South Chicago Wheelmen
THE SOUTH CHICAGO WHEELMEN is one of the oldest bicycle racing teams in Illinois. Based in the Chicago suburbs, the Wheelmen were organized in 1923 and is widely recognized. We have talented riders specializing a range of bike racing: road, criterium, mountain bike and track.
We have racers and Junior racers with both current success and great potential on our roster. SCW has a rider reimbursement program to encourage racing and placing well with a year-end partial reimbursement of member’s race registration fees. Club coaching for training and racing is available for members focused for the bike, as well as specific coaching for Junior racers. SCW member Steve Feehery is a USAC Coach and has prepared Juniors to place in the top 5 at Junior Nationals. We have had the pleasure supporting some of the top juniors in our region over the years with much success.
The South Chicago Wheelmen seek to promote bicycle racing in the greater Chicago area, to increase junior involvement in cycling, and to foster sportsmanship, self-confidence, and discipline. The South Chicago Wheelmen endeavor to help junior cyclists develop to the senior levels as well as support riders in the elite and masters categories. The South Chicago Wheelmen encourages all riders to recognize the hard work done by officials, volunteers, coaches and promoters and give back to the sport by volunteering at events and mentoring new cyclists. Ultimately, the South Chicago Wheelmen help riders at all levels maintain a healthy lifestyle and a lifelong enjoyment of competitive cycling.
South Chicago Wheelmen Team History
The team was organized in 1923 by a group of Europeans living on Chicago’s south side. One of the charter members, Ed Merkner, was a National Champion in both 1925 and 1926. Several of the club racers were professional participants in the six-day events that were so popular in the 1930′s. Mike Rodak rode several races as partner to the six-day world record holder “Torchy” Penden.
The WWII years and the late 1940′s found the South Chicago Wheelmen in a period of very low activity. During the 1950′s the club was in the hands of Mac Bottema, a board member of the Amateur Bicycle League of America, which later became the United States Cycling Federation (USCF), the official national sanctioning body. Mac was part of the effort that brought the Pan Am games to Chicago in 1959.
During the early 1950′s, the Kron family came to Chicago from Germany. Willy Kron was a national junior champion in Germany. The Krons were associated with the Express team, the largest team in Germany. The South Chicago Wheelmen was reorganized by Theo Kron and Mac Bottema in the late 1950′s. The reorganized club used 30 jerseys from the Express Team brought over from Germany in a trunk by Theo. At first the South Chicago Wheelmen lettering was added to the blue-gray Express jersey. Then the stripes, which became one of the nationally recognized bicycling logos, were incorporated. The next and final steps in the evolution of the famous jersey were to put the lettering and the stripes on a red jersey.
During the 1960′s, the South Chicago Wheelmen put on the first national cyclocross championship. Also during those years, a club member set the national record distance for riding 24 hours.
For many years, the Illinois racing calendar was mostly comprising races promoted by the South Chicago Wheelmen. During the 1970′s and into the 1980′s the club produced many state champions, both men and women. One of these, Mike Farrell, went on to become the coach/manager of the Schwinn professional team. Another member, Bob Reynolds, was part of the veteran’s team that established the cross country record. We were active in the past with the Lance Armstrong Junior Olympic Race series.
Each year, for many years, Theo Kron brought to the country top European racers to ride here for a season. He had them as guests in his home and would see that they got to the important races around the country. This influence also helped to establish the South Chicago Wheelmen as one of the important bicycle organizations in the U.S.