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Active Trans’ Kickstand Classic Fundraiser Ride Springs Into Action

Students from South Elgin High cheer on a rider. Photo: John Greenfield

Last Sunday was the maiden voyage of the Active Transportation Alliance’s Kickstand Classic, a combination race and fun ride to support the group’s walking, biking, and transit advocacy effects. Thanks in part to absolutely perfect weather, the event, held in the northwest-suburban village of Bartlett, appeared to be a big success, which makes it seem likely it will become an annual happening.

One of the faster heats gets ready to ride. Photo: Active Trans

Active Trans director Ron Burke had stressed beforehand that the Kickstand Classic was an experiment, because it was intended as a cross between a competitive race and a leisurely recreational ride, something that may not have been done before in the U.S. But the event exceeded expectations – the group had hoped for 500 participants and instead sold out the event with 600. Burke wasn’t sure yesterday how much money was taken in, but it seems likely the event could grow into a significant funding source for the organization.

Some nice scenery along the way. Photo: John Greenfield

The starting line and post-race festival area were located just south of the local Metra station and the event took place on a 4.8-mile, roughly trapezoidal course of village streets that were rendered car-free for the occasion. There were three different heats for experienced, fast racers and road riders; confident cyclists who wanted to try their hand at racing; and casual riders who wanted to see what it was like to pedal a bit faster, or just take a mellow cruise (I counted myself in that last category).

Biking by a Bartlett ballfield. Photo: John Greenfield

Burke said the first two heats, dubbed “Speed Demon” and “Middle of the Road” went off without a hitch, with the fastest riders completing four laps around the course in under an hour. The faster sessions were blessedly free of serious crashes.

Friendly villagers. Photo: John Greenfield

Due to the vagaries of the Metra schedule I got to Bartlett just in time for the relaxed “Sunday Funday” heat, a little after 9:30. But it was relatively easy to get to the event car-free. I rode about 11 miles southwest from my home in Uptown to the Galewood stop on Metra’s Milwaukee District West line. While the train doesn’t make all of the Chicago stops on Sundays, I could have saved some mileage by catching it at Union Station or the Grand/Western stop.

While Active Trans arranged for a discount with Enterprise CarShare for race participants who wanted to carpool to the Kickstand Classic, Burke says they may try to make the event more accessible for car-free Chicagoans next. If there’s sufficient interest, they might run a shuttle bus out from the city, or even try to talk Metra in running an earlier train to Bartlett.

These elegant ladies rode in tiaras. Photo: John Greenfield

Once I got on the course in the brilliant sunshine, it was a highly enjoyable ride. It’s a pretty powerful thing to have four-lane roads turned over to cyclists, and the pavement was silky-smooth. There was a nice mix of flats and small hills and some pretty scenery, including a small pond lined with silver birch trees, and the prairie land of the Hawk Hollow nature reserve.

A family at the podium, with the band Bossy Dog in the background. Photo: John Greenfield

Moreover, the vibe was excellent. The Bartlett residents who waved to the riders from lawn chairs by the side of the road seemed genuinely tickled to have their town taken over by bicyclists for the morning. One of the best aspects was the groups of students from South Elgin High School who egged on the participants by shouting cheers through megaphones. “We gotta biker!” they’d call out as a new group approached.

A city official I spoke to told me that people in the village were excited to have a chance to showcase their town to people who have never been there before (I hadn’t). And Burke told me the city staff and police department were terrific partners in putting on the event.

Longtime Chicago bike activist Kathy Schubert (the anti-slip plates on Chicago bridges are nicknamed "Kathy plates" due to her advocacy on the issue), with Suzy Schnauzer, came in first place in the 65+ category. Photo: John Greenfield

Afterwards I stretched out in the sun sipping a beer with other relaxed riders, taking in the sounds of the highly entertaining cover band Bossy Dog. I thought to myself, “It seems like the Kickstand Classic has some legs.”

See more photos from the event here.

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