As wet as 2017 has been, it hasn’t slowed down Darrell Eslinger.
The 66-year-old president of the Tacoma Washington Bicycle Club has pedaled about 400 miles this spring. And he hopes South Sound cyclists will have a similar attitude about the weather Sunday morning when the bike club hosts the 42nd Daffodil Classic.
The Daffodil Classic starts at Orting High School and offers a 40-mile loop to Buckley and a 60-mile loop to Eatonville. As of Tuesday, about 100 cyclists had signed up. Not a great number considering the ride has drawn more than 1,000 riders in the past. But it’s not usual either.
Essentially, turnout depends on the weather, Eslinger said. Most riders sign up the morning of the classic. “The weather is supposed to be marginal, so we may not get many riders this year. But we are hoping for a good turnout.”
The ride is the primary fundraiser for the bike club. The money is used to support bike-related events, infrastructure and education around the South Sound.
We caught up with Eslinger while he was marking the Daffodil Classic course. He pulled over long enough to field a few questions.
Q: What are some of the highlights from your time as club president?
A: Being able to donate money to support trails and bike infrastructure around Pierce County. We gave a chunk of money to Eatonville for a trail. We donate year after year to the Foothills Trail. We’ve been a sponsor for the (National) Bike Month bike swap each year. Being able to give money and time to other groups so that we can expand.
Q: So you were hit from behind by a car on your way to a club ride last year. How’s your recovery going?
A: I was hit in September and I wasn’t on a bike again until February, and it was pretty tentative then. But I’m doing pretty well. I’ve done a couple of 50-milers. I just need to get my strength up but doesn’t everybody? Hardly anybody has ridden this winter.
Q: The club name changed last year from the Tacoma Wheelmen’s Bicycle Club. What kind of response have you had?
A: We haven’t had any major negatives. Some people said, “Well, I’m used to it.” That’s the main comment. But we still have the Wheelmen as a nickname. We can still use it and people probably will until all the 50-year-olds are gone.
Q: Why are you guys taking that steep little hill on McCutcheon Road out of the Daffodil Classic route this year?
A: Last year I stood there and in half an hour at 3 p.m. on a Sunday, I counted 130 cars going up that hill. It’s a safety reason. I also talked to Tour de Pierce (June 25) and told them they shouldn’t go over that anymore. We’re going slow enough as it is and it’s a narrow road. But they are going to rebuild the road, so maybe in a few years it will be wide enough that we can do it again.
Q: What’s the best way for people to sample a bike club and see if it’s right for them?
A: Check out our website and see what’s going on. We have rides on Wednesday and on Saturdays and Sundays. Most are not fast rides. The Sunday ride is a little faster (15-17 mph), but most are about 10-12 mph. And look for other bike clubs out there like Olympia (Capital Bicycle Club) and Kitsap County (West Sound Cycling Club).
But find somebody to ride with and learn the routes to go where there are not a lot of cars.
Q: Why are clubs important for group rides?
A: Our insurance. If you’re out with a group and even if you are doing everything right and a car pulls out in front of you, somebody might sue the ride leader. We have insurance. It doesn’t cover everything, but it could cover a deductible. We act as an umbrella club for some other clubs who lead rides under our group so they are covered by insurance.
Q: So, your other big fundraiser is the Peninsula Metric Century on June 4. That’s a challenging ride. Why should people sign up?
A: I tell people if you can do the 100-mile PMC, you can do the STP (Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic) in one day and it won’t be as hard.
Q: What are your inspirational words of wisdom for people who might not like the idea of riding outside when the weather isn’t great?
A: Take a short ride. You don’t have to take a real long ride. If you see the weather is good enough and it’s raining at that time or it’s barely raining, go out and do 5, do 10 miles. But get out and do some mileage to have fun.
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When: Sunday, registration open 7 a.m.-noon. Course closes at 5 p.m.
Where: Orting Middle School, 111 Whitehawk Blvd. NW, Orting.
Route: A 60-mile loop travels to Eatonville, while a 40-mile loop visits Buckley.
Cost: $50 ($45 for club members).
More info: twbc.org.