Late February rarely offers ideal cycling weather in the Northwest, but since 1973 a little bike ride on the last weekend of the month has traditionally signaled the start of the recreational cycling season.
The 40th Chilly Hilly starts this morning at 8 a.m. and is a short (33 miles) but challenging (2,700 vertical feet of climbing) tour of Bainbridge Island. The ride, a classic in cycling circles, has drawn riders from as far away as France over the years. But even if you can’t make it to Winslow this morning you should take note of the event because it means it’s time to start finalizing your 2012 cycling schedule.
Here are some dates to circle:
Thursday-March 31: If you want to ride in Ramrod, one of Washington’s most challenging rides, first you’ll have to win its lottery. The Redmond Cycling Club accepts entries during March then will hold a drawing in early April for the 800 spots in this one-day, 160-mile ride around Mount Rainier. It is the only organized ride allowed in Mount Rainier National Park. The entry fee is usually about $90 and this year’s ride will be July 26th. redmondcyclingclub.org/RAMROD
March 20: The Tuesday night road racing series at Kent’s Pacific Raceways is a good place to try bike racing. The series, organized by Budu Racing, runs March 20-July 24 and Aug. 14-28. Cycle U teaches racing basics for $5 on April 3, May 1, June 12 and July 17. The race entry fee is $16 per night ($11 in March). buduracing.com
April 15: A good organized ride ought to have an incentive to reach the finish line. Medals, patches and shirts are nice, but nothing’s quite as good as a little junk food. (It’s guilt free after a long ride, right?) The Daffodil Classic rewards its finishers with strawberry shortcake. The ride has routes ranging from 40-100 miles through the Orting Valley. The ride is $20 and starts at Orting Middle School. twbc.org
May 6: Rather ride for pie? The May Day Metric starts at Phil’s South Side Cyclery in Federal Way and heads southwest toward Mount Rainier with rides ranging from 50-104 miles. Regardless of which distance you complete, a large slice of pie will be waiting for you at the finish line. Need more calories to burn off? The ride is known for its Hostess theme and offers Ho Hos, Twinkies and Ding Dongs at its rest stations. The entry fee is $25. maydaymetric.net
June 9: The Flying Wheels Summer Century has routes from 25-100 miles and has some good climbs to test your legs. The ride starts at the Marymoor Park Velodrome where there are some entertaining races by costumed participants at the end of the day. The ride tours such rural destinations as Snohomish, Monroe and Carnation. The entry fee is $35. cascade.org
July 14-15: If you want to ride Washington’s most famous and most popular ride, the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, you better register early. This year the two-day ride sold out Feb. 21, a full month earlier than in 2011. The 200-mile ride typically attracts 10,000 riders each year. Bicycling Magazine has listed the STP as one of the best cycling events in the nation. cascade.org
Aug. 4-6: If you think you’re tough enough to bike over three mountain passes in three days, the Courage Classic is the ride for you. Participants must raise $500 for the Rotary Endowment for the Intervention and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. The ride is about 170 miles and travels over Snoqualmie, Blewitt and Stevens passes. Tacoma’s Harmon Bike Club trains and raises funds for the Courage Classic. CourageClassic.com
Aug. 5: Ride the Hurricane challenges participants to bike from Port Angeles to Hurricane Ridge. The ride is 12 or 18 miles and climbs 3,300 or 4,300 vertical feet through Olympic National Park. The ride is $35 but participation is capped at 500 people. portangeles.org
Aug. 25-26: The Rapsody Ride is a two-day journey around Puget Sound starting and finishing in Tacoma. Despite 9,600 feet of climbing over 170 miles, the event continues to carve out a spot as one of Pierce County’s most popular rides. Perhaps the yogurt parfaits and calzones at the rest stops help. The entry fee is $85. rapsodybikeride.com
Sept. 30: Just as the Chilly Hilly is known as the start of the riding season, the Kitsap Color Classic is often considered the end of the organized riding season. The hilly ride, which starts in Edmonds or Kingston, has routes ranging from 14-64 miles and an entry fee of $23 or $28 depending on whether you ride the ferry from Edmonds. cascade.org
Craig Hill’s fitness column runs on Sundays in The News Tribune and The Olympian. Please submit questions and comments via craig. email@example.com, facebook.com/adventureguys or twitter.com/adventureguys. Also get more fitness coverage at blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure andthenewstribune.com/fitness.