I'd never done Bike the Drive before but since I'm currently training for Venus de Miles I knew I wanted to participate in at least one longer, supported ride before July 28th. And that's exactly what Bike the Drive is. Just like Venus de Miles, it's not a race. It's just a supported ride with rest stops full of food, water, and bathrooms. And just like Venus de Miles you can do multiple distances. For Bike the Drive you can do anything from 7 miles to 60 miles (if you start early enough). For Venus you can do 25 or 61 miles. And believe me when I say that 25 miles on the bike is actually pretty easy to do! Even my husband did 20 miles last year on no training. Just make sure you get some bike shorts first.
Bike the Drive is a good precursor for Venus because it's really just a celebration of biking. I saw every kind of bike and every kind of person out there. From small kids on bikes with training wheels to racers who sped past me. All speeds, all ages, all sizes. Venus is similar in that you don't need a road bike and you don't need to be fast.
I, however, wanted to practice being fast. And this is the biggest pro for Bike the Drive. 30 miles of uninterrupted Lake Shore Drive. No cars, no intersections, wide roads, smooth asphalt and only a few hills. It's nearly impossible to find a route like this without putting your bike on your car and driving 20+ miles. Bike the Drive is worth the money if you live in the city and want to ride uninterrupted.
But is it worth the money if you live in the city and just want to go on a leisure bike ride? Here are my thoughts.
Pro: No cars, no pedestrians, no stopping unless you want to.
Con: Because it's on Lake Shore Drive you are basically riding the same route as the Lakefront Path. If you ride or run the Lakefront Path on a regular basis you've seen almost all there is to see. Although, admittedly, riding up and over Randolph and the Chicago River instead of being on the lower level of Lake Shore is a different perspective.
Pro: You get all the lanes, baby!
Con: Not everyone remembers that slower riders should stay to the right.
Pro: You can start as early as 5:30 AM and as late as 9:00 AM
Con: The later you start, the less time you have to ride. If you want to do all 30 miles I highly recommend you start no later than 6:00 AM. I started at just past 6:30 AM and finished my 30 miles a little before they stopped letting people out onto the course and I was riding between 16 and 20 MPH.
Pro: It's less awkward to do an event like this by yourself since it can be difficult to ride and chat.
Con: No one to take your picture. They have photographers but in 30 miles I think they only got two photos of me and for some reason I'm not listed in the participant list on the photo website (my photos were in the unidentified section) so I can't actually buy my photos. I've submitted a request to customer service but am still waiting to hear back.
Pro: Snacks at the two rest stops! Fruit, cookies, mini-muffins! Restrooms! Water!
Con: It got a little crowded at the rest stops because there were only three of them.
When I did Venus de Miles last year I loved that there were so many rest stops and they never felt crowded. And each distance started at basically the same time with no pressure to get done by a certain time (unless, of course, you wanted first dibs at the post-ride food and alcohol!) I also liked that as with Bike the Drive women of all shapes and sizes were out riding on all kinds of bikes.
A non-race supported bike ride event is totally different than a road race and Bike the Drive is definitely worth doing once if you want to ride in Chicago without worry. Especially since it also raises money for ActiveTrans which advocates to make bicycling, walking and public transit so safe, convenient and fun. But since Bike the Drive is over for this year, what about doing a different supported bike ride that also raises money for a good cause? What about doing Venus de Miles with me on July 28th?
One lucky reader will win a FREE entry to Venus de Miles, Northern Illinois' all-women bike ride, with no fundraising requirement! Yes, that's right. Free!
What do you have to do?
1. REQUIRED - Comment on this post telling me what your favorite physical activity is.
2. Like Eri-thon on Facebook for an extra entry
3. Tweet the following: "I want to ride @VenusdeMiles with @looplooks on July 28th for free! http://bit.ly/16wbLUW" for an extra entry. You can do this once per day for one extra entry each.
So, who's in?? The winner will be announced on Monday, June 10th so don't forget to check back AND make sure I have a way to contact you!