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Giving Divvy Bikes a Tri (Along With Some Swimming and Running)

A foggy morning for a swim/bike/run
On Saturday morning at Montrose Beach I completed my second triathlon: the Chicago Triathlon SuperSprint.

There were a few differences between this one and the North Shore Triathlon that I did last year.

The first difference was that this was a SuperSprint rather than a Sprint distance (375m swim | 10K bike | 2.5K run vs 750m swim | 20K bike | 5K run) or about half the distance. The second was that I was a part of the inaugural Divvy Wave of the SuperSprint, meaning that rather than needing to bring my own bike (or in the case of last year, Fuzzy's bike), I just showed up at the race site in the morning, grabbed a Divvy and set up my tri station stuff around it.

For your typical triathlete I would say that this is a less than ideal set-up. You're not going to have the bike you want and definitely not the speed you want and if you're going for time, you're going to be disappointed. However, for someone dabbling in the triathlon - such as myself and a few other Divvy competitors I talked to at the starting line - this is an ideal update to the triathlon format. Since all Divvy wave members wore bright blue swimming caps we could spot each other easily and I talked to two triathletes at the starting line who said they had never considered doing a triathlon and did not own bikes - mission accomplished Divvy and Chicago Triathlon!

Look at this collection of high-speed, aerodynamic road bikes
The morning of the race, rather than having to wait in line to get into the transition area and have a volunteer check my bib number to my (temporary) tattoo number to my bike number I could just walk right in and my bike was already waiting for me. Or, to be more accurate, 100 bikes were waiting for me and I just had to choose the one I wanted. And since Divvy bikes are essentially all the same, this really just meant adjusting the height of the seat appropriately.

Initially a bunch of Divvy participants moved our bikes over to our wave rack and started preparing there... only to be informed a few minutes before the race that actually we should have left the Divvies (is this the correct plural? Divvys?) in the "Divvy area" near the bike in/out chute. This was actually a good thing, considering that it made the distance you had to walk your bike to get to the entrance/exit a lot shorter.

Ah ah ah Divvy bikers - that is NOT the place to put your bike!
This triathlon started out a lot better for me than the last one, not just because I knew more what to expect during the proceedings but because the swim was much shorter and in shallower water. This being the SuperSprint I think it's geared more towards beginners and so the swim was very near the shore, meaning that the water was never over my head. To a real swimmer this would be unimportant but to me it did a lot to put my mind at ease (as well as my arms - I admit I took a few swimming breaks).

After the swim was the bike - the true test of the Divvy. The course was a triple loop up and down Simonds Drive. And while watching competitors on "normal" bikes flying by you could get a little disheartening it was still a weird thrill to be riding a Divvy in the middle of a triathlon. It was made better afterwards when I saw this tweet:

Unlike a racing bike, a Divvy only has three speeds: slow, slower, slowest (or I guess low, lower, lowest). For the entirety of my race (and I would assume this is the case for other Divvy racers) I was in third gear (the highest gear there is). I was also pedaling as hard as I could. I started watching the fast Divvy bikers (the ones who were actually real triathletes just trying the Divvy wave for a good time - you could tell who they were because they had the aerodynamic helmets... and also because they were WAY ahead of the rest of us) and they were leaning forward as if they were on a speed bike, grabbing the little basket of the Divvy instead of the handlebars.

I tried this method but was entirely unsuccessful so I satisfied myself with leaning forward in an awkwardly hunched-over manner in order to reduce wind resistance and shave 5 seconds off my time... I don't know if it worked.

I do know that when I started the run (a 2.5K that the night before I had scoffed at) my legs were rubbery and running as hard as I could felt like trudging through mud. Still, I finished and felt a lot better than I did after my first triathlon.

If they offer a Divvy wave again next year I will definitely partake again. The inclusion of a Divvy bike is the perfect streamlined way for an untrained, non-bike-owning athlete to enjoy the complications of a triathlon. Even better - after the race, you just grab your gear bag from transition and leave: no need to make sure you get the right bike.

Also, you can then head to the nearest Divvy station, grab essentially the same bike you just rode and bike home.

SuperSprint SuperHighFive/Photo by Erica Reid


  1. Haha this is such a humorously well written post! I didn't know they were adding a Divvy wave - I'm trying to avoid having to make a decision about buying a bike just to attempt a triathlon "to see how it feels", but you're absolutely right that something like a Divvy wave gives us hesitant newbies a more cost-effective way to challenge ourselves! Thank you for sharing your experience!

  2. Nice! If I'm in town (and healthy) next year, I'll totally do this!


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