‘It’s a good thing to do to go out and get your blood pumping’

Bicyclists discuss the activity’s mental and physical health benefits.

People who spend a fair amount of time on the Sammamish River Trail can spot a multitude of cyclists winding their way along the 10.1-mile trail that runs from Bothell to Marymoor Park near Redmond.

There are copious bicycle clubs in the region and Redmond is known as the Bicycle Capital of the Northwest. According to a Redmond Reporter article, the Derby Days Criterium has been part of the festival since its inception in 1939 and is the city’s oldest event and the country’s longest-running bicycle race.

While competitive cycling abounds in these parts — like at the Jerry Baker Memorial Velodrome at Marymoor — there are copious health benefits for serious or casual riders. The Kaiser Permanente web site notes that bicycling burns calories, inspires others to be active, decreases traffic congestion, lowers risks for serious health problems and incorporates regular physical activity.

Cascade Bicycle Club volunteer Shaun Ivory, a 56-year-old who lives in Cottage Lake, was immersed in the cycling scene in the 1980s when he lived in San Diego. His participation in the sport faded after he got married, started a family and began work as a computer programmer. After moving to this area and beginning work at Microsoft, he resumed cycling in 2014 and hasn’t looked back.

From August 2014 until his retirement in September of 2018, he cycled to work every day except for four days when he drove and when he took time off after breaking his collarbone twice in accidents.

During his cycling commuting-to-work years, Ivory dropped from 265 pounds to under 200 pounds, saw his resting heart rate drop from 65 beats per minute to 50 per minute and he no longer has high blood pressure. He knocked out 46,000 miles riding along the way.

“For me, biking has been so rewarding and life changing,” said Ivory, who is a ride leader with Cascade and encourages others to join him along the way.

Ivory remembers the day vividly when he decided to get back on his bike and make a difference. He had been dieting, but went the extra step on July 4, 2014 and went into his garage and took his old bike out for a spin around the block, but one of the pedals broke off. He told his wife he was going to buy a new bike and soon he was riding six days a week.

This coming May 15, he’ll take his bike and camping gear on a train from Seattle to Washington, D.C., and then ride back 4,300 miles for 90 days along the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail.

Ivory is thankful that he hopped back on his bike, not only to get in shape but because he’s made vital connections with others.

“I’m grateful for a variety of really interesting and good people I’ve met through biking. It’s a great community,” he said.

On a recent day, Todd Cowles had to pick up a car from his son in Woodinville, and he chose to cycle the 65 miles from his home in La Conner to get the task done. Cowles, 50, is a former longtime resident of the Redmond/Woodinville area and was the founder of the area’s popular Stinky Spoke mountain-bike ride, which is usually held on a day with the “stinkiest” weather of the year.

For 11 years, Cowles was dedicated to making the race a fun time for everyone involved, said Redmond Rotary member and this year’s ride manager AJ Taylor in a Redmond Reporter article. Rotary took over the event — a 19-plus-mile ride in Redmond — after Cowles took on a new business opportunity.

“What makes it a really unique ride is the time of year it takes place,” Taylor said. “They have fun going out and getting muddy or dirty in the hobby or recreation they love.”

The ride has been moved from Feb. 9 to March 9, due to unsafe weather conditions.

Cowles — who began pedaling on long-distance rides as a 12-year-old and raced in college — said he enjoys the mental and physical health benefits he gets from cycling.

“I feel fortunate I’m drawn to it,” said Cowles, noting that he and his friends call the cycling experience “sweatitation.”

“It’s a good thing to do to go out and get your blood pumping,” he added.

Along with staying in shape, Cowles enjoys being around good-natured and good-spirited people when the wheels start spinning.

Snow wasn’t an issue for this cyclist last month in Redmond. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

Snow wasn’t an issue for this cyclist last month in Redmond. Andy Nystrom / staff photo