"I call this the ‘Prairie-Roubaix’. It has cobbles, gravel, dirt, headwinds, crosswinds, and a velodrome. What more could you ask for? We ride this in the spring, naturally, and it serves as a ‘neutral ride’ that brings together friends who usually ride for a number of different clubs, teams, and shops."
Distance: 53.4 miles
Elevation: 659 feet
Download the gpx route
Tony Bustamante’s parents owned a stationery store in Argentina, neighboring a small bike shop owned by an Italian track racer named Bruno Loatti. Loatti was the epitome of Italian cycling style – the sort of rider who finishes a sprint with his hair more coiffed than when he began. “The bike shop was always more interesting to my dad than his stationery store, so he started working for Bruno.” Loatti had a world championship silver medal to his name, so he had plenty to teach Bustamante Sr.
Today, Tony’s shop bears the telltale markings of its owner’s schooling in European cycling heritage. A quick walk around the shop floor reveals signage from the roadside of the world’s greatest races, oddities picked up from two lifetimes in the cycling world, and even a rare copy of Philippe Brunel’s Le Tour de France Intime.
Around the same time that Tony’s dad started his cycling apprenticeship, Chicago was in the middle of an extended cycling renaissance. The city was the workshop of American cycling, producing an uncountable number of frames from its numerous factories, and plenty of talented riders to use them. The city boasted nine velodromes over the decades, from a concrete track in Humboldt Park to a well-appointed wooden track in Chicago Stadium. “The history of cycling in Chicago is something that you can’t avoid. It starts with Major Taylor and continues right up to now.”
As the mass production of frames gradually left the city, and fans’ attentions turned to other sports, Chicago was left with a hardy subculture of cycling. “I remember a time when you could go out for a long ride and maybe pass one cyclist – and you’d certainly know who they were. Now you can go out on a weekend ride and see groups riding in every direction. The sport is taking off.”
All this in a city where the wintertime commuters have to wrap up in ski gear, and modify thermal winter boots to accept cleats. “Riding in winter here doesn’t feel like riding. It feels like a test of your will. But seeing all your friends at the start of a ride on the first warm weekend of the spring is like going to a reunion.” The winter doesn’t turn out pelotons of hardened, disagreeable rides – “it’s something that I lose sight of, until I meet someone who has just moved to the city and notes how warm and welcoming the cycling community is here.