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Bus riders account for more than 20 percent of people using Lake Shore Drive every day while taking up a fraction of the space that cars do.

Take your place at the line

This weekend's springlike weather drew nearly 60 sun-craving cyclists to the xXx Racing – AthletiCo Saturday ride.  It's an incredible number for early March, especially considering much of the team's core is at training camp in San Luis Obispo until next weekend.

Just a share under half were new or non-team members, and a sizable percentage of them had never been on the ride before, let alone raced a bike.  Nerves, shyness, and self-doubt were overcome by curiousity, competitiveness and a sense of adventure; the result was a rewarding experience that's hopefully ignited a fire that should last until the conclusion of the Chicago Cross Cup at Montrose Harbor in early December.

Getting past the nerves and reservations is the biggest step towards fulfulling your dream of finally racing a bike.  Once that registration is completed online or mailed, the goal you've set for yourself is almost self-fulfilling. Now is the time to get out on your bike and ride hard in the warming temperatures, honing your skills in one of the dozens of group rides in the Chicago area.  To rest and recover and replace all those calories you're burning.  To meet new friends and cycling ethusiats.  And, of course, to pick your first race.

Below are several excellent choices for someone new to bike racing to take that first step.  These races are local, with beginner-friendly courses – such as wide turns and smooth pavement – and may have beginners-only fields.  Online registration is or will be available for all of these races.  Category 5 (beginner) fields tend to close faster than most as competitive-cycling's popularity grows.  Don't let that discourage you – there is almost always day-of registration and very rarely does the entire pre-reg'd field show to a race.

  • Gapers Block Crits (March 22-26) – Low key, low tech, low cost racing. Ride to the races each day of the week at Calumet Park on the far South Side.
  • Vernon Hills Grand Prix (May 2, a link will be added registration opens) – A nearby criterium on a four-corner course with smooth pavement.
  • Monsters of the Midway (May 15) – A fun local race on the University of Chicago campus at the Midway Pleasance, a simple four-turn rectangular course amid a beautiful academic setting.
  • Fox River Grove Cycling Challenge (May 16) – The word “challenge” does not do justice the hill that greets the racers immediately after the first turn.
  • Sherman Park Criterium (June 12) – Held in the South Side oasis designed by the Olmsted Brothers of Central Park fame, this 1-mile lap was designed for bicycle racing, feature wide, sloping turns.
  • Glencoe Grand Prix Criterium (August 14) – The newly announced site of the U.S. National Criterium Championships, this challenging course is within riding distance for both spectators and racers alike, just off of famed Sheridan Road along Chicagoland’s North Shore.

New to racing?

Be sure to take advantage of the many online resources at your disposal:

  • Chicago bike racing – Features up-to-date race calendar with links to registration, plus race and local coverage, includes plenty of tips for new riders.
  • USA Cycling – Information on licensing requirements and purchase, as well as rules and regulations.
  • Illinois Cycling Association – The state governing body for racing in Illinois.
  • Be sure to check back here, at the Active Trans Racing Blog, for events, racer profiles, and racing basics. Also be sure to check out training tips at the Coach's Corner, by Randy Warren of xXx Racing.

Take your place at the line this year and open up a whole new world in cycling.  Good luck and go fast!