Interestingly enough, I got into cycling through spinning. Several years ago I started going to spinning classes with a friend, got hooked, and thought, "I bet this is even more fun outside." Soon after, I bought a bike and got on my way.
2) How does your organization directly benefit cyclists?
The Chainlink is the online community for Chicago cycling. It's the place where Chicago cyclists find out about rides and other cycling goings-on, share information, and connect with other cyclists.
3) How did you start your organization?
Before I started The Chainlink, I was an avid cyclist with no cycling friends. I had been riding in the city for several years, but none of my friends were into cycling. I did Critical Mass a couple of times, and each year I’d do a few Chicago Cycling Club rides, but I really didn't have a group of people to ride with. To me, it was really hard to meet other cyclists. Cycling was very much a solo hobby for me.
In 2008 I did my first AIDS Lifecycle Ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and when I came back all I wanted to do was ride centuries and other really long rides. I went to every Chicago cycling website I knew of to find their long rides – Chicago Cycling Club, Wheeling Wheelmen, this group and that group and this group. I put them all into a Word document and sent it to all my friends and asked “Who wants to do these with me?” But nobody did.
I thought to myself, if I’m looking for these types of rides, other people are probably looking for this kind of information too. Very soon after that, I went on a Chicago Cycling Club ride where a guy asked me, “I just moved here. How the hell do you find out about stuff?” Then I really knew I wasn't alone, and there was a need for cyclists that wasn't being filled.
So I put everything together. I created The Chainlink as a way to let people know what’s going on in the city, and a way that to actually connect with others who ride like they do. Once I got the idea for The Chainlink, it actually all went really fast: I bought the domain on a Thursday, worked all weekend on it, and launched it on Monday. Three years later, it's a vibrant community with nearly 5,500 members, and I hope it's accomplished its goals of sharing information and allowing cyclists to connect!
4) Do you specialize in a certain type of cycling?
The Chainlink is for all kinds of cycling and all kinds of cyclists!
For myself, however, I love distance riding. My favorite rides are when I go out on my road bike, start pedaling and just keep going. Hours later I come back wind-blown, exhausted and exhilarated.
5) What are your "must-have" items for cycling (this could be a tool, an accessory, a food, etc.)
I never go on a long ride without my Road ID, chocolate Gu packs, and a headband to cover my ears. And a helmet of course.
6) What is your favorite bike?
My Seven custom titanium road bike. It's my baby.
7) What is the biggest challenge you face or the biggest challenge faced by the cycling community?
In most discussions about cycling, bike lanes, etc., there almost always emerges a theme of bikes vs. cars. Drivers chime in about how cyclists break rules, cyclists say drivers don't share the road. It's a very "us vs. them" situation. This dynamic is not only harmful to cyclists, it derails most potentially productive conversations. I think it's one of the biggest challenges we face as cyclists trying to make productive changes to promote cycling.
By contrast, I was recently in Amsterdam, where there are tons of cyclists and the entire city (and country) is set up to promote easy cycling. In the Netherlands, there's not the same "us vs. them" situation - it's not drivers vs. cyclists, because drivers ARE cyclists. As a result, drivers have much greater sensitivity around cyclists and cycling, both in theory, legislation, etc. and in practice on the road. Just imagine how the conversation would be different if Chicago drivers were also cyclists.
8) If you could go on a bike ride with anyone (living or dead), who would it be?
My amazing 90+ year old grandparents as their younger selves, myself as a 10-year old, and Madonna (What can I say? Childhood crushes die hard.)