Meet Ralph Banasiak and come 'Along For the Ride'

  • Strong and fearless.

    Strong and fearless. Courtesy of Bob Voors

By Ralph Banasiak
Updated 8/17/2020 10:52 AM

Bike riding has recently taken on new life, what with remote learning, working from home, shuttered fitness centers, and the need to bust out of the house for exercise.

Bike inventory flew out the door, sales nearly doubled and bike shops have long repair queues. Athletes at all levels hung up the cleats as schools and pro teams closed down. Even my own Bike Palatine Club canceled all its spring, then summer, events and rides to help "flatten the curve."

Ralph Banasiak
Ralph Banasiak

So what better time for a column on biking in the suburbs? "Along For the Ride" is a fusion of cycling information, safety tips, bike infrastructure, popular trails and profiles of people making biking safer for everyone -- riders, pedestrians and motorists.

Sorry, no advice is planned for lubing a chain, fixing a flat or other mechanical how-to's -- plenty of online resources exist for maintaining your two-wheeled steed.

A little bit about me: My photo gives it away that I've been around the block a few times. Dozens of years and thousands of miles of pedaling have thinned that once thick head of hair, so much so that a bike helmet actually makes me look younger.

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As for actual riding, the three "Fs" drive me onto the saddle nearly every day: Fitness, Fellowship and Fun. Fitness wards off any genetic curses that my forebears bestowed. Fellowship connects me with cycling soul mates; it also gifts my bride a couple of quiet hours in the morning. Fun? Well, at my age, I can't think of a better way to pretend I'm a kid again.

Enthused and confident.
Enthused and confident. - Courtesy of Bob Voors

As a retiree, I have no bike racer illusions, and I promise not to look askance at anyone just taking up cycling for the first time. I confess to owning two bikes, a road bike for fitness outings and a sturdy Schwinn "hybrid" for in-town errands. As a junior high math teacher, I mounted that Schwinn workhorse daily for my commute. I also confess that I do own Spandex shorts and several bike jerseys, as well as other gear accumulated over the years.

You should also know that one of my favorite cycling books is Grant Petersen's 2012, "Just Ride," in which he reassures riders of all stripes that they don't need a Tour de France mindset to enjoy bike riding. Specialty equipment and aerodynamic clothing do serve their purposes, but they can make one feel a bit overwhelmed and confused upon entering a bike shop. Both Petersen and I agree they are not necessary for delighting in the pleasures of rolling along on two wheels.


That brings me to your first assignment. Among transportation planners, bike riders can be categorized four ways based on their willingness to ride:

Interested but concerned.
Interested but concerned. - Courtesy of Bob Voors

• "Strong and fearless" will ride with limited or no biking infrastructure: Marked lanes, side paths, traffic barriers, etc.

• "Enthused and confident" prefer some biking-related infrastructure.

• "Interested but concerned" will ride if high-quality infrastructure exists.

• "No way, no how" won't ride even with high-quality infrastructure.

This column will focus on the two middle categories, where most riders land. I hope to reach the confident, move the concerned to enthused and maybe convert a few "NWNHs" into hopping on a bike.

Which category do you fit in? Let me know at

No way, no how.
No way, no how. - Courtesy of Bob Voors
Cycling shorts

• The 2020 Illinois Bike Summit will be held Sept. 15 for anyone interested in cycling. Sponsored by Ride Illinois, the statewide, nonprofit and bike advocacy organization, the virtual event features a range of session topics: Bikeway design, community engagement biking advocacy. Infrastructure, education, and inclusion will be three key themes this year.

For information and to register, visit

• Join the ride. Reach Ralph Banasiak at

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