Tony_Cropped.jpgWith so much happening in the bicycling community in Champaign-Urbana, it’s easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle and lose sight of the people who work hard to keep things between the ditches. So from now on, hopefully on a monthly basis, I’m going to take time out to help you get to know someone in C-U who’s involved with local bike activities. It’s called Get to Know ‘Em! To kick things off, I cornered Tony Cherolis, a mechanical engineer who’s relatively new to C-U (he moved to Urbana about a year ago from the East Coast), but who’s already knee-deep in the bike scene.

If you know someone who would be a good subject for this feature, email me at joelgillespie@smilepolitely.com

Smile Politely: What brought you to C-U?

Tony Cherolis: My wife. She followed me to Connecticut when I got a job there. Six years later I followed her to C-U when she got into the doctoral program for English Lit. It’s kind of funny. I’m originally from the Midwest and grew up in Southern Ohio near Cincy. She’s originally from South Florida and never imagined herself living so far north and so far from the coast.

SP: How long have you been riding?

TC: Like any good American kid, I’ve been dinking around on a bike since maybe five years old. I started getting more into cycling for transportation and racing while I was in high school. I started occasionally riding my bike the five miles to school and also started racing in triathlons. I’d been swimming competitively since seven years old and had picked up cross country as a high school freshman. Adding cycling and doing triathlons seemed like a logical progression. It ended up that I’m probably strongest in cycling.

SP: How many miles do you ride per week?

TC: That varies a lot. My work is so structured that I’m sort of anti-structure outside of it. Some weeks I’ll commute around town and maybe rack up 30 miles. Other weeks I’ll do something stupid like ride 500 miles in four days with a buddy. I’d have to say that I average around 100 to 150 miles a week. I’ll be doing more running this fall since I’m going to try and do the Chicago marathon in October, so the bike miles will probably be falling off a bit.

SP: What kind of bike(s) do you have? If you have more than one, which one is your favorite and why?

TC: Lots of bikes: Quintana Roo Time Trial bike: for triathlons; Kona Dew Deluxe: a long distance, heavy duty commuter; Specialized Roubaix: for road touring and general road riding; Huffy three-speed with newspaper boy baskets. My favorite has to be the Huffy. It’s a $10 everyday commuter bike that has really held up to the elements and overweight grocery runs I throw at it. It’s a pretty light blue color too!

SP: What bike groups are you involved with in C-U? What do you do with that/those group(s)?

TC: The Bike Project – I volunteer at Sunday hours to help folks fix their own bikes. I also function somewhat as the treasurer of the organization. Basically, I empty the cash box.
Champaign County Bikes – I occasionally show up at steering committee meetings and volunteer when I’m available. Help them coordinate with The Bike Project.
League of Illinois Bicyclists – I’m a member of this organization because they’re doing a lot of good stuff at the state level.
I occasionally show up at Prairie Cycle rides, but am not an official member yet.

SP: Have you ever had any accidents in auto traffic, either here or elsewhere? If so, what were the circumstances?

TC: Ha! Yes, quite a few. None yet in C-U. I had a front tire blow out once while taking a downhill left through morning rush hour traffic in Tallahassee, Fla. Luckily, no one ran over me as I rolled through the middle of the intersection. Just a sprained wrist. I’ve rear ended a couple of vehicles at intersections. Those were my fault, because I tend to daydream a bit. One reason I’d rather bike than drive: there’s less chance that I’m going to kill someone else when I drift off. Tons of close calls, but those are business as usual when you spend a lot of time on the road cycling.

SP: What’s your favorite local ride, organized or not?

TC: I’m a huge fan of Critical Mass, and the local version is a good one. My vision is to take it over I-74 to do a loop around the mall. Everyone pretty much behaves and the motorists are surprisingly receptive in C-U. Last Friday of the month – meet at the corner of Wright and Green @ 5:30 p.m. Don’t miss it!

SP: What’s your least-favorite street to ride in C-U?

TC: I’d have to say my least favorite is US 150 leaving Champaign to the Northwest. That’s pretty ugly. University leaving Urbana to the East is pretty bad too. Luckily I don’t have to touch those much.

SP: What do you like about the local bicycle culture?

TC: There are so many of you! I’ve never lived somewhere that pedestrians and bicycles can sometimes outnumber motor vehicles. There is enough bike culture to support a thriving bike co-op (The Bike Project). Even car drivers have bicycles that they ride occasionally – and that shows in how they treat cyclists.

SP: What’s the stupidest thing you ever tried to do on a bicycle? How did it turn out?

TC: Oh, this is a hard one. I tried to take a shortcut through a flooded off-road path on my way to an evening class once. I rode until my front panniers were submerged. That was stupid, but I only got wet. In college we used to go mountain biking in the dark without lights when there was a full moon. The six-pack of cheap beer made it much easier. Lots of crashing. I rode about two miles in twelve inches of fresh powder one winter in Connecticut on my way home from work. It can be done, but you don’t get anywhere fast! There are lots more, but you’ll have to buy me beer to get at them.