We had a chance to talk with Ride Illinois member, Bill Bellman, about his 14 year history with our annual bike tour and what he’s looking forward to the most this year at the Grand Illinois Bike Tour. Make sure you register today and don’t miss out on this special event!
Where are you from?
I am from Crystal Lake, Il, since 1985, before that from Bourbonnais, Il.
Why do you bike?
Biking is natural to me. As a kid I always rode a bike, but in college at Northern Illinois University, it became a habit. I even took a course—bicycling—for PE and biked 30 miles a week all over DeKalb County. This was back in the early 70’s on a girls 3 speed bike (my sister’s) after mine was stolen the semester before. A year after landing a career job in the paint industry, one of the my fellow chemists told me about a bike club forming in Kankakee at the YMCA. It was 1978, and I helped start a club called “The Easy Spokin Bike Club.”
The rest is history with club rides and then week long rides from 1979 to the present day, including 14 Grand Illinois Bike Tours, and even a 3,600 mile trip across America in 2009 with America By Bicycle! Since 2011, I have had the honor of being a full-time volunteer on the bike tour, assisting with the mapping of the routes, working with Ride Illinois staff, and all the other volunteers on the Grand Illinois Bike Tour!
When was your first Grand Illinois Bike Tour?
I rode my first tour, which used to be known as GITAP (short for Grand Illinois Trail and Parks Bike Tour) in its pilot year in 2003, and have enjoyed 13 out of 14 years of the annual bike tour. After missing the 2005 tour, and missing all the fun, I vowed to Chuck Ostreich, the ride’s founder and long-time coordinator, that I would never ever miss another year! Pic’s below are from 2003 and 2004, the first years of the ride.
What are you looking forward to most about the ride this year?
I always look forward to the re-uniting with everyone on the ride from all the many years!
In your opinion, what makes this ride stand out from other rides?
The Grand Illinois Bike Tour stands out in that it is put on by Ride Illinois’ core staff and 25 or so volunteers. With so many real experienced cyclists, Ride Illinois and it’s volunteers have put together the best of things people want to enjoy on a week-long bike vacation, with the highest priority on safety.
Why should fellow cycling enthusiasts sign up and join the 2017 ride?
What makes the Grand Illinois Bike Tour such a fun week of adventure for me is the great routes, the great staff, and and the great camaraderie with the others that ride!
Please enjoy some photos from Bill’s rides over the years: