International Biking Adventure in Chicago
May 13, 2007 4:33 AM   Subscribe

I want to do the 2007 Chicago Bike the Drive on this coming memorial day weekend as I'll be in Chicago and it looks fun. After grappling with miles vs kms conversion and the thought of renting a bike I think the short route looks good - but I havent been able to work out if its a hilly road? I'm hoping for dead flat - so, is the road very flat or should I rethink my ability to complete it?

Also, anything else I should know? Maybe from someone who's done the official ride previously or knows the route well?

(at this stage, sticking to the right side of the road will be a challenge as I'm travelling from Aus)

posted by kaydo to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I drive Lake Shore Drive almost every day and it is relatively flat. Maybe a very, very low grade incline here and there, but nothing that could be categorized as a hill.

Biking the drive IS amazing. The city on one side and parks/Lake Michigan on the other. Sailboats will be out if the weather is agreeable and lots of people.

I love Chicago during the summer.
posted by jeanmari at 5:18 AM on May 13, 2007

I've done it a few times, and from what I remember, any hills are mostly gradual and it is mostly flat. If you get a chance, drive down the LSD first. Then you can be amazed when you're actually biking down the drive. It is tons of fun and very easy. I've seen people do this towing kids or dogs in their trailer.

Bring your camera! There is a great view around the Grand Ave exit (which is almost the summit of what I think is the tallest hill).

Most of Chicago is very flat, by the way.
posted by hooray at 6:17 AM on May 13, 2007

My recommendation for the Bike The Drive is to get there as early as possible if you don't plan to ride very quickly... Last year, it was my vague idea that there is something of a mass start around 8:00am, but you could begin before or after that with no problem (I don't even know if there was a mass start, really). A little later in the morning, as we were nearing the end of the 30-mile route, they started diverting people onto the trails for the last leg, so they could open Lake Shore Drive again.

Regarding the hills, the biggest rise is effectively an overpass. Staying on the right side shouldn't be too much of a problem, since the entire road will be closed (but the speedy folks on fancy bikes like to go on the left, so watch out)
posted by zachxman at 6:56 AM on May 13, 2007

I did it last year and it was great. It's almost totally flat, save one little hill that is downhill on the way out and uphill on the way back - right near the start/end line. Many many people just walked their bikes up that hill; there's no shame in it at all.

The path is 15 miles or 30 miles, you can pick. I did 15 and am glad I did. It takes over an hour of decent pedaling to do 15 miles, and my legs and saddle were a bit sore afterward, but it felt good overall. After 30, I think I would not have been feeling as good.

The start last year was at 6:00 (maybe even 5:00) in the morning, because they reopen the drive at 10:00 or shortly thereafter. So if you want a leisurely ride, go really early. I was there for the first wave of riders, and it was really really cool. We all got there before the sun was up, and got to watch the sun rise over Lake Michigan as we rode. It was great. Also, because it's so freaking early, there are less riders at that time so you can really take your time and have space between you and the other riders.
posted by AgentRocket at 7:52 AM on May 13, 2007

Yup... its Chicago. Its flat. There are a few sections of gradual incline (as the LSD rises into an over pass in downtown.) I have seen some people stop and push their bikes at this point... but that seems a little extreme to me.

I've done BTD several times, its a blast. I think it starts at 5am and I highly recommend you start this early if you want to take your time and stop at various points for photo ops of our very beautiful city.

Incidentally the places where there is some "rise" to the LSD make for good places to stop and take pics.

Keep in mind that you can stop at anytime, step over the guardrail and for the most part be on a city surface street... so if you get into trouble its likely you can just cab it back to your hotel (unless you're on the southern half of the LSD which is pretty wide open.)

Do it. You won't regret it.
posted by wfrgms at 9:52 AM on May 13, 2007

It's very flat. I'll be out of town and will, sadly, miss it.

Do you want to borrow a bike?
posted by rbs at 11:05 AM on May 13, 2007

Do the whole thing. It's a blast, even if you ride at a leisurely pace you'll still make it with plenty of time to spare. And like everyone else has said, it's not very hilly. This is Chicago, after all. The biggest hill is the ramp up to the bridge over the Chicago river, and that's not really too bad at all. There's also a slight rise near the Museum Campus/Soldier Field, but it's so slight it's barely noticeable. I wish I still lived in Chicago, as I'd definitely be out there.
posted by 40 Watt at 11:47 AM on May 13, 2007

The Wisconsin glaciation made sure that the only inclines you'll encounter are man made. This sounds super-cool and I would definitely do it. It's truly a beautiful stretch, I used to live there and still visit. 15 miles is a cakewalk and it will fly by. 30 wouldn't be that hard, unless you have to ride back.
posted by Toekneesan at 1:00 PM on May 13, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks folks, this is 110% why ask metafilter rules. I really appreciate all the awesome input. I'm definately doing the course now, I can handle a few man-made climbs!
posted by kaydo at 4:55 PM on May 13, 2007

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