Rocket Ride has the reputation as the area’s most challenging ride due to a combination of the route, the caliber of the riders who participate, the pace, and the fact that unlike most rides, it’s a *drop* ride. Meaning that if you can’t keep up with the front group, you are on your own. In reality, many folks *do* fall off the pace of the leaders and form their own smaller groups. Riders self-select into groups of similar ability.
David and I chatted about the history of the ride.
How did Rocket Ride come into existence?
Seattle hadn’t had a non-team affiliated hard ride since the days of the (Glenn) Erickson Ride. We wanted a forum for throwing-down on Saturday morning. A ride that anyone could show up to and that was the same route every week. We established a designated finish and post-ride coffee stop where we could compare battle stories. I’m not sure if the ride would’ve caught on if someone else had come-up with it. We wanted a ride that mirrored our (Herriott Sports Performance’s) “stab the beast” phrase and mentality. A ride so challenging that simple participation was exhilarating.
How did you design the route? What elements did you want to include?
We wanted a two-hour ride that felt like a four-hour ride. It needed to be fast with enough climbing to separate the field. Something that represented “Seattle terrain.” One day Todd Herriott and I rolled out to one of my favorite training routes. The start needed to have a bathroom & parking lot, so Log Boom Park was perfect It was a one-take. We rode it and TH said, “that’s it.”
What is the vibe of Rocket Ride?
Comparable rides would be Swamis in San Diego, Rose Bowl Ride in Pasadena, River Ride in Sacramento, or The Shootout in Tucson. But, the Rocket Ride is way more social. We start together & finish together after drinking coffee. There’s a brotherhood you feel after doing the ride.
What kind of riders join the ride?
Any rider can participate. We have a crew that leaves early so they can get full coffee time in with the first group of riders. A momentary lapse of focus & anyone can get dropped on the ride. We have the top-level local riders show up for some sparring…frequently with pros that are in town. The last few seasons we’ve had riders make the trek to Seattle just to experience the ride. Chris Horner showed up at the Rocket Ride the year he won the Vuelta. He was talking with some riders on Norway Hill, thinking he could just drop the hammer & catch the front group. Nope. One of the legends of the sport attended the Rocket Ride a few times, Steve Tilford. Tilford has been to about every group ride in the country for the last 40 years & he said it was the toughest, hands-down. That meant a lot coming from him. (Tilford died on April 5, 2017 in an automobile-related accident). That’s when the ride really started getting attention. The regulars take a lot of pride in the ride. For the top guys, I feel like the ride itself is more important than their personal performance. And they do everything they can to make the ride hard…even if that means knowingly going so deep they get dropped…but it makese the ride hard. We always give a ‘ride of the day’ unofficial award to the rider that rides out of their skin.
What are your tips for riders who want to give it a go?