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Even a global pandemic can’t stop ATA’s Winter Bike Challenge

8:55 PM CST on January 11, 2021

This winter’s first snowstorm. Photo: John Greenfield

Nothing embodies the resilient spirit of Chicago's all-season cyclists like the Active Transportation Alliance’s annual Winter Bike Rally, which is presented by Keating Law Offices (a Streetsblog Sponsor.) For example, in February 2019, when it was 7 degrees Fahrenheit with 22 mph winds, about 150 people turned out to get their free breakfast of hot chocolate and locally-made Eli's Cheesecake.

But how do you hold a winter bike to work rally when so many Chicagoans are working from home during COVID-19? Not to mention the fact that having that many people hanging out eating and drinking in Daley Plaza this year wouldn't be a great idea from a pandemic standpoint.

Vincci Fung sports a scarf given out by Keating Law Offices at the 2019 Winter Bike Rally. Photo: Ann Evans for Active Trans
Vincci Fung sports a scarf given out by Keating Law Offices at the 2019 Winter Bike Rally. Photo: Ann Evans for Active Trans

Fortunately, ATA isn't cancelling the event, which is a great motivator for getting back on your bike if it's been mothballed during the colder temps, but rather taking it virtual. The new Winter Bike Challenge will run Monday, January 25 through Sunday, February 7.

You can sign up for free here. If you've been doing OK financially this year, you might consider clicking the button to add a donation to the advocacy group, which like many other nonprofits has been dealing with funding headwinds this year, including the cancellation of its flagship event Bike The Drive. There's also a place on the website to buy cool schwag that benefits the organization, such as the 2021 Winter Bike Challenge patch, or an ATA-branded bike light or cycling cap.

The 2021 Winter Bike Challenge patch.
The 2021 Winter Bike Challenge patch.

Once you’ve signed up, you can track your trips, challenge other riders, and possibly win prizes. Any bike trip you take during the two-week period counts. Presumably bike + train excursions are fair game as well (studies show transit is relatively safe during the pandemic), so if you're comfortable with riding Metra, maybe consider doing a multimodal suburban excursion like this one I took yesterday to Mitsuwa Marketplace, a Japanese shopping center in Arlington Heights.

New to winter biking? Here are some tips from seasoned cold-weather cyclists and an essay on maintaining a positive attitude in the face of winter cycling challenges.

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