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Summer Guide 2014: Bikes 

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REWARD A HILL ASCENT

The Walters family had many traditions, but few tasted sweeter than Ice Cream Hill.

Every so often, as summer light faded into evening, just before the crickets started chirping, our parents would take us three kids on a hero's journey of a bike ride, a veritable Tour de France of North Spokane suburbia.

At the exact midpoint of that two-mile route came a monster of a hill on Mountain View Lane, stretching as high and far as our grade-school eyes could see. We were undeterred. We'd sweat and grimace and stand up on our little Huffy pedals, pumping our one-speeds as hard as possible, chanting "I think I can, I think I can." We didn't stop. We didn't walk.

You see, there was a reason it was called Ice Cream Hill. We knew that if we somehow made it all the way to the top without stopping, Mom and Dad would get us ice cream. And not just grocery store ice cream from the freezer, but truly fancy ice cream, in a cone and everything, from a genuine ice-cream wonderland like McDonald's. It taught us that timeless lesson: In this life, if you want to get that ice cream cone you crave, first you'll have to climb a few hills without stopping.

If you aim to create a similar family tradition, it doesn't have to be in North Spokane. Our suggestion: A loop taking Kendall Yards' gorgeous new stretch of the Centennial Trail down to Peaceful Valley, under the Monroe Street Bridge, then back to Kendall Yards.

First grab breakfast or lunch at Central Food or the Yards. Along the ride, there are plenty of places to pause and see the sights. Watch the osprey swoop off the two telephone pole nests. Gaze across the river, sparkling in the sun, at the Spokane skyline.

After ascending down to Sandifur Bridge near People's Park, and beginning your ascent up the hill toward downtown, the time for delay is over. If — and only if — your children make it to the top without stopping, treat them to a scoop at the Brain Freeze Creamery.

BECOME A BIKE MECHANIC

When your brakes break or fixie needs fixing, it's nice to have the mechanical acumen to quickly respond. You've got a few options. One possibility: Every time you want to upgrade, repair or tune up your bicycle, take it to Pedals2People instead of just dropping it off at a bike shop. They'll help walk you through the process, literally getting your hands dirty, to repair it yourself. Learn by doing.

Another possibility: Attend REI's hour-and-a-half bike maintenance classes. An advanced class scheduled for Thursday, June 12, at 7 pm, will focus on brakes and the drive train, while a June 18 course at 7 pm during Summer Parkways will teach you how to fix a flat. Both are $20 ($40 for nonmembers.) See the schedule at rei.com/spokane.

HIAWATHA TRAIL

Want a fun little day trip on a lazy summer weekend? Head east to the Hiawatha Trail, a 15-mile section of abandoned railroad in North Idaho. That includes a trek through the St. Paul Pass or Taft Tunnel, 1.66 miles through the Bitterroot Mountains, which can be either thrilling or irritating depending on how you feel about darkness.

Take Taft Exit 5 on I-90, about halfway between Missoula and Spokane, to find the trail. Helmets, lights and bikes can be rented at nearby Lookout Pass. Directions and details at ridethehiawatha.com.

SUMMER PARKWAYS

We've heard you use that lame excuse for not riding your bike often: "With all the cars on the road, I'm afraid of getting squished." Sorry. During Summer Parkways that excuse just won't fly. On June 18, from 6 pm-9 pm in the Manito and Comstock neighborhoods, Summer Parkways will close four miles of roadways for bicyclists, pedestrians, long boarders — any nonmotorized form of transportation. All along the course, there will be physical activity stations: jump ropes, Hula-Hoops, hacky sack, martial arts and Zumba. Bring your playing cards and streamers, because there will be a bike decorating contest starting at 7 pm. Or hit up Summer Parkways' street party one month later, July 18 from 6 pm-9 pm at Corbin Park.

BIKE BEACON HILL

There are more than 30 miles of mountain bike trails in Camp Sekani and Beacon Hill just a few miles to the east of downtown, perfect for those who prefer a dust thrill to smooth asphalt in their cycling. The Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance not only helps maintain those trails (volunteer!), they offer regular group rides and skill classes. Read more at evergreeneast.org.

PEDAL A CENTURY IN THE DARK

This is only for the nuttiest of bike nuts: 100 miles, much of it over dirt roads, in the dark, with no support or medical assistance. On Aug. 2, a minute before midnight, a group of bike riders leaves from the Elk and sets out on a 100-mile ride. "There's a really steep climb around 4 in the morning," says cyclist Hank Greer, remembering a mile-longm 500-foot tall hill on Spangle Creek Road. Survive, and come back with plenty of stories.

"[Last year] Eric Erickson ran over a porcupine and got a shoe full of quills," Greer says. Another year, two riders came in together, one narrowly before the other, on a tandem bicycle. Remember: Midnight Century is bring your own bike, lights, water, food, tool kit, pool of endurance and insatiable thirst for adventure. Check out midnightcentury.com.

BELLES AND BASKETS

Want a ride a little more casual than the Midnight Century?

About twice a month, the all-women Belles and Baskets group — made up of everyone from teenagers through 70-year-old women — meet at a coffee shop or bakery, then bike about 10 miles together. Whether they're cruising down the Fish Lake or Centennial trails or braving downtown traffic, the whole ride is usually spent chatting. Ice cream, coffee and beer often follow.

"I hear stories of recent surgeries, marriages, divorces, children, triumph and losses," founder Betsy Lawrence said at a local TEDx talk last year. To her, starting Belles and Baskets gave many women not only confidence and fitness, but real, genuine friendships that last long after the helmets come off. The schedule varies, so it's best to call Lawrence at (509) 951-4090 or go to facebook.com/BellesandBaskets for details. ♦

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