In mid-September, the streets of Evanston and its surrounding areas come alive with the rhythmic hum of bicycle tires at the North Shore Century, one of the Chicago region’s most popular cycling events. This year marks the 38th annual event and this ride offers an unparalleled journey through scenic neighborhoods, a glimpse of architectural marvels, tranquil tree-lined streets, and the invigorating breezes of Lake Michigan. The countryside unfurls its beauty, oscillating between the flat to rolling terrain on it’s route between Chicago area and Wisconsin. Chosen as one of our best road cycling events in the Midwest, the event is produced by Evanston Bicycle Club.
What makes the North Shore Century event unique is that the heart and soul of the event lies in its community, as club members showcase their famous culinary prowess by crafting homemade treats for the aid stations, and more than 150 volunteers come together to handle the complexities of the event, from registration logistics to real-time route support. This commitment to excellence and community spirit makes the North Shore Century a truly unparalleled event in the world of cycling. On top of that, the strict limit of 2400 participants offers an exclusive experience, and the event stands as a beacon of charity, with partner organizations raising nearly $100,000 annually.
Event & Course Info
There is a diverse range of routes at the North Shore Century tailored for both seasoned cyclists and those looking for a leisurely ride with 4 ride lengths starting with the century, the metric century (62 miles), the half Century, and finally the quarter century.
All rides commence and conclude at Dawes Park in Evanston, close to the Arrington Lakefront Lagoon at Church Street and Sheridan Road. With gates opening at 6 am, participants should take note of the recommended start times for each ride to ensure they finish before the rest stops close.
The Classic Century (100 Miles) starts before 8 am and the journey encompasses a vast loop to Pleasant Prairie in Wisconsin. Cyclists traverse through Glenview, Northbrook, Highland Park, and Lake Forest, primarily on residential streets. The latter part of the route promises coastal views, traveling from Lake Bluff back to Evanston and there are 5 aid stations on course.
The Metric Century (62 Miles) begins before 10 am, and in addition to the 50-mile route, this incorporates a scenic loop through western Lake Forest. There are two aid stations on this course.
The Half Century (50 Miles) starts before 11 am with a route that riders pedal to Lake Bluff to relish the views, traveling primarily via quiet residential streets and featuring two aid stations.
Finally, the Quarter Century (25 Miles) also starts before 11 am and features a route perfect for families and novices, showcasing the architectural beauty of Wilmette, Winnetka, Glencoe, and Kenilworth and has one aid stations.
Regardless of the route, cyclists can pedal with peace of mind, knowing that local bike shops are providing mechanical support at each stop and SAG vehicles are readily available along the way.
Area Accommodations & Things to Do
While there is no official lodging partner for the North Shore Century event, there are many accommodations options in Evanston and of course in the broader Chicago area. Some hotel options include the Graduate, Lang House Chicago, and the Hyatt House. For those that prefer a more home-like experience, there are many vacation rentals in the area to suit everyone’s needs from urban condos to quaint carriage houses.
Evanston, IL boasts a diverse culinary scene, blending rich traditions with modern influences, where locally-owned eateries offer everything from global cuisines to farm-to-table delicacies, all set against the backdrop of a vibrant university town – don’t forget to check out these local favorites while you are in town for North Shore Century.
Evanston, widely recognized for its educational stronghold, Northwestern University, is also a treasure trove for outdoor enthusiasts. With the onset of September bringing in crisp air and vibrant foliage, the city presents a plethora of activities for the active traveler.
A favorite activity is trail running in Ladd Arboretum which offers a tapestry of flora and is a haven for those wanting to immerse themselves in nature. The 2-mile long path, adorned with trees and plants from around the world, presents a varied terrain for runners, and the trail also runs alongside the North Shore Channel.
For paddle boarders, head to Dempster Street Beach, a popular spot for water sports enthusiasts. The vast expanse of the lake, with its clear blue waters, offers both a relaxing and invigorating experience. For the more adventurous souls, catching the gentle waves near the shores can provide an added thrill. There are several local outfitters offering equipment rentals if you’re traveling in from out of town.
While the North Shore Century is the only event produced by its organizer, there are many other top mountain bike events in Illinois and the broader Midwest region including GFNY Rockford part of the GFNY Global Series, and RAGBRAI by Ventures Endurance Events. For multi-sport endurance athletes looking for other events in the state of Illinois and the Midwest, be sure to check out our full list of Strambecco Best in Class trail running, gravel and mountain biking events.