The Chainlink

Hey All, first off probably worth doing a bit about me. I'm British born, I have been backwards and forward to Chicago from the UK for the last 4 - 5 years and this past March I moved here full time.

I brought a bike over in a bike bag and a few sets of gear on the plane with me, so I've tried to enjoy a bit of Chicago riding through the summer, even though I found it all a bit flat and featureless compared to back in the UK.

Anyway, this will be my first Chicago winter. I left my turbo trainer behind in the UK, so I've got to decide whether to purchase another or just wait until I can get that shipped over.

I'd be interested in knowing more about:

1. How likely I am to get much riding in through winter

2. What group rides/clubs there are in Chicago and what sort of distances/pace they ride

3.  Plus anything else really that I might find useful. Decent routes, etc.

Thanks all

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Bike Winter 2015-2016 heck yea!

1)very likely - you just need the appropriate gear for your needs. Folks range from goggles, moose mitts, heated socks to pants instead of shorts. Personally, my fingers get plenty cold so I layer. Less about training and just commuting.

2)a lot of the club rides from stores still seem to happen if interest is there, but a lot of folks with fancy bikes don't want to risk the west and tear of the salt erosion. Some stores also do group trainer rides with big boards and power meters to hook up to your ride.

3) thunder snow. It's happened.

Things tend to be okay until February. Snow if heavy gets dumped in bike lanes/sharrow. The lack of humidity and windchill can be brutal. If training, I have to adjust my speed and distance accordingly. Just like when it gets too hot, but I find my heart and lung don't tolerate the cold as well as the heat. I don't know where in the UK you're from, but it is way worse here than London. If you're talking some small island off the outer hebredies - I don't know.

Also, if you swim/tri and have survived the North Sea, there is a group of swimmers that go open water Lake Michigan all year round from north beach.

The real question is where you are and where you would ride. The lake front trail is usually plowed by 7:30, but they use a lot of salt (as does the city in general) so there's a lot of cleaning and drying to do.

Thunder snow, driven sleet that feels like razor blades in your face and the occasional ice storm are all fun, and we've had a gale come through every year or two with some gnarly waves.

Last October:

November about three years ago:

Probably should have added that it is my first winter with a bike in Chicago, not my first winter here so I know the extremes of weather. I guess I was more trying to work out if its feasible to ride through the winter. I have a winter bike that I am less concerned about, but I am not sure if I want it eating by salt.

I live in lakeview/lincoln park.

thanks for the replies.

If your commute is relatively short (less than 5 miles), you may find it feasible to ride on many winter days.  If you clean and lube the bike often, it should survive the winter.

I know lots of folks who commute year round, and that's how their bikes survive. If they're really good about DIY clean/lube (or buy "winter tune-up special" packages from a local bike shop), their bikes can survive many years of Chicago winters.

Installing full fenders would help to keep much of the spray off your under-carriage.

But if you can deal with the salt, winter biking is great. I only miss about a dozen days each winter due to bad road conditions.

And consider using Divvy to preserve your bike on bad days.

My first year biking through winter was last year. I found it quite feasible.

I never used the Lake Front Trail. my main commuting routes were Elston from Kimball to Milwaukee, Pulaski Rd from Lawrence to Grand, then to the loop, and all along Milwaukee ave. I also like the North Branch Trail that starts out at Devon and Milwaukee and Devon and Caldwell.

I live in Albany Park, so I don't know how helpful my perspective might be, but anyway, once I learned how much to wear there were few problems. I found drivers to be more mellow in the wintertime.

I have found Lincoln Ave to be nice for riding, as well as Halsted St, which has a bike lane, but- at certain points there is a lot of driver aggressiveness- mainly Between Halsted North ave to Grand. South bound from there is not too bad, depending on construction.

Here are a couple routes I like/use

I commute about 5 miles each way through the winter no problem.  Cold is easily addressed by appropriate clothing.


Snow can be an issue, but normally it's not heavy enough to stop me.  The city is fairly good about clearing the streets quickly.  Legend has it that a Chicago mayor lost his job for failing to do so.


The bike lanes can be a mess, but I'm not shy about taking the traffic lane, having done that my entire life before Chicago installed bike lanes.  If it's really messy, I ride my MTB.

Get your bike Winter sticker, you can use the bus racks and the "el" anytime other than 8-10 am and 4-6 pm and bring your bike with. Though the red and blue lines are crowded well before and after the bike ban times.

The Chainlink did a number of articles last year for winter cycling commuters:

Bike Commuting After a Heavy Snowfall

How to Dress for Cold Weather Bicycle Riding

Winter Commuting Must-Haves

I've biked through the last two winters for fun.  Wrote a blog about it here:

The short version:  Get the right gear and biking all year is completely doable and can be enjoyable.

Thanks all for the replies and the info. My intent is for exercise rather than commuting. I believe I am well prepared with the right clothing, lets see how it goes!


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