1) How/when did you get into cycling as a
I can't say that I got into cycling as a profession per se, but it
most definitely is a part-time job maintaining information and
staying connected in the network of the cycling community.
Bonebell was created over a cafe conversation with David Norton
and Brian Parker over how we wanted to share our stories about
riding off-road to our friends who were already on the internet
reading up on other upcoming blogs of cycling interest. It
started out as a blog, turned into a clearinghouse of information
for like minded cyclists to learn and join in on a lesser reviewed
aspect of cycling in Chicago. The Bonebell is also now the effort
of not just the founders noted but also new writers and event
participants. They are Amy Dykema, Amy Weik, Greg Heck, and Julia
Daher. Our Bios are also listed in our'About' page on
2) How does your organization directly benefit
We promote and encourage forms of cycling that are sometimes often
overlooked by the larger cycling community. People don't
relate Chicago to Mountain Biking or Off-Road cycling in general
and have a tendency to brush it off as not being a serious endeavor
to pursue in the least. We provide information, stories, and
background to re-engage folks to look at the different
opportunities that do exist and that not every path needs to be
paved. We like to counter the perception that serious cycling
can only be done on the road, when in reality, the roads less
traveled, especially on dirt are as enjoyable, beneficial, and
worth exploring on any bike that you have. We promote races,
events, and parties that help spread this gospel of cycling
3) Do you specialize in a certain type of
Most definitely - dirtbaggin'! People associate the word
'dirtbag' with a negative connotation, and it most definitely
deserved it, we're sure. Brian Parker has a way of describing
things in his own way, a language that David Norton and I
appreciated and caught on to; Brian would call us dirtbags and we
knew he meant it that we loved to ride our bikes with him in the
singletrack on a mountain bike. He one day was talking to
someone and referred to me as a 'dirtbag' and he left the audience
wondering why he felt so low of me to call me such a name. We
loved the irony that folks felt it was slanderous to use the term
to describe something that we absolutely love - so we kept the name
going and proudly display this 'certain type of cycling' as
dirtbaggin'. We consider dirtbaggin' as taking whatever bike
you have, off-road. It's the idea that you can ride off-road
anywhere with most any bike and the gnarlier the better.
4) What are your "must-have" items for cycling (this
could be a tool, an accessory, a food, etc.)
Base layers are the bomb! I can't stress enough how layering
for cold, cool, warm, and hot weather is a great way to manage
comfort on lengthy rides - conversations with folks who do the same
is like talking about Barbie doll's wardrobe with a 6 year old.
Lights are awesome too. Thanks to 24 hour mountain bike
racing, I have a few lights that I've invested in and are well
worth the money. My Mini-Newt light is small, lightweight,
and so bright, people think I'm the cops coming down on them with
the beacon of light so bright! Cyclists should always invest
in a great lightset to have maximum visibility for themselves and
crazy car drivers.
5) What is your favorite bike?
The one that I will buy this year. I seem to buy new bikes
every year - it's a good habit to have. Currently all my
bikes are my favorite as each serves a purpose and brings me
exuberant joy - but for the sake of picking one, I'll say my custom
Independent Fabrication 'Quetzalcoatl'.
6) What is the biggest challenge you face or the biggest
challenge faced by the cycling community?
Convincing people that cycling is not one dimensional.
There's this guy Lance who rides a bike who has done great to
bring the US an exposure to the sport - but to that same degree, it
paints this picture that there's only way to work hard at cycling,
or that tour riding or endurance road riding is a measure of
cycling success. There's so many ways to enjoy cycling,
on-road, off-road, and then the various formats, track, mountain
bike, cyclocross, randoneurring, etc. The enjoyment of being
on a bike is part of the equation to being successful at making it
a lifetime commitment - the rest of it, the exploration of bike
riding, are the remaining parts of the equation. Commuting is
one facet of transportation, but its also healthful, beneficial to
improving in the sport, and gives you an opportunity to explore -
it's not 'just commuting'. Convince people it's a lifestyle
opportunity waiting for them, it's not just a hobby to buy a bike,
or a need to take it as serious as an overzealous tri-athlete.
7) What do you see as the biggest area of opportunity in
your niche market?
Growth! There are many closet fans of mountain biking and
off-road riding in the city, but the opportunities are indeed
limited by the weather and the distance to get to those
opportunities. There is a great push and hard effort by
organizations such as CAMBr, Friends of the Cal Sag Trail
, and Active
to make trail systems accessible and viable for
people to use. These are extraordinary efforts that have
taken years to expose and create - the fountain of new
opportunities have just started to take shape in the past few years
and is on a forward momentum to continue delivering some great
opportunities. The principle of 'build it and they will come'
is true for these efforts. Chicago has it's first dirt bike
park thanks to CAMBr and the City of Chicago cooperation right in
the heart of the metro area. Plainfield Bike Park is home to
some of the larger stunts and trails in the southwest area of
Chicago. Saw Wee Kee is a true gem of the Western Suburbs
providing incredibly technical trails to challenge the hearty.
Palos is the diamond in the rough that has the potential to be
linked to metro Chicago with a few more years work and
8) How do you think the cycling community has changed in
the last year or
Off-road cycling has renewed interest thanks to cyclocross
Cyclocross has a way to get people to try something new, race
off-road, and view the bicycle differently as a result. This
has spurred great growth in the niche market of cyclocross, but
also has spurred interest in what other things can be done for this
'type' of bicycle racing. More and more people are behind
grassroots efforts to participate and promote word of mouth races
that attract sometimes thousands of racers - many of which are very
new to racing and just out to be a part of the experience.
The last year has proven that in Chicago, cycling is a very
9) If you could go on a bike ride with anyone (living or
dead), who would it be?
That would have to be my brother, Carlos Urizar. He was the
original dirtbag with me in the 80s as we shared the only BMX bike
(among two more brothers!) doing insane dirt jumps in Bolingbrook,
IL that we dare not do now at our age - but he was my ride buddy
for so many years that now we have kids that we are turning onto
bikes. The thought of riding with him is nostalgic as much as it is
perfect that though I went down the rabbit hole of promoting
cycling the way that I do, he loves it as much as I do.