Riding an electric bike in Springfield
Bicycle enthusiasts in Springfield, Illinois are lucky to have access to so many trails and navigable paths for recreational travel, virtually year-round. And the Springfield Bicycle Doctor at 1037 North 5th Street in Enos Park has everything needed to make exploring the city and state a truly memorable, safe adventure for anyone of any age or cycling experience. The Doc’s website is a useful source for anything to do with the sport, conventional or electric, including trail opportunities out there just waiting to be explored.
The first 5½ miles of the 38-mile Sangamon Valley Trail opened in 2011. The picturesque route follows the old St. Louis, Peoria and Northwestern Railway and is an easy, mostly level ride. The trail is still under construction, and when completed it will cross the valley to the state’s historic New Salem Lincoln sites.
One of the region’s earliest and most popular escapes, even for desk-bound refugees seeking sun and air on their lunch break, is the Lost Bridge Trail. At just under 6 miles, the trail starts behind the Illinois Department of Transportation in Springfield, and meanders round a pretty lake and landscaped grounds. The Doc recommends “a small detour into Rochester’s community park for a shaved ice [as] a wonderful treat on a hot summer afternoon.”
The well-maintained Lincoln Prairie Trail parallels State Route 29 for most of its nearly 15-mile stretch. Be careful of the honey locust trees, their thorns start at about one inch and can be as long as three inches. (Become a lifetime member of Doc’s Flat Club for $25 per bike and he’ll fix your flat tires for free for as long as you own your bicycle.) The full range of prairie life can be experienced on the Lincoln Prairie Trail. Cyclists report seeing fox, deer, coyote, raccoons, opossum, ground hogs, chipmunks, snakes, toads, and turtles. According to the Doc, Owaneco is a good place for a rest stop, but there are no restaurants or service stations.
At not much over 2 miles, the short but fun Wabash Trail epitomizes the urban rail-trail link connection. Straight and flat, with one bridge, the trail links shopping areas and restaurants.
The paved Interurban Trail connects Chatham with Springfield along the old electric rail line. The Chatham Railroad Museum (inside a 1902 train station) is a rewarding visit. Interurban is a classic example of rail-trail usage, in which train and cyclists share the same corridor. As a commuter route, Interurban is especially suited for electric bikes which make short work of “Mount Doom,” a relatively steep climb over railroad tracks.
Springfield is more than great trails, however. From here it’s a short jaunt by train for a little R&R (rest and relaxation) in the state’s wonderland of trail choices like the 62-mile Illinois Prairie Path in the heart of the Chicago suburbs. Or in less than two hours by car, reach the Rock Island Trail and admire the 27-mile greenway on the former right-of-way of the Rock Island Railroad.
Moraine Hills Bike Trail’s 11miles through beautiful Moraine Hills State Park offers exceptional scenic and wildlife viewing opportunities, among them the signs of what the great glaciers left behind. Tunnel Hill State Trail, Vadalabene Bike Trail, Great Western Trail, Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail and Fox River Bike Trail offer soaring eagles, spectacular scenery and the mighty Mississippi. All just waiting for a cyclist.
For an Illinois trails map catalog, contact the Illinois Dept. of Transportation, at 2300 S. Dirksen Parkway, 027 Administration Bldg., Springfield, IL 62764.
Lastly, Doc reminds cyclists that those who ride during the winter months in the Springfield area should plan some first echelon maintenance. Water and salt have a magical way of getting into everything and wreaking havoc. A little TLC every year can help your bike last a lifetime.
About Kimberly Rotter