Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ride of the Week: Fish Lake & Betz Road

Introduction to this series:
During our last shop ride, I ended up having or overhearing three conversations that were all some version of asking about good rides in the area.

On one hand, this amazes me, because Spokane is rife with some of the best, and most diverse, road and mountain bike riding I've experienced. We have relatively little traffic, roads that are generally in good condition, and terrain ranging from pancake flat to Mt. Spokane and its 15 miles uphill fun.

On the other hand, many of us are creatures of habit. We find (in this case) a ride we like, and end up repeating it ad naseum.

So the requests for new rides combined with the big fun of riding with a Garmin Edge 500 have prompted me to post some of my go-to rides. Initially I'll focus on rides in the two-hour range, mostly because my proverbial plate has been full lately, and that's all I've had time for (when I've been lucky). No promises though ... some will be longer or shorter than this.

Up first is a ride through the west plains, including the Fish Lake Trail and Betz Road. This is ride is flat for the most part, but with a couple of sections of rolling hills There are a ton of variations on this ride--ranging from riding in the reverse direction, to skipping the Greenwood Road section, to including Thorpe Road, etc.

The Spokane arm of the Fish Lake Trail opened this past fall. It's a rails-to-trails project, which if you're not familiar with the term means that an old railroad bed has been paved, providing a beautiful trail that's closed to traffic. You'll notice this on the map, but it starts behind the church at the intersection of Government Way and Sunset Boulevard, about a mile from Spokane's downtown core.

A typical morning on the traffic-free Fish Lake Trail

Depending on your preference for climbing, the upside or downside of these trails is how flat they are. Trains can't go up steep hills, so maximum grade is something like 3%, which is a very, very mellow pitch. One of the best parts of Fish Lake is the shade it provides in the summer months. The combination of cooler temperatures, no traffic and perfect pavement make Fish Lake a great option to get to Cheney and its fun network of roads. The downside? On occasion, like late-morning on the weekend, parts of the trail will be busy with runners, dog-walkers, etc.

A subtle reminder that it's a good idea to keep your head up when riding.

In any case, from the trailhead it's about five miles to the first section of road that's open to traffic (Cheney-Spokane Road). But you're only on this for about two miles, when you pick back up the Fish Lake Trail, which drops you off less than a mile from Cheney, on Cheney-Spangle Road. Hang a right toward downtown. Then make a right on Main Street until you head left on Betz Road.

Downtown Cheney. Look! A pick-up truck!

If you're looking at the Garmin map, ignore the spaghetti-route in Cheney. I took a bit of a detour to check out a neighborhood I'd never been through.

Anyway, stay on Betz Road until you hit...Betz Road, where you take a right onto what's my vote for one of the nicest roads in the region. It's lumpy--rolling hills with beautiful farmland.

Betz: A seriously nice stretch of asphalt.

Years ago, I lived in Boulder, Colorado. At one point, some friends and I came across a relatively short, but nevertheless incredible section of singletrack, which we promptly named after a friend's girlfriend. Her name was Stephanie Swain. Stephanie was more handsome than average, and in Boulder that's especially impressive.

Although we were post college-aged, our maturity levels were still mired in the eighth grade. So we immediately re-named Stephanie Swain, and later on an infamous stretch of singletrack, as Stiffenmy Schwang.

Anyway, to me, Betz is the Stiffenmy Schwang of roads. Although short, it really is fantastic.

From Betz you climb up, then drop down to the Four Lakes area, then further down to Spokane. There are a few variations here, and I've suggested one on the GPS info I've posted.

I'll often add on a few extra miles, and one ripping-fast descent down Greenwood Road. You can easily skip this, but Greenwood does add a bit of fun and a fantastic view of the city.

Earlier in this post I mentioned that Spokane has relatively little traffic. To underline this, on the Sunday morning I did this ride, a grand total of 12 cars passed me. For a 40 mile ride I think that's pretty impressive.


And now, for a highly unscientific set of ratings:

Ride: Fish Lake & Betz Road
Lumpiness Rating: 2/5
Traffic: 1/5
Things I've seen on this ride: The blue heron that live along Fish Lake; a red-tailed hawk stealing eggs from some smaller birds, moose, coyote, old farm buildings, a roller-skier in a Speedo. And of course a bull snake.


  1. I'm a regular lurker here but I wanted to commend you guys for an excellent blog. With this ride description it's over the top. I really enjoy reading it. Keep up the good work. With appreciation, Steve.

  2. Thanks, Steve!

    Rider 3 is really the brains, and muscle, behind the blog, but appreciate the kudos in any case. We certainly have fun with the blog and our bikes, and glad you're enjoying the posts.