Turns out the 41-year-old Chilly Hilly bike ride, which draws thousands of regional and even some international bicyclists each year, isn’t the only cycling event on Bainbridge Island the last Sunday of February. The F*cking Hills Race (FHR) “pirates” also ferry over from Seattle that day to ride primarily along the Chilly Hilly route sporting pirate emblems, booing and croaking out loud ARRs, and imbibing along the way.
Reportedly in its 8th year, Point83′s FHR brought out roughly 80 bikers last weekend, this year sharing their liquor in little paper cups with two-wheeled takers wanting a Chilly swilly. And in case anyone might overlook the offer, they brought along a megaphone to broadcast their booze from their “whiskey checkpoint” on the corner of Lynwood Center Road and Baker Hill Road.
Referring to the organizers of the Chilly Hilly, Seattle’s Cascade Bicycle Club, as “Asscade” on their website forum point83.com, the Seattle-based FHR riders apparently come to Bainbridge to BUI (Bike Under the Influence) and “heckle.” According to accounts on their website, the pirates ended their day skirting the police on the beach and enjoying an illegal keg that they say they hid with a tarp and pile of bikes. They avoided Gideon Park this year, after, according to Bainbridge Police Lieutenant Phil Hawkins, they trashed the place and drew complaints from surrounding residents about public urination and noise at last year’s event.
Sound like harmless prankster fun? Depends who you talk to. Cascade Bike Club, a 14,000-member nonprofit organization that aims to “create a better community through bicycling” and that donates to ten Island charities with part of its Chilly Hilly revenue, is chilly on the subject of Point83′s event within their event. Cascade Executive Director Chuck Ayers described most of the “heckling” as not mean spirited and said that the FHR riders “have a legal right to be on the roads.” But, he continued, “when they are doing illegal drinking and growling at people on the ride, it gives a negative impression of who the biking community is.”
A Chilly Hilly rider from last year, who preferred not to be named because of her connections to the Seattle biking community and fear of reprisal from Point83, said she observed the Point83 pirates “riding erratically and fast, weaving in and out of other bikes.” According to Ayers, a few years ago one of the pirates who was speeding down a hill crashed and received care from the Cascade team, which pays for road assistance in part through its participant fee, something the pirates don’t pay. “It’s frustrating,” said Ayers. Ayers told me that his organization was initially thought to be responsible for the mess at Gideon Park last year and he had to explain to the Bainbridge Park District that the Chilly Hilly did not stop at Gideon Park. “The disrespect is disconcerting,” he said. “We want to make bicycling inviting to everyone. When their culture of drinking interferes with that message, then I think they are doing a disservice to biking. Ultimately I hope nobody is getting hurt or killed.”
Scott Gamble of Point83 who rode in this year’s FHR told me his group is all about being friendly, riding, and having fun. Speaking of Point83′s relationship with Cascade Bike Club, he said, “There’s a good-natured ribbing rivalry between the clubs, but that’s the extent of it.” He suggested I contact two specific members of Cascade Bike Club, one on the Board, who would vouch for Point83. I left messages for the individuals and even delayed publication of this article to give them a chance to respond but never heard back.
In their ad for The F*cking Hills Race, Point83 lists numerous big-name sponsors. I wondered how such a small event could garner such support. So I called a few of the companies. Terry Bicycles Sponsorship Coordinator Lisa Wilkes told me that she received a request from FHR but did not sponsor the event. She went on to say that Terry would not want to be associated with an event that calls itself F*cking Hills Race. That is likely why the event’s organizer Derrick Clark, whose mother used to live on Bainbridge, only uses the acronym FHR when he approaches companies for sponsorship. In his sponsorship request letter, which Wilkes shared with me, Clark describes the event as one that “attracts a several hundred people every year that race + lots more at the finish.”
Lieutenant Hawkins, who manages public events, said he has noticed in ads for FHR that bike shop sponsors have dropped off, indicating that perhaps locals who know Point83 are distancing themselves from the event.I talked with three other listed sponsors for the event, Osprey, Solio, and Nutcase, all of whom were unpleasantly surprised when they learned the actual name and tone of the Race. Sam Mix of Osprey Packs said his company sent a single simple pack to FHR with “no idea” who they were. He added, “I don’t think we would ever support it again now that we have learned more about how it is viewed in the community.” Solio CEO Andy Howe said his company sent some product for the event but “did not do any homework on the ride nor did we know anything about its history.” Nutcase, which provides extensive support of the Chilly Hilly, told me they sent FHR one helmet, also having not checked into the event. Nutcase’s Promotion and Event Coordinator Lisa Bauso added, “We won’t be sponsoring them again. They do not represent the Nutcase lifestyle.”
Finding phone numbers for Clark disconnected, I contacted him through Facebook, inviting him to talk for this article. He responded with his current phone number as well as a stream of insults. I invited another Point83 member to be interviewed, and he agreed but asked to be unnamed. Here is our Q and A, slightly abbreviated:
Referring to Bainbridge Island in their own website commentary as a “Malibu beach community,” other Point83 members strike a different tone. Here are some comments about the FHR from their online conversation in the last few weeks:
- “Bainbridge Island police get the gas face next year”
- “Also this year you are not allowed to race unless you dope up. So dope up you dopers.”
- “All the cool kids will be rolling on uppers and analgesics. I’ll have my Mellow Johnny’s bottle in my cage in support of the Lance Lifestyle.”
- “if you know of anyone that wants to help out and donate anything (service, item, etc) put them in touch with me. Anything related to cycling or outdoors or strippers or booze makes great prizes.”
- “it was neighbors of gideon park that called a few days prior. they’ve been getting more and more upset over the years. mainly because of the lack of bathrooms and the proximity of trees.”
- “the cops were scheduled to come check it out in case we were back. i think they found the whiskey stop by chance (or maybe went to investigate after being tipped).”
- “they basically said no open flames, and no liquor. so i put away the firepit and beer and they were fine with that. they mentioned giving tickets for peeing in the woods, but luckily no one did that while they were there.”
- “then we drank the keg on the beach where no one cared. but we were a bit more discreet about covering it with a tarp and bikes.”
- “Big thank you to Derrick for organizing this wonderful mess every year. It was very nice to see all of you this weekend. We “painted our names on the walls of the pain cave” today.”
- “[Next year] let’s pick a different spot, different alcohol, and group name and pretend we don’t know what they are talking about.”
- “two thoughts: the local PD has been embroiled in drama recently so they might be a little touchy and we might have had Ass-cade errr Cascade members complain to the cops that we were mooching on their event. Also, bullhorns = attention, attention + booze = cops”
- “maybe if we can get the local BBI girl scout troop to run the “point83 free lemonade and homemade cookies” stop at the corner of Lynwood and baker hill rd. next year we’ll be ok. Seems legit.”
A Chilly Hilly organizer, who asked not to be named also for fear of retaliation based on past experience, told Inside Bainbridge that some parents this year complained that their kids were frightened by heckling from Point83 riders: “We asked for an increased response this year from the Bainbridge Police.”
Lieutenant Hawkins said that the department has to deal with FHR every year. “We thought they were a small rogue group. Now we know more about how they operate.” He said that there is always drinking involved. According to Hawkins, a few years ago one of the riders was so impaired he crashed and had to be carried away.
No one I spoke with said they knew of an accident involving a Chilly Hilly rider or Bainbridge resident resulting from an interaction with a Point83 rider.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other biking safety organizations estimate that 25-30 percent of bicycling deaths involve a rider who is intoxicated. In Washington State there is no law prohibiting riding a bicycle while drunk. This is at least in part because bikes are not registered like motor vehicles, and riders don’t have a license to ride a bike that could be restricted with a BUI charge.
- Accident Report and “Free Whisky” Police Incident from 2013 Chilly Hilly
- Chilly Hilly 2013 Photo Gallery
- Yard Art of the Week: Chilly Hilly Cautionaries
- Welcome 2013 Chilly Hilly Riders, and BYO Espresso
Photos by Julie Hall.