Have wheels, will travel: Bicycles are the transportation of choice for many Kitsap residents

Bicycles are the transportation of choice for many Kitsap residents

If you’ve ever been out early on a weekend morning, you’ve undoubtedly seen them.

If you’ve ever taken a commuter ferry boat to Seattle, you’ve seen them as well.

You’ve also seen them picking up groceries, returning library books and going to school.

Bicyclists are prolific in Kitsap.

And although they get around on the same basic human-powered machine, they are many varieties of cyclist ranging from the spandex-wearing, speed-racing cyclists, to commuters, to those who hop on their bicycle for fun.

“The northwest is a real outdoor enthusiast’s area,” said Dana Berg, president of the Squeaky Wheels bicycling advocacy club on Bainbridge Island. “Almost every day is a good weather day. We don’t have 110 degree days, or big ice storms. We have rain, but you can pretty much bike here everyday.”

Mandy Noble with West Sound Cycling Club leads a Women’s Ride Group on Thursdays. She sends out a weekly email to about 40 women, and typically has eight to 12 show up for rides. In the winter months, the rides are shorter and closer to home. In the summer months, they travel longer distances and to locations farther afield.

Noble began the group because she believes women have different conversations when men aren’t around, and vice-versa. Also, it was her experience that men tend to be more competitive.

“I just want to ride my bike,” Noble said. “I’m not in competition with anyone and I don’t want to feel judged because maybe I have fenders on my bike, or because I bring my lunch and it weighs too much.”

Noble hopes to teach more women riders to become self confident and ride on public roads. With the help of other West Sound Cycling Club members, Noble  leads a class to teach cyclists how to ride in traffic, traffic law, as well as rights and responsibilities of drivers and cyclists.

The hilly terrain in Kitsap can be a challenge. Berg said the best way to combat the steep hills is to have a sufficient number of gears on your bicycle and know how to use them. “The hills aren’t too bad once you get the gears down. You need to anticipate the hill before you are going up it,” she said. It helps to practice and solidify gear-shifting so it becomes second-nature and ingrained in your muscle memory.

The bonus, Breg said, is once you ride the hills around here, everywhere else seems easy.

Having a good bike is key as well. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it shouldn’t be the bicycle you rode thirty years ago that had a banana seat and streamers off the handle bars. Significant improvements have been made to bicycles over the years, including easier shifting and lighter frames.

Noble said if you are in the market for a new bike, think about the type of rider you expect to be. By doing so, the bike shop can help get you into a bike that matches your needs.

“The learning curve the first year of your bicycling career is steep,” Noble said. “For beginner riders an hour on the bicycle seat is a lot, even a half-hour is a lot.” Noble suggests doing frequent, shorter rides as a way to condition. (See side-bar for good beginner routes.)

If you are looking for an enticing reason to begin biking, this weekend is the ninth annual Bike for Pie on Bainbridge Island. If Homer Simpson rode in the event, you’d certainly hear, “Mmm, pie,” as the event includes all-you-can eat pie. The event has two courses: the challenge ride (with two pie stops) and the shorter family ride (with one pie stop).

Berg said over the years, the event has grown and now committee members use a local bakery’s kitchen to bake the 70 pies needed for the event.

Both Berg and Noble said they are fortunate to live in an area with such beautiful scenery. In Kitsap,  sight-seeing from the seat of a bicycle can be magnificent, they said.

Berg, who uses her bicycle as her primary form of transportation, said the hidden benefit is: “I don’t have to worry about getting exercise, it’s built into my day.”

Noble, who has enjoyed cycling since she was a child, said she’s always looked at her bicycle as her freedom.

“My favorite thing to do is tour and be gone for as long as possible,” she said.

Upcoming Cycling Events in Kitsap:

Bike for Pie: Aug. 14, on Bainbridge Island, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Register: www.squeakywheels.org.

Summer Challenge: Aug. 28 on Bainbridge Island.  A fundraiser for the Kiwanis Club, this ride follows the same route as the popular February ride, the Chilly Hilly. The Summer Challenge’s tag line is: “Not as chilly, but just as hilly.” Register: www.summerchallengeride.org.

Kitsap Color Classic: Sept. 25, throughout Kitsap. There are various routes, ranging from easier ones for recreational riders to more challenging routes for experienced riders. Register: www.shop.cascade.org.

Routes for Beginner Cyclists:

-Highway 305 on Bainbridge Island (ride early on weekend mornings when traffic is light)

-Highway 104 near Port Gamble

-Provost Road/Old Frontier Road in Silverdale

-Chico Way to Erlands Point in Bremerton

-A useful tool to map routes is www.mapmyride.com.