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A beginner’s guide to biking in Seattle

Four cyclists share tips for getting started on two wheels in the Emerald City

For new-to-town Seattleites, biking in the city can seem daunting. Seattle, after all, is a hilly town with fragmented biking infrastructure and a notoriously long wet-weather season. Biking is part of Seattle’s culture, though, and those less-than-ideal realities help bind Seattle’s community of cyclists—we’re in it together. Over time, and with the right combination of support, experience, and gear, impediments to biking in Seattle give way to something else: freedom, flexibility, cost savings, and a more nuanced connection to the city itself.

Every tenured Seattle biker has grappled with bumps in the road, literally and figuratively, en route to proficiency. Whether you’re considering a move to the Pacific Northwest or you’re a longtime Seattleite looking to dip your toe into city riding, four local cyclists and proponents of person-powered transport share their wisdom, from getting started and must-have gear to the city’s most enjoyable neighborhood routes.

Tom Fucoloro

Founder and editor of Seattle Bike Blog

In 2009, Tom Fucoloro moved from Denver to Seattle and sold his car to help finance his relocation. Consequently, he became a skilled cyclist, and he shares that knowledge on Seattle Bike Blog, a resource for all things related to getting around town on two wheels.

Getting started: Get into “hill shape,” Fucoloro says. When he was new to Seattle, Fucoloro cut his teeth on the steep, relentless incline along Fremont Avenue North. Depending on their bodies, some people will have an easier or harder time getting into hill shape, he says. “It’s a hump you have to get over,” he says. “Just keep doing it. Get off and walk if you need to; there’s no shame in that.” Fucoloro struggled for a month before he stopped thinking about the hills. “When they weren’t scary anymore, I knew I was in hill shape. It’s empowering to know you can get anywhere.”

Favorite neighborhood to pedal through: The Central District east of downtown. “I like the small parks and surprise vistas I’ve discovered over the years,” Fucoloro says. “They feel like secrets, and I never would’ve found them on foot or in a car.” His favorite CD stop, though, is the Central Cinema, a dine-in movie theater and event space. “There’s nothing else like it in Seattle,” he says.

Central Cinema Seattle

Best part of biking in Seattle: Ironically, the hills. They’re what make biking in Seattle tough, but they also make it so it seems like you’re surrounded by the city whenever you’re riding. On a single trip, Fucoloro says, “You might have been up high with a great view, or down low by the water. You’ve probably seen some boats and some seaplanes. The city is all around you.”

Must-have gear: Fenders, Fucoloro says. “For some reason, in the U.S., we sell most of our bikes without fenders. They make a huge difference in the rain.”

Marley Blonsky

Bike blogger creating an inclusive community of cyclists with Seattle WTF Bike Explorers

In 2013, Marley Blonsky swapped her car for a bike when she moved back into the city’s core from West Seattle. Today, she’s active in Seattle WTF Bike Explorers, which promotes inclusivity in cycling among women and trans, femme, and nonbinary folks, and she helps organize the group’s Moxie Monday rides.

Getting started: For Blonsky, the biggest initial roadblock to cycling in Seattle was learning to ride in traffic. It’s important, she says, for new and experienced bike riders to be confident, predictable, and clear in their intentions around cars. “I try to act like I am a car—if I need to change lanes, I’m going to signal, take the lane, and make it really clear that I need space,” she says.

Favorite neighborhood to pedal through: Blonsky likes cruising through the Green Lake neighborhood because of its connectivity to the rest of the city and its protected bike infrastructure. A 2.8-mile, all-skill-levels path wraps around the neighborhood’s glacier-formed lake, and protected and shared bike lanes emanate from there. She particularly enjoys the stretch along Green Lake Way North where a vista opens up across the water. “There’s great light and beautiful sunsets there, and every season offers something different—from spring cherry blossoms to fall leaves,” she says. “You’re on a two-lane road with vehicle traffic, but everyone at the lake is there for recreation. People are happy, and no one is in a hurry.”

The best part of biking in Seattle: The freedom and ability to be spontaneous. “I run into my friends more on my bike. I can go to the park right now on my bike. I’m not constrained by parking or traffic.”

Must-have gear: A bike that fits you well, and that’s good and safe. “Beyond that, it doesn’t matter.” Preoccupation with the hottest brands and best gear can be exclusionary if you don’t have the money, she says.

Mike Buendía

Recycle and reuse coordinator at Bike Works, a nonprofit bike shop

Mike Buendía’s bike has been his primary mode of transportation in Seattle since he moved to town from Orlando in 2010. Compared to other cities he’s traversed on a bike, he says that people’s attitudes toward cyclists and the infrastructure to support it are best in the Northwest. Buendía works at Bike Works, a nonprofit bike shop focused on making biking more accessible and affordable for all Seattleites.

Getting started: Buendía suggests that new city bikers consider the types of riding they’re likely to do, from daily commuting on city streets to leisurely weekend rides on bike paths and trails. “Most bike shops employ people with a collective knowledge of all bikes and riding,” he says, “and they should be able to help you find a bike that’s right for your needs and riding style.”

2020 cycle seattle

Favorite neighborhood to pedal through: Interlaken Park in north Capitol Hill is a densely wooded urban park that feels forest-y from the ground to the treetops. If you’re headed north through the park along Interlake Drive East, the ride is mostly downhill, and Buendía rarely sees a car there. “Riding a bike requires attentiveness and focus. You’re always on, and your brain is always working,” he says. “To enter a space where you can drop that for a few minutes is like taking a deep breath.”

The best part of biking in Seattle: The control. Biking makes Buendía feel like he’s in charge of the time it takes to arrive at his destination. “In cars and buses, I get anxious and annoyed because I don’t know when I’ll actually get to where I’m going.”

Must-have gear: Plenty of gears. “Seattle’s hills are nothing to scoff at, so get a bike with enough gears to tackle them,” he says.

Haley Keller

Co-owner of Peddler Brewing, a bike-themed craft brewery in the Ballard neighborhood, and member of the board of directors for bike-advocacy nonprofits Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes

When Haley Keller started dating Dave, who’s now her husband, he was already an avid cyclist, so she dug her bike out of her parents’ garage. After having ridden together for a decade, the couple recently became a three-person biking family with the arrival of their son in 2018. He’s able to ride along in a Thule Maxi bike seat on the back of Keller’s RadWagon cargo bike.

Getting started: Plan your routes, Keller says. “Routes make or break your experience on a bike. Know yours is a good one before you set off.” The Seattle Bike Map is a great route-planning resource, as is Curbed Seattle’s list of 10 beginner bike rides in Seattle.

Favorite neighborhood to pedal through: Keller likes riding her bike through Fremont, which is flanked on its south edge by the 27-mile Burke-Gilman Trail. Cyclists can take the Burke-Gilman east to Redmond, go across the Fremont Bridge and west through the Ship Canal Trail or head south along the Lake Union Loop to downtown. “I feel safe and comfortable riding in Fremont, and the paths are wide and well-marked.”

The best part of biking in Seattle: Getting outside. “It’s refreshing to be outdoors with the air blowing in your face,” she says.

Must-have gear: Every cyclist in Seattle needs a breathable, visible rain jacket. “Rain should never be a reason not to ride your bike,” she says.