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.
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.
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.
I've biked through the last two winters for fun. Wrote a blog about it here: http://www.dabeaz.com/blog/Bike2014/bike.html
The short version: Get the right gear and biking all year is completely doable and can be enjoyable.