Organized Ride Communication

So one week from tomorrow is the Chilly Hilly.  A 33 mile bike ride around beautiful Bainbridge Island,  put on by the Cascade Bicycle Club.




Chilly Hilly Feb 12, 2012
Chilly Hilly Feb 12, 2012 (Photo credit: Mark Iverson)


It is the official kick off to the bike riding season here in the Seattle area,  3000 of my bet friends and I will ride the ferry from downtown to Bainbridge Island.


Downtown Seattle, Washington and the Bainbridg...
Downtown Seattle, Washington and the Bainbridge Island ferry. During the past few decades many high rises have gone up. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Did you catch the name of this ride?  Let’s break it down shall we?  The first word in its name is Chilly.  This is, after all, the end of February in Washington State.  Yep it really does rain here a lot in the winter time.  So, this ride has the potential to be not only cold (not Chilly, but COLD!) but wet as well!  I’ve done this one 5 times over the years, and not only have I been rained on, but also snow, hailed and sleeted on.  More than once I have been worried the route would be too icy to be safe.


Conversely though, at least one year, I had to shuck layers and get down to shirt sleeves.  It had warmed up that much!  February is a weird month around here.  (Check out the post just previous to this one, and see the picture of the hail down pour.)  I will have fleece and gortex ready.


So the second word in the name is Hilly.  Here’s the breakdown from Cascade.


Chilly Hilly Topo map
Chilly Hilly Topo map


In all, each of us will climb 2700 feet.  Some hills are monsters and others not so bad, but defying gravity the whole time you climb.  There are some EXCELLENT long down hills though!  Almost makes it worth it.


What makes it even more fun though, is throughout the course the local kids have bake sales like you wouldn’t believe.  I get my fill of chocolate chip cookies and brownies and want more!  I look forward to it every year.


But the title of this is communication during long rides.  With this many people on the road at the same time, lack of communication can lead to a painful and very large chain reaction.  So, in this as well as all rides I have been on, you will see and hear the same things.  So here we go:


ON YOUR LEFT:  ALL passing should be done on the left only.  As someone comes up to pass, they should either say this loudly or ring a bell to let you know they are there.  It keeps you from pulling out to pass.  Make sure to do the same when you pass.


CAR BACK!:  This is shouted when a car is coming up behind you.  The roads for these rides are still open to traffic.  The Car Back shout is relayed to the bikers further up the road.  This lets riders know they should move over to the right and ride in single file until it is past them.


CAR UP:  Same thing, only the car is coming in the opposite direction.


SLOWING: When coming to a stop sign or a bottleneck of some kind, bikes don’t have brake lights. Make sure to also use the STOPPING HAND SIGNAL.


These are the verbal communications you will hear and should use, but there is also the non verbal.


LEFT and RIGHT Arm signals:  Use these for every turn.  Just like in traffic, if you make a turn without signaling, it can cause all kinds of problems.


In addition, watch the people in front of you.  Experienced riders have gotten into the habit of pointing out holes, branches, gravel or rough pavement for those behind them.  They also bend their elbows with  hands waving back and forth to indicate a railroad crossing.


All of this combined helps keep 1000s of riders on the road, and enjoying themselves, while minimizing wrecks.  It may look strange, and more than one local has sat there shaking his head and spitting trying to figure out what the hell these spandex clad nuts are doing in the cold!  (OK, maybe Spitting is a bit much).

However, you gotta love any ride where a Catholic Priest, instead of holding sermons (this is a Sunday ride) stands on the sidewalk blessing the riders with holy water at the bottom of the last hill!  I am far from religious, but at the first time I did this ride, I was hurting!  So a little divine intervention was appreciated!  Though the parish seemed a bit put off when I shouted “Thanks dude!”  If I wanted to be mean, I would’ve yelled “It BURRRRRNNNNSSS!”

If you ever get the chance, sign up for this!  it’s a great way to get your riding started early in the year!


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