That One Time At Hot Laps (TOTAHL)

There’s a few iconic Seattle rides. Mercer Hot Laps definitely qualifies as one of those rides. The popularity of the ride waxes & wanes with the weather & personal lives.
The one thing you can expect is fun. It reminds me of riding a bike as a kid, when it reflected my freedom…I could get further away from home. This feeling of freedom came with a touch of being an outlaw, even though I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Pushing boundaries. After the initial jailbreak feeling, you get an empowered feeling. The group swings along the island road at motor-vehicle speed, encompassing the entire lane, but not inhibiting traffic. If a bystander glances right for a moment, they may miss the entire spectacle before turning back left.

Everyone has a ‘…that one time at Hot Laps’ story. Like when so & so showed up, or when so & so broke their arm, or when that dog came out, or when so & so did the ride on a fixed-gear, or that one time when…

Attending Hot Laps is like riding a grand fondo. Current CAT 1 hot-shots, masters riders that no longer have time to race but wedge the 45-minute ride between work and dinner, commuters (CAT 6) that are jackin’ for beats, lower category racers measuring their skills with the ‘fast guys’. No categories, like a race…just humans. And humanity is what I love to see at Hot Laps. Hot Laps is Clint, 47-year-old engineer & CAT 2; Doug, CAT 1 masters-rider & Mercer Island school teacher; Phil, 21-year-old student & CAT 5 racer; Kevin, doctor & daily commuter; Will, 30-year-old CAT 1; Jack, 15-year-old racer & straight-A student. It’s a chance for the fast to show & teach their skill & a chance for the not-so-fast to see what is possible. Lessons are taught, and learned on Mercer. Etiquette is priority for the experienced & aggressive riding is rewarded with a head nod, or maybe a “yep”, the kind of training not found in a book…only in a sparring session or the playground. Maybe that’s why Hot Laps is so fun, you’re going to teach something, learn something or witness something awesome…like recess in elementary school.

A great thing that happens at Hot Laps is how after each sprint (there are 2), is the re-grouping. While the group waits the war stories begin. The protagonists asses the damage they created, while the antagonists speak of the obstacles they encountered. It’s great. Meanwhile the weary limp in, only to have to turn around & prepare for another battle.

So, if you want to ride your bike fast, enjoy some friendly competition & catch up with friends (and make some new ones), I suggest showing up at the west Mercer lid on a Tuesday, you’ll be home in time for dinner.