Last night, my wife and I did the LATE Ride, a 25-mile post-midnight bike ride through Chicago. It’s our second year of doing it, and it’s been a lot of fun both times.

The LATE (Long After Twilight Ends) Ride is a fundraiser for the Friends of the Parks, a “park advocacy organization, dedicated to preserving, protecting, and improving Chicago’s parks and forest preserves for all citizens.” Nine to ten thousand bikers gather at Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park and ride a circuit through several neighborhoods that eventually leads them south down the lakefront back to the starting point.

Columbus Drive, where the race starts and stops, is blocked off, but the other streets we ride on aren’t, which is certainly a hassle for drivers unlucky enough to be trying to use those streets as we go by. Even though we start in waves of about 2,000 riders and tend to spread out as the ride progresses, it’s still a huge clot of bicycles taking up the roadway. Most people we pass are friendly and encouraging, but there are exceptions. This year, we heard a taxi driver loudly and unintelligibly venting his anger at one of the course marshals. “Cabbies,” said the marshal as the taxi drove off down a side street, “you gotta love ’em.”

The marshals spread out along the course do a great job, directing us where to turn, controlling those bikers who want to run every red light, and helping those with injuries or equipment problems.

We saw two falls this year and came up on ambulances dealing with two other accidents of some sort. The one in Greektown looked particularly nasty; we rode past a small puddle of blood on the median. Frankly, it’s amazing to me that there aren’t more accidents. We ride pretty close to one another, and there always seems to be a pack of young men riding much faster and weaving in and out of the rest of us. Not surprisingly, these jerks typically don’t have the ride’s number bibs pinned to their shirts—they didn’t pay the entrance fee and are sponging off the FotP’s labor to get a fun ride through the city.

There are refreshment and potty break areas set up in a park about halfway through the route and at the fountain where the race ends. I have to say I agree with this tweet

The Metromint water was vile. Neither my wife nor I finished our bottles, and we heard lots of grumbling about it around us. In general, this year’s refreshments were limited in variety and crappy. I refuse to believe that anyone actually likes Myoplex, Lifeway Kefir, Fruit2Day, or Silk beverages; people drink them and pretend they’re good because they think saying so makes them sound like athletes. Even the normally decent Clif Bar snack was one of their subpar products.

Last year’s big food sponsor was McDonald’s. I’ve reached the point where I can barely stand to eat most McDonald’s food and avoid it whenever possible, but I have to say their breakfast was really good—much better than the bag handed out at the end of the ride this year. And, not surprisingly, McDonald’s handled the food distribution much more efficiently.

Of course the point of the LATE Ride is not the food, it’s the beautiful ride through Chicago. I didn’t take photos along the way—that seemed like an invitation to an accident—but I did get a few nice shots at the end, both of the skyline

and of the coming sunrise.

I do have one last food-related note. My wife and I decided to eat breakfast at the Omega restaurant in Downers Grove on our way back home. We noticed an SUV with bikes on a rack in the parking lot and figured they must have come from the LATE Ride, too. In fact, not only was everyone in the dining room a LATE Rider, our waitress told us that she’d been serving LATE Riders since starting her shift at 3:30 am.

The Omega is not famous for heart-healthy food. I ordered the Omega scrambler with eggs over easy and an English muffin.

Under the eggs are hash browns, bacon, sausage, and onions. Even though I ate only half, I’m pretty sure it replaced whatever calories I’d burned during the ride.

7 Responses to “LATE Ride”

  1. youknowwho says:

    my Omega fare settled better today. I think we were just too tired then to eat…

  2. Mike G says:

    itf the SUV you saw was a black one parked on the east side of the Omega with 4 bikes it was me !!!

    This was our 11th year of doing the late ride …actually saw a rider hit 10 feet in front of me at the intersection of Campbell and Division !!

    Should have had regular water available…not just mint flavored water.

    Enjoyed your blog tremendously!

    Mike G.

  3. Aaa Aaba says:

    That was my 6th year riding the L.A.T.E. ride. Loved the new course, worst ever rest stop. The goodie bag kinda sucked also this year, no map of the ride, no decent coupons, The Mini Cooper water bottles had to be joke, never saw water bottles that small before and the first time I went to use it, pulling up on the spout removed the whole top dumping my water. I tossed it in the garbage. My friends and I had planned on the All you can eat Pancake breakfast from Goose Island for another 7 bucks, but after we saw what they did to the rest stop, we decided not too.

  4. Dr. Drang says:

    Mike G, I can’t remember which side of Omega the SUV was on because I’d been up over 24 hours at that point and my brain wasn’t hitting on all cylinders. We got there some time between 6:30 and 7:00 and were the ones who got the wait staff to close the blinds to keep the low morning sun out.

    Aaba, I haven’t heard a single good word about the rest stop. Metromint may have a tough time selling their water in Chicago after this. We got gray water bottles from Sports Authority—the cap of mine was easily cross-threaded but didn’t leak if screwed on carefully. We didn’t see the Mini Cooper bottles, but maybe that was a good thing.

    Wait, I can say something good about the rest stop: the lines to the porta potties were short.

  5. Bill says:

    That breakfast reminds my old pal Kent Peterson who rides everywhere on his bicycle (car? what’s that? fixed gear bike ride from WA to MN, sounds like fun! mountain bike race over the continental divide from Banff to Mexico? sign me up!) and as one might expect, he hoovers down the calories like it is the last chance he’ll ever get. He’s fond of saying that he’s not a nutritional role model, and if that sounds like a slogan for a t-shirt you need, you can scratch that itch at !

  6. E says:

    As to the accident at Greek town - that was me…I did officially enter the ride by paying the entry fee - in case you’re wondering. And perhaps we are riding too close to one another and maybe there should be a better/different route. Perhaps being in traffic and knowing that there will be some “racers” in the crowd - perhaps there needs to be some change to the course or consider that there will be those that feel like racing and accommodate their interests.

  7. Dr. Drang says:

    E, hope you’re doing well. We didn’t see you, but the scene looked pretty bad as we rode past.

    My suspicion is that the non-payers who weave in and out don’t themselves get into accidents. It’s the people nearby who have to swerve and brake to avoid them that suffer.

    I do wonder if the earlier start time increased the number of injuries. More cars on the road; people riding faster in hopes of getting home for a reasonable night’s sleep. It’ll be interesting to see what FotP does next year.