How NOT to get Lost on an Organized Ride

With the Chilly Hilly in 3 days, I wanted to share a personal story for new riders to help them with their first organized ride!

Many years ago, I decided it was time to up my game a little. I had done the Chilly Hilly, 33 miles of cold and hills a couple of times, and I was starting to feel cocky!

I looked around, and found the Salmon Run, a now defunct ride held by the Cascade Bicycle Club. It had a 60 mile route throughout the city, which went by the Ballard Locks, where you could see the salmon in the fish ladders heading upstream (hence the name).

In every ride they provide turn by turn directions, and I had those. In the Chilly Hilly, however, all I ever did was follow those in front of me. Easy. This ride though turned out to be a longer course with fewer people… Meaning that soon I had no one in front of me.

No worries, I had directions, and had worked in Seattle for years, how hard could it be! (I said that same thing once when I tried to replace a kitchen sink….famous last words). Also remember, these rides tend to use lesser travel, lessor known roads whenever possible. I thought I was doing well until i read on the directions “Lincoln Park will be on your right.” I was at Lincoln Park, but it was on the left… Luckily at that point I saw a pack of riders with numbers heading the opposite direction and I jumped on their back wheels and they got me on track.

I was mad about the lack of markings! I almost called to complain, but let it go. The next year, at the Chilly Hilly I heard people explaining to a newbie to follow the “Dan Henry’s” “What’s a Dan Henry” he asked. (I’m glad or I would’ve had to ask.)

Well turns out, almost all rides use Dan Henry’s, named for the man who first came up with them, to mark the routes. They are markings spray painted strategically along the route to tell riders whether to turn right, left or straight.

Generic Dan Henrey's
Generic Dan Henrey

I had been looking at street signs, not looking down! I was going to ride it agin the following year to see what I had missed, but they didn’t hold it again To make it even easier, most rides customize the markings so you know its for the ride you are on. Here is one for the Seattle-to-Portland.

Left turn ahead on the STP
Left turn ahead on the STP

So when you ride, look around you, but keep an eye on the ground for directions!

2 thoughts on “How NOT to get Lost on an Organized Ride

  1. Good tips. Rides out my way tend to use a more simple system of spray painted arrows, color-coded by the length of the ride you are on. During an epic deluge last year, I learned that the spray paint favored by ride organizers is often chalk-based, so it isn’t permanent. I also learned that rain washes away chalk-based paint, which was very unfortunate for me.

    It’s always a good idea to know where you are on the Earth’s surface. Relying on fellow riders or painted symbols puts you in the hands of someone else which can result in unhappy consequences. I like to study the route in advance so I can get an idea of the more difficult sections (for hills or navigation).

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