City Guide: Chicago
Intro by Anna Maria, Guide by Lindsay Knight, Photography courtesy of Lindsay Knight
There are few ladies as synonymous with Chicago cycling as Lindsay Knight. From her work with Blackstone Bicycle works, to seeing her pop up as an ambassador in Rapha's instagram feed, Lindsay knows Chicago cycling. We were so excited when she agreed to do a city guide for us. No surprise there are cameos in her photos from both Daphne Karagianis (of Cuttin Crew) and Maria Larkin. We loved her insider's view of the city, and are think we might have to try Lucky Charms post ride as well.
How long have you have you been riding in Chicago?
I’ve been commuting in the city since I moved here for college in 2002, and I’ve been racing and training in the city since 2010.
What do you wish people knew about cycling in Chicago? What makes it different than other places you’ve cycled in.
Because it’s so flat and there are tons of bike lanes—as well as the Lake Front Path, which is like a superhighway for bikes—I think the city is super accessible to someone just starting out. You don’t have to be in great shape, and you don’t have to be super aggressive or good at dodging cars (those come later…) to start riding in the city.
What’s the best part about riding in Chicago? What’s the worst part?
The best part is probably that the lake is right there—the views in the early morning are really gorgeous, and Lake Michigan is so huge you sort of forget that it’s not the ocean. Riding 20 feet away from the water for 30+ miles is a fairly novel experience for the Midwest.
The people in the Chicago cycling scene are also pretty rad—I can’t remember the last time I was out on the path or doing a longer ride when I didn’t run into at least two people I knew. To have that consistent community element is lovely.
The worst part? It’s flat and windy and the winters are obscenely long. Gah. There are certain days when I would just kill for a mountain within riding distance. I’d even be ok with the weather if there were hills! (Well, maybe not…but still.)
What is your favorite long distance route?
There’s one that goes south into Hobart/Chesterton, Indiana that has two large greenway sections – it’s great in the heat of the summer if you want to put in an 80-mile day. My other favorite north into Lake Forest, involves a mid-ride pie stop, and then winds through the Skokie Lagoons and North Branch Trail on the way back into the city. Highly recommended mid-week, as the trail can get a bit busy on the weekends.
What is your favorite route for short distance?
Honestly—anywhere late at night in the city. Experiencing Chicago—especially downtown—without traffic and when everything is still and quiet and lit up with streetlights is awesome. It’s a totally different perspective on the city, and an oddly calming one.
What’s the best part of commuting by bike in Chicago?
It’s SO much faster than public transit here! That fact was one of the main things that got me into riding in the first place. I love that I don’t have to wait for a bus or a train, and I’m not beholden to the taxi gods.
What’s your favorite bike shop?
That’s a tough one—the city is filled with so many great shops! If I had to pick just one, I’d say Comrade Cycles . Bailey, Brandon, and Steve are a stellar bunch of dudes, and they really know their stuff mechanically. Also, there’s not a mansplainer in the lot and they’re involved with some pretty epic gravel races throughout the year.
Favorite pre/post ride coffee shop or meet up spot?
Heritage Bicycles in Lakeview is my go-to because of the great people, lovely setting, and the fact that I can eat Lucky Charms there post-ride. If you have not tried that as a ride-appropriate snack, I highly recommend remedying that. They also serve fist-sized rice krispie bars dipped in chocolate. Nuff’ said.
Also, Intelligentsia in Logan Square is a great pre-ride meet up spot if you’re going north of the city.
What’s the most practical insider tip you’d give anyone visiting and cycling in your city?
Just get on your bike and ride! Chicago is set up on a grid system, so it’s nearly impossible to get lost—be adventurous and explore how the neighborhoods are connected to one another.
On that note, Chicago is really neighborhood-centric as a city—as in every single one of them has their own bike shops, their own teams, their own coffee stops/ride meet-ups. From the outside, I think that makes it seem like it would be sort of fractured or lack cohesion as a larger community (especially as it’s a somewhat small women’s scene to begin with), but it doesn’t! If you’re visiting the city, be sure to check out as many of the neighborhoods as possible—someone from each of those mini-scenes will introduce you to or direct you on to another if you ask.