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A Chilly Hilly start to the cycling season

Northwest cycling season kicks off with the Chilly Hilly on Bainbridge Feb. 24. - courtesy photo/Cascade Bicycle Club
Northwest cycling season kicks off with the Chilly Hilly on Bainbridge Feb. 24.
— image credit: courtesy photo/Cascade Bicycle Club

For the better part of its 34-year duration, the Cascade Bicycle Club’s annual Chilly Hilly event on Bainbridge has signaled the beginning of the Northwest cycling season.

Even though many folks have already gotten their bikes out of the garage for the winter thaw and some never put them away in the first place.

Members of the West Sound Cycling Club, which encompasses Kitsap, participated in the Polar Bear ride from Tacoma to Kitsap in January and earlier this month there was the annual Foul Weather Ride from here to Port Townsend. Both the WSCC and the Cascade Club have had regular weekly rides on their calendars throughout.

For some bicyclers it’s a way of life — making the daily commute on a 10-speed — for others it’s more of a weekend hobby and for others it’s a race.

“There are rides and then there are events,” WSCC vice president, Poulsbo resident Bill Abbey explained.

The Clif Bar Chilly Hilly Feb. 24 is the first big event of the season — sponsored by a nationally known club, registration and fees, thousands of riders, numbers zip-tied on handle bars. Wintertime rides are more informal groups or individual training.

The Chilly Hilly, pegged one of the four best classic rides in the nation by Bicycling Magazine, is hosted by Seattle’s storied Cascade Bicycle Club. That same group annually organizes other classic Northwest rides like the Seattle to Portland Classic, the Ride from Seattle to Vancouver, BC and Party, and the Ride Around Washington.

Riders of all ages and experience levels are welcome, keeping in mind “Chilly Hilly” isn’t just a moniker.

It’s a 33-mile route around Bainbridge Island with a collective climb of about 2,700 feet. The starting line for those coming from Kitsap is at the front of the Bainbridge Commons, across from waterfront park on Brien Drive, while a good portion of riders will be coming by boat.

Last year of the total 4,270 riders, there were representatives from 19 different states. All of those bicyclers shared the road with the Island’s normal traffic.

“Some of us are not inclined to write checks to ride something that we ride for free,” Abbey said of regular WSCC riders, noting that some will, however, in support of their sister club and to join in the ceremonial start of the season.

Chilly Hilly registration fees are $22 from the Kitsap side ($27 from Seattle including ferry) and can be made online or the day of the event. For more info, visit www.cascade.org and select “Clif Bar Chilly Hilly” off the events list.

For more info on the West Sound Cycling Club, with members hailing from Gig Harbor to Hansville, visit its Web site at www.westsoundcycling.com.

For more on where to ride in Kitsap, read on.

Where to ride in Kitsap

“There’s a saying: if you can ride Kitsap, you can ride anything,” Abbey said. “And I find that that is very true.”

Abbey came to Kitsap in the early 90s from Seattle and has been cycling for much of that time. He’s been a member of the West Sound Cycling Club for just under a decade, and he hosts weekly rides and other special events like the President’s Day scavenger hunt for members.

What makes Kitsap such a pristine place to ride, Abbey said, is a mix of its balanced roads, diverse terrain and courteous drivers.

“It’s a very cycle-able place,” he said. “The Kitsap roads department does an absolutely fantastic job of doing what they do. You go to ride Seattle and it can be pretty damn miserable.”

Perhaps that’s why many Seattlite cyclists come over here to start the season on the Bainbridge Island loop.

In addition to that loop, the county is ripe with rural wooded roads, city streets and peaks of breathtaking scenery.

• Starting out in Kingston, there’s a 28-mile route of moderate difficulty that travels to Hansville’s Point No Point beach and back through Little Boston, as listed in Bill Thorness’ book “Biking Puget Sound.”

Start near the ferry terminal in Kingston and travel west on State Route 104 to Hansville Road. Follow that north to the tip of the peninsula and Point No Point beach for a break. Then to come back, head a bit further northwest on NE Twin Spits Road and turn left onto Hood Canal Drive which will lead you to Little Boston Road through the Port Gamble Indian Reservation and back to Hansville Road.

• Central Kitsap offers more neighborhood style rides, in addition to rural roads, out in Seabeck or a short six-mile jaunt on Silverdale’s Clear Creek Trail. The 1.4-mile paved section of the trail begins at the Rotary Gateway park off Silverdale Way near the Waaga Way intersection. The trail connects to about five miles of soft-surface trail constructed by the Clear Creek Task Force, which travels through the heart of Silverdale. Remember traffic safety.

• In “Biking Puget Sound,” Thorness also mapped out a 37-mile trek from Bremerton to Seabeck and Scenic Beach that travels from downtown up Fourth Street to Burwell onto Montgomery Avenue to 11th Street and onto Kitsap Way. Follow Kitsap Way to Northlake and then onto Seabeck Highway which will take you all the way to Scenic Beach.

Then to come back, follow Seabeck Highway to Anderson Hill Road. Follow Anderson Hill into Silverdale, connect onto Bucklin Hill Road and then take a right on Tracyton Road. Tracyton will take you all the way back, along the shores of Sinclair inlet, over the Manette bridge and back to downtown Bremerton.

For more ideas on where to ride, go online.

Search “bicycling rides” on the Kitsap Peninsula Visitors and Tourism Bureau site at www.visitkitsap.com, check out Thorness’ book “Biking Puget Sound” at www.mountaineersbooks.org, or check in with the local cycling club — www.westsoundcycling.com.

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