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Biking Around Chicago: Lincoln Square/Ravenswood

James Barclay By
Jim Barclay
   | Lifestyle

Lincoln Square

I often have clients who are interested in a certain neighborhood but find they need to know more about it before making a purchase there. I tell them that while there are great online tools to learn more about the area (business reviews, crime maps, etc.) the best thing they can do is get out there and experience the area first hand—go to those businesses, eat at those restaurants and get to know the various streets and avenues.

There’s simply no better way to do that than on a bicycle. It’s convenient—no looking for parking—and you can cover a lot more ground than just walking. But it also allows you to get a real sense of the neighborhood that you just can’t get from inside a car with the windows rolled up and the radio playing.

With that in mind, this is the first in a regular series of neighborhood profiles experienced by bicycle.

Lincoln Square has managed to maintain much of its German heritage and old-world charm despite seeing tremendous growth in the last 15 years. At times it’s like biking through a small German city.

Getting around is fairly easy with dedicated bike lanes on both Damen and Lawrence avenues. Other good routes that have shared bike lanes are Wilson Avenue and Lincoln Avenue. I personally don’t like riding on Western.

I’ve done it but with the intent to get off on to a side street as quickly as possible. Also, be careful biking in the Square—with diagonally parked cars, vehicle traffic and plenty of pedestrians, it’s ripe for trouble. Remember, when in doubt just get off and walk your bike on the sidewalks.

And while you’re off your bike, check out the great shopping along that stretch. Otherwise there are a number of great coffee shops and cafes around to pick up a mid-ride espresso (remember, it’s a European neighborhood). Try the Grind on Lincoln or the Perfect Cup a few blocks away on Damen.

Lincoln Square has received several Divvy bike share locations at Saltzer Library, Eastwood and Wilson, and Leland and Western. For more info about Divvy or to see a complete site map, visit their website.

If nature is more your thing, it’s worth rolling to the northeast side of the neighborhood and check out Winnemac Park. Recent renovations have given this gem of the Chicago Park District 200 trees, a scenic prairie garden and a walking nature trail to lose yourself in (just don’t forget to lock your bike up first!).

Lincoln Square boasts two great bike shops: On the Route at 2338 W. Lawrence Avenue and Turin at 4710 N. Damen Avenue. I’ve frequented both of the shops many times and find the staff to be friendly and helpful. Whether you need a spare tube, a tune up, or are looking to upgrade to a hot new race bike, you can’t go wrong with either of these shops.

After spending the day riding around the area, I’m ready for some recovery food. The Bad Apple at 4300 N. Lincoln Avenue features an enormous selection of burgers and drinks. I recommend Elvis’s Last Supper which features both bacon and peanut butter since you need a little protein after all that riding.

While the Bad Apple has an outstanding beer list, I must put in a good word for the Half Acre Tap room at 4257 N. Lincoln Avenue. In their own words, “It’s not a bar, it’s not a restaurant, it’s an opportunity for us to host and pour you the beers flowing through our brewery.” Yes, please. What’s more, Half-Acre gives back to the cycling community by sponsoring their very own racing team.