Despite our notoriously fickle climate (or as my Florida-based mom might put it, “you’re not biking in that weather, are you?!”), Chicago has become a bicycling destination. In fact, it was ranked as the number one bike-friendly city in America by Bicycling magazine in 2016.
Infrastructure improvements, level terrain (that flatness had to be good for something!) and the second-largest bike share program in the country boosted our city ahead of what many consider biking “meccas” such as Portland, New York, Austin and Seattle.
Chicagoland is blessed with an extraordinary amount of places to visit on two wheels, but the best spot to start on your biking journey is right at your local bike shop.
Ezra Hozinsky of Green Machine Cycles in North Center—a shop that sells bikes and gear for all ages—encourages everyone to ask questions when going in to shop for a bike.
“The best shops want the questions, and lots of them,” he explains. “No matter what you’re looking for in your biking experience, your local bike shop can help you find it without feeling intimidated.”
And whether you’re into bouncing from neighborhood to neighborhood or looking for more of a day-long ride, here are four ideas to get you started with your whole family.
Is it cliché to mention? Yes. Is there a reason it’s cliché? Yes. The Lakefront Trail continues to improve for cyclists and can be a great place for beginners and families looking for great city views and continued access to the city and lake at large. For thinner crowds, start around the Museum Campus and head south.
While The 606 is becoming as cliché to mention as the Lakefront Path, this 2.7-mile elevated rail conversion path offers unprecedented access to the western neighborhood parks and amenities with access points and ramps available about every quarter mile. Available for all riders of all abilities, a day on The 606 is sure to provide a great urban riding adventure.
Located mostly in DuPage County, the Illinois Prairie Path is the country’s first rail-to-trail conversion and spans 61 miles over three branches, originating in Wheaton. These trails connect suburbs that aren’t typically accessible to each other by bike and can make for a great family outing.
The Des Plaines River Trail is a nature oasis in Lake and Cook counties. The trail runs along the Des Plaines River and offers stunning scenery. Because it is in the river’s flood zone, be sure to check conditions after heavy rains as conditions might become dicey. Otherwise, this trail offers rides for the most amateur of cyclists to more advanced off-road adventurers.