I’m Thinking Of Commuting To Chicago By Bike
Years ago I toyed with the idea of commuting by bike from my old townhouse to the nearby train station, at the time around 4-5 miles away. I even went so far as to rent a bike locker at the train station to store my bike while I was at work. It never really amounted to much though as I never turned intent into additional action.
Well, I’m toying with the idea of commuting via bike again only this time it would be from my house to work in downtown Chicago, a one way distance of around 22 miles. I know that sounds like a lot and it actually is, but it’s really a doable distance for me. I was thinking of starting by alternating train and bike each day to make it easier and more practical. Something like morning ride, train home, train to work (with bike), bike home, repeat.
I’ve really been struggling to find more time to ride (I love to ride) and to not take too much time away from my family. Most of the weekend club rides are 3-4 hours which is doable but certainly puts a dent in the day. Unless I do early solo rides (also doable) on the weekend it’s difficult with really young kids at home. Plus, we all know how much I love working out at night … riding my bike will definitely help with my workouts that’s for sure.
Storage & Showering
One of the things I need to figure out in order to commute is showering and bike storage while I’m workin. I don’t feel like stinking my new teammates at work out of the building. Fortunately I think I may have found a way to kill two (hygiene and storage) birds with one stone, the Chicago Bike Station … aka the McDonald’s Cycle Center.
It’s a really nice bike commuter, rental, and repair shop thats around a 15 minute walk from my work downtown. It offers one day, monthly, and annual memberships that give you access to bike storage, showers, and lockers at very reasonable rates … with clean towels to boot! The rates are:
- $3 Daily
- $30 Monthly
- $169 Annual (you can only sign up for this after having been a member for a year)
I stopped by the building the other day to check out the amenities, I was worried about the locker room being iffy.
As you can see the sinks and showers look pretty modern … the building is only a few years old so I guess it should be. The showers are divided for private use and are fairly roomy (which is awesome) and the whole place really looked clean.
Here’s a shot of some of the indoor bike storage slots. They also have a few levels below ground as well.
If you don’t feel like paying you can always use these bike racks outside.
Here’s a shot of the secure door you need to enter after hours.
Oh yea, it’s manned from like 6:30 am till 10:00 pm with an attendant which is a nice bonus. After that, if you’re a member, you can still access your bike using a ID badge to get into the building.
Finally, if you’re having technical difficulties they have an onsite bike repair shop to help. According to the Yelp reviews it’s actually a really affordable and helpful repair shop which is great to hear.
Other than the Chicago Bike Station the only other option I’m aware of to clean up is a downtown gym, of which I am a member at none. I’m not into just toweling off or baby wiping off after riding that long in the heat so I’m not really interested in that.
Does anyone know of any other showering & storage options in downtown Chicago?
The other thing I need to figure out is what bike I’d commute to work on. I only have two to choose from unless I were to buy a new one … hummmm
After much debate I’m certain that I don’t want to ride my nice road bike downtown, I’d be devastated if it were stolen. That leaves only one practical and viable option, my mountain bike. It’s around 12 years old and already has some street slicks along with a seat post mounted rack with a pannier bag so that’ll work out well.
I really should get new tires for it though, preferably thinner ones that can handle a higher amount of pressure to reduce my surface area and thus friction while riding. I also need to replace the grips, they’re original, and they’re as uncomfortable as standing on a bed of rocks. You can manage it for a short ride (like going up to get coffee with my daughter) but anything more than that and you want to rip them off.
Safety & Security
The final, and certainly not the least significant hurdle to my bike commuting to work is my wife. She’s not so much concerned about the distance as she is about the drivers and possibly riding through some bad neighborhoods in Chicago. Add to that a little bundle of joy that’s soon to arrive and she’s worried about having to take care of me if things don’t go well on the commute.
I think I’ll try it once, perhaps next week, with a friend from the bike club and see how it goes. The last thing I’ll do is push my limits or drive my butt through an unsafe neighborhood alone. Going with someone else should make it not only safer but should help relax her while I see if this is a practical option for commuting.
I know my ideas (like riding 6,000 miles in 2012) are sometimes ahead of practical application but I think this one could work. It’s good for my health, the environment, the pocket book, and should help scratch my cycling itch.
As long as I can do it safely I don’t see why it couldn’t work. Thoughts? Have you ever tried cycling to work?