Bike Buzz: Chain Reaction

Kick-start your bicycling season with these early-season events

By Hilary Meyerson

Photo at right: The Chilly Hilly is the unofficial kick-off to the Northwest bicycling season. ©2012 Cascade Bicycle Club

Dust off your bike and kick-start your bicycling season with a great line-up of tried and true Northwest events — starting with the 40th annual Chilly Hilly Feb. 26.

Chilly Hilly

Sunday Feb. 26, 2012

Course open from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The 40th annual Chilly Hilly is the unofficial kickoff to the Northwest cycling season. Your registration buys you a ferry ticket from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island to ride 33 hilly miles with 6,000 other cyclists. Hot cider and homemade cookies greet cyclists along the route which totals 2,675 feet of up and down climbing.

It’s no wonder Bicycling magazine named the hilly, scenic course one of “Four Classic Rides” in the country.

“It’s also a fun event for people who are less experienced riders since it’s so short, but people should expect hills,” warns M.J. Kelly of Cascade Bicycle Club, the event sponsor.

After disembarking from the ferry, riders head north along the shore up to Fay Bainbridge State Park and hook around the top of the island past Manzanita Bay to Battle Point Park before gearing up (or down) for the dreaded Baker Hill, the longest and steepest climb of the ride.

From there, it’s an easy shot around the west side of the island and back to the ferry dock, where the famous chili feed awaits. It’s a fundraiser for the Squeaky Wheels Bicycling Club, Bainbridge Island’s bike advocacy group.

Why do people keep coming back? Kelly offers some ideas.

“Because it’s on an island, it feels very different,” she says. “The Bainbridge Island community has been so welcoming. Many of Bainbridge’s charities are out along the course at stands selling hot dogs and baked potatoes. The ride is a big fundraiser for them.”

Don’t worry about trouble on the road—it’s one of the best supported rides of the year, with roving mechanics from REI and Bainbridge Island Cycle Shop with medical and safety support provided by Cascade.

Registration at

Seattle Bike Swap

Feb. 12, 2012

Seattle Center Exhibition Hall
9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

$5 or free between 1– 2 p.m.; kids 15 and under free all day.

The Seattle Bike Swap is the spot for bicycle bargain hunters. More than 100 vendors will be on hand with bikes and bike-related treasures. If you’re looking to sell a bike, look at the Bike Swap’s consignment program online. For $10 and 10 percent of the selling price, they’ll get you cash for your old treasures.

The consignment option benefits the Major Taylor program, an after-school cycling program focused on introducing young people from diverse communities to cycling. Bring cash or check— most of the vendors won’t take plastic.

Seattle Bike Expo

March 10 –11

Smith Cove Cruise Terminal

Saturday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m

$10 for single-day pass; $12 for two-day pass. Cash only. CBC members get a $2 discount.

Nutcase Helmets at Bike Expo

Seattle Bike Show attendees will discover ways to save their noggins. ©2012 Cascade Bicycle Club

The Seattle Bike Expo, the largest consumer bike show in the United States, returns to Smith Cove Cruise Terminal March 10 –11. The two-day event is filled with special exhibits, games, and two stages to showcase athletes and coaches of the cycling world. The Expo will also feature a phalanx of bike authors, including Geoff Drake, author of Team 7-Eleven, cycling advocate Amy Walker (50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life), Portland’s Mia Burk (author of Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet), and Willie Weir (author of Travels with Willy and frequent commentator on KUOW). The Seattle Schools Unicycle Showcase will be there, as will a long list of experts in the cycling world, including master framebuilder Kevin Sayles of Woodrup Cycles.

Your admission ticket gives you access to more than 250 booths exhibiting bikes, gear, and accessories. Bring the kids for learn-to-ride instruction and games in the Kids Zone. Crowds come for the stunt biking demonstrations by the Ride & Glide Pro BMX Stunt Team and the Classic Bike Show, but the photo contest is a big draw as well. There are six categories to enter and all photos must include a bike or related gear.

PDX Bicycle Show

March 24 –25

Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Prices not available at press time; Kids 12 and under are free with paid adult.

Portland’s largest display of bikes, gear and apparel, the PDX Bicycle Show is coming back to the Portland Expo Center March 24 – 25. The two-day exhibition will feature The Little Nutty Rider Zone, a place for the youngest riders to test ride bikes and practice their skills; The Hopworks Beer Bike, a cargo bike outfitted with two kegs, two taps, a full inlaid wood bar, sound system and pizza rack serving up hand-crafted, organic brews all day long and the Pimp’d Bike contest, where bicycles and art and whimsy intersect.

And there’s lots more: An armchair you pedal. An ice cream cart you ride. The best hand-crafted high-end bicycles in town. Don’t forget to check out the Urban Riders Fashion Show to see what the cool folks are wearing as they pedal around the Rose City.

The show’s biggest draw, however, is the great deals on bikes, parts and all things bike related. You’ll find accessories you never even dreamed existed, yet you somehow find you cannot do without.

The PDX Bicycle Show is presented by Drive Less/Save More, a campaign by the Oregon Department of Transportation to encourage reduction of single-driver car trips in favor of greener transportation options.

Outdoors NW editor Hilary Meyerson will be one of the 6,000 riders on this year’s Chilly Hilly.