This article is brought to your by our friends at Inno Racks. Their bike carriers make it easy to hit the road and find new trails, then swing by a bike store cafe for a tune-up and a recharge.
Flat isn’t a four letter word, and the Midwest is on a mission to prove it.
The Great Plains might not boast the towering rock faces and stomach-churning alpine of other go-to mountain biking regions. But many Midwesterners find magic in the prairies, plateaus, and occasional mountains that make up this region’s landscape — visitors can, too.
The heartland is also home to a variety of bike store cafes that offer cycle gear, coffee, and cold beers on tap.
Now that snow-ready fat bikes have gone mainstream, year-round mountain biking is more popular than ever in the Midwest. Cities in flyover country are investing in professionally designed single-track courses that are not only fun for locals, but attract destination mountain bikers, too. Load up your bike carrier and enjoy!
Midwestern Bike Store Cafes And Where To Camp Nearby
At bike store cafes, the underdog energy combines with Midwest affability to form big-hearted community. These are their hubs; places to gather, talk shop, and get a tune-up (for both you and your bike).
Heritage Bicycles in Chicago, Illinois
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Those heavy, full-steel Schwinn “clunkers” ridden by trailblazers in the 1970s? Those were made in the Windy City. After the Schwinn factory shut down, however, that wasn’t the end of Chicago’s bicycle manufacturing.
Heritage Bicycles picked up the baton, and they’re now proud to offer the first completely Chicago-made bikes since Schwinn. In addition to selling their own line of bicycles, bike parts, and cycle gear (including helmets), Heritage Bicycles also deals in high-quality coffee, local pastries, and hard-to-find treats like Mast Brothers chocolates.
Just an hour from Heritage Bicycles, you can test your new wheels in Palos Forest Preserve’s 25 miles of mountain biking trails. You can make it an overnight trip and camp at nearby Camp Bullfrog Lake, which The Dyrt Ranger AC H. notes is great for beginning campers as well as experts looking to stay warm during Chicago’s tough winters.
Bullfrog features “good size lakeside sites and large, clean cabins on the inner road,” writes AC.
Velo Garage & Tap House in North Kansas City, Missouri
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Founded by avid cyclists who were inspired by beer-and-bike combos in other cities, Velo Garage and Tap House is a full-service bike shop where you can buy new, get your current rig repaired, or sell a bike on consignment. Founder Kiley Sutter test drove the concept in 2015 with the Velowagon — a 1969 VW bus reimagined as a mobile bike shop that also sports four kegs on tap. Just a couple years later, Kiley’s concept put down roots with the Velo Garage, where in addition to talking gears, chains, and grease, you can also enjoy the ten beers on tap, shuffleboard, darts, table tennis, and the occasional community potluck.
Camp nearby at Blue Springs Campground, a Kansas City classic. The Dyrt Ranger Chris W. writes “The sites were well kept, with many prime locations near the playground for our kids. Campground staff were beyond friendly and accommodating.”
The Dyrt Ranger Joey V. mentions that “everyone should totes stay at blue springs once in their life.” You might agree once you discover the North Shore Trail’s great mixed-level single track around the lake, and the nearby Landahl Park Reserve, which is chock full of sweet single track and double track.
Ride Home in Columbus, Ohio
The menu at this little bike store cafe includes not only coffee, tea, and cookies, but also handlebar wrapping, basic bike tune-ups, and complete cycle overhauls. Ride Home offers some of the best brand names in biking if you’re shopping for a new ride or cycle gear, and delicious beverages to sip while you make up your mind. Grab one of their Kitchen Sink Granola Bars before you head out to test your wheels on the trail — you’ll want the fuel for the mountain bike trails in Alum Creek State Park just twenty minutes away.
The Alum Creek State Park campground is a spectacular campground the whole family will enjoy. The Dyrt Camper Ryan F. writes that “most sites are very spacious with plenty of privacy and trees. Every spot has ample parking and space for campers or tents. We even hung 3 hammocks.”
When you aren’t mountain biking, Alum Creek offers a lot of ways to unwind, too. Robert notes that “they offer movie nights at their amphitheater on the weekends and even a pancake breakfast.”
Velobahn Coffee in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Velobahn stands out for a number of reasons. For one, it’s fairly new, having opened in October of 2017. For another, it’s one of the only independent coffee shops in the Silver City neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It’s also adjacent to the Hank Aaron 12-mile rail trail along the shores of Lake Michigan. This urban and suburban paved bikeway is not only enjoyable for adult cyclists looking to burn off their energy after work, but has also been used to host bike adventure camps for Wisconsin tweens.
If you make your way 30 miles north, you can find more technical trails and a place to camp at Pike Lake State Park. This subset of the Kettle Moraine State Forest was carved by glaciers that passed throughout the area, creating the hilly, winding countryside that hikers and bikers love. The Ice Age Trail passes through here, and while much of it is reserved for foot traffic, there is some overlap with biking trails.
The campground is dog-friendly, and has several sites that are hike-in only, if you’re looking for a little more secluded experience. The Dyrt Ranger Jimmy P. writes, “Our campsite was very large, fully shaded, and included a picnic table and a fire ring”
Revolution Bike and Bean in Bloomington, Indiana
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This little college town is home to Indiana University. It’s also right next to the Hoosier National Forest. The combination of college town and outdoor accessibility means plenty of outdoor adventures and lots of good restaurants and bars to enjoy, too.
Revolution Bike and Bean offers brand new bicycles, bike repairs, and beans by Needmore Coffee Roaster. This bike store cafe even offers a special bike fitting service in which you take 2 hours or more with an experienced professional to determine precisely how your body and bike can perform together like one well-oiled machine.
You can get a feel for the community vibe from Revolution’s website, where regulars share their latest bike routes via Strava and swap information on all the best-kept secrets in Bloomington. One of those beloved destinations is Hardin Ridge, where you can enjoy some of the best camping in the Midwest. Hardin Ridge sits within Hoosier National Forest right on Lake Monroe, and its mountain bike trail connects with many other places to bike nearby.
The Dyrt Ranger Leah S. writes that Hardin Ridge, “has nicely shaded, private tent sites! Great place for bike riding and, also very family-friendly!”