Sunday morning Chicago held its annual Bike the Drive, an event put on by the Active Transportation Alliance where the city closes Lake Shore Drive (the main scenic highway that cuts down the city parallel to Lake Michigan) to motor traffic and opens it up for cyclists. An estimated 18,000 cyclists participated! What an amazing sight and beautiful way to reclaim our streets!
We had to wake up at 4:00 a.m. to get ready and cycle the 7 miles downtown to get started at 5:30. Totally worth it for the sunrise alone.
This is the longest ride we’ve done, I think, at least by a little – 45 miles once you add riding to and from the start point. I figured it would be a great test for our future touring ambitions. We’re totally ready for a four-day Sonoma County trip in the fall – easy peasy! We’re pretty strong cyclists (not racers) simply from our daily commutes and errands. We’re also good at holding our wine.
Early on, my bike tried to put a “kink” in our plans. About 7 miles into the ride (14 miles after leaving home) my chain popped off and somehow folded up on itself under the derailleur. It was a mess and even after we got it untangled and back on, it would not shift to my largest front ring. I thought I would have to end the ride early or deal with a crapped out bike the whole time, but at the turn-around there was a bike maintenance center set up by Uptown Bikes (woman-owned). Huge thanks to its team, who volunteered their time so early in the morning. The guy said, “First I must say that this is an awesome bike, and now I will proceed to fix it.” And he did, in under 10 minutes. Something about the derailleur being a bit out of whack. I’ll need to learn how to fix that in the future, in case it becomes a reoccurring problem.
After that problem was resolved, the rest of the ride was SO MUCH FUN! The highway was crowded with so many cyclists and the vast majority were families and people who probably are not regular cyclists. I’m sure participating in this ride will reignite the cycling passion in many. The only damper was one pack of extremely rude racers (note to ‘roid ragers: this event is not the time or place for aggressive training rides).
Anyway, back to the fun! After a long ride, we stopped by the festival in Grant Park, which was filled to the brim with bikes and laughter.
There was a pancake breakfast provided by Chicago’s brewery, Goose Island. We got our food and laid down in the grass to soak in the sun and live music.
I also did some bike watching and found this Rivendell Glorius in the wild. Beautiful! (Hm, the custom mixtes are no longer listed on Rivendell’s site, only the Betty Foy – anyone know the story on this?)
Later a woman walked by me and said, “Oh, I love your bike, I just walked by another one and I have such bike envy.” Really? Another one?? That must be aLex, I thought. She is the woman who used to write the fantastic Hank and Me blog about her Azor Oma and, it turns out, she also recently purchased a Betty Foy. We’d talked over email, but never met in real life. I got up and walked in the direction the woman came from and, sure enough, a few yards away I found aLex and her Betty Foy. What a nice surprise in this huge city.
Another fun aspect of the day was my outfit. Greg surprised me with a real cycling outfit (made of wool – of course!). So I had an Ibex wool jersey with front zip and handy rear pockets and Ibex wool cycling shorts with lots o’ padding. The padding made me feel like I was wearing a diaper while walking, but on the bike it was a godsend, since my butt never complained the whole time.
Along with my new Planet Bike crochet and leather fingerless cycling gloves (cork grips and sweaty palms = blisters) and Keen commuter sandals, I felt like quite the “real cyclist.” This set up will come in handy for longer rides and tours.
All-in-all, a fabulous morning and way to celebrate a 5-year wedding anniversary. If anyone lives within 100 miles of Chicago, they should try to come visit for next year’s Bike the Drive.
I’ll leave you with a video of the endless stream of cyclists (and this was in a less crowded area):
Chicago’s Bike the Drive 2009 from Dottie White on Vimeo.
Three cheers for Chicago and our Mayor Daley!!!