The clicking of hundreds of bike wheels filled the air in Kendall Yards Sunday morning as more than a thousand bicyclists gathered for the 11th annual SpokeFest.
Cyclists could choose from 9-, 21- or 50-mile routes that began and ended in Kendall Yards, where a small vendor fair and food trucks were set up just west of Monroe Street. Street bikes, mountain bikes, tandem bikes and recumbent bikes filled the street.
Leslie Field stood next to her bike checking her phone while waiting for the 21-mile route’s 9:30 a.m. start. She usually bikes with her 7-pound Lhasa Apso/poodle mix named Nari in her front basket, she said, but left the dog home on Sunday. “I don’t think she’d do well with the crowd,” she said.
Field said she used to bike a lot and has done the Seattle to Portland ride in the past, but didn’t like dealing with the heavy traffic in California where she was living recently. She and her husband, Tom, moved to Spokane in May and she’s worked to get back to biking.
She’s been doing “smoothie rides” on Fridays, biking 10 or 12 miles and getting a smoothie along the way. She wasn’t sure she was ready for 21 miles. “I am kind of nervous, because there are hills and stuff,” she said.
She was biking solo, since her husband was doing the 50-mile route. He’s preparing for the 100-mile Coeur d’Fondo ride next weekend. “This is a warmup for him,” she said. “He’s a bike rider.”
Field said she enjoys getting out on her bike and loves to use the Centennial Trail. “It’s nice to get out,” she said. “What I like about Spokane is people ride. I think Spokane is a bike city.”
Volunteer coordinator Susan Pugh said over 1,000 riders signed up to participate this year, a lower number than usual. A lot of people registered late and late fees were waived this year because of uncertainty about the air quality. “With the smoke the way it’s been, it’s challenged us,” she said. “We’re down this year. We’ve had as many as 2,200.”
The beginning of the route follows the Bloomsday course, sending riders streaming south across the Monroe Street Bridge to Riverside Avenue. Streets were closed downtown briefly to let riders surge though, but the roads were open to cars along much of the routes. “You can’t close roads down for a long period of time,” Pugh said.
The ride is not timed and is not a race, Pugh said. “We’re very specific,” she said. “It’s a ride event.”
It takes over 120 volunteers to put on the event. There are side drivers to pick up those unable to finish as well as medics and mechanics. Other volunteers staff the four food stops and there are 26 course marshals stationed along the way to call for help, if needed, and otherwise keep things running smoothly.
Amanda Peterson stood waiting for the start with her children, 11-year-old Gabe, 9-year-old Regan and 8-year-old Zachary. It was her second time participating in SpokeFest and Gabe’s third. The two youngest were making their first attempt.
Peterson said they like to ride their bikes but haven’t done any community rides other than SpokeFest. Participating gives them a chance to be a part of something bigger than them, Peterson said.
Gabe Peterson said he was there for a good time. “I just like how everyone has so much fun,” he said. “Everyone just comes together.”
Peterson said she usually tries to finish the 9-mile route in an hour and a half but was planning to take things a bit slower this year because of the younger children.
“It’s not a race,” she said. “We’re just going to take our time and have fun.”