Trade in your car and hop on your bike: Chicago is a living, breathing bike-friendly city home to one of America's most scenic roads, for driving and for biking, not to mention a city that was recently named America's fifth most bike-friendly city by Bicycling Magazine. And Chicago's spring biking season is in full bloom. Chicago's approachable and comprehensive streets lend themselves well to two-wheeled transportation, and Chicago's biking culture is a close-knit community that doesn't end with chain links and tire pumps: neighborhood-minded bike shops are taking off in the Chicago cycling world to include cafés, community centers and citywide events.
Heritage General Store: Custom Bicycles (2959 N. Lincoln Ave)
In Chicago, Heritage General Store is the original bike café, the grandfather of all things bike community. Heritage wears many hats, its two largest being locally-handcrafted builders of American-made custom bicycles, and a team of award-winning coffee brewers called Stumptown. All custom bikes made at Heritage are designed, and welded out of American steel, the first completely Chicago-made bike since Schwinn in the 70s. Heritage's seamless integration of biking and coffee culture makes for one undeniably unique and compelling hangout, which was just the vibe that owners Mike and Melissa Salvatore were aiming for. Considered to be an artistic space, a business, and a place to call home , Heritage has kick started the bicycle café movement in Chicago to localize bike manufacturing, and to create community-minded coffee shops.
Ancien Cycle (688 N. Milwaukee Ave)
Ancien Cycle is a hospitality cycling lounge that welcomes all cyclers, or as Ancien calls them, "convicts of the road." Its name derived from the title awarded to someone who finishes Paris-Brest-Paris, the oldest organized cycling event in the world, Ancien is a cycler's paradise: its home to sales, service, hospitality and culture. This 2,980 square-foot gallery-style shop located on Milwaukee Avenue is definitely not your ordinary bike store. Ancien is located in the heart of one of the busiest commuter corridors in Chicago, and is not just servicing bike repair.
Shop owners Scott McIntosh and Mike Fierstein are opening Roll Out café just next door, which will feature a full bar, restaurant and patio beer garden headed by renowned Chicago chef Kristine Subido. Once open, Roll Out will be the hotspot for cyclists, foodies and music fans alike that McIntosh and Fierstein originally sought to foster when they first opened Ancien Cycles.
BFF Bikes (2113 W Armitage Ave)
The first bike shop specifically geared toward women in the Midwest, BFF Bikes in Wicker Park/Bucktown is a pioneer bike shop in Chicago with no sign of slowing down since its opening earlier this year. Not only is it a full service bike shop, BFF Bikes has programing every week to foster a community among BFF Bikes women by organizing groups to bike to new local cafés every weekend, teach classes on basic bike maintenance, and offering bicycle camping and travel workshops. Founders Annie Decker Byrne and Vanessa Buccella have big plans to grow BFF Bikes, and the city is taking notice.
Bike The Drive (Lake Shore Drive, Sunday May 25)
To show its love for cycling, Chicago's annual Bike The Drive is coming up. Whether you are a bike enthusiast or a casual cycler, hop on your bike and meet us on Lake Shore Drive Sunday May 25 for Chicago's annual Bike The Drive, a five hour window of opportunity to ride on Lake Shore Drive car-free. Bikers have full reign of Lake Shore Drive from 5:30-10:15AM, when the entire drive will be closed to cars. Registration fees start at $46 for adults and $15 for kids under 17, and all proceeds from Bike the Drive support the Active Transportation Alliance, with 86 cents out of every dollar raised going directly back into advocacy efforts that make Chicago a better place for biking and walking.
Visiting? Bike Like A Local
If you're in from out of town, get to know Chicago on a local level: hop on a bike and go exploring. Both Bike and Roll and Bobby's Bike Hike offer great ways to participate in the biking scene while you're in Chicago with bike rentals and bike tours that will have you winding up the lakefront and through the neighborhoods.
Visitors and recipients alike are loving Chicago's new Divvy bike sharing system, with 3,000 bikes and 300 stations across the city. Divvy is a program of the Chicago Department of Transportation, whose mission is to keep the city's commuters and visitors safe and environmentally sustainable. For a rundown of biking events, maps, and trails, be sure to visit www.bikechicago.us before visiting.