Chicago by Bike
A whole other way of life
Bike parking at the Hideout Block Party two weeks ago
By Todd Dills
September 22, 2006
CHICAGO’S ONE OF the more
cycling-friendly cities in
America, from its profusion
of park paths and marked bike
lanes on major thoroughfares to a
host of activist and support organizations
to the wide availability of
affordable parts. The city’s own
transportation department site,
which includes a frequently updated
map (www.egov.cityofchicago.org/Transportation/bikemap/keymap.html) of marked lanes, is a good
place to start planning your routes.
For an exhaustive guide to biking,
including info on shops, activism,
safety, and more, see the well-maintained
The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation(biketraffic.org), the city’s largest
cycling advocacy organization, hosts
the spring Bike the Drive (312-427-
3325, bikethedrive.org), closing
Lake Shore Drive to cars on a
Saturday morning and giving riders
the run of the highway ($40, $35
for CBF members).
CBF provides support for other
rides and initiatives as well,
including the Chicago Major Taylor
Bike Society’s Bike the South Side Ride Series (chicagomajortaylor.org),
whose next ride, the “Two Day
Michigan City Bike Ride,” is scheduled
for September 23 and 24,
though registration is closed.
The local chapter of Critical Mass(chicagocriticalmass.org) hosts free
rides that start downtown at Daley
Plaza (Washington and Dearborn)
and emphasize the group’s takeback-the-streets message. Part community-
building exercise, part
activism, and part happening, the
rides draw motley crowds, from corporate
types on mountain bikes to
purple-haired messengers on doubledecker
homemade jobs. The next
one’s scheduled for September 29.
The gay and lesbian oriented
Windy City Cycling Club (windycitycyclingclub.com) partners with
dykediva.com for Dykes Pedaling
Bikes, a slow ride down the lake
from the Loop to Hyde Park,
Saturday, October 7, at 9 AM.
Chicago’s going on its fourth year
for the World Naked Bike Ride (worldnakedbikeride.org/chicago),
a globally coordinated protest ride
against oil dependency. Can’t wait
for next spring? Bike Winter (bikewinter.org), a (not naked) confederation
of cold-weather enthusiasts,
has group rides anytime it
snows more than two inches. It also
holds cold-weather-riding workshops
and other events—in January
2005 it got it together for a ten-day
festival. Its Web site offers tips for
surviving the winter on wheels—by
the way, the one that’s coming is
supposed to be a doozy.
The Chicago Cycling Club (773-509-8093, chicagocyclingclub.org),
a social club that hosts weekend
rides April through October, also
offers Wednesday training rides.
A recent one focused on increasing
speed and mobility in group riding.
Most rides are free, and you don’t
have to be a member to pedal along.
FOOD AND DRINK
Cyclists get thirsty, even in winter
(layers of clothing = buckets of
sweat). The Handlebar (2311 W.
North, 773-384-9546, handlebarchicago.com), a bike-themed bar
and grill, has stools fabricated
from old wheels and out front the
modern-day equivalent of a hitching
post. For drink only there’s also
Cal’s (400 S. Wells, 312-922-6392),
popular with bike messengers,
When it comes to gear and maintenance,
there are plenty of choices.
Kozy’s Cyclery (kozy.com) has several
locations, all good if you’re
looking for new bikes or gear
or have maintenance issues.
Likewise Upgrade Cycle Works(1130 W. Chicago, 312-226-8650,
upgradecycle.com) has a knowledgeable
service staff and stocks
high-end new models.
On the north side, Uptown Bikes
(4653 N. Broadway, 773-728-5212)
sells new models except for some
used sales in spring. When I
wrecked my 1980s Schwinn a few
years back (on Augusta, where I’ve
been hit twice in the past four years:
avoid it), they matched the old fork
with a perfect used replacement in
no time. Yojimbo’s Garage (1310 N.
Clybourn, 312-587-0878, yojimbosgarage.com) is a funky shop operated
by a track-bike enthusiast
and expert mechanic in the shadow
of what remains of the Cabrini-Green housing project. And the
small storefront Boulevard Bikes
(2535 N. Kedzie, 773-235-9109,
have a huge selection of gear, but
the staff is always friendly and
helpful with problems large or
In Pilsen, due south of UIC, Irv’s
Bike Shop (1725 S. Racine, 312-226-6330, firstname.lastname@example.org) is
a handy one, and on the western
edge of the neighborhood is
Working Bikes, which maintains
both a storefront (1125 S. Western,
for used-bike sales and a warehouse
just up the street (927 S. Western)
that’s a gold mine of used bikes and
parts. Both are open to the public
on Wednesdays and weekends.
Proceeds from sales fund large
donations of used bikes to developing
Down the street from the
Handlebar is West Town Bikes (2418 W. North, 312-213-4184,
westtownbikes.org), an organization
devoted to outreach and education
that has a community workshop for
rent and classes in maintenance,
among other services.
Many shops offer discounts to
Chicagoland Bicycle Federation
members. Check out chicagobikeshops.info for complete listings,
and be sure to pick up a helmet if
you haven’t already got one. In case
you haven’t noticed the spectral
memorials posted around the city
by Chicago Ghost Bikes, our car
culture often makes city biking
difficult: they’re bikes locked in
place and spray painted white to
raise awareness of bicycle-related
fatalities. The first ghost bike,
outside the Empty Bottle at 1035 N.
Western, is a chopper of the kind
often ridden by Isai Medina, who
was hit near that spot.
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