May is National Bike Month, so start planning your summer rides

May is the perfect to time to start planning your summer outings for fun and fundraisers

Mild winters and warm springs tend to lure me back into the saddle early. If your bike still hangs in storage, inspiration beckons, as May is National Bike Month.

No matter your skill level, the riding season promises plenty of exciting cycling activities, whether you hammer the weekend pedals, calmly cruise your community or simply spectate at bike races and specialty events.

Even the philanthropic can cycle to support their favorite charities

Suburban club rides

Major bike rides, primarily local club fundraisers, roll out May through September, with most offering discounted early-bird registration fees. Look to the 2023 Ride Illinois Ride Guide for a ride schedule. But it pays to plan ahead.

GIBT riders did. The June 11-16 Grand Illinois Bike Tour is sold out. Organized annually by Ride Illinois, the statewide, nonprofit bike advocacy organization, this year's tour rolls through northwest Illinois, including the Mississippi River and Quad Cities.

Besides the guide, don't overlook local bike clubs and bike shops - over 200 Illinois shops: Throughout the season, informal outings frequently drop kickstands at bakeries, coffee shops and other (ahem) beverage establishments.

Cruising history

Community rides dot the calendar starting in May, primarily free and sponsored by municipal agencies. Many highlight features of the municipality - parks, bike paths, historical sites. Others are just regularly scheduled rides.

Elgin Community Bikes sponsors free full-moon rides year-round at 9 p.m., based on the lunar schedule. The next one is June 3.

Broadview Mayor Katrina Thompson, who recently earned Active Transportation Alliance's Public Leadership Award, leads bike rides every Saturday, May-September.

Arlington Heights Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission launches its Community Bike Ride May 20 with four- and 14-mile options.

Highland Park's Historic Preservation Commission Bike Tour runs two consecutive weekends, May 28 and June 3, offering an architecture/historic home tour. Check for information at

Wheaton Bicyclist & Pedestrian Commission time-travels with a docent-led bike tour in September. Past year tours covered historical fires and Underground Railroad sites. Multiple Evanston agencies celebrate a major thoroughfare closure annually with Bike the Ridge in September.

Don't forget the Fifth Third Bike the Drive Sept. 3 along Chicago's lakefront.

Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain welcomes cyclists supporting Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley at its "Bike for the Kids" event in 2022. The ride rolls Aug. 27 this year from Elgin's Festival Park. Courtesy of Ralph Banasiak

Cycle for charity

National and regional organizations promote rides as major fundraisers, attracting individuals and rider teams to support their charitable causes.

Project Mobility hosts its "Everybody Rides" celebration June 11 with a beer garden, food and live music, plus adaptive bike giveaway at James Breen Park in St. Charles.

Trail rides range from 10-62 miles. Founded by Hal Honeyman, owner of The Bike Rack in St. Charles, Project Mobility is a nonprofit supporting hundreds of adaptive biking activities, workshops and other services.

CowaLUNGa Charity Bike Tour is a three-day biking event organized by the Respiratory Health Association. From July 29-31, bikers can choose to ride 18 or 65 miles (one day), 130 miles (two), or 190 miles (three) from Gurnee. Proceeds benefit RHA's mission to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research, and policy change.

The Aug. 12 Chicagoland Tour de Cure is one of more than a dozen U.S. fundraising rides supporting the American Diabetes Association. Rides of 5-63 miles leave from Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles.

As part of its Bike for the Kids event, Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley has donated over 60 adaptive bikes to families with special-needs children. The eighth annual event rolls Aug. 27 at Elgin's Festival Park with 12-mile, 25-mile and 50-mile Fox River routes.

Safety rodeos

Speaking of kids, Highland Park/Highwood Kiwanis Kids sponsors a May 13 Bicycle Safety Clinic at Highland Park High School from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. as part of the city's celebration of National Bike Month. Register ahead at

On May 20, Glen Ellyn invites helmeted youth ages 5-14 to giddy-up(!) at the 10 a.m. Bike Rodeo at the Duane-Lorraine Commuter Lot. Through fun drills and activities, this free event demonstrates bike safety skills at various stations. This event is presented by Glen Ellyn's park district, police department, and public library.

Female Intelligentsia Cup racers sprint across the Northbrook finish line in July 2022. This year criterium racers rocket through nine suburbs and Chicago July 21-30. Courtesy of Ralph Banasiak

Racing round the suburbs

Back for its 11th year, the Intelligentsia Cup is a 10-day swarm of criterium races buzzing through nine suburbs and Chicago July 21-30. Racing on courses one mile or shorter, technically skilled cyclists corner at high speed, jockeying to win "prime laps" for cash and other prizes.

More than 5,400 entries, male and female, are registered for these "crits," sponsored by Chicago's Intelligentsia Coffee.

Adding to racing excitement, the DuPage Sports Commission, an arm of the DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau, celebrates its own Triple Crown championship for the DuPage County criteriums in Glen Ellyn, Winfield and Lombard. Lombard's event will conclude with a limited edition New Belgium-sponsored bicycle raffle, with proceeds benefiting Special Olympics Illinois.

As if road racing isn't enough, the Chicago Area Mountain Bikers are launching their first race series at three locations, including the newest single track at the Paul Douglas Preserve in Hoffman Estates.

A July 16 event at Raceway Woods near Carpentersville launches the series with an Aug. 6 race at the Palos Forest Preserve. The series culminates Aug. 20 at Paul Douglas.

Thursday summer nights find track racers on fixed gear bikes without brakes orbiting Northbrook's Ed Rudolph Velodrome at dizzying speeds. The Northbrook Cycle Committee hosts weekly races on the short, banked outdoor track, currently undergoing repairs. Check Northbrook Park District Field, Facility and Event Status for updates.

• Join the ride. Contact Ralph Banasiak at

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