In cold weather, some bike clubs switch to indoor gatherings, alternate activities

Although you may not like winter,

You can still enjoy the cold without cycling,

No bad weather,

When friends meet

For coffee, snowshoeing and hiking!

The Viking bike, anyone? At our latitude, winter biking may not be for everyone. Recognizing this, bike clubs are offering various activities to connect members, with some even offering “Zero Mile Rides”, “ZMR”, aka Zimmers. To what?

I first heard about Zimmers several Januarys ago when the Arlington Heights Bicycle Club invited its members to lunch at a local coffee shop, bicycling being optional. Since then, I have watched many clubs organize ZMRs, and not just in the winter. Some involve coffee, others stronger libations. Still others are simply alternative activities. As one pilot remarked, “It’s the camaraderie, not the miles.”

A 19-year-old concept?

Gary Gilbert, past president of AHBC, notes that a “conversation between myself and Jim Shoemaker (now deceased) in January 2003 gave birth to the idea”.

“On club rides we are used to breakfast stops most weekends. We have decided to have monthly social gatherings on a weekend from December to March, either Saturday or Sunday “, offering a chance for non-driver spouses to join. It expanded to include one dinner each winter month. Jim suggested we give mileage credit for each pancake eaten,” Gilbert said.


Speaking of mileage credit, Ella Shields notes that ZMRs also refer to club trips where “we just don’t count the miles” in the club’s cumulative tally, a practice that many clubs follow. His club, Wheeling Wheelmen, organizes both.

Wheeling Wheelmen enjoy a “zero mile ride” at Deerfield Bakery. Pictured, left to right, are Ella Shields, Kilian Emanuel, Pam Burke, Joe Beemster and Dave Waycie.
– Courtesy of Ella Shields/Wheeling Wheelmen

Wheelmen President Deb Wilson is proud of their “variety of zero mile activities”. We hike, snowshoe or cross-country ski at Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve. We always meet at Deerfield Bakery to share coffee, tea or soft drinks, sometimes donuts or coffee. cake. But we all enjoy the company of others as we seek to solve all the problems of the world.

Indoor training towers

Some club members on indoor trainers “participate in online virtual riding on Zwift or RGT platforms,” ​​Wilson, a more active ZMR type, continues. The Zwift app lets riders connect with each other for more collegiate indoor riding experiences.

Downers Grove Bicycle Club president Jeff Bolam echoes that connection between members, with “weekly indoor Thursday night get-togethers on Zwift with a Discord audio chat channel.”

COVID permitting, club runners meet monthly at the Ballydoyle pub in Downers Grove. Undoubtedly, they also solve the problems of the world.

Club members engage in many off-season activities, according to Bolam, including weekly hikes on the trails or cross-country skiing at various locations.

“We also have a small but sturdy group that rides outdoors year-round, usually in Palos or other trails, with big bikes in the snow,” Bolam said.

“I love being outside”

Newly elected Joliet Bicycle Club president Janae Hunziker notes the club’s weekly rides in Cook County and Will County forest preserves and state parks.

“Each week the hike gets longer and/or more strenuous due to the terrain. Most of our members love being outdoors.

“Some members train at home with a trainer,” she continues, “by meeting other club members on Zwift. On COVID-free years, we host a chili bowl: potluck with chili, followed by ‘a bowling alley.’

Ride leader Joanne Davis says her Evanston Bicycle Club has adapted zero-mile rides for multiple activities. “I often use zero miles when bad weather prevents the planned ride. We are still able to socialize and enjoy the camaraderie, which often includes a meal. EBC’s nickname is the ‘Eating Bicycle Club’.”

Year-round rides attracting zero-milers include destinations such as art exhibits, the Chicago Botanical Garden, tours of Rosehill Cemetery, and Chicago Architectural Foundation sites.

“But, usually, we just meet at a restaurant — often Panera,” Davis says.

Members of the Elmhurst Bicycle Club enjoy a meal at Brick's Pizza in Wheaton.  Pictured, L-R, Armaline Mirretti, Ken Vos, Roberta Rehor, John Reardon, Kim Messina, Michael Driscoll, Ron Richards and Donnie Seals.

Members of the Elmhurst Bicycle Club enjoy a meal at Brick’s Pizza in Wheaton. Pictured, L-R, Armaline Mirretti, Ken Vos, Roberta Rehor, John Reardon, Kim Messina, Michael Driscoll, Ron Richards and Donnie Seals.
– Courtesy of Kim Messina/Elmhurst Bicycle Club

By incorporating “zero mile ride” into the description, “anyone can join us at the destination,” adds Davis. “That way riders who aren’t up to speed or running out of time can participate. Riders get the mileage, non-cyclists get zero-miles. It’s the most inclusive invite for people to participate.”

Turn it on

Chicago Winter Bike Swap in 2020 was a very popular event.

Chicago Winter Bike Swap in 2020 was a very popular event.
– Courtesy of Hal Honeyman

The Chicago Winter Bike Swap returns from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 13, with 32,000 square feet of exhibit space at the Kane County Fairgrounds Event Center in St. Charles. Last held in 2020, the exchange exceeded space on the Palatine’s Harper College campus, according to organizer Hal Honeyman.

Owner of The Bike Rack in St. Charles and founder of Project Mobility, Honeyman changed locations due to the popularity of the event, now building on the rise of cycling since COVID.

“I want to offer more than just a seller’s space,” he notes.

In addition to the expected 80 vendor tents and information tables, a bike corral is available for testing new/used bikes on an indoor track.

In the corral’s “single swap section”, individuals can sell a single bike for a $15 fee.

Honeyman also boasts a separate lounge area on the swap floor where speakers will deliver seminars, like “Bike Safety Tips for All Ages” and “Mountain Biking for Beginners.”

Regional bike clubs and groups like CAMBr (Chicago Area Mountain Bikers) and Ride Illinois, the statewide nonprofit bike advocacy organization, will distribute information. A separate pavilion for adapted bikes – specialized bikes for people with disabilities – will include staff helping participants test out these bikes.

All attendees will be required to wear masks as mandated by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Public admission is $5 ($5.50 credit card) for ages 12 and up. For more information, visit

• Join the race. Contact Ralph Banasiak at [email protected]

Sara H. Byrd