Aaron Erbeck

Seattle resident Aaron was one of the original members of the Rapha Continental, a cycling mission founded in 2007 with the aim of rediscovering the lost spirit of cycling. He continues to ride with the same passion, saying: “I’m my purest sense of myself when I’m riding. It’s euphoric.”

Aaron-Ride

Aaron’s Ride

I’ve got one route through town called Hill-Billy - you’ll see why. You don’t have to leave the city to get to some good hills. This route takes you up and over the old, weird bits of Seattle. And, it being Seattle, there are plenty of good coffee stops.

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The Rapha Continental wasn’t a racing team, although it shared some of the odd rituals of American bike racing: trying to cram as many bikes as possible into a Chrysler Town & Country, road trip lunches of Cheetos and jerky at gas stations, hand-washing kit in motel sinks. Instead of vying for podiums, the riders picked out interesting stretches of road off a map, and rode it in the knowledge that 28mm tires can get you over just about anything. And this sense of adventure is what shines through in Aaron’s stories of that time.

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You have to commit to getting out, but once you’re there, there’s so much.

“We were not pro bike racers. The Continental was really a group of professionals… but together we were a team that would try to explore something new.” And when it comes to the question of motivation (put bluntly, why would a group of grown-ups travel to the backwaters of a distant state just to ride bikes?), Aaron doesn’t point to the distances covered, or the strength that comes from putting in big miles, but the inherent value of just riding. “There’s something you learn about yourself and your friends when you put yourself through things like that – and if you could inspire someone to get out there and ride, all the better.”

These days, Aaron lives in Seattle with his wife and young family, working as a flight simulation technician. As he travels through town, he’s liable to pause conversations to point out the mountains sitting on the city’s horizon, or a short road climb winding its way through the neighborhood hills. “I’m captivated by the roads and fire roads out there. I’ve done some exploring, but not nearly enough.” It’s typical cyclist stuff – every day is a good day for a ride, and the best place to ride is right here.

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With the Puget Sound almost enclosing the city, and densely packed suburbs buffering the space between the city limits and open land, the best of Seattle’s riding takes some effort to access – but the outing is always worthwhile. “You have to commit to getting out, but once you’re there, there’s so much.” With Olympic National Park to the east, the Cascade’s wealth of quiet climbs to the west, Seattleites are constantly met with the prospect that they could quite easily jump on their bikes and disappear into the woods. It’s an idea that never seems far from Aaron’s mind.

Running through some of his favorite rides from the days of the Continental, he gave us a quick top five that included riding to Portland from the Coastal Range, in the rain, and being “afraid to look in my shoe, because I knew I was losing a toenail.” It’s not something you’d expect to hear on a list of somebody’s favorite memories, but coming from Aaron it makes sense. How is almost losing a toenail a good thing? “Because it’s fun to kind of go to the edge, and come back.”