While I spent two and a half days in a hotel conference room, my husband, the “trailing spouse” this time, spent the days wandering Chicago’s streets, parks, and lakefront. So when I was ready for some fresh air and exercise, he’d already planned our afternoon. We were spending it on bicycles.
As he led the way to Millennium Park for rentals at Bike and Roll, I was excited but concerned about riding in city traffic. I usually prefer quiet rural roads when riding a bike–without t
he added challenge of cars whizzing close by. Quiet wasn’t a description of this bustling urban environment, but I’m game for new adventures, so I followed enthusiastically.
As it turned out, the ride he mapped out covered the route of a popular guided tour along the shore of Lake Michigan, a different and more personal way to view the city. The paved bike path teemed with bodies on this idyllic Sunday afternoon, as we rode south toward Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, and Field Museum. After a brief stop to soak up the ambience and watch people glide by on Segways, we turned north and rode beside scenic Chicago Harbor and Yacht Club (couldn’t resist taking pictures of boats in the water and strolling sweethearts), past crowded Navy Pier, and on to lovely Lincoln Park.
Although we kept up a good pace, we were often passed by brave souls racing—weaving around the rest of us cyclists like we were stationary statues. Still, we covered a large portion of the waterfront on our self-guided tour, even with frequent stops to enjoy the scenery. During our urban safari, we soaked up sun beside the beach, wandered through colorful blooming gardens, and admired striking architecture that is a hallmark of Chicago.
Self-guided rides let you choose when and where to go, while guided tours guarantee you won’t get lost and provide informative commentary. Either way, cycling isn’t as tiring as walking, and it allows you to cover more territory quickly. On weekend afternoons, navigating through traffic can be tricky (if you choose to cross busy streets), but along the waterfront there’s plenty of pathway space to accommodate riders. Night time tours are also available.
Bike and Roll is located at Millennium Park (year round), Navy Pier, North Avenue Beach, and other locations (seasonal). Tours include bike rental, helmet, bottle of water, and a snack. Three-hour Lakefront tour covering 8 miles is $35 per adult. Bike at Night tour is 5 miles for $35. Rent bikes by the hour or day (4 hours for a cruiser is $25 or all day for $30; tandem bike rents for $49 for 4 hours).
Photos by Beverly Burmeier