In the early 1970s, Bill Stevenson and some friends hung fliers around Olympia announcing they planned to form a bike club.
The first meeting was in the basement of his home on North Street and he was surprised by the turnout.
“It was right at that beginning of the bike boom, but we were all shocked when 100 people showed up,” Stevenson said. “Luckily, I had a full basement and was not living in a tiny house.”
The bike club was up and going, and in 1977 the Capital Bicycle Club officially became a nonprofit.
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The 40th anniversary of that occasion is this year, but no celebration is planned. Instead, the club is doing what made it successful over the decades.
It is adapting.
“Every few years you have to adapt,” said Stevenson, the club’s president. “Usually a problem presents itself and you have to figure out how to deal with it.
“I think this is one of those years.”
The club has 500 members, more than any other South Sound club unless you count the massive Seattle-based Cascade Bicycle Club. Cascade, co-founded by friends of Stevenson in 1970, is the nation’s largest bike club and continues to broaden its reach into the South Sound area.
Each year, the Olympia club stages one of the South Sound’s largest bike rides, the Two-County Double Metric. The ride offers four routes, the longest of which is 200 kilometers and travels the quiet back roads of Thurston and Lewis counties.
Every few years you have to adapt. Usually a problem presents itself and you have to figure out how to deal with it. I think this is one of those years.
Bill Stevenson, Capital Bicycle Club president
It’s this tradition where the club is doing its adapting this year.
Traditionally held in June, the ride is moving to Aug. 27.
It’s a bold move. Not only is it now on one of the final weekends of summer, but it is 1½ months after the state’s most popular ride, the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic.
Held the last weekend of June in recent years, the Two-County billed itself as the last big tune-up ride for the 200-mile STP. Most years about 400 riders showed, many there for precisely that reason.
But the ride conflicted with other bike events. Last year, Pierce County Parks’ Tour de Pierce and Cascade’s now-defunct Red-Bell 100 were the same weekend. So was the Black Hills Triathlon in Lacey.
“There are only so many bicycle-related events in Thurston County, and it just seemed like we could pick a date that didn’t conflict,” Stevenson said.
Two-County’s turnout didn’t seem to be impacted by the triathlon or the other events, Stevenson said, but “It just seemed like bad manners.”
Cascade calls a meeting of all state bike clubs each fall to coordinate ride schedules for the next year. Capital Bicycle Club noticed a dearth of late-August rides and was eager to fill the void.
“It’s a time when the weather is most likely to be good,” Stevenson said.
And what about giving up that prime pre-STP spot?
“We thought, we’ve been a warm-up for STP for so long, maybe we should be a beneficiary,” Stevenson said. “People are getting into August with some good fitness levels and maybe not having any place to use them.”
The Two-County took a big leap forward last year when Providence Regional Cancer System signed on as a sponsor. The sponsorship could impact Thurston County riding beyond Capital’s top ride.
In past years, Capital staged a second event ride. Stevenson said two rides and other club responsibilities overextended club members.
But Providence brings with it a corps of employees who volunteer at the Two-County’s six rest stops. This much-needed help relieved enough club members that Stevenson said adding a second ride is a realistic possibility.
“It’s something we will consider,” he said.
Help from their sponsor also frees up club members to add a new perk for this year’s rider.
This year, the club will have members lead groups on the longer three routes. The club hopes this will appeal to people who are nervous about getting lost, don’t have somebody with whom to ride or people who may have the fitness level for a long ride but lack skills such as the ability to change a flat tire.
It’s a little change, but when you’re reinventing yourself, even little changes sometimes prove to be a big deal.
Two-County Double Metric
When: Aug. 27.
Where: The courses will start in Lacey with the longer routes visiting Thurston and Lewis counties.
Routes: 20, 50, 100 and 200 kilometers.
Information: Some ride details have yet to be finalized. capitalbicycleclub.org/2County