It’s that time of year again!

I am different from other cyclists that I know.

First off, I only have one bike. Others think the correct number of bikes should be N + 1 (N of course equaling the number of bikes you have now, so you always need another (who says you will NEVER use algebra?))

Secondly, I never set an annual mileage goal. I know I will ride whenever I can, including commuting to and from work, regular exercise rides, as well as some longer more adventurous ones. At the end of the year I will add up the miles and see what I did.

The one almost constant, though, is I do ride the Chilly Hilly every year! 

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The Chilly Hilly is the “Opening Day” of the cycling season for the Seattle area. It is 33 miles of cold, hills, and wet around Bainbridge Island on the last day of February. For those of you in warmer climates, you may be thinking, “Who the hell would WANT to do that, let alone pay money to do so?!”

The answer is ME! and 3000-4000 of my best cycling friends!

My first ever CH, was in 1999. This was LONG before I ‘became’ a cyclist. Back then, I was still trying to climb Mt Rainier! One morning, though, I was reading the newspaper (THAT alone tells you how long ago it was) and I stumbled on an article about this ride.

I remember being intrigued, but also intimidated by 33 miles!! That seemed like one helluva long ride! At the time, I think the longest I had ever ridden was 25 miles, and that had hurt.

But, I clipped the signup form from the paper and mailed in my check (again WAY old school!) Hell, I am not even sure what bike I had at the time, I think it was this one (from my second ride 8 years later) but I am not sure.

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I don’t remember much about the ride, except the fact that my mountain climbing legs saved me that day, and I made it up every hill. It was not easy!

Now, of course, I don’t even blink at 33 miles. Nor do I worry about the hills. 25,000 miles on a bike does a lot to build a guy’s confidence. But if it isn’t a challenge, then why do I ride it every year.

First off, even though I know I will climb every hill, it is still challenging! Yes, I ride year round, but this time of year, my legs aren’t in prime cycling shape. A lot of my rides, due to weather and lack of daylight hours, are on the flat Burke Gilman trail.

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It’s perfect for quick long rides, but does nothing for hill training. This ride tells my body that life will soon get tougher. Daylight savings will soon hit, longer rides will be taken, and the hills we will climb will make this ride look like a bike path.  It’s a kick in the butt you might say!

Then there is the hanging out with the other cyclists.

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I am, by choice, a rider who likes to ride alone. It lets me set my own pace, stop when I want, and makes me more self-sufficient. However, its fun in the line for and on the ferry to talk to others. We check out each other’s bikes and gear. We discuss up coming rides, and talk about the ones we’d like to do ‘someday’.  Most times, it is wet and rainy waiting for the boat

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But we are all in good moods! Its Chilly Hilly day!

It’s also a day to see who has and has NOT been riding recently. The mechanics along the route are busy all day with bikes that haven’t been ridden since the rains started in October. There are also those that later in the year would have crushed the climbs,

Chilly Hilly Topo map

Chilly Hilly Topo map

but on this day just don’t have the climbing legs yet. They are pushing bikes up LONG hills while wearing cycling shoes that SUCK to walk in. I have gotten more than one glare from them as I have ridden to the top.

Finally, there is the food. With that many riders, there are plenty of road side bake sales with brownies, cookies and other treats! I also look forward to the hot dog stand at the halfway mark, but last year it was NOT there! I hope they come back this year!

So yep, tomorrow morning, I will be early and coffeed up. I will hit the road before 7 to get downtown, parked, and to the ferry dock in time to catch the first ferry. I took some time this morning to get the bike ready to go

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The forecast is for rain/snow mix, so I will gather the appropriate layers this afternoon. Its kinda funny. There was one year it was 50 and sunny for the CH, and that just seemed wrong. Seeing this forecast brings a smile to my face. It tells me that even though I KNOW some of my fellow riders will bail out, those of us who show up, and ride the hills of Bainbridge island tomorrow are among the toughest cyclists there are! But hell, the views are worth it!

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You can sign up the day of the ride! Come on out and join us! Like the wind!

 

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