Velodrome Alpha: My 50 Mile Ride on a Track Bike with the Canon G11

March 31:

A beautiful Day in Seattle

The weather was great so I took my new Canon G11 and I headed north to the University Bridge. This is what Portage Bay looked like when I left.

It seems I wasn’t the only person with intentions to be on a bike for the sunshine…

The bike lanes were seeing a considerable amount of traffic for midday Wednesday.

I hit the Burke-Gilman with my sights set on Kenmore Camera. I needed to see what they had and had aspirations of a short camera strap.
The trail was beautiful.

Complete with Bike Fridays

I stopped to take a bunch of pictures, so this is going to be a post about those.

Sand Point way has nothing on me.

I took this from on high.

So did my bike. Reminds me of Southern California. In good and bad ways.

North Seattle by the Burke Gilman is very interesting. It’s not urban but it has that type of sensibility.

Like the decay that’s part of life.

Eventually, through enough narrow paths and blind car crossings, I arrived in Kenmore.

Kenmore has a groomed park that’s extremely dissimilar to Seattle parks.

I didn’t waste too much time here, and went to the camera store.

Where I found a great little supplementary strap system, more low profile than the huge neck strap included with every camera.

I love this shop, but it’s definitely a shop that’s very Kenmore-y. That means:

A stupid-sad lack of bike parking. Getting inventive with locking is a very suburban pastime.

As my track bike has no bosses for water bottle cages, I had worked up a bit of a thirst. I trekked across the way to a Rite Aid, to find even less in the way of bike parking:

Kenmore: Don’t bike here if you want to leave your bike anywhere.

Luckily I can be quite resourceful with my silly-small mini-U.

A better shot of the hilarious locking options:

From this point I decided to grab a snickers and poweraide and power on. The trails were nice and the weather was pretty and I felt to be making some good memories and images.

Plus, a trailhead.

Maps with routes highlighted! And no stupid “you are here” stickers.


Onward to the Velodrome it is then.

The paths from Kenmore to the Sammamish River Trail are narrow, shady, and full of road racer types in lycra.

It doesn’t last long however before you turn onto the Sammamish River Trail, which quickly opens up to some sweeping turns and scenic areas, without ugly but functionally blissful underpasses and super convenient adjoining parking lots.

The scenery just gets better, as office parks and apartment buildings get modern, tasteful, and farther set back from the trail.

It’s getting cloudier, too… which makes for some dramatic pictures.

Some of the prairie-eske views are quite inspiring for that “get to redmond as fast as possible” jaunt down the trail. Or for shutter clicks.

Yes, I was making friends with the G11. For shots of halted machines and pipelines, it can actually make a great photo. Just don’t try to capture any action or genuine expression with it, and it will do some cool things.

Here’s what I wanted to get with the last picture, but actually accomplished through a few tweaks to the settings and some patience with the interface:

Much better. G11, you have pleased me… for now.

And a tighter close up for the bike geeks:

My bike propped against propane lines.

As the trip odometer passed 15, my but and knees were beginning to settle into the no-brakes track bike rhythm. It’s a cacophony of dull pains and slow discomforts.

While making the above picture, a passerby complimented my bike and then stopped to chat.

You say my bike is beautiful, but where my headset says S2, yours says King. And where my frame says Samba, yours says Dean.

Funny, this admirer had a bike of much higher component spec, much more usable build, and much more exotic materials. If you can’t see, it’s a Dean titanium mountain bike with a lockout front suspension, slick tires, anodized nipples, nice name brand bearing components, and a singlespeed tensioner kit. I’ve now had a carbon road bike rider(not just any, but a Look 595 rider) compliment this bike as well as a titanium mountain bike rider compliment this bike. I guess being pretty is enough sometimes, as my bike really can’t hold a candle to the expensive and exotic bikes I gape at while receiving compliments.

So tally one more for the awesome, chill people who will stop and talk about bikes. I continue on to Marymoor…

The only place you’ll find a bike rack on the north and east side of the lake!

I arrive! To find that others are not as respectful as I to the track:

Stay Classy, San DeSkiddo.

Really? Keep your fixie stuntin’ to parking lots and side streets, please.

So, time to set up the tripod…

The Magnum pack by Timbuk2. A handy camera case, and for the inventive/ill prepared, a tripod.

And make this:

Yeah, three laps of actually riding on the embankments. I had a blast, even though I didn’t go anywhere with anything resembling speed.

The ‘Drome is beautiful…

What a track. Desolate and beautiful.

The G11’s built in ND filter really flatters the sky on a day like this, too. I know these are all processed with the subtlety and tact of a sledge-wielding gameshow host, but I’m pretty happy with the detail and rendering of this little camera… even if it takes fifteen seconds for it to realize that, yes, I actually do want to take a picture… now… please. Wow. Shooting SLR’s for four years straight will do something to you. It will make point and shoots suck forever and always.

But my, do I love the sky over the velodrome.

And that dust speck to the left of the lamp? It’s a plane. Yeah. The full res shows it very nicely, but I’m not in the cropping mood. Let’s continue.

The airfield and cloud formations.

I leave Marymoore with the sun lowering and my spirits high.

This is where it all goes wrong.

The second you leave the park, it’s abysmal drab awful noisy hilly narrow chain link disaster surrounding and suffocating you.

It’s actually better looking in the picture than in real life.

Bellevue appears on the horizon as you travel along the disgustingly loud 520 path which mainly goes south.

At least I can rely on the sky to make a decent picture over this wasteland of internal combustion.

As I draw closer to the 405 juncture, things go from bad to worse. The 520 trail detours through a Microsoft campus that’s renovating and constructing new things. They have to close the path to do this, of course, because it’s their money that paid for it in the first place. After some stares from cars that make me feel as alien as a flying saucer, I rejoin the path below 148h st to find it terminates in a mess of overpasses and roads that are bikable, but go to hell-crap nowhere in the opposite direction from where I want to go. Instead, I travel south on 116th and hope to shit I can get closer to the big buildings, the I-90 bridge, and my route home.

Northrup way and some crazy ass streets take you over pictures like this one.

If I didn’t want to leave so badly, I could have made a good picture here.

Biking anywhere in Bellevue or Redmond means doing what is precisely what I am avoiding when I get on a bike: Pushing buttons and sitting on your ass.

Hurry up and wait.

If you can navigate without signage, you’ll find your way to more car-centered infrastructure that forces you to risk death or ride on sidewalks.

Where’s a trailhead when I need one?

You know when you’re in Bellevue when the overpasses for 405 closer resemble fancy hotel lobbies than beaten down bridges and train tracks.

Yes, that’s a lot of traffic. It only makes me love my bike more.

I finally start to feel like I’m under the skyscrapers again as I enter downtown Bellevue.

Aside from everything looking like it costs more money than I make in a year, I feel better just being in a city.

What I like about taking pictures of buildings is that literally anyone can do it. Point the camera at the sky just around sunset and it doesn’t matter who you are. The pictures you make are still pretty.

Seriously, even the worst silly crop of a building at sunset is a better picture than most anything I see on a daily basis.

Alright. I’m a consumer fiend and an American culture junkie. We all knew it was going to happen. I’ve been on the bike for 30 some miles. It’s time to go to the mall.

I like this picture for two reasons. One, my bike and I are only barely reflected in the window. Two, chihuly is the epitome of Lincoln Square artistic sensibilities. At some point? Sure, it was mindblowing. Now, it’s just a status symbol.

It’s Latte time.

My black leggings are totally acceptable mall fashion. Their comfortable sexiness is so totally relevant and chic. Plus, they are black and cover all my skin and so are the pinnacle of modesty. I also straighten my hair daily because I’m important. If it isn’t already obvious to you, people who make my sugar-ice coffee beverages: I’m too pretty to look patient.

I hate the mall. That crap I said about being a glutton for consumerism and American culture… yeah that was only half true. I love it but I hate it so, so deeply.

The cars go in the courtyard.

Maybe it’s because everyone here is so affluent and important they have to burn fuel to effortlessly bring themselves to this place of ludicrous indulgence and commerce. I’m going to spare you my feelings on personal trainers and liposuction because all of these people are probably fine, and I’m just angry because they didn’t spend a cent trying to make their dumb town accessible by bike.

Seriously, it’s horrible.

Biking through, to, from, or around Bellevue is a nightmare.

Driving there, however, is great.

Fashion sense comes with age and money. As do Cankles.

Alright. Latte sipped, banana bread devoured… let’s end this nightmare.

Ask Hostess at McCormick and Schmit’s for directions. Answer: “South.” Great. So helpful. Thanks. Your blonde hair makes me vomit. You don’t earn your money and you know it. I’m not bitter. I’m lying.

Friend from elementary school calls. He’s visiting my time zone. He’s in San Diego. I’m on a long bike ride. We exchange brief greetings and I tell him to call me later in the week.

As the steel and glass dance in fading sunlight to my back, I remember to notice how great greatness is.

I could really love Bellevue if it would stop wearing black leggings as a substitute for pants and realized that cosmetology is well and good if it’s a means and not an end. Who doesn’t want to be liked? I just wish it wasn’t a prerequisite. And in Bellevue, it seems that it is.

Turns out “South” really is all the direction I needed. I brave the two lanes of southbound cars, and several people who pass me leaving spaces measured in inches not feet, and eventually I see a sign… the first since Marymoor… telling me where cyclists can go if they want to get ANYWHERE.

Bicycle route to I-90.

I take the uphill side street(107, turns into 108), and before I can say “This is taking forever” I see it. The lake.

A glimmer of hope. Ugly picture, but I snapped it anyway. I was that excited to see hope of getting myself home. I had taken about four wrong turns before this point, and was tired of absolutely horrendous bicycle infrastructure.

The sun sets and I reach the shores of Lake Washington under I-90.

I see Mercer Island slumbering lazily, tethered by massive structures of metal and stone. Sunsets are beautiful in a dying kind of way, but I want home, and the G11’s low light capabilities leave me frustrated and upset. There’s plenty of light in the sky, but this small sensor is like a baby trying to grasp an airplane. Noisy and Inept.

Mercer, and the clouds in the setting sun.

I bike through the dark pathways of Mercer’s I-90 route. It takes me through beautiful parks neither I nor my camera can see.

I emerge to the bridge and fight the little canon tooth and nail to squeeze out this last cycling image:

Home on the Horizon

I’m not home yet but I am now in familiar territory. I have lights, so while I’ve biked 40-50 miles without brakes I still feel relatively safe.

Back west of the lake I climb through to MLK Jr blvd, racing a lightless roadie on his evening breakneck commute home. We exchange no words but I am glad to not be riding alone, though he eventually passes me as I spin out on a downhill. 44-17 gets me everywhere but not as fast as some.

I fight up Union, legs burning and dull, and dismount in front of a favorite hotspot.

The Elysian. The G11 is now useless without a tripod or full abandonment of color and clarity.

This is where I sadly decide to end my day by biking to my friend’s house on cap hill.

His house looks like this:

It’s a church.

So maybe the G11 can still pump out some lo-res magic. Or maybe it’s divine intervention.

Google later reveals that without my misdirections, laps around the drome, or general biking off the set course, my route totals 50.4 miles. With one fixed gear. No brakes. On a steel track bike that was made in Taiwan in 2006. I’m beat to hell but happy.

We drive in his car to the U district.

Civics… they eat gas, but not much of it.

I guess this makes this a ‘supported’ ride. The car did get me home… and to some bars. And to a quick stop where I purchased and drank 32 ounces of this crazy stuff:

I guess the G11 is just kind of hit and miss in low light. This file looks like absolute shit any larger.

We end up at Flowers and talk about the most ridiculous shit. Conversations get way too deep for someone as tired as I am. Why one camera review blogger is a douche. Why another is an egotistical hack. Who owns a photograph and who trips the shutter. Dumb stuff that smart guys like us know the answer two, but discuss to nausea anyway.

I don’t bike home. I get dropped off after a hamburger run.

I don’t go to sleep, I edit every single photo. More than you see here. Then I make that video I linked to that you skipped over because you didn’t read this whole thing, you only look at my pictures. Such is the power of images over text.

Sleep. It’s awesome. and it’s what I’m going to go do now. Thanks for tuning in.


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