LATE Ride – Best Midnight Bike Ride in Chicago with Friends of The Park

L.A.T.E. Ride Chicago: A Look Back at a Popular Bike Ride Event

From the iconic Millennium Park to mouthwatering deep-dish pizza, Chicago is popular for many things. For cyclists, however, there is one thing that makes the Windy City famous – the L.A.T.E. ride until 2016. This friendly event has gathered mostly locals, although people from other states and countries also participated.

What is L.A.T.E. Ride?

L.A.T.E stands for Long After Twilight Ends. This is a 25-mile ride that starts at 1:30 am, which explains the name. The ride goes through a lakefront biking path, which is made special by the stars that blanket the sky while you complete the ride.

This is a charity bike ride headed by Nancy Minster Swabb from its establishment in 1989 until 2012. The organizers emphasize that this isn’t race. Instead, it is a friendly ride. Friendly in the sense that anyone can participate, even young riders. It is in a flat course, so it is for everyone, even if you are not a pro! According to the organizers, 50% of the participants are from Chicago suburbs. Meanwhile, 30% are from Chicago City and 20% are from other places.

In the last event in 2016, the early bird rate was $35. The regular rate was $45. Meanwhile, for on-site registration, the fee was $50. Those who are younger than 17 have a special ticket price of $15. Meanwhile, volunteers have to pay only $25.

L.A.T.E. Ride is an event organized for a charitable cause. It is for the benefit of Friends of the Parks. The latter is a not-for-profit Chicago-based advocacy group. This watchdog organization and environmental group was formed in 1975 and has the goal of promoting what is best for the Chicago Park District.

Through the years, L.A.T.E. Ride has partnered with some popular global brands as its sponsors, including McDonald’s, MINI, Jeep, REI, and Shape Magazine, among others. In almost every year of the ride, the event receives more than a quarter a million of products from some of its generous sponsors.

What Happens During L.A.T.E. Ride?

There is a limit of 10,000 participants, but given that not everyone registers, there is no clear figure about participation. Originally, the participants are given stickers with eight colors, which will determine the group to go first.

The ride starts and ends at the downtown area of Grace Park. It goes through the different parts of town, which is a great way to explore downtown in a time when almost all establishments are closed. Along the way, there are several rest stops. Portable toilets and water stations are available in key areas.

To get everyone going and be in high spirits, there is live music before the ride. Snacks were also provided. At the end of the ride, treats await participants of the race. Cereal, milk, yogurt, and fruit juices are available, among others. There was even a time when participants can opt to add an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast to their registration for $7. Morning yoga and stretch sessions are also organized after the event to help the participants recover once they complete the 25-mile ride.

The organizers have also resorted to several tactics to make it more fun and exciting, giving people the reason to participate and make their rides more memorable. There were prizes for Best Lit Bike and Best Decorated Helmet, among others. These awards made the participants more motivated. The price isn’t big, but it is enough to make the event interesting in a way.

Why Did it End?

The L.A.T.E. Ride is one of the first events of its kind. After its inception, however, many similar events followed. It was announced in 2016 that the ride will not return for the scheduled ride in 2017.

One of the reasons for its cancellation is because it became more challenging to grow the participants. A lot of similar events are happening throughout the country. So, if you are looking for an event similar to L.A.T.E. Ride, you are in for a treat. A quick online search will reveal results in different places around the country. One of the best examples is the Seattle Night Ride, which was supposed to be in its sixth year this 2020. Unfortunately, the event was canceled because of Covid-19.

L.A.T.E. Ride Facts

Here are some information of the LATE Ride event when it was active.

Event Info


The L.A.T.E. Ride has become a Chicago icon!  It’s one of the most unusual and popular big city bike rides in the country.

The Route

  • 25-mile route through Chicago starts and ends at beautiful Buckingham Fountain
  • Cycle past downtown skyscrapers
  • Explore cool Chicago neighborhoods
  • Experience the lakefront path under the stars
  • Ride through the awesome Museum Campus
  • View the sunrise over Lake Michigan
  • Enjoy a rest stop with refreshments and keep you pumped up

Pre-Ride Festival

  • Lots of vendors
  • Live music
  • Contest and prizes for Best Lit Bike, Crazy Pajamas and Best Decorated Helmet
  • Awesome people-watching opportunities

The People

  • The L.A.T.E. Ride welcomes everyone at every fitness level
  • Our riders include Millennials, Gen X’ers, Boomers and beyond!
  • About 50% male and 50% female
  • 50% of our riders come from Chicago suburbs, 30% from the City of Chicago, 20% from everywhere else!
  • We’ve had riders come from many states across the U.S., and even from other countries – The L.A.T.E. Ride is an awesome way to experience Chicago’s neighborhoods and lakefront whether you live locally or are visiting from the suburbs or out-of-town

Event Schedule

Starting at 10:30pm…

  • Pre-Ride Festival at Buckingham Fountain
  • Live Music
  • On-Site Registration (if we’re not sold out)
  • On-Site Packet Pick-Up

About 1:15am

  • Start gathering along Columbus Drive for the start

1:30am – 2:00am

  • Pre-assigned “waves” of riders take off along the route!

1:30am until Sunrise

  • Enjoy the 25-mile route
  • Rest stop at Humboldt Park Boat House
  • Breakfast back at Buckingham Fountain finish area
  • Enjoy a morning yoga / stretch session with Lisa from Gratitude Yoga at 4:30am, 5:00am or 5:30am.
  • Watch the sun starting to rise over the lakefront about 5:45am!!

About the Charity

People Pedaling for Parks

The L.A.T.E. Ride supports Friends of the Parks’ work to preserve, protect, improve and promote the use of parks and open spaces in the Chicago area.  Your involvement will help Friends of the Parks achieve these goals for 2016:

  • Educate 800 Chicago Public School students about nature and the environment through our Nature Along the Lake field trips
  • Train community residents to advocate for adequate and equitable investment across Chicago’s system of nearly 600 parks – every community deserves a great park and every child deserves to have a clean, safe park within walking distance of where they live
  • Partner with the Chicago Park District to complete the installation of 300 new playgrounds through the Chicago Plays! Program

Parks provide children, teens and adults with safe and healthy places to play, exercise and relax.  Parks help build stronger communities.  Friends of the Parks wants every citizen of Chicago to have easy access to safe, clean, beautiful parks with vibrant programs that serve and inspire.

Friends of the Parks actively supports efforts to make Chicago one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the country.  Through ATA’s Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign, Friends of the Parks is partnering to push for safer and better bike infrastructure throughout Chicago.  The Chicago Park District is implementing recommendations from Friends of the Parks’ People on the Trails Report to create separate cyclist-only lanes on portions of the Lakefront Trail.

Concerned citizens turn to Friends of the Parks to make their voices heard.  Proceeds from The L.A.T.E. Ride help us further our mission to:

  • Save more parks from encroachments
  • Build new, safe playgrounds for children throughout Chicago, especially in park-poor communities
  • Promote the planting of trees  in parks throughout the city
  • Improve playground safety
  • Educate thousands of Chicago school children on issues of park care, stewardship, environmental science and recycling
  • Host Park Advisory Council networking meetings, which are open to 200 groups that strength the public’s voice in neighborhood park decisions
  • Mobilize thousands of volunteers each year to mulch trees, remove litter, cultivate gardens and clean playlots during Earth Day clean-ups, and community and corporate service days


Thanks to our 2016 Sponsors

Sponsors of The L.A.T.E. Ride generously support Friends of the Parks and our mission to preserve, protect, improve and promote the use of parks and open spaces in the Chicago area.

Sponsorship Opportunities

Our sponsors reach thousands of enthusiastic bicyclists who return year after year because of the event’s adventurous appeal.

We’ll work with you to create a custom sponsorship that helps you achieve your marketing goals. Build brand loyalty and attract new customers.

For sponsorship information, contact:

Nancy Swabb
Ride Coordinator – Sponsorships and Communications
(773) 718-1800
[email protected]

Click here to download 2016 sponsorship information.

Virtual Event Bag

Reach our 4,000+ participants through our Virtual Event Bag, which provides offers similar to those that a cyclist would receive in paper form on ride day or at a packet pick-up. With the Virtual Event Bag, your company gets its offer into the hands of ride participants early and often.

You can reach 4,000+ riders who value a healthy lifestyle, love the outdoors and new experiences, enjoy travel and adventure, and live as “green” as possible.

Up to 75% of event participants typically visit a Virtual Event Bag. This is ten times more than a typical email campaign! And it’s more ecological than a standard event goody bag.

Cost for our Virtual Event Bag:

  • $400 corporate/business
  • $250 nonprofit organizations and charity events
  • $1,250 for one of six sought-after premium spots

Why should you participate?

  • 85% of U.S. adults are online every day. More than 50% own a smartphone.
  • You can include a link to your website, a special offer or discount, photo, even a video!
  • Viewers can “like” you on Facebook.
  • The L.A.T.E. Ride participants will save content, online via a desktop computer or on their mobile device, encouraging redemption.
  • You can directly link your content/message to your website, online store, social media, etc.
  • No design, production or printing costs because you will easily build your placement online.
  • Receive a detailed performance report including participant demographics (age, gender, etc.)

Applications and payment due by Friday, July 29. Interested? Download the Virtual Event Bag Application here! Fill in the form and submit to the organization.

Contact Nancy Swabb
Ride Coordinator – Sponsorship and Communications
[email protected]

Volunteer for The L.A.T.E. Ride 2016!

Thank you for your interest in helping!  The L.A.T.E. Ride would not be possible without the support of our awesome volunteers.

Pre-Event Volunteer Needs

We need volunteers in our office to help with administrative work.

Packet Pick-Ups

We need friendly helpers at our Packet Pick-Ups (dates and locations to be announced soon).

Promotions, Outreach and Marketing Volunteers

Want to help spread the word about The L.A.T.E. Ride!  You can display posters near where you live or work, drop off fliers at your local bike shop, help us with social media and much more.  Lots of fun!  Contact Nancy Swabb at [email protected] today.

Day-Of Event

We have lots of ways to participate!

  • Set-up at Buckingham Fountain (be part of the crew to set up tables, registration, first-aid area and more; some heavy lifting and/or manual labor involved)
  • Course Marshal (join the team that gives riders encouragement and directs them safely along the course)
  • On-Bike Medic
  • Registration
  • Rest Stop (be part of the team that sets up the rest stop and energizes participants with snacks and water)
  • Route Van Support (we need safe drivers to help transport participants and bikes that need help during the ride)
  • Tear-Down (join our hardworking crew after the event to break down tables, repack supplies and load boxes into trucks; this position requires some heavy lifting and/or manual labor)

Group Volunteering

We are seeking charitable or community organizations to provide a group of 10 or more volunteers for the day of the event.  For more information, contact Kim Klein, Director of Operations, at [email protected]

Packet Pickup

Packet Pick-Ups, Bike Maintenance Clinics and Free Safety Inspections at Performance Bicycle

We’ve made preparing for The LATE Ride super easy!  You can pick up your packet, learn about bike maintenance and get your bike inspected from Performance Bicycle!

Stop in at Performance Bicycle at the locations and on the dates listed below between 5pm and 8pm.  Before or after you pick up your packet, you can attend the Bike Maintenance Clinic from 6-7pm.  And if you wish, you can drop off your bike for a free safety inspection, too.

If you cannot make one of the locations, there will be Packet Pick-up at Buckingham Fountain on Saturday August 13th starting at 10:30pm.


Tuesday, August 9

Packet Pick-Up 5-8pm; Bike Maintenance Clinic 6-7pm

Performance Bike Lombard

2830 S. Highland Avenue

Wednesday, August 10

Packet Pick-Up 5-8pm; Bike Maintenance Clinic 6-7pm

Performance Bike Schaumburg

155 W Golf Road (The Schaumburg Marketplace)

Thursday, August 11

Packet Pick-Up 5-8pm; Bike Maintenance Clinic 6-7pm

Performance Bike Northbrook

315 Skokie Boulevard (Village Square of Northbrook)

Thursday, August 11

Packet Pick-Up 5-8pm; Bike Maintenance Clinic 6-7pm

Performance Bike Lincoln Park

2720 N. Halsted, Chicago

Daytime Packet Pick-Ups on Tue, August 9; Wed, August 10; and Thursday, August 11

11:30am – 1:30pm

Friends of the Parks’ office in downtown Chicago

17 N State Street, Suite 1450, Chicago

Night Of Event: August 13th
10:30pm – 1:00am at Buckingham Fountain


Performance Bicycle will provide Bike Maintenance Clinics from 6pm-7pm during the Packet Pick-Ups listed above.  Their technicians will teach you how to change a flat tire, adjust brakes, fix chains and more.


From August 1-13, Performance Bike will offer Free Safety Inspections at all of its Chicagoland locations.  LATE Ride participants must bring their LATE Ride registration confirmation for a free inspection.  (Your inspection may be performed the same day you drop off your bike, or you may have to return another day for bike pick-up.)

Participant Info

We have tons of info to prepare yourself for the ride.

Preparing to Ride

Click here  to get all the info you need on prepping yourself (and your bike) for The L.A.T.E. Ride.


City of Chicago Bike Safety Information –  at

City Bike Laws – at

Bike Rental

No Bike? No worries – we’ve got you covered!

The friendly folks at Bobby’s Bike Hike offer our riders a nice discount on overnight bike rentals starting at $25.  Check out the details at
You have to make reservations for a bike rental ahead of time – bikes will NOT be available to rent at Buckingham Fountain.

After reserving your bike online, you can pick up your rental from Bobby’s between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Saturday night, August 13.  They will open at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 14 for bike returns; you may return your rental between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.

Bobby’s Bike Hike is located at 540 N. Lake Shore Drive, between Michigan Avenue and Navy Pier.  Check out their website for details on the top-quality bikes they have available, including comfort hybrids, mountain bikes, road bikes, tandems and more.

In case you are lazy and want to do exercise at home, consider best mini exercise bikesbest upright exercise bikes or best folding exercise bikes!

Elders can join us by choosing best recumbent bikes for seniors to exercise at home in case you can not make it to the event as well!

Directions and Parking

The start/finish is located at Buckingham Fountain, a Chicago landmark in the center of Grant Park and one of the city’s most popular landmarks, located at 301 S. Columbus Drive. Click here for a map and directions.

Driving? Check out the SpotHero lots near Buckingham Fountain:

Here is a list of the closest SpotHero parking options for The L.A.T.E. Ride 2016:

  • Grant Park South Garage (0.3 miles)
  • 55 E Jackson Blvd. – Valet/Garage (0.4 miles)
  • 33 E Harrison St. – Lot (0.4 miles)
  • 434 S Wabash Ave. – Lot (0.4 miles)
  • 401 S Wabash Ave. – Lot (0.4 miles)
  • 410 S Wabash Ave – Lot (0.4 miles)
  • 328 S Wabash Ave. – Lot (0.4 miles)
  • 651 S State St. – Lot (0.5 miles)
  • 511 S Plymouth Ct. – Lot (0.5 miles)
  • Essex Inn – Valet (0.5 miles)

Sign up early to lock in your date. Download the SpotHero iPhone | Android app or visit the Buckingham Fountain SpotHero Parking Page at to find and reserve parking with rates up to 50% off drive-up! Enter promo code LATERIDE for an extra 5% off parking. In addition, for every spot booked with the promo code LATERIDE, SpotHero will donate $1 to the Friends of the Parks.

Coming by Public Transit? CTA Trip Planner at

Local Accommodations

Wanna make a weekend of it?  Chicago has some awesome hotels, many of which provide bike parking and late check-out.  The Hyatt Regency at is offering our riders a discount of $139/night based on availability. The Red Roof Inn at is also offering %20 off with the code #621077.


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