100, this smiley cyclist’s presence will be heard before being seen as a speaker strapped to the bike’s top tube blares their favorite playlist. This cyclist is mostly seen from late afternoon until last call, but will venture out during the day for special occasions and holidays.

THE BIKE-SHARE DATE (Duo-Lovitis)

Young love can happen in many places. For two college students, side by side on rideshare bikes while taking up the whole bike path is as good as any. In regards to the safety of surrounding riders, what they lack in spatial awareness they make up for with easy to navigate slow speeds. The snail pace is key for maintaining a communication environment conducive to discussing midterms and instant ramen recipes.

*THE COMMUTER (Maximum-Fittius)

With a stern look, weathered panniers, and toned calves The Commuter is the old sage of the bike path. They know every inch of their daily ride from the occasional tree root speed bump to the timing of traffic light changes. Their steely demeanor owns up to the fact that they don’t always enjoy their regular time in the saddle (see: rain) but still have the peace of mind of knowing that they’re choosing to ride a bike instead of drive a car. Also, since they’re riding nearly every day, their level of fitness is sneaky great.

THE WEAVER (Control-Lackum)

Mostly seen on the weekends, this cyclist is a cousin to the Brewery Bomber. The Weaver’s happy-to-be-here attitude takes the joy of cycling from the bomber while their recklessness comes from a lack of empathy gained with regular path riding. They mean well even if they don’t ride well, but should also be looked upon with appreciation for their unbridled joy of being on a bike.

THE RECUMBENT RAMBLER (Asphalt-Scrapius)

This Rec-Spec’d retired engineer cyclist will sneak up on you at stoplights or even match your pace while riding – all to expunge on the benefits of their unique “machine”. It’s the same with dentists and flossing as with recumbent cyclists: we know they’re right, but not everyone wants to do it.

*THE FULL SUSPENSION MOUNTAIN BIKER (Singletrack-Mindum)

When observing a full suspension mountain biker on an urban bike path it’s not crazy to wonder, just where are you going on that thing? Is it your only bike? Is there some sick single track with sick jumps behind that strip mall? One should ride cautiously around the full suspension rider as unannounced, unsuccessful wheelies and jumps regularly occur and can cause unwanted collateral damage.

Did I miss any? Lovingly, call them out in the comments!

A photo of signs along the side of the Burke-Gilman Trail
Credit: Seattle.gov
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I'm a fan of the outdoors, an engaged citizen of the world with a focus on traveling to countries very different from the USA, rides bikes, a golfer on the downside of a decent amateur career (held a collegiate school record for ten minutes), and a wannabe carpenter.

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8 thoughts on “LEGENDS OF THE BIKE PATH

  1. Not sure I can be quite as clever as you but here’s my offer: Moms pulling a trailer of kid(s). Momus-pullus. Sometimes speedily with happy sound effects emanating from the trailer. Sometimes just pulling a sleepy toddler. Always helmeted, stops at crossings. Needs more berth on corners.
    Enjoyed the read!

    1. That’s a great one! They’re not too common on Seattle paths but I definitely love the setup and family vibe they provide.

  2. Please be just a little more forgiving of us full suspension mountain bikers. I ride a 20-year old Santa Cruz Superlight because 1.) it’s still a fabulous ride, 2.) I’ve kept it in excellent shape over the years (every ding and scratch was earned honestly) and 3.) truth be told . . . I’ve got a family and can’t justify the expense of buying another bike. So, even though I might not be as fast on my in-town bike path as some other riders, I can guarantee no one is having more fun than I am, and that’s what it’s all about. Now I’ve gotta go clean and lube my chain!

    1. Haha totally get it and as noted in the piece, I still frequent the bike path with my MTB as well from time to time. Can’t beat the smooth ride!

  3. Fun write up John! Very reminiscent of our beloved Spring Water Bike path down here in Portland :). I love that I fit multiple of these descriptions on a given day, from the avid bike commuter to the one on my CX or MTB using the path to get to our secret local single track. With the virus, the increased usage of our path has been significant. Great to see so many people rediscovering or discovering the joy of biking again.

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