Long e-bike commute in Chicago area

Jeff Dixon

New Member
I am toying with the idea of replacing my Pace and Metra monthly passes (total $190/mo pre-tax benefit) with an e-bike for a 24-mile commute from a Chicago SW suburb, via Ogden Ave, to the Chicago loop. Would it be insane to consider doing this year-round? Could I get a reasonably snow-worthy e-bike for under $2000? I am 36, 6'1" 200 lbs, decent shape.

I currently do a 22 mile one-way commute in the Minneapolis-St Paul area on an ODK U500 with a 32ah battery - I have not done it year-round yet so I can't comment on the winter riding aspect, but I plan on getting some studded tires and giving it a go this winter. I'm not sure how many other winter e-bikers there are on the forum - hopefully they can chime in. A few things to note that I've learned:
1. If those passes are unlimited ride passes, then I don't think you'd have as much benefit as you probably will not want to give them up as doing 48 miles (assuming you're talking about 24-mile one-way) 5 times a week can become a bit exhausting, even if a motor is doing most of the work. That's my perspective at least - I find 3 times/wk on bike and 2 by car to be my happy medium, especially since I have things I have to take care of occasionally after work. Also, if there's a wicked storm coming your way, it's always good to have another option to go to - sounds like you could do the one-time passes instead of the monthly in this case.
2. Another consideration is time - for this reason I think getting a speed pedelec is a good idea so you can hit 28 mph and cut down on your round trip time. My round trip for the 44 miles is 2.5 hours - this adds up to 12.5 hrs/wk, 50 hrs/mo. This is about 5 hrs/wk and 20hrs/mo longer than if I drove, so that's lost income for an hourly job assuming you'd have worked those hours, and that has a cost that may be worth factoring in.
3. What would your route be? Are there good trails or bike lanes that can take you all the way?
4. Night riding will likely be in your future so you'd have to outfit yourself with lights/reflective gear galore as well as some extra cycling clothing - that stuff also has a cost although it's pretty minimal in the grand scheme of things.
5. Getting a battery as ginormous as the 48V32ah one I have is likely not needed - I can do my round trip commute on one charge - if you have a smaller battery just make sure you're not cutting it too close.
6. If you're going to be on shared trails, be aware of the laws as well as your motor noise. My motor is a bit louder than I'd like personally for shared trails - I kind of wish I had gone with a BionX D500 setup (Ohm U700 for example) since it's super quiet and can get up to 28 mph. Only downside is a smaller battery so 24 miles one-way might be a slight stretch.
7. The $2000 price point may be hard, just because you'll need good a larger battery and good components. I would go for something more around $4,000 - the payoff period will be longer but you'll likely get a more reliable product. Going cheap I think is a risky bid since if parts all begin to fail in the first few years you'll end up paying more in the long run if you have to buy another bike in two years.

Just my thoughts for now - good luck on your search!
I also do a 22-mile one-way commute (in Seattle) 3x/week. I ditched my bus pass, but pay per-ride on the days I don't bike. It's more expensive per ride, but per month it saves about $40. Not a lot, but it adds up.

Winters here are pretty mild - it would be rare that snow/ice would prevent a ride in. Wimping out from cold/dark might do it though - ha.
I also realized I can go month-to-month on the transit benefit, so full-out snow adventures in December-February probably wouldn't be necessary. I am thinking of trying out the ride on my pedal-powered bike soon to see how safe I feel on the roads. Taking Ogden Ave in from Cicero was recommended to me by a friend at work who bikes a lot all over Chicago and its suburbs.
Ian, in Chicago my combined bus/train/foot commute is about 3 hours round trip for 48 miles, so 2.5 hours a day by bike would be a significant improvement if I can manage that pace! With health perks to boot. But safety is also a concern I have, both in terms of traffic and relatively high-crime neighborhoods that I would inevitably pass through.
Cicero isn't 24 miles from the loop but so I assume you live further out. If the CTA allows bikes on the train another option would be to bike half of it and the the el the rest of the way in. The CTA prices are pretty reasonable IIRC. 24 miles is a long commute even for an e-bike. Especially if it's on surface streets and not some sort of dedicated bike path or MUP. I would want a class 3 bike that can do 28mph for that commute and that's going to require close to 800wh of battery life each way at those speeds (plus a recharge for the return trip.) I don't think that's possible at your budget.
You're correct - Cicero is about my halfway point. Unfortunately the CTA only allows bikes in non-rush hour periods. The other problem is my wife is terrified of me getting killed in traffic. I may have to wait until every road in the city has a barricaded bike lane, so maybe when I'm 65...
I dunno, Jeff. Ogden cuts thru the North Lawndale neighborhood. Already 124 shootings so far in that area in 2016, double last year's total. http://crime.chicagotribune.com/chicago/shootings/
As you probably know, that part of town is just crazy with young men shooting each other 24/7.

Sure, it's a busy street, and I knew a nurse who would drive in on Ogden when she worked all three shifts a few years ago at the Medical center. Still there were two shootings within a block of Ogden, at 2 PM and 6:30 PM this year in North Lawndale.
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48 miles in one day thru a busy metro area everyday sounds dangerous and tiring. Half that is manageable

At the end of a work day do you really want 90 mi Utes of mixing it up in bad or cold weather?
Just my $0.02:

Why not drop by www.uberpeople.net & find a few local reputable uber drivers who would volunteer a "private pool" ride. Private, here, means you & a few of YOUR friends ride inside a properly equipped vehicle (Honda pilot, Nissan Armada...etc--with a proper bike rack..etc) to pool into the loop---OR anywhere in OR around Chitown

IF you ***properly*** authenticate the driver (and likewise the rider) both people benefit from a mutual ride-sharing operation.

PROPERLY AUTHETICATING each other IS key to keeping the Uber corporate drones from banning either party on grounds of SCHEDULING uber rides (pool, OR not).

Uber HATES scheduled rides since they often lose a LOT of $$$ when the driver shuts off the uber driver app & gives one OR more friends a CHEAP pool ride. YES you CAN shut off the driver app once each rider is safely on board---and turning on again for each successive rider---then back off again....I know since I have done it over a 100 times & uber has yet to even ONCE email me about it :)

Once you found a LOCAL reputable uber pool driver, THEN thru word-of-mouth, find as many other drivers so you can bounce around Chicago with your bike----at CHEAP uber pool rates.....with/out your friends, too

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Certainly a different solution, @gupshup; dual commuting with Uber is a new one to me! Used to commuting with a bike on buses and light rail/train here in the Austin area.
48 round trip is too much to manage day in and day out. But we are all cut from different cloths. :) good luck.
Certainly a different solution, @gupshup; dual commuting with Uber is a new one to me! Used to commuting with a bike on buses and light rail/train here in the Austin area.

Sure it is :)

In all seriousness, I believe there are a handful of Uber drivers dedicated to offering private uber pool rides, to dedicated biking commuters, around Chicago.

Personally, I enjoy serving the biking commuting community. Not only am I helping the environment, but I like giving people who care for the environment the benefit of convenient ride shares around Chicago since I frequently deliver non-takeout packages for Uber courier delivery services, too.

I think this niche will grow (with or without uber...etc) as more people purchase ebikes & seek reliable & faster transportation for the proverbial & often "missing" mile home. I say missing because often the outbound trip is different from the trip back home. Sometimes you want to bike to a retail store & purchase something, but riding a bike while trying to carry the package is too dangerous, so that is where people like me can offer our services for reasonable rates.

How convenient to ride with friends to/from local (or distant) retailers together---with/out bikes in tow & either have me pickup just the purchased products for scheduled delivery at your prior selected location and/or transport you & your small purchased packages for return to your previously selected destination (like your home or a local metra train stop, etc)

Discretion should be used by ALL parties involved to keep this niche alive & growing.

I think the setup is a all around win for everyone who does their part to care for the environment, while I delivery packages, to boot.
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