Google Maps has just introduced a beta version of its bicycling directions. Check it out at maps.google.com/biking
Riding at night without lights? What are you waiting for? Get behind the wheel of a car and see for yourself. Bikers without lights & reflectors are nearly invisible, even on illuminated city streets. Imagine then, how are drivers going to see you when they're busy screwing around with the touch screen controls of their cars and cell phones? Lack of required reflectors and lights can especially come into play in the event of an accident. Cyclists struck by vehicles can turn from victim into perpetrator if their bikes are not equipped as required.
I know a lot of people like to put their lights on helmets, backpacks, clothing, etc. I think this is a great addition to, but not a replacement for, frame mounted lights. This is because, as your clothing, bag, helmet, etc. moves around, the lights may no longer be aimed in an optimal manner. I have seen a lot of bikers on the road with their messenger-bag blinkys aimed at the sky. If you don't believe me, have a friend model this method for you and see for yourself as you watch from a distance. I am recommending these lights because I feel they are effective and deliver a good value.
Best Cheap Taillight
Bell Night Shield, ~$10 at K-Mart, walmart, amazon.com
This light uses ordinary AAA's and operates at optimal brightness for months on a pair of batteries. It's easy to mount- the included rubber shims make for a good fit on most modern bikes. If you ride an older steed with a skinnier seat post, you'll need a wrap of rubber (cut-up old bike tube or kitchen gloves) or some tape for a good fit. Don't overtighten the screw- the mounting should be snug, but should have a bit of give in case it gets kocked. That way, the light will budge without cracking the mount.
I'm a fan of this model because it has a good moisture seal, and the thumb screw mounting makes it easy to move the light between bikes. And at $10, you can fearlessly leave the light mounted to your pony at all times so you're never caught in the dark. I own several of these and have yet to have one break. The earlier versions, sold in hard plastic packaging seem to be better than the newer ones, sold in paper-backed packaging. If you see these snap 'em up while they last.
Great Safety Headlight
Sigma Sport Tri-LED, ~$20, REI, Johnny Sprockets (~3001 N. Broadway, Chicago) and various websites.
Maybe you think you don't need a headlight because you can see vehicles coming...but they're required by law and there's a good reason why.
This is my favorite LED headlight, it runs on 3 AAAs which will last several months of typical usage. The mount and light are all one piece, mounting and dismounting in a quick click. There are two mounting positions- on the cusp, and in front of the cusp. I own a few of these which have operated for years without trouble. I can also vouch for their seal, mine have spent hours and hours in the rain and still work fine. Avoid the urge to play with the clicking clasp and you won't wear it out.
Chicago to Nashville
Take your favorite streets into Oak Park (mine is Augusta / 1000 N) and make your way onto the Prairie Path. It takes you west into Wheaton, where you can continue onto the Fox River cities of Aurora, Geneva, or Elgin. Once in any of those towns, you can ride the 40+ mile Fox River trail, from Aurora all the way up to Crystal Lake. From Crystal Lake, you can even continue on to Genoa City, Wisconsin. There's plenty of things to see and places to relax along the way, and several places to catch the METRA train back to the city at the end of the day.
Map on Bikely- Lakeview to Crystal lake
Overview & Directions w/ Googlemaps clips
Hand-Drawn 2-Page Map & Guide
Page 1: small large
Page 2: small large
Printing Tip: Save the large image files and use your favorite image software to print them at 600 dpi, shrunk to fit the page with .2 margins.
Music City to the Windy City! I did this ride with a couple guys in the summer of '09. It took us 7 days to get there. The route we used- mostly US-41 and IN-63, was optimal for biking on most parts, and acceptable at minimum in terms of safety & comfort. I like to think of 41 as the has-been highway, with the half surviving remains of a lot of towns and the occasional boarded up gas stations.
Chicago to Nashville bike route & summary
Map on Bikely- Chicago to Nashville
Chicago to Nashville