Need your cycling fix in the winter? Try Greenline

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By Jacke Crowe

Cycling Columnist

What should a cyclist do in winter to keep fit? It's the same question for a budget-strapped senior looking to get out of the house and get a little exercise without risking a slip on the ice.

The answer may be on Marion Street just south of the El tracks at Greenline Wheels. A year or so ago, this business opened with a strange mission: to promote biking in the local area and increase business and commerce in Oak Park by doing so.

Usually businesses just want to make money, but Greenline Wheels is a cross-breed between a for-profit and a not-for-profit company that is partially funded by a foundation and can turn a "small" profit.

In the summer, its business model is pretty clear: rent bikes to tourists visiting the area. This concept is all the rage in tourism internationally. Once-crowded Florence in Italy has now blocked off the central city and is renting boat loads of bikes to tourists.

Locally, Abby Miller, director of programs at Greenline, said that the store has a partnership with the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust to promote architectural bike tours of our fair city. International tourists to Oak Park understand this bike/tour connection. A recent visitor to Greenline from Spain commented that a vintage poster on the wall was from his father's cycling team in Barcelona.

So that's the summer. But what is a business with a social mission to promote cycling supposed to do during the long winter months? This is where it gets interesting.

They've got lots of rentable "comfort" bikes just sitting there. So they bought some nifty trainers (for the uninitiated that's a contraption that the rear wheel of the bike sits on so that it can be ridden indoors).

Seniors are welcome to ride inside at Greenline on the trainers during the winter months during morning hours FOR FREE. That's right, for free. These bikes have big comfortable seats and you don't have to worry about balance because the trainer holds the bike upright. This is a very cool idea.

For roadies, Greenline has times available (at very modest rates) to bring in your road bike and ride with your buddies en masse. Sometimes we pop in a lung busting video and sweat up a storm for an hour or two. Sweat towels are provided.

There is even a deal for downtown businesses to pay a small fee so their employees can spin during lunch.

The space is pleasant and set up for this kind of thing. The employees are friendly to a fault — after all, they work there because they want you to ride. So stop by Greenline this winter and see what's cooking.

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