It is one of the events I look forward to every winter, the Amling’s Cycle Holiday Toy Ride.
The ride was started by Amling’s Cycle owner, Joe Reichert, as a way to benefit the Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign. It has gone through only a few changes over the years, but the one thing that never changes is the smiles of the faces of the riders and the smiles on the faces of many motorists as over 130 spandex clad cyclists ride through the streets of Chicago hauling trailers filled with toys in the middle of December.
The ride begins early in the morning, at 7 a.m., when it is still usually dark at Amling’s Cycle in Niles. With the help of the Niles and Chicago Police Departments, riders get an almost stop-free, thirteen mile ride down Milwaukee Ave and other streets, finishing at Corcoran’s Grille & Pub in Old Town. The ride itself is never very fast, in order to keep the whole group together – meaning it can be a pretty cold ride most years – but the fun and excitement of pulling toys for what is essentially a long bike parade cannot be beat.
Upon arrival at Corcoran’s, the toys are unloaded into trucks to be delivered to the Marines and everyone heads inside for a free breakfast buffet of eggs, hash browns, pancakes, coffee, and more. After warming up and hanging around for a little while, everyone goes there separate ways – either home, back to the shop, or on the traditional pub crawl which takes up most of the morning – with a little more Christmas cheer.
This year’s ride brought in a new record of toys, almost 6,000! Joe, Julie, and other longtime riders would like to see that record broken again next year, so be sure to add it to your calendar, buy a few toys to donate, and be ready to ride.