Much to the delight of easily 6000 bicyclists bound for the Chilly Hilly, February 22 dawned clear and sunny. Though early riders felt the chill of Seattle’s 37-degree temperature as they left their homes pedaling for Coleman Dock, they warmed up quickly in the bright sunlight awaiting the Bainbridge Island ferry. What a pleasant change from the often drizzly or even drenching weather so common for this annual bike ride of the island.
Riders’ registration included fares for the 7:55, 8:45, 9:35 & 10:35 a.m. ferries. Prior to each departure, the lot at the Coleman Dock looked like a sea of bikes. Anyone riding those ferries on Sunday morning likely felt engulfed by the bicycling hoards. With able volunteers assisting the crews on the morning boats, boarding was smooth and efficient. Once the ferry docked at Bainbridge, a flood of bicyclists poured out onto the island. Clearly, Bainbridge Islanders embrace the annual event. Riders return the favor whether they’re stopping in at Pegasus Coffee for a bit of java, B.I. Cycles for on-island registration or Classic Cycles to check out the bicycle museum.
The 33-mile course winds along rural roads climbing numerous hills for which Bainbridge Island is known. One young rider of about 9 or 10 on his twenty-inch bike proclaimed, “I’ve made it up every hill!” There were, however, riders whose experience wasn’t quite so pleasant. Those suffering various forms of bicycle mishaps were surely relieved and grateful seeing the approaching striped vests of the Ride Refs. These “Outriders” or angels on bikes rode the course carrying spare tubes, chain tools and links dispensing expertise, minor repairs, assistance, safety guidance and general encouragement. Equipped with whistles, they urged riders to stay in their lanes, be courteous and follow the rules of the road.
As the day progressed it became apparent that not all bicyclists were well prepared for what can be a challenging ride. Ride Refs reported in addition to assisting with the expected flat tires, there were broken spokes and even broken chains. They also report that it’s not unusual for bicyclists who haven’t ridden for several months to ride the Chilly Hilly. Equally as likely, the bikes that they are riding haven’t received a lot of care over those idling months. Therefore, it should be with great appreciation that out-of-shape riders on poorly equipped bikes greet their bike-mounted heroes. Fortunately, with the conducive weather, friendly able support, rest stops and support stations as well as a welcoming community, most riders crossed the finish line beaming and exclaiming as one little girl, “It was so much fun!”
For some there is an immediate ferry ride return to Seattle, but for many, after the chili feed at the Community Center, it’s a requisite visit to the The Harbour Pub, Doc’s Marine Grill or Alehouse On Winslow to regale in the day’s adventures and a final view of an island sunset before boarding that returning boat to Seattle.