2017 Winter Bike Swap

2017 Winter Bike Swap Poster

2017 Winter Bike Swap Poster

What is it?

For the eighth straight year, Chicago area cyclists will be able to come together to browse and buy bikes, bike parts, bike clothes and accessories as well as discover a wide variety of companies, non-profit groups and organizations with bicycle related services. 

Who is it for?

For attendees, this is an ideal way to get ready for the spring, stock up on cheap cycling gear and reconnect with cyclists on the cusp of the spring weather.

For individuals with a bunch of extra gear, this is the perfect time to unload things you no longer use, that another cyclist would appreciate. 

For bike shops, this is an ideal opportunity to introduce cyclists to your shop, sell overstocked gear and last year’s models and designs, dent-and-scratch items, old display pieces, brand new designs, shop-branded gear and all manner of bikes, parts, clothing and accessories.

For non-profits, bike-focused companies and organizations, this is a great venue to spread the word about the work you do and network with your local cycling community.

When is it?

Saturday February 4, 2017 from 11:00 AM until 4:00 PM.

Where is it?

Jaks Tap at 901 W Jackson Street in Chicago’s West Loop.

Who are some of the companies and organizations that will exhibit at the Swap this year?

Active Transportation Alliance, Adventure Cycling Tours, Big Shoulders Realty, The Bike Lane, Blue City Cycles, Chicago Bicycle Coalition, Chicago Ride of Silence, Chicago Velo, Ciclo Urbano, Freeman Kevenides Law Firm, Illinois Bicycle Lawyers at Keating Law Offices, Knickerbakken, Life Behind Bars Cycling, Monday Night Bike Build, National Psoriasis Foundat, the Out Our Front Door Organization, the Recyclery Collective, Ride Illinois, West Town Bikes, Women Bike Chicago, Working Bikes, and many individual sellers.


How much is it?

The cost of entry is $5 cash at the door. Posters and T-Shirts from the current and past years will be available at the Swap as well.

Exhibition Tables:

Company and For-Profit Organizations*: Buy a Full Table- $100, Buy a Half Table – $60
Individual Sellers:
Buy a Full Table- $60, Buy a Half Table – $35
Non-profit full table –
Buy a Full Table- $50, Reserve a Half Table – Free

* – If you have a physical location, run a for-profit business year-round that is planning to exhibit, you are considered a company or For-Profit Organization, not an individual seller. Individual sellers are people looking to sell a few odds and ends at the Bike Swap.

Facebook Page
Chainlink Page

For questions about the swap, please contact:

Kevin Conway at conwaykj@sbcglobal.net or Lee Diamond at lee@bigshouldersrealty.com







Holiday Gifts for the Chicago Cyclist in your Life!

Chicago Neighborhood Bike Tour 2017 Calendar

Chicago Neighborhood Bike Tour 2017 Calendar

I know….I know….the holidays are getting closer.  Your staring at a long list of Chicago area cyclists  that you know and love, desperate for the perfect gift, and yet, completely unable to think of anything.  Fear not my friend, Ross Felten and I have it all figured out for you!

The perfect gift for the holidays is our Chicago Neighborhood Bike Tour 2017 Calendar featuring artwork from some of Ross’ best poster designs from the past 9 years of our bike tour posters. The calendar is also a handy reference for the 2017 Chicago Neighborhood Bike Tour schedule along with a variety of local cycling events and activities.  

You can also browse our t-shirts, posters and ride subscription options in anticipation of the 2017 season, OUR TENTH YEAR of tours.  Holy cow…how did that happen?

And if you are a lover of Ross Felten artwork, but perhaps not cycling in particular, you might be interested in his own 2017 Calendar at his Etsy store.  In fact…you probably need both!

While I no longer do tours during the winter months, we ARE going to have another Winter Bike Swap this February 4, 2017 at Jaks Tap.  Details to follow soon.

Until then, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, a fantastic winter and a great new year.  – Lee


The Indian Boundary Tours

Indian Boundary Bike Tours Poster

Indian Boundary Bike Tours Poster

When we say that we are a nation of immigrants, it is true to an almost impossible degree. Barely 2% of the US population identifies as Native American. Similarly, what once was all land occupied by the indigenous people the Europeans encountered and overtook, presently only about 2% of all lands in the US are held in Indian Trust Land accounts. Our local history is not exceptional to this and our geography, culture, cities, streets and neighborhoods bear the intrinsic mark of the indigenous people of this land.

The Treaty of St. Louis is a name given to a series of treaties between the United States and a number of Native American tribes and Nations between 1804 and 1824. These treaties dramatically reshaped the boundaries of what are now the Midwest States and served as the beginning of a new US policy of acquiring the land of indigenous Nations and displacing their people. These treaties and newer policy were a continuation of a less official policy of land grabbing and indigenous people displacement that began with the arrival of the first Europeans and continued with the formation of the American Colonies and the establishment of the United States. The Treaty of St. Louis would serve as a precursor for Andrew Jackson’s administration, which no longer placed any importance in negotiating with separate Nations and subsequently adopted a hardline policy leading to the Indian Removal Act, and the forced displacement of all indigenous people east of the Mississippi River and the establishment of the doctrine of eminent domain.

Prior to the Treaty of St. Louis, the bulk of what became Illinois was also acquired by agreement with the indigenous Tribes, and some boundaries were set in the first Treaty of St. Louis with the Sac and Fox nations. These areas would later be reclaimed by the US, in the second treaty. The second Treaty of St. Louis was signed just south of St. Louis Missouri in Portage des Sioux, Missouri on August 24, 1816, 200 years ago. This treaty was signed between the United States and the Council of the Three Fires, which included the Ottawa, Ojbwa and Potawatomi Nations. This treaty gave $1,000 annually from the US to the three tribes for the ceding of a giant swath of land that today defines the Chicagoland region. This was a direct response to the Battle of Fort Dearborn in 1812, which was won by the indigenous tribes but ultimately led to a series of Treaties and US policy that removed them from their lands in the Great Lakes region. The resulting 1816 treaty created a 20 mile strip between Lake Michigan and the Fox River on the north, which met the Illinois River on the south. The acquisition of this land was deemed necessary for population expansion, trade and business opportunities and infrastructure development. It also enabled the creation of the Illinois and Michigan Canal originally envisioned by Father Jacques Marquette nearly two hundred years prior. The canal even preceded Illinois’ statehood and enabled its acceptance as a state in the Union without qualifying based on population.

All of this was the result of the second treaty. The northern Indian Boundary was further codified in the Treaty of Chicago of 1821 and the second Treaty of Chicago in 1833, again between the US Government and the Council of the Three Fires. The legacy of these treaties and the displacement of the indigenous people of the area result in the geography of Chicago and its suburbs. The northern Indian Boundary travels along the northern Community Areas of Chicago and the immediate northern suburbs stretching from Lake Michigan to the Fox River. Many of the curious street patterns, diagonal orientation of streets, neighborhood, school and street names are vestiges of the Nations that were displaced to form them.

To explore these areas, the history of their formation, and the story of the people that were here before us all, Chicago Velo is organizing the Indian Boundary Bike Tours in conjunction with Good City Group. These tours will look at 4 different Chicago Community Areas along the northern Indian Boundary line, namely Rogers Park, Jefferson Park, Forest Glen and West Ridge. We will also incorporate our second Prairie Architecture tour of Chicago, exploring Prairie Architecture of Chicago’s northeast side, including Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park and West Ridge. This tour is brand new and is called Prairie Tour Two.

We are partnered on this series with a non-profit group called Good City Group which is comprised of architects, designers, engineers and planners seeking to create methods of achieving healthier, sustainable cities. This series augments the timing of their work on their Last Mile project, which focuses on transportation and commuting options after a commuter departs a train or bus station, and is centered in Jefferson Park, where my company Big Shoulders Realty has been for the past decade.

And of course, both the tour series and Prairie Tour Two are represented with brand new posters by our regular artist and friend Ross Felten.

I also want to point out I am aware of the odd looking calendar listings on your right and we are hoping to have that fixed shortly, but despite the flipped out look, all the links seem to work and you can still register for a tour.  We’ll kick things off this weekend with the Tour of Rogers Park.

I look forward to seeing some of you there.


Prairie School Architecture of the Northwest Side

Dr. Karl Stecher House

Dr. Karl Stecher House

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. There are many similarities between the metropolitan areas of Cleveland and Chicago beyond geography and weather. The cities were contemporaries in development and shared many features and attributes. My immediate impressions of the most obvious similitudes were the same mid-western, gritty, industrial, neighborhood rich,  aspirational city with common culture, diversity, and government, but for my most direct interests, very similar architecture.

I grew up immersed in architectural appreciation. From a young age, my father was involved in local historic preservation groups. Our family loved old architecture. I grew to appreciate the craftsmanship of old buildings and moving to Chicago in the mid-90s felt like just like coming back home when I saw the buildings and houses and familiar lines and styles. In particular, I saw familiarity in the rugged and beautiful bungalows and simple worker’s homes and apartments. All of the familiar styles that evoked the more celebrated work of its parent style, and that of its preeminent practitioner and style-founder, Frank Lloyd Wright; the Prairie School.

Prairie style originated in Chicago and represents one of the few indigenous styles of American residential architecture. Primarily the work of a group of visionary Chicago architects taught, employed or influenced by the Chicago architect, Louis Sullivan (though he himself was not really a participant in this style), the style became to be known as the “Prairie school”. Frank Lloyd Wright is widely considered the master of the Prairie style. The style emphasizes horizontal lines, low pitched or flattened roofs, open plans, natural materials, contrasting wall materials, solid construction and decorative elements emphasizing both simplicity and craftsmanship. Often employing cantilevered sections and roof eves that overshot the building, they were rectilinear and geometric. An emphasis on the building’s interaction and role in the surrounding environment was a basic tenement of the Prairie School. The low-slung prairie lands with their wide spread, contrasting earth tones and openness were the literal inspiration of the architectural style who named it.

The Prairie school aesthetic and use of Arts and Crafts décor and carpentry was a perfect fit for a generation brought up during the Arts and Crafts movement. The style primarily existed from 1900 to 1920 and while widespread during its day, it was a short-lived style of architecture. In large part, its popularity in and outside of Chicago was made possible by the publication of pattern books detailing style elements that could easily be used and copied by architects, builders and craftsmen far and wide.

Prairie homes are typically homes with low-pitched hipped roofs. The eaves of the roof often overhung well past the building walls. Most typically, they were two-story homes, but often employed wide porches, carports, or areas of single-story construction with their own hipped roofs to emphasize flatness. Horizontal lines are a focused theme on many homes. Windows are typically grouped together in tight vertical patterns to form a large horizontal feature. Massive square, rectangular, or pitched piers of masonry, brick or wood are common element in many Prairie homes.

Prairie style homes are found throughout the Midwest, and the style is intermingled, influenced by, and influencing on many other Chicago housing types, particularly the American Foursquare, the Bungalow, Craftsman, some Mission Style and the multi-unit brick flats.

Prairie Tour One is the first edition in a tour series celebrating the Prairie School architecture in and around Chicago. This first installation will focus on the northwest side of the city and we will visit dozens of exceptional examples of the style in Irving Park, the Villa, Portage Park, Albany Park, Mayfair and North Mayfair, Lincoln Square and Ravenswood Manor. We will see masterwork by many innovators of the style, including style founders such as Dwight Perkins, Walter Burley Griffin, Pond and Pond and Clarence Hatzfeld as well as the primary influencer on the entire Prairie School cannon, Louis Sullivan.

This tour will take place this Saturday, May 14 at 11:00 AM at Independence Park at 3945 N Springfield (Irving Park and Springfield).  Here are links for more information:

Prairie Tour One Event Page | Facebook Page | Chainlink Page | Ross Felten designed Tour Poster | Google Map of Tour | Purchase Tickets

Here is the map of the tour, including sites of interest and route.



A Year in the Musical Life

Alkaloid at Steve Albini's House while recording our final album

Alkaloid at Steve Albini’s House while recording our final album


Social media is a vexing conundrum for me. It can be a hologram of real life and a distraction from the real goings-on. There are also moments when it is a lifeline and connection to people I love, like and know, many of whom I otherwise get to see rarely or never. Then there are times when Facebook and its ilk are an annoyance, a fake-world, an echo-chamber, and a joyless escape that fails to satisfy. Typically, it is all of this at once, both good and bad and my reception to it is colored by the mood I am in as much as the posts I see. Like others, I have considered tossing it aside, removing my accounts and dropping out. I certainly have friends that have done this and I see the appeal, but there are other days where the time I spend on Facebook, or Pinterest or whatever offers a valuable substitute social interaction when my life squeezes out real interaction.

In many ways, our family is no different than anyone.  My wife Chaney and I have very full schedules. We have two children and demanding full-time jobs like so many others. I do my best to make time for the bike tours and this website, but they feel the impact of a demanding schedule, and I write less and do fewer tours as a result.  Of course we have normal lives to live with typical responsibilities, interests to pursue and time we want together and like everyone, we get busy. We are also the only non-school caregivers for our son Jackson who has a wide variety of special needs and complex medical conditions. Caring for Jackson at home is integral to our being a family. We would not want it any other way, still, it is very hard. Being a caregiver for a loved one offers great rewards but it can be a very isolating and lonely experience.

I am not trying to illicit sympathy, but I want to describe our realty, so I will try to offer up some ways that this life of ours works and feels with specifics. If it comes off as attention seeking, I apologize.

Jackson has Cerebral Palsy.  More specifically he has chronic encephalopathy, spastic quadriplegia, seizure disorder, dysautonomia, chronic lung disease, scoliosis, CVI and osteopenia and has intellectual disabilities.  He is tube fed, non-verbal, non-ambulatory, on dozens of medications daily, is on oxygen or bi-pap 24/7, requires various therapies daily, lies down or is in a specialized wheelchair at all times and is 100% dependent on others for every aspect of his life. He has brittle bones and is prone to pneumonias and aspirations and has had several multi-week hospitalizations over the past two years. As challenging as it is to care for a young man with those needs, I am always aware of how much harder life is for him than for me, how brave he is, and how hard he tries.  He is the best boy and he has the best attitude. Despite of all of his hardships and challenges he is a happy, wonderful, social kid who loves super heroes and our family and our cats and his music and singing and being read to and playing and so many things.  We love him so much, and by comparison of what life is like for him, it feels wrong to complain.

But our feelings are our feelings and we are allowed to feel tired and weary or sad and beaten down when that is how we feel. We can never leave town.  We can’t fly in a plane, or even take longish trips in a car.  We can’t find hotels that could accommodate our needs if we did leave, and traveling with all of the equipment he needs for breathing and therapies is not feasible. We can’t take vacations or visit family, even separately, as the demands of jobs and caregiving are such that one of us can’t leave the other to do it all. Since his injury over a decade ago, we have been to the Wisconsin Dells two times, because there is a hotel there that was able to accommodate our unique requirements. This was before his health worsened and now we don’t even go out as a family anymore to have an occasional meal or get out of the house or go to a park or a movie or a zoo or in any way break up our routine because it is just too hard for him. We always ask him, and sometimes he wants to try, but most often he doesn’t or can’t and every time we do go out to do something, anything, he really has a hard time, so we basically don’t typically try these things anymore.  We spend time together at home, or one of us will stay home with Jackson and the other will go out with Zoe and try to give her some time to be a normal kid and bond with us outside of the cocoon.  They both have school, and we have work and life goes on for us as it does for everyone.

At the end of last year, our friend, babysitter and respite provider Kerry, moved to Michigan.  She has sat and cared for Jackson and eventually also Zoe, since Jackson was a little boy.  With her help, we were able to go out on an occasional date and have one day a week without having to be sure to be home by 3 PM to bring Jackson in from his Medivan after school. Since her move, she has even come back to Chicago on a couple of occasions to give us a break but we have been unable to find anyone to replace her. Due to several of the recent hospitalization experiences, we no longer have after-school care for Jackson either.  In the last two years, what was a challenging and demanding schedule turned into a devastating, brutal one. We are just now finally getting some traction on finding some after-school nursing and it really can not come soon enough.

There have been other sacrifices made for lack of time and opportunity over the years, that just happened…profound changes in some cases that affected our lives so completely. They happen one at a time, but they add up, and soon when I look back I see a whole person I have left behind. I don’t play in bands anymore, or really play music at all.  I can never get out on group rides anymore, or even solo rides most of the time, and my pant size sure reflects this. I have had to cut back on my schedule for work and every other scheduled thing we do. My professional career is completely scheduled to within a second of its life that it leaves me scrambling to organize and squeeze even one more showing into a week. Virtually every time I am invited to do a ride, a barbecue, a housewarming party, a dinner, a show, an anything, I have to decline. What I find even worse than not being able to go to these things is when you gradually stop even getting asked because your friends know you will say no.

One of the things that is especially trying is having to be selective about which life experiences Zoe can participate in. Organizing simple things like play-dates, extra-curricular activities, team sports, piano lessons and all the normal things we want to do for our kids has to be considered with the ability of one of us always being with Jackson and our respective work schedules. Balancing family life and work and caregiver scheduling and so many other things can be so encompassing that often for weeks or months at a time, the only people I regularly interact with are my family, those I work with, the riders I see on the tours or the occasional ride with my buddies when our availability coincides.

Interacting with my friends and non-immediate family online may be a surrogate social experience, but at least it’s something.

I want to be able to bike more, but I understand it is what it is.  I want to be able to play music again, but I understand it is what it is.  I want to be able to be the me I was before, but Jackson will never be the boy he was before, and therefore all of us, we are all different by need. We can understand it, but still be undone by it.

Since the alternatives are worse, our family has adapted and we are able to move forward and experience great and wonderful things together, even if it feels so hard so much of the time.  Superficial as they can be social networks, internet enabled communication and long-distance virtual friendships are vital support for our lives.  We enjoy experiencing our friend’s lives vicariously and seeing them have children and seeing their children grow up and all of the nice things that this remarkable age can provide. We appreciate being able to give solace to others in their times of need or share the experience we are going through with our family, even the tough times when Jackson gets hospitalized. We love seeing and reading about all of your vacations, the old faces, the TBTs, the stickers, and emojis and the valuable connections between the time wasters. Through these online communities and posts and shares from friends I get to read great articles and books and hear wonderful music and see movies and videos and memes and pictures and links and all myriad of distracting and engaging material that I would never be exposed to were it not for the book of faces.

If through mood or exhaustion or endless campaigning or combination this global gateway feels less that way at times and more overwhelmed with negativity, it can be very depressing and further isolating.  The election cycle has gone on forever and even as I engage with others, I am exhausted by the ubiquity of the discussion. As much as I decry the echo-chamber effect of Facebook, the pervasive identity of everyone can seem even worse, when confronted with a discovered sentiment of a friend, family member or acquaintance that I disagree with or can’t relate to or worse, find hateful.  When the tone gets too dour, I feel disinclined to post, or read or share or experience life through this virtual connection. Before long, it gets even lonelier, so I come back. Even the pattern left me spent after a while.

Last year I started thinking about different ways to use Facebook.  I considered the aspects of my time on it that I liked and times I didn’t.  I also thought about things in my life that I missed and didn’t do anymore and were otherwise left behind, of which a big casualty was music.  I still listen to music, but much less actively for so many years now. Because of our home-life, I really can’t be in a band that tours or has ambition to do great things, and it is hard to find good players without aspirations. I have no more energy or tolerance left in my bones for all the things that go with being in a band beyond just writing and playing songs.  I don’t even have a drum kit set up at the home and I haven’t strummed a guitar or bass in years.  The only playing I do at all these days is while helping my daughter Zoe practice the piano.

Beyond playing, any listening I was doing was very passive and in the background of what else I was doing.  I no longer was able to, or inclined to take out an album, put it on the turn table and relax to music, read liner notes, close my eyes and absorb the songs, I just put on a Pandora station to accompany the tasks at hands.  I found it tough to find new music because even that is a more active pursuit than I could commit to. This is a far cry from how integral music was to my life for so long.  If I wasn’t playing or writing music, I was listening to it, writing about it, reviewing it, collecting it, buying it, releasing it, producing it, recording it, mixing it, selling it or distributing it.  Now, it was fodder in between NPR and Bulls games.

All of this lead me to a project that I hoped could reinvigorate my love of music, use new mediums like Facebook, Pinterest, Google and YouTube, and use those things in a way that I found inspiring and positive and hopeful to counter the times it didn’t seem like that was the prevailing trend.  The project was as follows.

Every day I would post a song on Facebook.  Usually it was a YouTube clip, either still image and audio, but just as often video, and sometimes it was Soundcloud or a different video source.  Each song would be one that I had at one time or another considered a meaningful or delightful or inspirational song.  Each song would be one that still pleased me today, either because it was so great or because the memories of the time in my life when it was fresh to me were so sweet.  Often enough, it was both. I tried not to repeat artists, but made exceptions for birthdays, when a musician passed, or if Jackson was in the hospital, in which case I would play from his favorite songs.

I like a wide variety of music.  I own thousands of albums and appreciate and listen to punk, classical, folk, metal, bluegrass, country, pop, R&B, classic rock, prog rock, celtic, reggae, noise, rap, ska, hardcore, postpunk, blues, jazz, music from all over the world, and nearly every variation of these styles is fair game.

Each month I would share the songs for that month as a YouTube playlist and a Pinterest board, which had the added benefit of letting me look through so many fantastic pictures of the artists that formed my musical interests and influences. Sometimes the perfect song was obvious, and sometimes it was very difficult to pick one song from artists with such tremendous bodies of work.  In many cases, I was reliving these songs that I hadn’t heard in decades, and the memories they triggered were as pleasing as the trusty chords and beats I heard.  Even better, people who were associated with those memories would comment on particular songs, enhancing the memory and bringing it back to present.  Being able to reminisce with friends I shared these songs with was one of many unexpected pleasures this project gave me.

The project coincided with the unearthing of tapes, 7″s, LPs and CDs of bands I was in.  These documents of the evolution of my playing and taste and rising and falling talent and sophistication were an even bigger reward.  I had not listened to much of these things in decades and reconnecting with the people I made them with on Facebook was a particularly great result of this endeavor.

I really liked doing this.  It reconnected me with music.  It had me doing things I liked with Facebook and Pinterest and kept me searching YouTube for great songs and artists and pics of them on Google so I found cool ways these tools.  I had great interactions with people about the songs and the times of the songs. By the end, there was a panic trying to get all the most important and influential and forgotten artists jammed in before the year was up.  I ended up adding a day accidentally, but no regrets with that or any of the selections.

Here are the YouTube Playlists and Pinterest Boards by Month starting with April 2015 and ending with April 2016.  Pinterest boards all link to the video as the Facebook posts did. YouTube playlists all begin from the first song of the month, but you can use the pull down menu on the left of each YouTube frame to scroll through the songs and play particular tracks on each playlist.  You can play it on this site or in YouTube and you can share the links if you so desire.

Thanks for taking the time to read and if you take the time to check any of these out, thanks for that too. Much of it may not be your cup of tea, but you might also find something that becomes a favorite and if you’re lucky, a favorite memory too.

A Year in the Musical Life

April 2015

Follow Lee’s board Playlist April 2015 on Pinterest.

May 2015

Follow Lee’s board Playlist May 2015 on Pinterest.

june 2015

Follow Lee’s board Playlist June 2015 on Pinterest.

july 2015

Follow Lee’s board Playlist July 2015 on Pinterest.

august 2015

Follow Lee’s board Playlist August 2015 on Pinterest.

september 2015

Follow Lee’s board Playlist September 2015 on Pinterest.

october 2015

Follow Lee’s board Playlist October 2015 on Pinterest.

november 2015

Follow Lee’s board Playlist November 2015 on Pinterest.

december 2015

Follow Lee’s board Playlist December 2015 on Pinterest.

January 2016

Follow Lee’s board Playlist January 2016 on Pinterest.

february 2016

Follow Lee’s board Playlist February 2016 on Pinterest.

march 2016

Follow Lee’s board Playlist March 2016 on Pinterest.

april 2016

Follow Lee’s board Playlist April 2016 on Pinterest.