When the early morning ferries arrived Feb. 27, more than 1,600 cyclists rolled onto Bainbridge Island for the 33-mile Chilly Hilly ride hosted by the Cascade Bicycle Club.
Riders dressed in colorful gear hit the road and tackled the many hills on the scenic route around the island.
Now into its 50th year, this annual Northwest event marks the start of the riding season after the long dark days of winter.
Cascade media relations manager Paul Tolme’ said, “Chilly Hilly is the resumption of the 2022 season, and Cascade is really excited that the big ride season has begun. There’s a sense of a return to normalcy.”
The number of participants was down from the usual 2,000 riders, but COVID-19 restrictions reduced turnout last year to 1,400 riders. However, Tolme’ said a bike boom during the pandemic created a huge return to cycling, and riders are excited to get outside. “The mood is of elation, that we are getting back to riding outside with all of our friends and colleagues, something we haven’t been able to do for the past few years.”
Chilly Hilly is a formal start to training to “get ready for the big ride in July,” the pinnacle Seattle to Portland event that draws up to 8,000 people for a 200-mile, two-day trek.
Tolme’ said the influx of riders provides a benefit to BI and partnering with nonprofits is a “win-win” for all.
BI Amateur Radio Club members were on the route manning mobile ham radios to assist with communications and logistical aid. Rotary Club volunteers positioned at the intersection of Moran Road NE and N. Madison Ave. found themselves showered with greetings and gratitude from the many riders.
The BI Rope Skippers team support the event by handing out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fruit and snacks for riders at the food stop near the West entrance of Battle Point Park. At the finish line, the BI Senior Community Center served up more than 700 chili meals at Waterfront Park.
“We are grateful to the volunteers who come to assist the participants and for helping us to put on these large rides that involve a lot of logistics,” Tolme’ said. “They are helping to give the riders a good experience, and it’s a nice community fundraiser as well.”