L.A.T.E. Ride – A Celebration of Wild Abandon

Getting A Nap Is Impossible

Funky Helmet Fashions

You are supposed to grab a few winks before the L.A.T.E. Ride so that you are ready and reasonably refreshed for the wildest ride you are likely to find in the Chicago area. But I simply could not fall asleep. So by the time we arrived at the Grant Park Underground Lot I was dragging a bit.

We unpacked the bikes and fitted the fairings and began to wind our way over to the Buckingham Fountain area to see what sorts of wild and crazy costumes folks would be wearing. There were lights and masks and tutus and everything under the sun awaiting us. A band played songs from several recent decades with equally wild abandon and so began a great evening of fun and merriment.

An announcer called up folks who were part of the best costume contest and the crowd hooted as they voted for each contestant. Afterwards prizes were awarded. Next up the best adorned bicycle was judged and its owner likewise was able to ride away with some “swag”. It was great fun. We photographed everyone we could find and they in turn did the same of us and so it went.

Waves of Riders

Nearing midnight the crowd made its way over to the adjacent roadway and gathered into groups sorted by the color of the rider numbers worn. At the far end of the avenue is a DJ who is celebrating his 20th year of this ride and he explains how things will proceed. We will be released in waves.

First the VIPs then the Blue group and then the Green and so on… There is to be a countdown as each group is released as well. Meanwhile everyone is nervously waiting. They mingle and take more photos of one another. A series of loudspeakers along the length of the avenue is blast 70s R&B and everyone is moving to the beat of the music. It’s a bit like being in a bicycle oriented Mardi Gras Parade.

Finally our group is on the move. We are weaving slowly down the avenue and make a right turn to head into the interior of the cities neighborhoods south, west and north of the Loop Area. I must say that this years route was the best we’ve experienced in the nearly 10 years or so that we have been riding it. They have added Chinatown to the route and by doing so avoided the rather steep and ungainly ride along Roosevelt Road into the Greektown area.

Riding Along With Families and Young Singles

The Birds Are Real!

As has been the case in years past, we rode alongside couples with children, empty-nesters enjoying their passion for cycling and singles who are sometimes awkward in their approach to one another. But everyone is having fun and so we all simply keep the pedals turning and wave vigorously to the denizens of the night club districts and in some cases residents of each community who have come out to gawk at all the funny looking riders and their multitude of weird bikes.

By the time the ride turned the corner for the rest stop I was ready to get off the bike and stretch my legs a bit. A couple who had passed us earlier were standing nearby. They wore VIP tags and seemed to have mechanical birds strapped to their shoulders.

Connie approached and asked if she could take some pictures of these modern marvels. The man had one on his shoulder and his wife had two in a nest-like helmet that she wore. But lo and behold these were live birds! Very cool indeed!

Among the thousands of bikes we saw there appeared to be a handful of recumbents. Some said hello and others were studiously trying not to make eye contact. Almost like junior high students afraid to ask one another for a dance but eager to at least seem relaxed.

The upright riders who approached to ask about the bikes were equally awkward at times and yet were better able to overcome their fear of approaching. OF course the questions were always pretty much the same. Are they hard to ride? Are they comfortable? How much do they cost? Did you make them yourselves? And each time you patiently try to reply without seeming jaded.

Along the Lakefront Trail

Chicago L.A.T.E. Ride - Rider Start Scene

Several years ago the ride organizers moved the return leg to the street adjacent to the trail a block east. That made things a bit less congested and I thought safer. Tonight however we were all back on the trail.

It was a bit slower because of the numbers of people and it was a bit more dangerous because as with the streets we rode there are always folks who refuse to use their side of the thoroughfare. And so it was that for much of the street route there were folks riding against the oncoming traffic and getting into verbal tussles with quick-tempered or inebriated drivers.

The trail is however an even more dangerous place to exhibit this behavior. One rider headed northbound sent forth a profanity-laced tirade because he was being forced off the trail by riders headed back to the ride start oblivious of the consequences of their behavior. Too bad.

Near the LakePoint Towers a fellow riding a Recycled Recumbent made by A. D. Carson came alongside us. He was playing music from speakers mounted on his rear seat. He seemed to be enjoying the life of a hipster. A young lady rode up on her EZ-1 and I noticed it was covered with a layer of fur-like material. I have never seen anything like it before.

We all passed along the lakefront past the fountain and circled back near the Museum Campus area. It was fun to see riders whose faces showed how proud they were of their accomplishment in riding a full 25 miles for the very first time. Another’s wife was bragging that her husband had spent the past several weeks riding to work in preparation for this ride. Great!

We made one last pit stop and then headed to the underground parking lot to pack up the bikes and head home for some sleep and breakfast. Another great year of nocturnal revelry completed.

Distance: 24.6 miles
Time: 3h 10m 25s