Snow almost made bike ride even more Chilly Hilly

Gov. Jay Inslee was among the 2,000 or so bicyclists who participated in the annual Chilly Hilly ride on Bainbridge Island Feb. 26.

The event almost really lived up to its name, as snow was in the forecast. “The weather report was worrisome, but it turned out great,” Paul Tolme of the sponsoring Cascade Bicycle Club said March 1. “A little snow fell overnight, but it quickly melted and the sun came out.”

If there was snow, organizers planned to delay the start for safety’s sake. Even with so many riders and wet roads, there were no accidents or injuries reported. Tolme said the event is not a race as it welcomes all ages and abilities. “You can ride as quickly or slowly as you want. It’s all at your own pace. There’s no stress.”

Electric-assist bikes are even allowed. Tolme said as many as 10% of the riders used e-bikes, which are a big help getting up all the hills. “It makes the ride possible” for many who wouldn’t otherwise be able to do it, he said. Cascade is a huge supporter of e-bikes. “You see more of them everywhere.” He said they are climate-friendly and great for riding to work instead of using a car. “It gets our message out there that we’re all-inclusive.”

Tolme said normally he has to work the event, but because of so many volunteers this year he got to ride it. “It’s one of the more fun rides in the state,” he said. “The hills are a challenge so thank goodness for low gears.” He said it’s a wonderful experience. “Everybody is so friendly on the ride. We’re all on the same team, and people cheer each other on.”

Tolme said the lunch stop at Battle Point Park halfway through the ride is a “beautiful place to recharge.” He said they had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, snacks and hot chocolate. At the finish line, the BI Senior Center sold hot chili (that wasn’t chilly) as a fund-raiser.

Chilly Hilly starts off the club’s season of rides each year. Tolme said BI residents are great to “put up with all of the bicyclists on the roads that day. It exposes more folks to the beautiful riding out there, and it’s great for the local businesses, too.”