Along for the ride: Grayslake cycling exhibit examines 'Biking Through the Years'
Grayslake cycling exhibit examines 'Biking Through the Years'
With riding season in full gear, cycling inspiration appears everywhere: Televised Tour de France stages, mountain biking races, Northbrook velodrome track events, bike club bakery rides.
Inspiration even emerges in unexpected venues. Grayslake Heritage Center and Museum recently opened "Biking Through the Years: Cycling in Grayslake," an exhibit exploring biking's story both nationally and locally.
The exhibit includes the bike's mechanical evolution and safety advances, plus changing attitudes toward biking. Two-wheelers from bygone eras draw visitors along an exhibit "trail" highlighting local personalities: A Guinness World Record holder, 2021 BMX Olympian and a 12-year-old bike saddle patent owner.
Inspired by bike share
Prompted by Grayslake Bike Share's 2021 launch, Heritage Center's Advisory Committee selected the biking history topic when Grayslake Historical Society archivist and retired elementary teacher Charlotte Renehan suggested it.
Heritage Center Executive Director Michelle Poe noted each committee member researched a specific niche. Poe reviewed village and newspaper archives, revealing Grayslake's reliance on residential developers to build trails/paths for neighborhood connectivity. Grayslake's bike route system currently boasts 21 miles.
Deputy Director Katie Brethorst-Stockwell focused on broader historical and cultural changes, recognizing biking's long reach into village history. In the late 1800s, Mayor Edgar Sherman sold diamonds, jewelry and bikes from his watchmaking store. In the 1970s and '80s, trustee, then mayor, Edwin Schroeder expanded Grayslake's infrastructure to include biking trails.
Don Mobley, former Grayslake fire chief and current Bicycle Club of Lake County vice president, mined his cycling experience to describe multiple bike trail connections out of Grayslake. Bikers can access the Millennium Trail in northern and western Lake County from nearby Rollins Savanna, and ride eastward to the Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway.
Besides delving into history, "Staff did a great job of reaching out to the community," Renehan said. "An important part of any historical exhibit is connecting the past to the present."
Six states, 12 hours
And connect they did, attested by mounted exhibit panels and related artifacts. One panel celebrates former Grayslake resident Blake Hunter pedaling July 6, 2021, into the Guinness World Record. With his wife and two older sons providing sag and moral support, Hunter visited the most states by bicycle in one day, cycling 141 miles through six New England states, from New York to Rhode Island, in under 12 hours.
Later that July, local cyclist BMX racer Felicia Stancil, 26, finished fourth at the Tokyo Summer Olympics. In 2022, this Grayslake North High School graduate clinched first in the Elite Women's event at the BMX World Championship in Nantes, France. Stancil's racing story is traced from her first racing title at age 9 to the present.
Ten-year-old resident Akhil Sahu, addressing the too familiar saddle soreness issue, sketched a seat design. With help from family, he applied for a patent. Two years later, his certificate, now framed, arrived just in time for the exhibit.
Inspiring the exhibit, Grayslake's bike share, the first in Lake County, developed as a collaboration among College of Lake County, Grayslake Area Public Library, Grayslake Park District and village of Grayslake.
Resident and sustainability activist Mary Klees was instrumental in initiating the program, as was College of Lake County's Sustainability Manager David Husemoller. Their idea and efforts originated in 2017 and included approaching the Regional Transportation Authority and Lake County Forest Preserve District.
Husemoller notes the original two-year pilot "took quite some time to get going. We needed to develop a partnership and time to determine what it would look like. In the end, each entity signed a separate contract, itself an accomplishment, as each one is composed of elected bodies.
"Sometimes because you're in the suburbs, some think you can't take on projects like the bike share."
As for inspiring the exhibit, he notes, "It's pretty cool that our work getting the program off the ground has inspired more attention on how bicycling impacts our lives."
The 20-bike rental program has since been renewed. Bikes provided by Koloni are available at various locations, including Village Center, Central Park, Mill Park and the college. Rentals through the Koloni app are $3 for the first hour, $1 hourly after that.
Heritage Center is open from noon to 7 p.m. Wednesdays and noon to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. The exhibit runs through June 2024. A $3 goodwill donation is suggested.
Buzzing with racers
Starting July 21, nine suburbs will buzz with criterium racers swarming closed-off village streets as the 11th Intelligentsia Cup racing series sounds its opening bell.
Free to spectators, these criteriums cover half to one-mile loop courses with unique terrain and turn challenges. "Crit" events span predetermined time durations versus prescribed lap counts.
Typical is the Lombard Cycling Classic, offering 11 separate races over eight hours with $100-$2,000 prizes.
Rounding the course, cyclists jockey for position anticipating a race bell that announces "preems" (spelled "primes") or special prizes (cash, merchandise) for whoever wins the next lap. All levels, novice to category one pro racers, compete.
Besides the overall series title, racers vie for DuPage Sports Commission's Triple Crown championship, accumulating points in Glen Ellyn, Lombard and Winfield races.
July race schedule:
July 21: West Dundee River Challenge
July 22: Ray Whalen Builders Tour of Lake Ellyn
July 23: Winfield Criterium and Summerfest
July 24: Tighthead Mundelein Grand Prix
July 25: Lombard Cycling Classic
July 26: Cycle Brookfield Criterium
July 27: Northbrook Grand Prix
July 28: Elgin Classic in Memory of Dennis Jurs
July 29: Northwestern Medicine Lake Bluff Criterium
July 30: William Blair Grand Prix at Goose Island Beer Co. (Chicago)
• Join the ride. Contact Ralph Banasiak at email@example.com.