Looking for a new bike route? Check out the 2021 Ride Guide
Looking for a new bike route? Check out the 2021 Ride Guide
With riding season in full swing, biking columnists worth their pickle juice, er ... salt, should be publicizing organized club rides about this time. Luckily, the 2021 Ride Guide does that for me already.
Published by Ride Illinois, the statewide, nonprofit bike advocacy organization, this guide is available to anyone accessing its website, rideillinois.org/events/ride-guide. Mailed out in years past to Ride Illinois members only, this digital guide (English and Spanish) replaced the hard-copy version and is likely to remain digital.
Dave Simmons, Ride Illinois executive director, was excited to see post-COVID events happening again.
"By publishing only a digital guide, we were able to drastically reduce the cost for clubs to purchase ads -- many of which had to cancel events last year. Printing the guide would have resulted in a big financial loss for Ride Illinois. I suspect that we'll be publishing digital Ride Guides for the foreseeable future," Simmons said.
If large organized rides aren't your cup of tea, the Evanston Bike Club route library may suit you. Developed over several years, it contains routes created by EBC ride leaders using the free phone app Ride With GPS.
Over 200 routes available
During the shutdown, this library impressed me with its enormous listing of bike routes, primarily -- but not exclusively -- along the North Shore. With his board's permission, club president Alvin Spector granted my own Bike Palatine Club access to this gold mine last June when I blogged on our website about where to ride. Now anyone can access this library at ridewithgps.com/organizations/3-evanston-bicycle-club/routes.
Rides chairman and route librarian Will Heelan actively manages the 200-plus route library, plus more than 20 ride leaders, holding annual mandatory trainings and ensuring routes are updated and uploaded correctly.
Club secretary and board member Bruce Miller appreciates Heelan's expertise.
"He also suggests alternatives based on extensive experience riding in the area. One Frank Lloyd Wright route initially covered a rough half-mile stretch of pavement in Wilmette. Will knew this and suggested an alternative route. These QA steps aren't obvious, but add to one's pleasure when riding EBC routes, especially newer one," Miller said.
Besides their library, the club's determination during the shutdown to keep creating routes impressed me as well.
Miller, also the originator of EBC's "Ride by Architecture" routes, said, "Most scheduled club rides had been suspended due to COVID-19. We didn't know when it would be safe to ride in larger groups."
Rather than just park their bikes, EBC volunteers expanded the library, enabling members to ride individually, and not rely on group s.
Barbara Miller, former club vice president, was one of those volunteers.
As Spector noted, the "Pandemic-Bike Local Routes," ranging 5 to 24 miles long, "were created so members can explore the neighborhoods encompassing our footprint. Barbara thought of creating an 'event' within Ride for GPS and our library to showcase various routes, complete with information about points of interest. When the pandemic hit, this was a way to promote individual or small group rides."
"Ride With GPS was useful," Miller added. "Routes defined in the app can include 'Point of Interest' descriptions and URL links. It makes solo and small group rides more informative than just turn-by-turn directions. For the best ride experience, download the free Ride With GPS app to your smartphone. Then navigate the routes with voice turn-by-turn cues."
Routes to 18 Wright homes
So what inspired the five "Ride by Architecture" routes?
"In 2020, I created the two Glencoe meander routes highlighting architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright and others," Miller said. "Developed with Dudley Onderdonk, Glencoe Park board president at the time, they had a dual purpose -- to encourage adult/family bicycling in Glencoe and to provide short local rides for everyone, not just EBC members.
"The hardest part was getting accurate information about each house's history, design, construction date and special features. Retired architect Peter Van Vechten of the Glencoe Historical Society was invaluable reviewing the Wright information, and provided background on Glencoe's Forest Crest Midcentury Modern subdivision.
"Laurie Stein at the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff History Center helped tremendously with histories of early Lake Forest estates," Miller added. "Wilmette History Museum's Kathy Hussey assisted with Wilmette residences."
The result is five routes ranging from 10 to 47 miles, highlighting, in Miller's words, "architectural gems on Chicago's North Shore." Two routes pass by Frank Lloyd Wright houses -- six homes on the 10.3-mile pedal through Evanston, Wilmette and Kenilworth, and 12 on the 12.6-mile route in Glencoe and Highland Park.
The 22-mile Jens Jensen loop features six examples of natural parks and gardens, including Northwestern University's Shakespeare Garden, Kenilworth's Mahoney Park and Jensen's summer house and studio in Highland Park.
The Midcentury Modern route is a 25-mile round-trip from Evanston to Highland Park. It features six Midcentury Modern houses, Crow Island School and a subdivision.
At 47-plus miles, the Lake Forest Estates route is the longest, passing by a Wright house, a five-story Italianate tower and three other estates.
Thinking beyond biking
"When Bruce approached the board with the idea of creating these routes, I suggested we see if the Chicago Architecture Center would have an interest," Spector said.
"Maybe we could partner with them in some fashion to promote both the EBC and cycling in the Chicago area in general. Hallie Rosen, director of program operations, CAC, is a personal friend."
Rosen confirmed that, while in the early planning stages, CAC is exploring a possible partnership with EBC for their Oct. 16-17 Open House Chicago event. Watch this column for more details.
Getting it in gear
On May 25, Schaumburg's village board proclaimed June as Bike Month, inviting cyclists to take advantage of more than 95 miles of bike paths and 1,000 parking spaces -- bike racks and lockers -- and multiple events in Schaumburg.
Businesses have already joined the Third Annual Business Bike Classic, where four-member teams compete for most mileage in June. Spin and stationary bike mileage is also eligible. Teams must register online at www.bitly.com/2021businessbikeclassic.
The winning team earns a trophy, with top teams and individuals receiving prizes. For the last two years, bragging rights have gone to Classic Cycling from Zurich North America. In 2020, team members Tim Adams, Sam Goodman, Nate Solomon and Adrian Zalewski biked 3,419 miles.
The second annual Discover Schaumburg by Bike Photo Challenge invites cyclists to take as many bike-themed selfies/photos at 30 specific locations. Prizes will be awarded to the biking shutterbug submitting the most photos in June. Additional prizes will be given randomly to anyone visiting half of the locations or more.
Photo submission form and additional details about village activities are available on its website, www.schaumburg.com/bikeevents.
• Join the ride. Contact Ralph Banasiak at firstname.lastname@example.org.