Chicago, "the Windy City" in the Midwest of the United States, boasts thrilling skyscrapers and unmatched food, music and culture in the world, but what will never cease to amaze is the pleasure of getting to know it through its 300 kilometers of road bike paths.
A heritage doubled by off-road routes and supported by more than 13,000 racks and covered bike parking areas in the main train stations. It is no coincidence that there are numerous rental companies, especially on the route that runs along the huge Lake Michigan. For only a few dollars you can buy a day pass for Divvy, the public bike sharing system. An updated edition of the Bike Map is available for free each year, and Chicago's administrators want to make the most of the nation's reputation as the best big city for biking. An objective achieved thanks to the continuous investments in infrastructures and the promotion of cultural initiatives to support those who love getting around with this ancient two-wheeled vehicle. The street teaches a great deal about Chicago's character and the many miles of bike paths have the intense smell of smog and asphalt that often contrasts the scent of gardens, parks and beaches. A strong, yet vital, energetic and essential contrast to understand the history and spirit of the largest city of the American hinterland.
THE LONG LAKE, Lakefront Trail
The best bike path for starting is the one that goes along Lake Michigan: from 71st Street in the south up to Hollywood Avenue in the north. Almost 30 kilometers from the eastern tip of the city give you the skyline of the skyscrapers on your right and the suggestive view of the beaches and deep waters of the lake on the left. In between are the four main parks - Lincoln, Grant, Burnham and Jackson Park - and a series of extraordinary dining options: from the pier of the Caribbean beach of Montrose with a full offer of drinks and classic American burgers filled with local products such as fresh fish from the great lakes, to Parrot Cage in the South Shore Cultural Center, an architectural treasure positioned between the sand of the Lake Michigan beach and the lush greenery of the South Shore Golf Course. Traveling by bicycle on this route means photographing the city, and since speeding along as if you were in the Tour de France is not recommended, you must strategically stop to enjoy the view of the Chicago River, Millennium Park or visit the Art Institute, Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum, perhaps detouring towards Magnificent Mile to plan your shopping for the following days.
NORTH BRANCH TRAIL
The trail starts from the Chicago Botanical Gardens, one of the largest living museums and science conservation centers in the world consisting of 26 gardens and four natural areas located in a unique location around nine islands with ten kilometers of lake shoreline and part of the North Branch Trail. A 50-kilometer system of dirt and paved trails operated by the Cook County Forest Preserve District. An ideal route to get out of the metropolis, allowing your eyes to soak up the colors of the flowers at the beginning and end of the excursion, after having admired Skokie Lagoon, an incredibly extensive network of canals, natural pools and wooded islands that wind between Winnetka, Northfield and Glencoe. It was originally one of the largest and richest swamps in the region, which settlers drained for agriculture and today serves as a recreational hub for Cook County residents and visitors. Those not tempted to stop for a boat ride can get back on their bikes and venture into the woods and wilderness of Bunker Hill and Miami Woods. There are numerous golf courses along the way and the secret lies in getting bike bags that fit your playing irons. In short, it's quite easy to be tempted to betray your faithful two-wheeled vehicle here.
DES PLAINES RIVER TRAIL
The 97 kilometers of the Des Plaines River Trails are certainly a change of scenery after all that inevitable asphalt, heavy manholes and eight-lane boulevards full of traffic in the passageways along the comfortable bike paths in a city of industrial origins such as Chicago. The Chicago River runs through the city and is still one of its most indisputable attractions, but the longest waterway within the Chicago region is the Des Plaines River. By bike you can enjoy a comfortable, spacious dirt road that leads from River Grove in the nearby western suburbs all the way to the border with Wisconsin. To follow the river that flows alongside the immense forest reserve, the trail begins at North Avenue, just east of Route 171, in Jerome Huppert Woods. From there it heads north through Fullerton Woods, La Framboise Reserve, Schiller Woods South, and Catherine Chevalier Woods east of O'Hare Airport. If you've got the stamina, there's still a lot to see as you continue north on a well-marked trail to scenic Lake County. Those who want to discover America can only do so on two wheels.