Bainbridge Island & Seattle, Washington
First time visitors to Seattle with bikes, Lisa and I were naturally attracted to the idea of taking the ferry across Puget Sound and taking a ride 'round the perimeter of one or two of the islands. We ended up choosing Bainbridge and skipping Vachon Island only due to the fact that the ferry schedule to and from Vachon was far more restricting and limited.

Seattle/Bainbridge Route Map

Many guides and books we'd read suggested that the terrain on Bainbridge made for pretty easy cycling -- some went as far as saying the island was mostly flat. While this isn't entirely true -- the island roads roll up and down quite a bit, and there are a handful of short, steep climbs -- the canonical "full" loop around the island dubbed The Chilly Hilly is actually a pretty mellow ramble most of the way.

The island is small enough that it's reasonably easy to improvise a route, staying as close to the perimeter of the island. But there are enough free maps available to make navigation easier. The best of the bunch is Bainridge's official map and guide, but you can also pick up a free map from the island's Classic Cycle. Located around the block from the ferry landing, this shop is a must see anyway for its impressive collection of vintage and retrophile cycling hardware, some from as far back as the 19th century. Don't miss it.

Lisa and I opted to do the loop in counter-clockwise direction, which is what I'd recommend to anybody riding on the island for the first time. This simply puts you on the right lane, closest to the shores of the island on all sides, and it sets you up to climb the hallmark of The Chilly Hilly course (as well as annual running events on Bainbridge), Toe Jam Hill Road, from the more challenging side of it. It's a steep sucker, all right, but fairly short.

Bainbridge Island We also improvised the route a bit, basically zig-zagging along the Chilly Hilly course, and serendipitously finding some of the biggest climbs on th island. And even if we traveled close to the edge of the island most of the time, it was surprising to not actually have a view of the Sound (or the shore, for that matter) most of the time. In fact, the majority of the course's scenerey is characterized by thick and lush forestry and brush. Each time a maritime scene came into view was very rewarding with the sight of the Sound's calm waters punctuated with high mountains on the horizon (Olympus and its surrounding range on the West, and Ranier to the Southeast).

Lisa and I roamed the island on a weekday, and found ourselves in the company of regular commuters on the ferry headed back to Seattle at the end of the work day. With a good deal of light left in the day, we had loose plans to just roll through and explore different neighborhoods of the city. Learning this, our newfound companions offered to be our guides and usher us through some of the town's preferred commuter routes. Sweet: we got ourselves some local city guides, and these guys got to enjoy a long leisurely way home while yapping with a couple of eager visitors. In the process, we probably discovered many local gems along the way we never would have thought to visit or discover otherwise. Pretty cool.

The city cyling community in Seattle is a visibly large and a happening one. And they enjoy one of the best laid out and marked intra-city bike networks I've been on. Best of all, the vibe is just great and the city's riders collectively make up a pretty jovial society.

Distance: approx. 65 miles | Elevation gain: not measured | Ride time: not measured
Info: Seattle Department of Transportation, City of Bainbridge
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