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Want to show up for Active Trans’ Winter Bike Rally? Here’s a few cold-weather cycling tips

2:51 PM CST on January 16, 2020

Last year’s rally was a chilly 7 degrees. Photo: Active Trans

Chicago is nicknamed the Windy City for a reason, and last year's Active Transportation Alliance Winter Bike Rally, presented by Keating Law Offices (a Streetsblog sponsor), lived up to that reputation. It was a mere 7 degrees Fahrenheit with 22 mph winds, but about 150 hardy souls showed up to celebrate the season.

However, judging from this winter's trend towards mild temperatures, this weather at this year's Winter Bike Rally probably won't be so extreme, so the turnout may be even larger, and will be easier than ever to participate. The gathering takes place on Friday, January 24, from 7-9 a.m. in Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St. 

The rally will feature a free Dark Matter coffee and Eli's Cheesecake, plus other free items from sponsors. (Cheesecake for breakfast? If you've pedaled downtown in late January, you've earned it.) Everyone who registers for the event (optional) will be entered in a raffle for a $150 gift card for Kozy’s Cyclery. As an added perk, anyone who buys an Active Trans membership while registering for rally will get a free, limited-edition Bike to Work Rally patch, or you can purchase one separately for $10 while registering.

Register in advance for the rally and buy a Active Trans membership or pay $10 and you'll get a patch with this nifty logo.
Register in advance for the rally and buy a Active Trans membership or pay $10 and you'll get a patch with the nifty logo at the upper right..

According to Clare McDermott, director of marketing and special events Active Trans, in addition to  being a place to refuel and get free schwag, the rally is a chance to mingle with other folks who enjoy all-season cycling. "It's definitely become a mainstream activity since this rally started," she said. "We certainly see a lot of returning participants, but we always pick up a few extra ones, too."

What if you've never ridden a bike during the winter, but are curious about what it's like? "Try it out!" urges bike advocate Elizabeth Adamczyk, who has previously helped a few friends discover the joys of cold-weather commuting. "They may not do it every single day," she added, but people who try all-season cycling are often surprised that it's easier and more comfortable than one might think.

The scene at the 2019 rally. Photo: Active Trans
The scene at the 2019 rally. Photo: Active Trans

This winter has been a particularly good opportunity to stay in the saddle, since there has been little snow. However, Adamczyk advises winter cycling newbies to "go slower and not try to outsmart Mother Nature." Additionally, she said, "if it looks slippery, it may very well be slippery." As far as attire, Adamczyk recommends wearing multiple layers in cold weather so that you can adjust how warm your outfit is as the temperature fluctuates. She suggested wearing a windproof outer shell jacket to keep the breeze out.

Don't want to risk getting road salt on your favorite bike, or have to worry about cleaning and lubing the chain afterwards? Adamczyk recommended using the Divvy bike-share system and letting the pros take care of maintenance.

Adamczyk argued that Divvy has helped normalize winter biking somewhat, "but I think we have a long way to go before it's mainstream." As such, she said, the Winter Bike Rally is "a great way to indoctrinate people."

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