This past Sunday (2/28/10) was the annual Chilly Hilly bike ride. It is the huge kick-off event for bike season in the Seattle area, organized by Cascade Bicycle Club. Here in the Great Northwest many of us struggle to emerge from our yearly dark-dank-daze like cicadas. If you can complete this ride it’s a sign that you’ve survived Winter reasonably intact. With 2,675 feet of climbing over 33 miles, the Chilly Hilly is no stroll in the park. Some of the hills look like walls as you approach them. I felt every quart of ice cream I ate this Winter as I climbed each one.
The weather this winter has been exceptionally mild, with record-breaking temps throughout January and February. On event day it was shockingly sunny and seemed to be in the mid-50s or warmer. It would appear that bicycling is booming in these parts. Rumor has it there were 6,028 riders this year, a huge increase from the 3,585 riders last year.
A parallel event known as the FHR in polite company (Fucking Hills Race) took place on the same day and place. Originally started as a pirate ride by Point 83, it is now pretty well organized. Participants wear pirate flags instead of numbers. In support of both events and seeking the most fun and best chili, I paid registration fees and rode in both events simultaneously.
FHR had terrific prizes for all participants and a more alternative theme from the mainstream clean-cut Chilly Hilly. Prizes included all sorts of bike schwag as well as $60 toward a Point83 club tattoo, body waxing, and a lap dance. The FHR crowd numbered over 100 mostly twenty-somethings who prefer vintage clothing from Goodwill over the spandex more typical of Chilly Hilly riders. The FHR chili was spectacular. I asked one Chilly Hilly rider how their chili was and they said they didn’t get any because there wasn’t enough to go around for the 6,028 riders.
These parallel events are proof that there’s plenty of room on the road for all kinds of people: kids, seniors, competitive racers, casual riders, skinny & fat people. Good spirits were everywhere. In these contentious times that is a rare and beautiful thing.