The Chainlink

Farm Roads: Tips for Riding Outside of Chicago

By Yasmeen Schuller

I used to ride on farm roads when I lived in Wisconsin for a year. When I read the article (see below) from Bicycling Magazine, I thought I'd add a few tips of my own:

Expect Hills, Sometimes Gravel

Once you get outside of Chicago, farm roads can get hilly. If you love hills, a ride around Geneva Lake will help you get your fix. Farm roads aren't always paved, occasionally riding on limestone or gravel. Make sure you bring a few tubes so you can fix a flat on the fly.

Farm Dogs

Oh yes, they aren't quite as cute when you ride up one of those farm road hills only to discover a barking security pup asking what you are doing there. If you get in a pinch, you can try to outrun them. If you worry about them nipping or biting you, your water bottle (please only use water) sprayed in the face can deter them. I've outrun them or turned around and rode back from where I came (cursing every extra hill that yapping pup made me climb). 

Rear Red Blinking Light

Keep the rear red light blinking during the day so cars can spot you more easily. There can be curves and hills which make you less visible until the last moment so keeping a blinker can really make a difference.

Google Maps

Use with caution. Expect the unexpected because Google's bike routes are not perfect. I've had their bike routes recommendations put me on high speed roads that I most definitely didn't feel awesome about. Be skeptical, ask around, and use Map My Ride or Strava for recommended routes. You can also post on The Chainlink forum and ask others if they have some recommended rides. 

Here's the full article from Bicycling Magazine.

Have some farm road advice to add? Feel free to share in the comments!

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Comment by Al Sturges on March 16, 2018 at 11:29am

The Folks on Spokes Easter Ride on April 29 offers rides on country roads south of the south suburbs.

Comment by herdingbats on March 9, 2018 at 10:30am

@greg, out in northwest Illinois, the Ten Thousand route (and its little siblings the 5,000 and 2,500) are available here:

Gravel Metric's route:

Dirty Mudd'r:

and shorter Dirty Mudd'r:

"Starts within 50 miles of DeKalb" turns up what look like good routes on RideWithGPS:

Comment by Greg Lewis on March 9, 2018 at 9:18am

Thanks. I will look into those. What I'm rural hoping to find are some routes for "unorganized" rural rides near, but away from, Chicago.


Comment by James Killdeer Mackenzie on March 9, 2018 at 7:59am

Great advice.

There's a lot of great events throughout the spring and summer that are on farm roads with routes for just about every type of rider. After the event, save the route to ride whenever you like. The Udder Century and Blackhawk Country Roads are just two of my favorites.

Comment by Greg Lewis on March 1, 2018 at 1:33pm

How about some routes? I'd love to ride out in the country!

Comment by Yasmeen on March 1, 2018 at 12:22pm

Thanks Serge! Lucky break having a car come by. 

Comment by Serge Lubomudrov on March 1, 2018 at 12:16pm

All sound advise.

Funny that my only encounter (so far; it's hard to type with fingers crossed and there's no wood around me to knock at—I'll do both later) with a farm dog happened on an uphill road covered with loose gravel. There was no chance to outrun the beast. I was saved by a car coming behind me: the dog found it more interesting.

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