Going the distance

By Emily Fasold

Chicago’s bike scene has exploded into the mainstream in recent years. As cycling lanes are constructed and new bike shops open up, bicycles are becoming increasingly common. But many Chicagoans have taken this trend to the next level by attempting long-distance, cross-country bike treks, redefining the phrase “road trip.”

Columbia’s C4Cycling Association, which has 10 members, is part of this group.

“In the 11 years that I’ve been at Columbia, I’ve noticed more students riding their bikes for commuting and enjoyment,” said faculty adviser and experienced cyclist Dave Dolak. “Bikes are cool again, and for a while, they weren’t.”

Each year, the association hosts a weekend bike trip to the Indiana Dunes, approximately a 60-mile ride each way. Students and faculty carry their gear on bikes and camp at the Dunes for the weekend, Dolak said.

The association also offers bike repairs in exchange for donations outside of the Wabash Campus Building, 623 S. Wabash Ave., once per semester. Donation money is used to fund its trips and website.

Dolak said his passion for cross-country biking was born in 1976 when he discovered BikeCentennial, an organization whose members biked across the U.S. to celebrate thenation’s 200th birthday. At 18 years old, he saved money to bike from Colorado to Chicago.

Today, Bike Centennial has been transformed from a one-time event to a nonprofit organization called the Adventure Cycling Association, according to Winona Bateman, media relations director of ACA.

The association’s mission is to inspire people of all ages to travel by bicycle. It currently has 4,300 members and hostzs guided bike tours across the country


“Lots of people who take bike trips are kind of at a life crossroad,” Bateman said.

“We have a lot of people who just underwent a major life change and are looking to re-evaluate their lives by exploring the country by bike.”

Chicago travel journalist Jerry Soverinsky, 46, can relate to this is a sentiment. Soverinsky took his first bike trip after graduating college in 1988 and has taken hundreds more since.

“I love traveling by bike because it’s an intimate way to explore the countryside, and it provides a great feeling of accomplishment,” he said.

Since he moved to Chicago from the Detroit suburbs in 1990, Soverinsky said the city’s interest in biking has grown tremendously.

“It was rare in 1990 to find bike commuters, but now it’s fairly common and getting more popular every year,” he said.

Another way to explore the world by bike is to participate in charity bike marathons, said Katie Lorenz, communications manager of the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Ride.

“When riding [in] a marathon, you’re not only taking on a physical challenge but also raising awareness and money for a cause you support,” Lorenz said.

Participants in the Fight for Air Ride, which will take place June 8–10, raise almost $6,000 per person. The money is donated to research cures for lung disease. Bikers ride from Crystal Lake, Ill., to Lake Geneva, Wis., traveling approximately 150 miles in three days.

Dolak said  people interested in taking long-distance bike trips should know how to properly ride and repair their bikes and carry plenty of water and food. He believes it is equally important for bike travellers to have an adaptable and independent personality.

“You definitely run into dilemmas on bike trips,” said Dolak. “Sometimes your bike will break down and your cell phone won’t work, but if you have an adventurous spirit, the setbacks will always be worth it.”