I’ve thought about biking to work for the past several years, but was apprehensive about riding amongst cars, buses and trucks, was worried about my bike getting stolen even if I locked it up properly, and needed somewhere to shower after my ride.
Fortunately, I found out that Chicago has had a fully-staffed bike station at Millennium Park since 2004! It’s called the McDonald’s Cycle Center and they have indoor bike parking, a bike mechanic, locker room with showers, and the Chicago Police Department bike force is headquartered in the lower level (they have 800 bikes in the force).
Chicago has also done an amazing job of improving their roads with protected bike lanes and it appears that motorists are finally starting to accept bikes as partners on the road, so I bought a helmet, bike rack, gym bag pannier, laptop pannier, front and rear blinkers, and finally took the plunge a couple of weeks ago.
I’ve ridden my bike to work 6 times now and it has been absolutely amazing. I thought the benefits were obvious: get out of the sardine-packed subway trains, enjoy the summer weather, and get some exercise. What I didn’t expect was getting enough material to fill a Second City comedy routine on the biking community.
6 Things I’ve Learned in the Bike Station Locker Room Since I Started Commuting to Work
1) Two kinds of cyclists: commuters and road bike commuters.
The commuters seem to ride shorter distances (4-8 miles one way), are pretty quiet and keep a low profile as they shower, get dressed, and head off to work. If they complain, it’s about a situation involving a car that didn’t respect a bike’s right to be on the road.
The road bike commuters ride for longer distances on their way to work, whether riding all the way down Sheridan road to the bike trail from the North Shore or just hopping on the lakefront path for a long morning ride before work. They are boisterous, highly caffeinated (Maybe steroids like Lance? Kidding…) , and trade war stories about other riders getting in their way.
Not surprisingly, the next 4 things I’ve learned stem from their conversations.
2) TPI: Thread per inch
This refers to the number of nylon or Kevlar fiber threads per inch within a tire casing. I did some research and the general premise is that high TPI tires are faster and corner better, but more prone to cuts and flat tires. Low TPI tires are slower and rougher, but last longer and are more resistant to flat tires.
As in an actual quote I heard, “Ohhhhh man, John, my ride was supple this morning, real supple. Swapped out my tire for some 160 tpi beauties this weekend. Unfortunately, I put too much air in them and the tire exploded 20 minutes into my ride.”
I laughed inside when I heard this as these tires can cost $50 – $150, perhaps even more.
4) Tri guys.
It wasn’t clear exactly what they were referring to, but I figured out they were referring to time trial riders racing out on the trail. According to one rider, there are only 1 or maybe 2 truly professional time trial cyclists out on the trail in all of Chicago. The rest are idiots and don’t know what they are doing.
5) Coffee Shop Riders.
Packs of riders are not competing or training. If you see a pack of riders, they are coffee shop riders, meaning they ride together and then get coffee after. Anyone out there can confirm this please? Thank you.
6) Competitive female riders.
Apparently, females are not supposed to be competitive out on the trail as one of the guys was complaining about one using him to up her game. He didn’t understand why she chose him, so another rider suggested it’s because he has balls. Lovely.
I’m pretty sure Gini Dietrich will get a good laugh out of this one. Maybe she can kick one of these assholes over if she can sense which one of the regular riders feel this way.
That’s it for now. I’m sure I’ll be back with more biking insights as I learn more.