The Chainlink

Chicago Garden Jam

Article and Photos by Marcelo Marcos

In response to the never ending tragic news during this heartbreaking weekend for cyclists in Chicago, I decided to ride my bike. While I'm positive that I don't have the answer for increased bike safety in the city, I was absolutely sure leaving my bike at home wouldn't help. To honor my fellow riders, I decided to make sure I put some extra miles in. After all, there's still a few reasons why Bicycling magazine named Chicago the most bike friendly city in the U.S. and I got a taste of them this past weekend.

After cycling back home this past Friday, I proceeded to watch some of the Enduro World Series highlights on Red Bull TV. 

Got so pumped from watching the pros "shred the gnar" that I called up my buddy Andras to schedule an epic ride at Palos (a CAMBr mantained legit trail) on Saturday. 

Even after riding 20+ miles in the Palos trails, I had some leftover anxiousness early Sunday. Enter The Garden.

Ever since I moved to Chicago, exactly one year ago, I heard about these pretty cool dirt jumps right smack in the middle of the city. I had never taken the time or really given much attention to them since I'm not a dirt jumper myself, but my fascination for all things bike related kept me curious. Needless to say, when I heard from my buddy Tim Tempe that The Garden Jam was going on, I decided to roll out of my apartment and check in. 

Suffice to say, I was met with cool vibes right from the get go. Jeremy Kaka, one of the park's lead builders, immediately introduced himself and let me know the lay of the land. I was really appreciative of him taking the time since this place can be daunting at first. 

Large jumps and massive skills abound, so it's easy to feel intimidated. 

After having a go at some of the bigger lines, I quickly realized that I was out of my league. Fortunately I had brought my camera with me. Its a nice feeling when you know you know you are over your head and you can comfortably sit back to enjoy watching more talented riders get after it. 

The Garden's setting is pretty chill and relax. Most people are out there having fun in a non-competitive manner. Riders look out for each other and collectively encourage themselves to push harder regardless of skill level. 

Leaving The Garden left me with a nice and warm feeling that only comes after realizing that there's one more great spot to session dirt within the Chicago city limits. Having lived in other large cities like New York, L.A., Miami and Austin, allows me to appreciate how fortunate Chicagoans are to be able to find such an awesome cycling scene within the urban landscape.

I really encourage anyone in Chicago to come check The Garden out. Although the main attraction are the big jumps, there's a section out back that resembles a pump-track with some medium sized jumps which are more manageable for the less experienced rider. I found myself throwing a leg over the bike and having a blast on that section since it really pushes you to be smooth and maintain speed. 

If you end up heading up to The Garden, follow these simple guidelines to ensure a good time:

  • Watch and learn - Sit back and enjoy watching other's to get a sense of how it all works.
  • Get the low down - Say hi to other riders and ask them to show you around. It's easier to judge speed and get comfortable when you follow others into the jumps.
  • Respect - Be respectful of the amount of work that goes in to building and maintaining these trails. There are awesome individuals involved and we have a lot to thank them for. Enjoy!

For more info go to:
The Garden Official Web Site
The Garden Facebook
CAMBr Official Web Site

Marcelo Marcos started riding and racing mountain bikes in 2002. Since then, he’s taken on marathon races, bike camping, downhill racing, park riding and commuting. His day job as a finance consultant has led him away from his hometown in Mexico and onto Texas, Florida, North Carolina, L.A. and now Chicago. He currently enjoys mountain biking and photography in his off-time, and also serves as an ambassador for The Chainlink.


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Comment by Crispien Van Aelst on September 29, 2016 at 7:51pm
The site once was part of the amusement park... if you look closely some of the jumps use the foundation of the old Ferris wheel and other rides... this has been kind of a secret for over 20 years, wish you had kept it more so... :(

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