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Learn all-season cycling skills at tomorrow’s Bike Winter 20th anniversary celebration

A cold-weather Kidical Mass ride several years ago, put on as part of the Bike Winter movement. Photo via Michael Burton, the Santa with the striped hat.

Anytime you get a good idea, there's always a naysayer who doubts that it will work. Chicago Critical Mass cofounder Michael Burton discovered that firsthand when he had the notion to promote bicycling in cold weather by launching the Chicago Bike Winter organization. "Some of the people in the collective thought it was too crazy an idea," reflects Burton. "When people say that, I know I'm on the right track." The group encouraged all-season cycling with tips on its website, how-to clinics, group rides, meet-ups, and more.

Those negative comments were made about twenty years ago. Two decades later, the cold-weather bike collective, which had gone somewhat dormant in recent years, is celebrating its' twentieth anniversary, and kicking off a new era of advocacy, with a party this Wednesday, December 4, 7 p.m. at Revolution Brewing's taproom, 3340 N. Kedzie Ave. "There will be five-minute presentations on Situationalism, winter camping, wilderness survival, balaklava-making, recipe exchange, presentations," Burton said. "It's an open thing -- whatever people want to do, they can run with it." The presentations will begin at 8 p.m.

Burton is known for semi-satirical proposals like an early 2000s campaign to completely de-pave Lake Shore Drive, so the whimsical reference to Situationalism is par for the course. The Situationist International was an organization of social revolutionaries prominent in Europe between 1957-72. Burton claims that Bike Winter was inspired by the Situationalists' radicalism, and the winter cycling group was envisioned as "a DIY grassroots response that relied on rugged individualism and mutual assistance."

"This was after Critical Mass really took off in Chicago," Burton said. "That was the community that gave birth to biking in winter. A group of Critical Mass riders in San Francisco got together for what they called 'Bike Summer.' Chicago cyclists who attended came back here and we started talking about what would make a difference in the biking scene. We figured everybody bikes in the summer, so we decided to bike in the winter also, to extend the biking season. Bikes have become a bigger thing in our lives and brought together a strong community that we didn't want to lose in the winter."

To that end, Burton and his cohorts have staged such events as the Santa Cycle Rampage ride (taking place this year on December 14), with people biking around the city dressed as Santa Claus, elves, and dreidels to spread holiday cheer. Another annual event was pedaling to the entrance of McCormick Place to protest the Chicago Auto Show.

In addition to the presentations, Wednesday's party will feature free balaclavas (while supplies last), and "un-layering" winter clothing demo, and free Bike Winter 20th anniversary stickers. Burton promises that attendees dressed as Santa or a dreidel will receive a complimentary beer. RSVP on Facebook if you like.

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