Author Topic: Cascade 1200  (Read 478 times)

Cascade 1200
« on: January 12, 2018, 07:43:37 am »
I find myself in the vicinity of Seattle in the second half of June and have noticed that the Cascade 1200 is running while I’m there.

Has anyone done this and can give me an idea of what it’s like? A comparison with LEL would be particularly useful (as that’s the only ‘similar’ ride I’ve done!)




  • aka Joth
    • TandemThings
Re: Cascade 1200
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2018, 01:01:25 pm »
Haven't actually ridden it, but we were going to in 2016 (had places reserved etc) and know plenty of people who did ride it.
That year was very tough due to weather. Memorable to me was that Rob (longtime SF Randonneurs and one time RUSA president) DNFed on the first night due to getting way too cold and not managing to warm back up. I can't think of many rides that have made him bail.
Of all the numerous USAian 1200s this is one of the longest and most revered. Would love the chance to have a crack at it.
Competition for a spot on it will be intense. So yes, very like LEL in that regard!


  • Whimsy Rider
Re: Cascade 1200
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2018, 01:10:37 pm »
The folk I know who've ridden it speak very highly of it. At times, it can be stinking hot, bitterly cold, quite wet or absolutely glorious. The climbing and scenery is impressive, as is the support. As with all RUSA 1200s, the scale is a step down from PBP, LEL and Mille Miglia but it is probably the biggest in North America. It is the most tempting of the USA 1200s to me.
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Re: Cascade 1200
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2018, 05:46:41 pm »
I've not ridden it, but those who have and the reports after the rides say it is a very tough 1200.

From the web site: Since you are presumably a non-North American, you should expect to be able to get in, if you really want to suffer for a few days.  :thumbsup:


We expect to open registration in late January or early February. Please watch this page for details.

If you’d like to be alerted via email with information on when registration will open, please sign up on the form located on our home page here:

There will be a limit of 100 riders. A waitlist will be maintained over that number.

We will attempt to accommodate all non-North American riders who wish to join us. Non-North American riders are strongly encouraged to register as early as possible to ensure a place on the ride.

Re: Cascade 1200
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2018, 06:10:17 pm »
Cheers all.

I’d seen the non North American thing so it looks like I have a half decent chance of getting in...

Re the temperature extremes. Are they on a daily basis or day by day? By which I mean,  are there hot and cold days (which should be manageable by bag drops) or do you get the extremes in a day, which could mean lots of luggage. The impression I had from my research was it was the former (day 2 hot, day 4 cold?)

Re hilliness, the GPX haven’t been published yet, I know it is lumpy, but does anyone know the numbers? I’m also assuming it will be long ‘alpine’ drags rather than short steep UK style climbs is that right??

Interesting you should respond Thing1. I’ll drop you a DM, I think this could be another example of the inter-connectivity if the universe....


Re: Cascade 1200
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2018, 07:19:00 pm »
I started and DNF'ed in 2014 at the end of Day 3. For weather, you have to be prepared for anything.  Day 1 it rained continuously from the start (5am) until well into the evening (probably about 10pm), except for the parts when it was sleeting, or freezing rain*.  I live in Wales, but I wasn't prepared for that amount of rain in June. Evenings and night sections can be very cold, even if it is hot during the day, so you would need to carry decent gloves and a warm layer with you. Eastern Washington is technically a desert, and its weather can be very hot in the day time, but very cold at night.

Day 2 was quite warm, but really windy.  Day 3 was mostly windy, with hot sections and cold sections.  There were also a few very very heavy showers.  This caused a landslide on the backside of Loup Loup Pass which delayed a few riders who walked over it.  Fortunately I passed it when it was still raining so heavily that I didn't actually see it until I was in it, so just held on for grim life.  At the end of Day 3 it snowed.  In June. It was still snowing in the morning, so about 6 or 7 of us quit there and then.  Day 4 is supposed to be a relatively easy day, at only 220km, with most of that being downhill/flat (once you've got over Rainy Pass).  220km in snow/sleet/hail wasn't desperately appealing.  However, the previous event (2 years prior), the whole event was in 30C heat, with riders needing ice to cool down on the hills, so you can't really guess.

It is very hilly.  12000-15000m over the 1200km.  They are mostly long drags.  They aren't like European zig zags though - it's more solid steady climb.  A few of the climbs have 'redundant grade' - a massive downhill in the middle of the climb - Loup Loup pass is just like this.  The instructions can be a lot more sparse than you might expect from a UK Brevet.  Day 2 was: R out of control, continue 45 miles to control (up a 35 mile drag).

The scenery is bloody amazing though.  Seriously. It's a fantastic ride.  I'm not a massive fan of pointless hills, but I can bear them for fantastic views, and scenery, which this ride has in spades.

If you do ride, invest in decent tyres and a load of tubes.  I had 4 punctures on Day 1, on tyres that would have been fine for a UK ride, but the surfacing there was no so good.

Also, although the route is announced in advance, the exact route is subject to change right until the same week because they need to check the required roads are all open.

*My brother is a meteorologist and gave me a lecture on how interesting freezing rain is.  It's a lot less interesting when you are soaking wet and can't feel your hands.

Re: Cascade 1200
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2018, 07:26:37 pm »
Thanks  :thumbsup: that’s really useful. It sounds like a similar ratio of climbing as BCM which I didn’t find that bad, although I think we were quite lucky with the weather last year.

Lots to ponder.


Re: Cascade 1200
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2018, 12:37:57 am »
Compared to LEL...
  • Similar climbing overall, but of a different type - some much higher passes, and some very long, flat sections. The big climbs are long, long grinds.
  • Much longer distances between available food and services, especially in the east of the state.
  • Much wider possible weather variations. Possibility of very dusty, very hot and dry weather east of the Cascades. Can be very windy in the east, too. Possibility of arctic weather above the snow line at the top of passes. Possibility of rain on the west side. I can't think of a ride that has the potential for such a varied climate. And, yes, in one day. Need to be equipped for anything. Success is very weather dependent. I DNFed in 2014 from dehydration.
  • Many fewer participants - very real possibility of riding alone for much of the course.
  • In general, contempt for cyclists among the motoring public comparable to the UK.
  • It's frequently spectacular, in ways completely unlike the UK

Re: Cascade 1200
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2018, 09:12:29 am »
I forgot to add, it's collegiate style.  So the sleep controls are fixed.  Unlike LEL, where you could plan to sleep at any of the controls, depending on your speed, the sleep controls are fixed.  If you want to ride through (in case you are super speedy), you need to sort your own sleep stops. It's quite nice, because the field regroups every day.

Re: Cascade 1200
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2018, 01:38:12 pm »
Agree with everything said above so far. I entered and DNF'd in 2016 so have unfinished business with Cascade and am very tempted to try and convince SWMBO for another free pass over to Seattle.

Eating strategy is very important due to the long distances between any areas of habitation.

I was initially disappointed with the Cascade as the website seemed to sell it as a Rando, i.e. with Ride Captains setting the pace between the set controls, it isn't like this at all, more like a UK Audax but with full service sleep controls. I got over this disappointment pretty quickly though as the local Seattle Rando riders shot off into the night at the start (10pm from Mt Vernon if memory serves me right) Rain started almost immediately and just got heavier however it wasn't the weather which did for me it was an issue with the bike which saw the rear wheel start to drag against the brakes, then ultimately it became a mind game as I wasn't able to free the bike up and by the time I'd got to the 1st night control at Mt Rainier I'd made my mind up to quit.

The bike issues surprised me as my steed had seen me through a number of Audaxes before this including PBP and had passed the tech inspection, which please note is much more expansive than any others I've had as the team explained the descents are long and dangerous in places so they don't want people coming off due to bike problems.

The other reason I DNF'd at the 1st night stop was knowing that if I'd pushed further east the options for getting back to where my hire car was got much more remote due to the nature of the country. And Day 3 is the big hard day with two huge passes to be climbed in the latter stages of the day's riding, 20km + long and steep at the start. Ultimately the head wasn't in it so neither were my legs.

The scenery in that part of the States is fantastic having been there a few times to visit friends I'd recommend it just for that alone but the organisation is great and the team very friendly as are the riders. I spent most of my time riding with a lady from San Francisco who regaled me with the current flavour for these Californian riders to ride double centuries as part of a league event.

Give it a go you won't regret it  ;D ;D


  • @Dr_AAY
  • Look haggard. It sells.
Re: Cascade 1200
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2018, 04:37:38 pm »
In July 2016 Pippa and I cycle toured through northern Washington state from east to west, climbing Loup Loup pass, Washington Pass & Rainy Pass, so essentially Day 3½ and Day 4 as advertised on their SIR website. We then rode down the Pacific coast to LA, but the Cascades were our favorite part of the USA. Highway 20 is stunning, and the traffic wasn't an issue. (It also forms part of the American Cycling Association's "Northern Tier" route and at the top of Washington Pass we bumped into Susan Notorangelo leading a Northern Transcontinental Cross Country PAC tour.)

Day 3 of the 1200 ends in Mazama, which is a beautiful place. We were very close to house sitting for a week or so just a bit down the valley from Mazama, but had to say no because it would have made our ride down the Pacific coast a bit too time pressed as we had a flight from LAX already booked.

Loup Loup Pass and Washington Pass are both long drags at steady gradients that weren't a problem on fully loaded touring bikes, so a bit like Yad Moss but longer as there's around ~1,000 m of vertical climbing. There's more shade on Loup Loup Pass, which may come in handy. (We were lucky and it wasn't 35+ °C that day.) Rainy Pass is nothing at all, just a 100 m of vertical gain on the descent from Washington Pass. It's great seeing how the vegetation changes as one leaves the semi arid Okanogan county and ride towards the Pacific coast.

Our blog (with links to RideWithGPS) is here:


What on earth am I doing here on this beautiful day?! This is the only life I've got!!

Re: Cascade 1200
« Reply #11 on: Yesterday at 11:07:06 pm »
My name is Susan Otcenas and I am the organizer for the Cascade 1200.    I organized the event in 2016 as well, and was an overnight control captain in 2014. (The event is run in even-numbered years only.)

I'm happy to answer any specific questions you might have.  My thanks to nextSibling for alerting me to this discussion.

Let me say upfront while this ride is very challenging, both in terms of terrain and weather, its also one of the most spectacularly scenic rides around.   Everything from canopied forest roads to high desert vistas to mountain lakes to snow covered peaks.   As a resident of the northwest I'm obviously biased, but it's hard to find a prettier and more varied landscape in the US than what you'll experience on the Cascade 1200.

To address a few of the topics so far mentioned:

Weather:  Expect anything and everything, potentially all in the same day.  Weather in the Pacific Northwest is HIGHLY variable.  June is a crapshoot.  It might be blistering hot or cold and rainy.  It may snow in the mountains.   There is often snow left over on the side of the roads at the higher elevations regardless.   It may rain.  In fact, at some point it most assuredly will.   You must be prepared for anything.  It might be 100 degrees at noon and 35 degrees in the high passes overnight.  You are well advised to *always* carry a thermal layer and a waterproof layer, warm gloves, a warm head covering, leg warmers and shoe covers.    Having a way to carry all of this on your bike is strongly recommended.  While we do always have a few super fast guys who ride 15 pound carbon bikes with no luggage and finish every day in daylight, the vast majority of our riders will need to be prepared for no small amount of overnight riding, with all the layers that will require.

The Cascade range separates eastern and western Washington.   Western is generally cooler and wetter, eastern in warmer and drier with higher winds.  You'll experience it all.

Terrain:  Be prepared for long mountain passes,  Cant recall the highest offhand but several well over 5000 feet.  (Descending a 5000 pass in the rain at oh-dark-thirty can be a hypothermic affair, so heed the previous warning about carrying warm clothing).   Be also prepared for long rolling expanses in of "high desert" conditions in the east, generally hot dry and windy with no trees to shelter you.   (Carry sunscreen!)   While there are some flattish sections, you'll more often be climbing or descending.

Services:  You'll find the most commercial services on the first half of the first day.   But in the mountains and the desert east, they are much farther apart.  All riders should carry plenty of snacks.   Three water bottles is highly advisable, especially in the desert.   We list commercial services on the cue sheet.  We also provide manned support in some locations to supplement commercial services where they are sparse or non-existent.   These manned locations are generally listed on the cue sheet as well (though not always, as we try to add more if weather is predicted to be bad).

Overnights:  We have 3 specific overnights established and nearly everyone utilizes them.   Each one provides two meals ("dinner" and "breakfast").   Two will be school facilities (group sleeping in the gym) while the third will be at a resort lodge.  At the first and second overnights there will be limited nearby hotel facilities should you want something plusher.   At the third overnight there are no other services available.    Should you choose to "ride through" and not avail yourself of the overnights, you will be on your own without support for the rest of the ride.   All of our manned support and overnights assume that riders stop at the designated overnights and leave within a few hours of the overnight control close times.    So, for example, should you decide to try to do the event in 60 hours, you will be welcome to do so, but you will find no event services, no staff or ability to sleep at the designated overnight locations, etc.

Let me know if you have other questions.


Re: Cascade 1200
« Reply #12 on: Today at 12:17:58 am »
I've helped out a bit on the last two Cascade 1200s, and Susan has a job for me this time too.  I've not done the ride, but can share a couple of bits of insight I've heard from riders:

1.  Washington drivers are more courteous than those in Texas, according to Dan Driscoll of Texas.  Now, that was his impression, relayed during a car ride to the airport afterwards, so it may have been slightly impacted by post-rando memory loss. 
2.  The last day's descent from Washington Pass is long.  Plan on lots of chilling due to the continual coasting and not a lot of need to pedal.  Anything you can put on to dispel the wind will be warranted.

And, I will vouch for the scenery.  We have it pretty good up here, and there is a lot of variety from near-rain forest to barren, windy places where you can see for sixty miles or more.

Joel Niemi / Snohomish, Washington, USA (location for the pastry/coffee control the first night last year, and apparently for the finish this year)