I’ve only ridden my new Trek 1.1 bike four times now, but Sunday was a day where I felt I got to know it much better. There’s still lots to learn, but I had a good ride at the 33-mile Chilly Hilly jaunt around Bainbridge Island, which traditionally kicks off the road bike-riding season in the Seattle area.
This bike is much faster and lighter than my Schwinn 7-speed, my first bike, and it is better equipped for rides like this. But it’s also intended for more experienced riders than me, and can quickly fly out of control going fast down a steep hill if I am not careful. I am still monitoring its responsiveness; I won’t be doing anything reckless anytime soon (like a bicyclist Sunday riding hands-free for about a mile around a corner).
That said, Chilly Hilly 2013 was fun. This is the second year that I have done this popular loop around the island, in which about 5,000 riders participate and which has seven or more hills totaling 2,675 feet of elevation. It is my ninth major ride in about two and a half years, and my second of 2013.
I rode much of the event with Steve Stoffel, a bicycling nut who is fighting — and beating — cancer. Steve would normally go 5 mph faster than me, but this was his first ride since major surgery, and he probably shouldn’t have been doing it. So he was weakened a bit, and yet I could still barely stay up with him.
My total riding time today was 3:48, counting food stops and pit stops, about 33 minutes faster than I did this event a year ago. But a bigger highlight was being able to climb almost all of the hills, including the tough Baker Hill Road, which last year seemed impossible to conquer. Congestion and concern for my safety prompted me to walk up a small section of another hill.
Here are some other observations from today’s ride:
- No snow and very little rain! Snow started falling during last year’s ride, and, according to my 2012 post, it happened just as I was trying to climb Baker Hill. I vaguely remember those snowflakes, which annoyed but didn’t stick. Sunday, we had the usual chilly weather but it was mostly dry — I’ll take that anytime for February. Also, courtesy of Steve, I had toe-warmers, which appeared to free my mind from thinking about the cold.
- Course has harder finish than I remember: The hills in this ride are fairly spread out, and none are as steep as Heartbreak Hill in the Stinky Spoke. Baker Hill is the worst, and I feel I conquered it. But the continuous rolling hills in the final six miles or so became taxing, and I was glad to get up the last hill that led to the ferry dock and finish line. I don’t remember the home stretch being so challenging in last year’s ride.
- Need to switch seats with my old bike! And while I am whining, let me add that my old bike has a much more cushy, comfortable seat. No way could my butt get through a century on this bike. I’m hoping the seat sizes on each bike are compatible so I can make the switcheroo.
- Interesting outfit: You don’t see much in the way of costumes for rides like this, as you do for running races like the Valentine’s Day Dash and St. Patrick’s Day Dash. But I did notice the adult man wearing full-length Frosty the Snowman flannel pajamas on the ride. I wish I had a picture of him; he was a decent rider. Also interesting, but much less so, was the watermelon-colored helmet.
- Post-ride chili was great! A year ago, I didn’t know I needed to bring cash to this ride to order at the mid-race and post-race food stops. This year, I knew better. The chili dog at the halfway point went down nicely and the chili and cornbread at the finish line were a nice reward (even if they weren’t free). A year ago, my neighbor friend nudged me to hustle to catch a ferry back; this year, Steve and I rested a bit and ate before ferrying back.
- Ferry ride is nice — and a hassle: Taking a ferry across Puget Sound and back for a bicycle ride has its pluses and minuses. The ferry ride itself is relaxing, and it’s nice to chat with other bicyclists. The wait to get on the ferry, especially waiting nearly an hour to get back to Seattle, is aggravating. And cold. But it didn’t ruin a fun day.
What’s next for me
It’s back to running events for March. I’ll likely do the St. Patrick’s Day Dash and the Mercer Island Half Marathon during the month.
I’ll still be riding too though. I hope to do the Flying Wheels full-century ride this year; in 2012, I did the 65-mile version. The 35-mile loop I missed is one I did as part of a later ride (the Tour de Peaks in August), so I feel I know the course and can handle it. That ride is in June; I’ll need till then to train.
Thanks for reading. Till next time.