Cascade’s ‘Flying Wheels’ Event Poised to be Washington’s Biggest Group Ride Since the Pandemic Began
  • 830 riders registered for the June 5 event.
  • Washington’s “biggest in-person cycling event” in more than a year.

First held about 25 years ago as a tuneup for the 206-mile Seattle to Portland, Cascade’s Flying Wheels Summer Century on June 5 is a scenic and challenging group bike ride that follows hilly country roads through some of the loveliest and most verdant farmlands of Western Washington.

Canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, this year’s Flying Wheels will be a historic--and newsmaking--event for Cascade Bicycle Club and the state of Washington. “This will be the biggest in-person cycling event in Washington since the pandemic began,” says David Douglas, Cascade’s rides and community engagement director.

Flying Wheels is the first major group ride that Cascade has held since Chilly Hilly in February of 2020, and its return after being paused last year signals the beginning of a return to normalcy, with the necessary safety precautions implemented. 

About 830 people have registered for the June 5 event, a sign, Douglas says, that people are hungry for the return of group riding events. He calls Flying Wheels “a favorite major group ride for road cyclists and fitness riders in the Puget Sound region.”

Flying Wheels 100 mile route map

The 100-mile route.

The ride begins and ends in Redmond’s Marymoor Park, a short drive from Seattle. In addition to the century ride, Flying Wheels offers 50-mile and 70-mile routes. 

Despite the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions in Washington as more people get vaccinated, Cascade will continue to exercise caution to ensure peoples’ safety. Participants are encouraged to wear masks when gathered off the bike. Rider packets will be mailed to participants to avoid clustering people at the start. There will be no same-day registration.

“For people driving to the event, we want them to park, unload their bike and go,” Douglas says. In years past, Cascade hosted a beer garden at the finish. This year, there will be a hot dog and sausage stand for finishers to grab some food and go eat it in a safe spot outdoors.

“We don’t want people to consider this a big festival,” Douglas says. “We want this to be a safe, responsible, and happy event for everyone.”

In addition to “go-as-you-please” start times, Cascade’s safety measures include sending all riders a COVID-19 questionaire that they are required to complete, asking all riders (regardless of vaccination status) to wear masks at start/stops and at food and bathroom stops, and asking riders to social distance at stops, six feet if possible.

Carnation Farms: Teaching Sustainable Farming

One of the official rest stops is at Carnation Farms, where Cascade has contracted with a local Boy Scout troop to operate a food and drink station. Carnation Farms, located on 818 acres, is an educational and agricultural gem of the Snoqualmie Valley. It is a certified organic farm and outdoor classroom that teaches people of all ages how to grow, raise, and cook healthy and sustainable food. 

“We are trying to support a better future for agriculture,” says Robert Finn, Carnation Farms executive director. “We train farmers in all the basic skills while also paying them a living wage.” 

Carnation Farms

Harvesting grain. Photo courtesy Carnation Farms.

Carnation Farms holds events throughout the year that provide opportunities for school field trips and other gatherings. The nonprofit also operates a year-round farm stand where Cascade encourages its members to shop.

“Carnation Farms has been an extremely generous partner, and we owe them a huge thanks for their cooperation and support,” Douglas says. “Flying Wheels wouldn’t be possible without them.”

Country Roads, Rolling Hills--and Bears!

With several decades worth of experience organizing and riding the Flying Wheels route, Douglas is enthralled by the area’s natural beauty. The span of West River Road between the small towns of Fall City and Carnation is one of his favorite scenic rides in the region. 

“It’s so beautiful,” Douglas says. “You ride alongside the winding Snoqualmie River where you can see farms and forests and wildlife. I saw a bear walk across the road once! They come down to the river to fish.”

All clear, no bears here!

Snoqualmie Falls is another scenic location on the ride, which is known for its short but steep hill climbs. “Englewood Hill at mile six is short but it wakes you up,” says Douglas, who calls the ride up Issaquah-Fall City Road “one of my favorite climbs.” 

Douglas has a message for all Flying Wheels participants: smile, wave, and be kind to locals, and please, please, please use the official rest stops and portable toilets. In the past, some area residents complained about people urinating along the course. “It’s illegal to urinate in public in King County,” Douglas says.

“While we really enjoy riding in the valley, we realize it’s an inconvenience for some people who live there, so we are doing our best to minimize any negative impacts,” Douglas says. “Our message to cyclists is: be on your best behavior, follow all road rules, and use the porta-potties.”

And come back to shop at the Carnation Farmstand at a future date.

See the routes and register for Flying Wheels.

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Paul Tolmé