With gas prices grazing $5 per gallon, now's the time to break those bikes out of the garage and take to the streets. But if you're tired of riding the same old loops around the neighborhood, pick up a copy of Where to Bike Chicago for detailed information on just about every bike trail in the city and suburbs.
Written by Chicago dad Greg Borzo, the book includes plenty of rides that are shorter and traffic free, just right for families with young kids. Borzo, who rode each trail himself while researching the book, recommends families start with quieter, less-popular routes.
"There's a great trail on Northerly Island (near the museum campus) which is hardly used," Borzo says. "It's a big circle out there, a loop that's 1.3 miles, and there's very little use of that trail by cyclists or joggers."
If your heart is set on a lakefront ride, Borzo recommends sticking south of the museum campus, which tends to be quieter than the always jam-packed north end of the lakefront bike path. Try a 2-mile bike from the museum campus to the 31st Street Beach, which has swimming, a modern beach house and the backdrop of beautiful Burnham Park.
For a really different kind of bike ride, head to the bicycle track at the Ed Rudolph Velodrome in Northbrook.
"It's a treasure," Borzo says. "It's a race track that's open to anyone on any kind of bike. Kids will tell their friends about it. … It's free and during the day, anyone can go."
Also look for trails with good sight lines, so families can ride at different speeds.
"At Meacham Grove in Bloomingdale, you can have the slower ones go around the lake while the faster ones go on the side trails, and you can still keep an eye on everyone," Borzo says.
Lake Arlington Park in Arlington Heights is another great spot for families with its lake, beach, boathouse, concessions and picnic tables.
"This setting is just gorgeous. You'll think you're on Pebble Beach in California," Borzo says. "Plus one person can go around and around the lake, and the other one can putz around with training wheels. Everyone can ride together but at different paces."