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My Journey, My Experience | sixthreezero Podcast #2 - Joel

This is Sixthreezero's My Journey, My Experience Podcast, stories from Sixthreezero riders about their lives, and time in the saddle. I'm your host, Dustin Gyger.


Hey everyone, and welcome to episode two of the My Journey, My Experience Podcast podcast, the podcast where we hear all about Sixthreezero riders' lives, experiences, and of course, their time in the saddle, and today, we have one of our most dedicated riders joining us, Joel Craig. Joel Craig, welcome to the podcast.


Thank you.


And thanks for joining us. Joel has been one of our top riders, always sharing photos in the Peddlers Group, and of course, on the leaderboard posting his rides, and we have a serious connection, because Joel actually is in Chicago, living in Chicago, and riding the places that I know all about because obviously, I grew up outside Chicago. So yeah, thanks, Joel for being here.


Thanks for having me. Yeah, it's great.


Yeah.


I'm excited.


So, let's go back to when you first bought your Sixthreezero. I'm just curious, why Sixthreezero, and had you been an avid bike rider? Have you always been riding bikes, and then what led you to getting a Sixthreezero?


So, I had a bike from another manufacturer.


You can say the name, actually. It's okay.


I had an Electra Townie, but I had an old one, before the pre-Trek time, which I loved, I absolutely loved that bike. I got it in about 2006, and what led me to that bike was I had been injured in a construction accident a couple of years earlier, and had a three-level spinal fusion. So, that impacted a lot of the things that I could do. I was always very athletic growing up. I played professional 12-inch softball, I played basketball in the wintertime, I was always really active, and then all of that kind of came crashing down.


So, I needed something to try and stay active, and so, I went to a little bike shop in Joliet, and he kind of directed me to this Townie that I had, and I rode it up until just a couple of years ago. I hit a pothole in Chicago, which you can imagine what that was like, and my frame cracked.


Wow.


So yeah, it cracked the frame below the seat. So, I was without a bike, so I was looking for something different, not necessarily different design-wise, but just I wasn't happy with the direction Electra was going. Their prices were going up, their designs were changing, and they were kind of like a corporate big bike now when they got bought out by Trek. And I had heard about Sixthreezero on another biking group, and I wasn't familiar with it. Did a little research, and I'm like, "Ah, this is kind of my thing." You guys are kind of a smaller business, smaller company, independent, do your own designs. It looked like exactly what I was looking for, and then going through the models, I saw the EVRYjourney, and I'm like, "This is the bike for me."


So, I got it, I guess about two years ago. The last couple of years has been... I got it right before the pandemic. So, it was like two years ago, and it's gotten me through the lockdown and everything, and I just love the bike. It's great to ride, it's fun to ride, and it looks good. It's comfortable, it does everything I want it to do. I've been really happy with it. So, I've put a ton of miles on it, driving around the city-


Any idea how many miles?


... various trails in the area. No. Probably, a thousand or more.


I mean, you're riding weekly?


Well yeah, but the weather's been kind of bad here this year. It's been so cold and wet all spring, that I haven't really gotten a chance to be out a lot, but I see a dietician over on the lakefront. So, I at least ride there every Tuesday. So, if anyone's familiar with the city, it's on Sheridan Road, which is basically a block off the lakefront. So, for me to get there, it's like three miles one way, so it's a six-mile round trip, six and a half-mile round trip to do that. So, I do that at least every Tuesday, when it's not raining, and then the rest of the week, I just got a new bike rack on my car so I can haul my bike around. I got a new car. I was in a car accident a year ago, and my old car got smashed, so it took me a year to get a new one. Just got a new bike rack on it, so now I can haul my bike around.


So, I've actually been up to the Des Plaines River Trail. I tend to go up to the Wisconsin border and ride south from there, and I can get a good 20-mile ride in. And so, that's kind of one of my go-to places, but it's just been cold, and wet, and windy. So, it's been hard to get out this spring, but once the weather kind of settles in, I'm generally out at least three days a week, sometimes more, and I try to do between 50 and a hundred miles a week, just to try and stay active. So, my rides tend to come in bunches, though. Like if I go out, I'm going to do like 20 or 30 miles. I don't generally do a lot of, other than my trip to the dietician, there are not a lot of sub-10 mile rides, it's generally 20 or more.


That's great.


And just feel like I've accomplished something when I do that. So, and it's comfortable. I mean, I'm kind of a big guy, 6'2", I'm a lot less than I was a couple of years ago. I'm still about 280, but I was getting up to like 350, 360 there, and I started to get my health back in order and stuff, and bike riding has helped with that a lot.


But you were riding the EVRYjourney when you were 350, 360?


When I got the EVRYjourney, yeah, I was still like 350, and well, from my peak, I'm down about 90, and that's all happened since I've gotten the bike. So, it's been a big part of kind of my health journey, I guess. So yeah. Yeah.


That's amazing. What else are you doing exercise-wise with the bike, other stuff too?


I put a basketball hoop up in my driveway, so I shoot a little basket every now and then, and walking, I've got a dog, so I do a lot of walking with the dog. So, between walking and biking, that's my main form of exercise right now.


That's great.


Yeah.


That's great. Something that intrigued me is this construction accident you brought up. So, I'm just curious to hear a little more about that. So, after that happened, were you in the hospital for a while? Were you unable to walk, and then-


I was very lucky, actually. I was on the roof of a building and I was starting to come down, and I got one leg on an extension ladder, and the bottom of the ladder slid out from under me. So I=


Sorry, just to interrupt, what were you doing on the roof? Just curious.


Roofing.


Roofing, okay.


Putting a roof on. Yeah. Yeah.


Okay.


And so, the extension ladder slid out from under me, and I fell and my leg was caught in the ladder. So, my legs were up in the air, and I landed kind of on my hip. And so, that crushed the three discs in my lower back. I didn't have surgery until like a year later. I did all the physical therapy, the injections, all this stuff, and then had to fight the insurance company as well, because that's the American way. But so, I got my back fixed, and stabilized. I wouldn't say it's still fixed, because I still deal with chronic pain and stuff almost 20 years later. But yeah, it changed my whole life, because I was always so active previously, and I rode when I was younger. I mean, I had a Schwinn 10 speed, because everybody in Chicago had a Schwinn back then.

Of course, that's when they were made. Right?


Yeah, I mean they were a hometown brand. So, I rode a lot. I didn't do a lot of distance riding and stuff back then, because I had so much other things going on that it was just something I did occasionally. After the accident, it became my main form of exercise. And so, that required something a little bit more comfortable than my body could handle, design-wise, sitting up straight, having my legs out in front of me, being flat-footed, all that kind of thing.


So, and the EVRYjourney's been amazing. I've been thrilled with it, and it looks good. I get compliments on it all the time. One of my stops on the Lakefront path is, of course, Buckingham Fountain, so you got to go across Lake Shore Drive, and go over to Buckingham Fountain, and hang out a little bit, and there are always tourists there, and they're always very complimentary about the bike.


Oh, nice.


"Hey, that's a cool bike. Cool bike. I like your bike. What kind of bike is that?" So, it's a good conversation starter.


That's awesome. And for those of you that don't know, Buckingham Fountain is in the opening credits of Married With Children.


That's right. Yeah.


If we have any viewers that used to watch Married With Children, back in the day. So, that was always a highlight to see that. I did many years of rollerblading around Buckingham Fountain, which I'm sure would not make them too happy these days, but-


No, no.


... yeah, there are some good places to do the rail slides and whatnot with your roller blades, because of the kind of marble areas.

:

Yep.


Yeah. So, that's interesting. So, now when you ride, do you experience pain in your back when you're on the bike, or not usually, or is it just sore?


No, and that's the amazing thing because even when I had my Townie, one of the places I used to ride when I was still living out in the suburbs, I grew up in Plainfield. So, I lived there until I moved up here 13, 14 years ago, I used to ride the-


Right next to Naperville.


Yeah, right. Yeah. But I was in the 815. I used to ride the I&M Canal Trail a lot, which goes from basically, Joliet, all the way west to La Salle-Peru. The I&M Canal, the Illinois and Michigan Canal was a canal that kind of bypassed the river, until you get to deeper water, and then you can navigate to the Mississippi, but they turned the towpath into a bike trail years ago. So, I'd ride that all the time, and I found that my limit was always like 15 to 18 miles, because I'd get really sore. My behind would get real sore, my back would get sore, I'd start getting numb, or things like that, and part of it was probably seat positioning, and just the seat was kind of hard, it wasn't real comfortable. So, I always felt limited on that bike, even though I felt comfortable, my body was telling me something different. Things were happening, that I'd hit a wall, I couldn't go any further.

Since I've gotten the EVRYjourney, last summer, I actually rode the Lakefront Trail end to end, which is 36 and a half miles about. I did that three times, and felt great, felt great, other than obviously the fatigue of riding that long, but no soreness, no numbness, none of the other problems that I ever had before. So, my goal was to do a 40-mile ride last year, and I came up a couple of miles short because it started raining on me, and I'm like, "Ah, it's raining. I got to get back to my car." I'm like two miles to go, and I didn't want to ride in the rain. So, my goal last year was to do 40, and it just never happened. But I did, like I said, the Lakefront end to end, three times by the end of the summer, and that was a good 36 and a half miles. So-


That's amazing.


... yeah, and I felt great. So, hopefully, this summer, I can get out and do some more longer distances.


When you're riding 36 miles, what are the accessories you have with you, or what are you bringing on those rides?


Food and drink.


Yeah.


No, so my go-to, I've got the rack bag now, because I won a rack bag last year from you guys.


Of course, you did. You're our top riders.


So, I've got a handlebar bag that I used to try and cram a bunch of stuff in, and then I got the rack bag, but I got a basket too. So, I was using the basket before that, and I would just put a cooler in the basket and carry that, and I'd bring my Gatorade Zero and my protein bars, and sometimes I might pack a little yogurt or something if I'm doing a long ride like that. So, that's basically it, my Gatorade Zero, and my protein bars, and then throw-


You said "Cramming a bunch of crap in the front bag." What are you putting in there? Do you ever, I'm just-


I would try and stick a Gatorade bottle in there-


Oh, oh. Got it.


... but when you got your wallet, and your keys, and your tools that you got to carry with you, everything's hanging out of the bag, and if you hit a bump, then stuff goes flying. So, having the rack bag has been good, because like I said, I even like, on a cooler day, if you go out with a jacket or a sweatshirt on and you start working up a sweat, I can roll that up and stick it in the bag, and not have to tie it around me or tie it around my handlebars or whatever, so. The rack bag is cool.


But you're bringing tools with you?


Oh, I always have. Yeah, I've always got a set of Allen wrenches to keep on hand, in case something gets loose. I think I carry a pair of pliers, in case I got to adjust a cable or something. I've got tire levers, in case I have to change a tube, although I don't generally have a tube with me, which I ran into a problem with a couple of years ago too. I was out on a ride on the, it was the Centennial Trail, which is part of the I&M Canal Trail, but it's north of Lockport. So, from Lockport north to Lemont up in that area, and I got like four miles out and I got a flat tire, and I had just taken my pump off my bike because this was on my Townie, not on this one.


I'm like, "I never used the pump. I'm going to take the pump off," and then I get a flat tire, and I had just put new tires on the bike too, and I don't know, I must've hit something, but thankfully, within a couple of minutes, some guy came by and he had a patch kit, and we were able to get the tube out, fix it, put it back on, pump it back up, and away I went. So, I was very lucky that this guy came along at the time, but it was a lesson learned.


Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.


Bring stuff with you, have stuff with you. So, I actually, I've got my little pump that attaches to the frame. I've got to put that on this bike, and I've just got some new tubes and stuff. So, once I start getting out and doing some distance, I got to start packing a lot of that stuff. But yeah, I always carry a few things with me, because you never know what kind of jam you're going to get in.


Yeah, absolutely.


So, good to be prepared. Mm-hmm.


So, I'm just curious on that 36-mile trip, are you stopping every few miles, or are you going the whole way straight?


I think generally, I always stop halfway. I think on those, I think I stopped only at the south end. So, I generally park, if you're familiar with Chicago and the lakefront, I usually either park at Montrose Harbor, or a little bit further north at Wilson, and the trail goes north from there, only like another mile and a half or two, and then there's a roundabout, and then you can go all the way down to South Shore, which is almost Indiana, really, as you go around the curve of the south end of the lake. So, riding from the North Side down to South Shore, 18 plus miles, that's always a stop.


And that area, it's funny, I had never ridden south of 31st Street until last year. So, I had never ridden through Hyde Park, which is where the Museum of Science and Industry is, or Jackson Park, which is where the world's Fair was held. If you're familiar with the story, The Devil in the White City, that's all about the World's Fair of 1893 that was held in Jackson Park, and then South Shore, it's absolutely beautiful down there. And the South Side gets kind of a bad rap in the news and stuff, but that area of the city is just absolutely gorgeous, and I fell in love with it the first time I rode down there, which induced me to do it again and again, but it's beautiful down there.

So, to take a break down by South Shore, it's just very relaxing down there. It's trees, and breeze off the lake, and then a beautiful view and everything. So, if not even to rest, it's just to kind of soak in the scenery a little bit, and have a little drink of Gatorade and something to snack on, before you head back up north, and then yeah, and then just try and get all the way back and do the loop at Hollywood, and then come back to the car. So, that's kind of-


No, that's amazing.


... my routine when I do the Lakefront. But generally, I mean, I ride the Lakefront a lot, but I don't generally do the whole thing. I'll generally do, my average is probably 20 miles, because I always go to Montrose or Wilson, and then ride down to 31st Street and back, and that's a 20-mile ride. So, that's a pretty good ride.


Absolutely.


And they actually fixed some of the trails, they put a new flyover bridge. It used to get kind of hairy by Navy Pier because you'd have to go under, and then get into traffic on the sidewalk, and it was actually kind of dangerous, and they put a new flyover ramp through that area, which has made it a lot safer. Plus, they've separated the pedestrian path and the bike path as well, so you're not trying to get around people walking and running, and scooters, and everything else. So, it's a lot safer than it was a couple of years ago, but it's beautiful.


No, that's great.


I mean, it's a beautiful view. It's a beautiful view of the city, and it's all paved, and it's a great ride. You just got to watch which way the wind is blowing, because you don't want to be riding back with the wind in your face. So, if the wind's coming out of the south, you head south first, so you have the wind blowing you back home. There was one ride last year where I was going south and I had the wind coming out of the south, and I got down to 31st Street, and I started coming back, and the weather changed and the wind shifted, and I had the wind in my face coming out of the north on the way back, and it's like, "Oh, it's just like those stories that your parents would tell you, where you had to walk through the snow uphill to school. It was uphill both ways." And this day, I had the wind blowing in my face for 18, 20 miles both ways. So, like they say, you don't-


Hey, that's when the electric bike would come in handy.


Well, I know, and it's funny, I have mixed feelings about the electric bike. I've seen a lot of them on the paths, obviously the last couple of years, and most people are pretty good. Some people get a little bit too fast, but as an athlete, and I still have the athlete's mentality, I almost feel like, "Oh, if I rode an e-bike, that would kind of be cheating," and like I'm not getting my work in." But I'm 60 now too, I just turned 60, and it's funny, I was just watching your video for 60 and over-riders and stuff. I'm like, "Man, I'm in that group now. I don't know how that happened, but I am," and you do feel things changing, and your body changes, and mentally, you think you can still do things, but your body reminds you that you've got six decades under your belt, and you can't do the things you used to do. So, I would love to try an e-bike sometime, just to see what it's like, but I got to get my workout in, I got to do the pedals.


Well, I will say-


I got to feel like I'm doing... I got to earn my exercise.


Yeah, yeah. Well, I will say the beauty of the e-bike is you choose how much it works for you or not, but I was going to bring up here, we actually, so Joel uses the app. Do you use the app on every ride you do? The Sixthreezero app, that is?


I do, yeah.


Okay.


Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mm-hmm.


So, I got some of your stats here up in front of me. My research team-


Oh no.


... provided me with all the stats. So, Joel's longest ride is three hours and 17 minutes. Your farthest ride is 36 and a half miles. You've ridden a total of... Well, you hit the 900-mile milestone, so you're probably somewhere around 900 to a thousand miles total with the app, that is, because we didn't have the app probably when you first got the bike.


Yeah, yeah, yeah.


Yeah.


Right. Mm-hmm.


You've passed over a hundred hours on your bike. And so, we just added the feature to track it to your specific bike, so this is not going to account for all the miles on your bike, but I can see in the app, that it says 326.5 miles on the EVRYjourney, 25 rides, 37 hours. But the app only came out in April of 2021, and we didn't add the bike tracking feature, I think until a little bit later. So, that's a lot of miles though. So, and everything you're telling us in these stories matches up, so everyone knows you're not lying.


I would not lie to you, fellow Chicagoan. You'd be able to call me out anyway, if...


Yeah, yeah, No, some people may pad their miles a little bit, right? Just to make it seem like you can push a little further, but everything you said matches up exactly to the app.


Yeah. Now that you've bring that up, I mean, yeah, I've probably done even more. I mean, because like you said, we didn't have the app until what, a year ago? A little over a year ago, maybe. So.


Yep.


Yeah.


So, I'm curious, what brought you back to the city from the suburbs, after being in the suburbs?


So my partner here, my Christine, she works for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, and got pretty fed up with the commute-


Okay, gotcha.


... you could say. I remember she came home one day and she's like, "Oh, I spent four hours in the car today. I'm not doing this anymore." So, that was how we ended up here.


And I'm curious, would you say-


But yeah, it's different. What's that?


Yeah. Would you say, in your mind, do you feel like Chicago is a pretty bike-friendly city?


It is, yeah. In fact, just saying that, if I was still living out in the suburbs, I would probably not be biking as often, because you don't have the biking infrastructure out there. Although, the Joliet area, the Will County Forest Preserve, I actually work for them and do volunteer work for them. They've been really active over the last few years creating new trails and trying to connect a lot of these trails in the area together to give you a little bit more continuity, and getting places around the area. So, that's good to see that happening out there, but there are a lot of disconnected trails. You can ride so far, and then it just comes to a stop, and it's like, now you got to go back on the road, or you got to ride on a sidewalk.


Chicago's been pretty proactive about creating bike infrastructure. There's always, I wouldn't say controversy. A lot of the bike lanes that we have here are just painted on the roads, and that's nice to have that, but it's not always really safe. There are certain roads that thousands of people commute on every day, but because the lanes are just painted, you tend to see a lot of accidents. We've got ghost bikes up all over the city from people that have gotten hit by cars and killed, and we've got a really active advocacy group up here called Bike Lane Uprising, so they do a lot of advocacy for safer biking infrastructure.


So, we're starting to see more protected bike lanes, whether that's raised curbs, or instead of having cars parking along the curb, what they do is they move the cars closer to the road, and then have the bike lane along the curb. So, we're starting to see more creation of protected bike lanes, and even when you get closer to downtown, you'll even get to certain streets, like Washington Street is one that I'm familiar with right off the top of my head, where you've actually got dedicated traffic signals for bike lanes.


Oh, wow.


So, it's like, you get to an intersection, and everybody's got to stop, but then you'll see the bike-shaped light up above will turn green, and that's so that bikes can get through that intersection safely. So, we are seeing a lot more safer bike lanes. They're always adding more miles of bike lanes. Of course, we've got the Divvy Bikes up here now, so there are these rental stations all over the city, every neighborhood has them, where you can just go up, and if you got the Divvy app, you can just rent a bike, and pull it out of the rack and go, and they're starting to do e-bikes as well. So, Chicago is a huge bike-friendly city. It's great.


That's amazing.


It's great. It's easy. I can get on my bike right here, I'm a block away from a bike lane, and I can literally get anywhere in the city in bike lanes.


That's amazing. So, before we wrap up here, summer is upon us, you mentioned that you wanted to do a 40-mile ride.


Yeah.


What do you think, so in terms of your biking, your Sixthreezero, what are your goals, and plans for the summer? Three days a week? Is that the target?


Yeah. I mean, three days a week is pretty average for me anyway. I do want to get a trailer for my dog.


Okay.


I just, I go to the dog park every morning. Every morning, I take my dog, and I have this routine. My cat wakes me up at 5:45 every morning like, "Hey dude, time to get up." I'm like, "But I don't want to get up," and he's like, "No, you got to get up." So, I get up, feed the cats, and then try to sit down for a minute, and then the dog comes out, so I got to feed the dog, and then once the dog comes out, we go to the dog park and spend like an hour, hour and a half at the dog park. So, we actually-


Do you walk there or drive there?


No, I drive there now, but that's why I want to get the trailer because, during the pandemic, we just had a new bike path open right along the Chicago River. I'm like two blocks away from the Chicago River. So, they actually built the bike trail on the river, so they put a gravel bed down and built the bike trail, and it just goes along the river, but it connects to a park which connects to the North Shore Channel Trail, which you can ride from the North Side of Chicago, straight up to Evanston. So, that's like a 20-mile round trip. So, I'm like two blocks away from that now, but the park is the park where I take my dog. So, my goal is to get a bike trailer, and then get my dog into the bike trailer, so that we can just ride to the park every day, rather than driving. So, that's one goal, but yeah, to get out three days a week and try to do 60 to a hundred miles a week is a pretty good goal.


Wow. That's amazing.


Just to get active again, because winters are tough in Chicago, and this spring has been not a lot of fun either. So, it's been like, "Ugh, I want to get out, and haven't been able to get out." So, I'm kind of itching to get back out riding more often again.


Well, that's awesome. Well, if anyone wants to download the Sixthreezero app, you can follow Joel on there and everyone else on the leaderboard, it'll always be there, and we're going to be following you. I'm always excited to see your posts and see where you've been riding, and hey, if you ever get super ambitious, maybe make a trek out to Naperville and do a little river walk, or downtown Naperville bike ride.


Yeah.


That'd be fun.


Yeah, yeah. Hopefully, they'll get the DuPage River Trail done. That's part of that whole, what Will County is doing. If they can get that all put together and organized, it would be great to be able to ride from Naperville to Joliet, and all that. So yeah, look forward to it.


Yeah, absolutely. All right, Joel. Well, I appreciate you being on today.


Thanks, Dustin.


Yeah, love to hear about your journey, your experience, and everything that's been going on with your bike and your life, and thanks again. And don't forget, download the Sixthreezero app, visit us on sixthreezero.com, and tune in for the next My Journey, My Experience Podcast, coming soon. Thanks, Joel.


See you.

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