Undoubtedly one of Chicagoans' greatest sources of pride, the Lakefront lives up to its hype. Its 18 miles of path from Ardmore to 71st Street welcomes bikers of all shapes, sizes and skills (the ability to dodge runners, skaters and strollers is a wise prerequisite). Besides the appeasing natural landscape of Lake Michigan, there's a plenitude of people-watching to be had. During warmer seasons, the area from North Avenue through Navy Pier can bottle up with tanning ladies and volleyball-playing gents; teams of jugglers tend to huddle just south.
Head further south toward Hyde Park, however, and find the Lakefront less congested; a ride to 63rd makes for a nice day ride. If you're feeling particularly ambitious, an employee at Johnny Sprockets recommends taking a Sunday trip (when it's not too crowded) along the path down to the Indiana border and back. Dotted with playgrounds and grassy mounds, the entire ride is accommodating to water breaks, picnicking and frolicking in the fields.
The park just north of Navy Pier is a remarkably scenic destination. Curve east around the bend at Ohio Street Beach toward the tall black fence and enter Olive Park, Chicago's very own Versailles: A tree-lined paved path flanked on either side by manicured lawn and lapping lake waves leads to a nearby lookout point. There's ample opportunity to cut away from the coast to refuel at a number of gourmet groceries like Fox and Obel (401 E. Illinois).
Excluding a few minor barriers where construction is being done on the path, the smooth terrain makes for an easy ride. The biggest challenge by far is the wind. Do not take this advisory lightly. Time your ride out of sync with the wind flow and you the leisurely rider could find himself in a headache-inducing situation.
Centerstage Reviewer: Jessica Herman