Cruising Chicago's Lakefront Trail

Posted Jul 12th 2013 11:00 AMUpdated Aug 8th 2013 11:24 AM


Chicago Lakefront Trail at dusk

Timing is everything when it comes to biking Chicago's Lakefront Trail, especially from the comfy seat of a beach cruiser. Sandwiched between the city's legendary skyline and the ocean-like views of Lake Michigan, the 18-mile trail traverses everything from city parks, harbors and a dozen or so beaches to long, uninterrupted stretches of pathway. It is the undisputed champion of Chicago's views. Not surprisingly, it draws both locals and visitors at all hours, sometimes in droves and especially in summer when the beaches are a main reason to come to the city. Knowing when to go can make all the difference in the world.

I was born and raised in the Chicago area and the Lakefront Path, as it's more commonly known, has always been my favorite thing about the city. I've been there alongside the early morning runners and cyclists who rise just after sunrise to log miles sans crowds. I've also caved to the summer beach scene and its shimmery water, despite the mass chaos of pedestrians and wheelers who often don't follow the same rules of the road (Heads up! Watch your back!). I've even been out in the winter when it's almost too cold to smile.

But now, in the sticky heat of the summer, I wanted a relaxed and breezy beach cruiser ride. I decided on early evening, heading out during those magical hours right before and after sunset when the city is both remarkably quiet and totally alive. A big rainstorm had blown through earlier in the day, which made for an unusually desolate but striking scene. I welcomed the open space, set off on my cruiser and jumped on the Path at Lincoln Park for the 6-mile roundtrip ride south to Navy Pier. Follow along my route in the slideshow below.

Where to Rent a Beach Cruiser in Chicago

Beach cruiser rentals are found across the city, and rates are pretty comparable ($30 - $35 for a full day), so you only need to decide where you want to begin your ride. There's Bobby's Bike Hike located on the North Side on a slip at the River East Docks (also offering guided tours). There's Bike and Roll at Navy Pier and the McDonald's Cycle Center at Millennium Park. If you plan to overnight in Chicago, stay at one of a handful of cool hotels near the Lakefront that also offer complimentary cruisers to guests. I like Hotel Lincoln as it's just across the street from the namesake park where my ride began.

And for shorter rides in Chicago, the city just launched Divvy, a new bike share program.

Filed Under: Beach