Now that we’re entering the last bit of a sun-kissed Chicago summer, it may be time to squeeze in some fun in the sun before the 7 month soul-crushing winter leaves us Chicagoans vitamin D deprived. Biking is one of the most enjoyable and doable outdoor activities in the Windy City, especially with the introduction of Divvy back in 2013. If you don’t own a bike, you can rent a Divvy, which has over 5,800 bikes spread out among 580 stations in the greater Chicago area (Divvy Rates: $3 for 30 minute ride or $15 day pass). Once you have your bike, helmet and bottle of water, you are ready to hit the road and explore the city, while getting a nice dose of exercise. Whether you haven’t ridden a bike in 10 years or you are the second coming of Lance Armstrong, Chicago has a route for you.
Route 1: Short Ride = Navy Pier to Lincoln Park Zoo (2.8 miles / 14 minutes)
Starting at the iconic Navy Pier and working your way up the Lakefront Trail until you reach the Lincoln Park Zoo, this is a quick scenic ride you can do with family and friends. With 40 divvy bikes located just between Navy Pier and Ohio St. Beach, you can easily hop on a bike and give your legs a comfortable workout as you take in the views of Lake Michigan and downtown Chicago. Depending on the time of day, you may have to navigate through some other bikers/runners, but this is much better than competing with Chicago traffic on Michigan Avenue. Once you have traveled 3 miles north, you can dock your Divvy bike at one of three stations around the Zoo. If you bring your own bike, you can lock it up just outside the East Gate before saying hello to the lions and penguins for free! The city view from the Zoo is also a pretty nice bonus.
Route 2: Intermediate Ride = Lincoln Park Zoo to Northwestern University (10.2 miles / 54 minutes or 20.4 miles / 1 hour 48 minutes for round trip)
Continuing with the Lakefront Trail theme, riding up to Northwestern is another picturesque route with a 20 mile round trip. Thankfully if you don’t own a bike, Divvy has stations all the way up in Evanston; you may need to purchase the day pass unless you can steadily cruise over 20mph (almost impossible on a Divvy). Once you have your bike situation squared away, you will take the Lakefront Trail all the way until Edgewater, where the trail ends. Once you exit the Lakefront Trail, you will come across N. Sheridan Road and continue 4 miles on Sheridan until you merge onto Forest Avenue for the final mile. After this final stretch, you will be in Wildcat territory with the opportunity to explore the campus and get another glimpse of Lake Michigan in front of their brand new “Walter Athletic Center” football facility.
Route 3: Advanced Ride = Lincoln Park Zoo to Milwaukee (90 miles / 6 ½ hours)
For anyone that wants to step it up a notch and push their physical and mental limits, this ride is for you. Taking a little under 6 ½ hours, this ride takes you on quite an adventure through the northern Illinois suburbs and Wisconsin towns such as Kenosha, Racine, and of course, Milwaukee. (Sadly, you can’t take a Divvy to Milwaukee…well, at least I haven’t tried to. If you do, let me know how it goes). Before beginning this trip, make sure to prepare adequate food/drink supply, a charger, first aid kit, extra socks and other necessary bike equipment that can be found here.
Once preparation is finalized, get ready to test your physical and mental fortitude as you work your way up Lake Michigan (a lot of Lake Michigan!). The majority of the ride is spent on the Robert McGlory bike path in Illinois and Kenosha County Bike Trail in Wisconsin, which provides nice shelter from busy highways and other road obstacles. For detailed directions, you can use the route I took (posted below). Once you get to Milwaukee, chances are you will be extremely sore. There are a few ways to remedy this pain; some of my favorites being massage, sensory deprivation tank, or beer. If you don’t feel like making the long trek back to Chicago, you can do what I did and take the 90 minute Amtrak back to Chicago while your legs recover.
All three options offer unique biking experiences; be sure to take advantage of a ride before this gorgeous Chicago summer is nixed by the next polar vortex. Feel free to reach out to [email protected] for any questions about the three routes or anything biking related.
~John Burdick, LulaFit Yoga Instructor & Biker Extraordinaire
My Chicago to Milwaukee Bike Ride
- a.) North up Lakeshore Trail all the way until Edgewater, take left on W. Ardmore Ave
- b.) Right on Kenmore, left on Granville, right on Clark
- c.) Clark turns into Chicago which turns into Sheridan around Evanston
- d.) Left on Willow then quick right on Green Bay Trail for long while
- e.) At Braeside, Green Bay turns into Robert McClory Bike Trail/ St. Johns Ave
- f.) Cross state line and bike path becomes Kenosha County Bike Trail, which becomes 30th Ave, which becomes Wood Rd
- g.) Right on 35th St. and quick left on County Bike Trail
- h.) County Bike Trail turns into West Boulevard, then quick right on Wright Avenue and quick left on Quincy Avenue
- i.) Continue on Root River Pathway for a long while, which becomes Mount Pleasant St.
- j.) Continue on MRK Trail, then left on 6 Mile Rd and right on Foley Rd
- k.) Left on County Line Rd, right on Oak Leaf Trail, left on Groveland, right on S. Howell Rd
- l.) Left on College, right on S. 6th St
- M.) You’re in Milwaukee!