Frequently Asked Questions
The Basics: Who, What, When and Where
What is Friends of the Parks' L.A.T.E. Ride?
Itís a 25-mile, non-competitive after-midnight ride through Chicagoís downtown and north side neighborhoods and along the lakefront, followed by breakfast at Buckingham Fountain. Itís a charity ride that supports Friends of the Parks, a 38-year-old not-for-profit parks advocacy group. It's an event in which people of all fitness levels can participate!
When is Friends of the Parks' L.A.T.E. Ride?
Saturday night/Sunday morning July 1, 2012. The 2012 ride will begin at 1:00 a.m. In past years, participants gathered at Buckingham Fountain around midnight, and the ride took off in five waves between 1:30am and 2:15am. In 2010, we started the ride at midnight. The 2012 ride will begin at 1:00 a.m. Some riders complete the ride in two or three hours, while others may take five hours. Itís non-competitive, so everyone can ride at their own comfortable pace.
Who participates in The L.A.T.E. Ride?
In 2011, about 8,500 people (ranging in age from five to eighty-two) participated. The majority of riders and volunteers come from Chicago suburbs, the City of Chicago and Northwest Indiana, although we do get people from around the country, too.
Where does it start?
At Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park at Congress and Columbus Drive (500 South Columbus Drive) in Chicago, Illinois Ė right across from beautiful Lake Michigan!
Where does it end?
The same place it starts, Buckingham Fountain.
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How do I register?
You can register online, in person at Packet Pick-Ups, by mail, or in person the night of the ride. See below for details.
How much does it cost?
It ranges from $35-$45, depending on when you register. Volunteers pay $25 and volunteer Course Marshals pay only $10. All pre-registered participants receive a free t-shirt (those who register the night of the ride can purchase a shirt at additional charge.) We also have a "VIP Rider" Package for $75. And you can become a member of Friends of the Parks and ride for $50.
What do I get?
A short-sleeved 100% cotton L.A.T.E. Ride T-shirt; a pocket-size Rider Guide with official route map; a Rider Goody Bag filled with coupons, sample stuff and mandatory Rider Number; water, snacks and fruit at the rest stop; support from police officers and volunteer Course Marshals along the route; bicycle repair by Village Cycle Center; medical care if needed; post-ride refreshments at Buckingham Fountain; and a chance to meet new people!
A $40-$45 entry fee is stretching my budget. Can I participate for less money?
Yes, if you register as a volunteer by June 30, you can ride for $25 or $10 as a volunteer Course Marshal.
Why does the ride cost $35-$45?
Producing a large-scale bicycle ride costs money. We pay for police support to make the event safe and fun, barricades, port-o-lets, lighting, tents, tables, and countless other items. Your fee offsets these costs.
Can I volunteer but not ride?
Yes! You of course pay nothing to do so, and you get to be part of the fun and come to the volunteer parties. The ride could not take place without such volunteers. So join the team!
How do I register by mail?
All mail-in entries MUST be postmarked by June 15. We have a registration form on this web site. You may print it, fill it out, and mail it to our PO Box by June 15. Please note that we do not send you a confirmation in the mail before the ride.
How do I register on the Internet?
You may pre-register for The L.A.T.E. Ride through our on-line registration provider signmeup.com.
I'm having trouble signing up online.
You can contact signmeup.com directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
How do I know my online registration was received? The charge on your credit card will apppear as "SIGNMEUP.COM*LATERIDE". You will also see a small charge for the online processing fee. When you complete your online signup, a confirmation screen will appear. You can print this for your records. Almost immediately, you will also receive an email receipt from signmeup.com. Either or of these will offer proof that your online registration was processed.
How do I register in person at the Packet Pick-Ups? Just show up with $45. You can pay by cash, check, or by credit card. See the Packet Pick-Ups page for times and locations.
How do I register the night of the ride?
You may register for $45 at Buckingham Fountain.
How do I avoid registration lines the night of the ride?
Come to a Packet Pick-Up before the ride.
I want to bring my child with me. What about riding a tandem - do I have to pay for two people?
The rule is: "If you pedal, you pay".
I want to bring my child(ren). Do they pay have to pay, too?
Yes, all riding participants pay (children pulled in trailers do not pay). All children must be accompanied by a responsible adult.
Can I have a refund?
Sorry, we do not offer refunds. Your investment in this event goes toward making Chicago "greener". Thanks for your support!
What are Packet Pick-Ups?
At a Packet Pick-Up you can pick up your packet including T-shirt, Rider Number, and Rider Goody Bag. You can also register in person. Please be aware that it takes 24 hours for us to process your registration by mail or from the Internet, so either register 24 hours before the Packet Pick-Up you plan to attend or simply register in person at the Packet Pick-Up.
In 2010, more than 5000 packets were picked up ahead of time. By coming to a Packet Pick-Up, you avoid registration/pick-up lines at Buckingham Fountain and you get the chance to slip on your L.A.T.E. Ride T-shirt and pin on your Rider Number at home before the ride
When and where are the Packet Pick-Ups?
See the Packet Pick-Ups page for times and locations.
Can I attend any of the Packet Pick-Ups or am I assigned to one in particular?
You can attend any of them.
What if I want to ride with my friends?
Groups that want to be assured of riding in the same wave should attend the same Packet Pick-Up. If different members of a group get assigned to different waves, the group must wait to ride together until the latest assigned wave. No one may leave earlier than the wave to which he or she has been assigned.
Do I need a confirmation number or receipt in order to pick up my Rider Goody Bag at a Packet Pick-Up?
No, we'll have your name on the master list. But remember, please allow 24 hours between registering online and picking up your packet (or your name might not be on the list yet). If youíre planning to register close to the Packet Pick-Ups dates, we recommend that you simply register IN PERSON when you get to the Packet Pick-Up.
Do you send confirmations or mail packets?
No, we do not send mail confirmations or goody bags. As a non-profit, we want to save paper and keep postage costs as low as possible. You may want to copy your signed mail-in registration if you are worried that it will get lost. If you register online, you can print out your confirmation page from the end of the sign-up. You must pick up your packet at a Packet Pick-Up or the night of the ride.
May I pick up a packet for a friend at a Packet Pick-Up?
Yes, but only if the friend registered at least 24 hours beforehand or if you have your friendís completed and signed registration form. Each rider must sign his or her own form.
What if I canít attend any of the Packet Pick-Ups?
You can ask a friend to pick it up for you. Your friend can even register for you as long as you give him or her your completed and signed registration form. Each rider must sign his or her own form. Or, you can pick up your packet the night of the ride.
How else can I help Friends of the Parks?
Become a member! Learn more at http://www.fotp.org
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Before the Ride:
What time should I get to Buckingham Fountain?
As soon as we finalize the event schedule, we will let you know.
Packet Pick-Up and On-Site Registration will take place at Buckingham Fountain two hours before step-off. Our live band this year - Four Man Band - will play for two hours before the ride. And our Best Lit Bike and Best Decorated Helmet contest takes place on stage about 1.5 hours before the ride begins.
Before the ride, weíll have live music on stage, as well as our Best Lit Bike and Best Decorated Helmet contest, among other fun activities.
How can I enter the Best Lit Bike and Best Decorated Helmet contests?
Head for the stage at Buckingham Fountain about an hour before the ride begins (weíll make announcements). No pre-registration for the contests is necessary. Prizes will be awarded. Winners and runners-up are chosen by audience applause.
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How much do volunteers pay to participate in the ride? Riding Course Marshals pay just $10 and volunteers that lend a hand with the pre-event and night-of-event duties pay just $25 to ride. Non-riding volunteers are free.
Is there a pre-ride meeting where I can learn more about volunteering? We'll answer questions during each of our warehouse work nights. If you'd like to meet members of the planning committee and other volunteers, we encourage you to help at any of our warehouse work nights. During each 5:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. work night, we'll answer questions you may have. We serve pizza at every work night about 7:00 p.m. and there are plenty of opportunities to meet other volunteers and learn more about The L.A.T.E. Ride.
Where do you need the most help? We especially need dedicated individuals to be Course Marshals (who pay only $10 to ride) to help with the staggered start, ride in pairs, ensure riders obey the rules of the road, direct riders to bike repair stations, and staff an intersection along the route where riders may need special attention so they donít get lost.
We also really need volunteers who do not ride -- and do not pay -- to help at the rest stop and at Buckingham Fountain. Some participants encourage their parents to help as non-riding volunteers. Weíve also had members of church groups, professional organizations, scouting troops and others help together. Itís a great team-building activity thatís a lot of fun, too!
Before the ride, we also need volunteers at Warehouse Worknights where we assemble 8,500 Rider Goody Bags and prepare supplies and signs.
How many hours do you need me as a riding volunteer? We hope that you will volunteer for one pre-event duty (a Warehouse Worknight, roughly 2-4 hours) AND one night-of-event duty. The total minimum commitment is 6 hours.
Iím a volunteer. What wave do I ride in? If you are helping with on-site registration, we ask that you ride in one of the last two waves. If you are a Course Marshal, you ride in the wave to which you are assigned. If youíre helping with pre-event activities only, you may choose your wave.
Where and when do the Warehouse Worknights take place? Our Work Nights take place at A. Finkl & Sons Co. at 2000 N. Southport Avenue in Chicago. Finkl is a steel manufacturing plant that donates its warehouse space to us each year. The work Nights take place between 5-9pm and please see our volunteer page for dates.
Join us! And bring friends. "Many hands make light work," as the saying goes!! And weíll serve pizza each evening about seven oíclock.
Please see the Volunteer Opportunities page for additional information and a downloadable signup form.
Do you need help at Packet Pick-Ups? If you've volunteered in the past at a packet pick-up, please contact us to let us know if you'd like to help again at that location. We need about 5-10 people per shift at each Packet Pick-Up.
Can I help promote the ride at my company or among my friends? Yes! You can join our Facebook Fan Page or our LinkedIn group and encourage friends and colleagues to do so. You can write an article for your company newsletter or employee website to talk up the ride. We have great photos you can post on your own Facebook page or employee website. You can help spread the word in many ways. Contact us at email@example.com with ideas or questions. Back to top
Getting There: Parking and CTA
How do I get to the ride? You can get to the ride by public transportation or by car. See below for details on how to take public transportation and where to park.
How do I get to the ride by public transportation? The CTA Summer Bike Access Program allows you to take your bike on board any CTA train on Saturdays and Sundays from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. Keep in mind that the CTA limits 2 bikes per train car. For full information you can download the CTA brochure on this program.
Where can I park? You can find a list of 24-hour parking garages and lots in the "Event Info" section under "Transportation and Parking."
Can I park on Columbus Drive near Buckingham Fountain? No, you may not park on Columbus Drive. Police WILL tow cars parked on Columbus Drive both north and south of Buckingham Fountain on both sides of the street.
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Helmet Sales, Bicycle Rentals, Bicycle Lights and What to Bring
What if I don't have a bike? No problem! You can rent a bike ahead of time from Bike and Roll Chicago Check out the Rentals portion of the Event Info section for more details. Bikes will NOT be available at Buckingham Fountain; you must reserve a rental bike ahead of time.
Do I have to wear a helmet? Yes, we require helmets.
What if I donít have a helmet? You can purchase a helmet at Buckingham Fountain before the ride begins, while supplies last. Village Cycle Center will have helmets and other bike gear available for purchase on-site.
Do I need a headlight or other gear to ride at night? We donít require anything other than a helmet, but we do highly recommend a headlight and reflectors. Although there is street lighting, there are some dark spots on the course and along the lakefront path. Furthermore, you will share the road with cars for significant portions of the route, so a headlight, reflectors, and light-colored clothing will help you be seen. We recommend that you equip your bike with a headlight and reflectors. You could attach a flashlight to your handlebars with heavy tape. We also recommend that you wear your white The L.A.T.E. Ride T-shirt. Have fun decorating your bike with lights -- you can even enter our Best-Lit Bike contest!
Do I need anything else? Besides a bike, helmet, headlight, and reflectors, you might want to bring your driverís license, extra money, a spare tube, patch kit, pump and tools for minor repairs. Also bring appropriate clothing for the weather and one, or if possible two, full water bottles. We will provide refills of water as well as other beverages, but ask that you bring at least one bottle of water from home.
Will bike repair be available? Yes, but tune up your bike BEFORE the ride. The Village Cycle Center repair service is there for emergencies only (flat tires, broken chains, etc.), not to tune up each and every one of the thousands of bicycles at the event.
What if it rains? We have no rain date for the ride (and, thankfully, weíve NEVER been rained out!)
When originally scheduling The L.A.T.E. Ride in 1989, we consulted the Farmers Almanac to find a weekend that experienced little or no rain over the last 100 years!
June is usually a dry month and it has only rained once in 20+ years (for about twenty minutes at five oíclock in the morning ten or more years ago Ė many people had already finished the ride).
We do not have a rain date. If there is a chance of rain, bring your rain gear. Also be aware that temperatures can vary, so bring appropriate clothing.
Refunds are not available. Your investment in this event goes directly toward Friends of the Parks' important advocacy work!
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Will we share the route with cars and pedestrians? Yes, for all but the first few miles of the route. So wear your helmet; obey traffic laws, signs and signals; donít drink alcohol; and take your time. Remember this is a ride, not a race.
Iím afraid I wonít be able to keep up or finish the 25 miles. It is a leisurely ride, not a race. Take your time! If you can no longer ride because of an injury or other reason, we have support vans that can pick you up with your bicycle and bring you to the rest stop or back to Buckingham Fountain. Remember, though, there are no hills on the route (itís Chicago, after all!), so it shouldnít be too grueling.
What if I have an accident or bike break-down? Village Cycle Center mechanics and repair vans loaded with repair equipment will assist riders at Buckingham Fountain and 10 repair stations along the route. Volunteer Course Marshals and On-Bike Medics can help riders too. In case of emergency, call 911. Medics will be at the fountain, rest stop, and along the route. Please write on your Rider Number any medical condition (allergies etc.) our medics should know about. For non-emergency help during the ride call (312) 939-HELP.
Are there toilets? There are port-o-lets at the rest stop and at Buckingham Fountain.
What do we do with trash? Please use waste cans and dumpsters for trash. Friends of the Parks must clean up all litter, so please be considerate and take your trash to one of the many trash receptacles provided. Again, volunteers from Friends of the Parks clean up the site after you leave, so please make their job easy. Thank you!
What if I lose something or someone? If you lose personal belongings or get separated from your group, go to the medical tent at Buckingham fountain or at the rest stop. We recommend that BEFORE the ride you make a plan and choose a place to meet up with family and friends in case you get separated during the event.
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Food and Beverages
What do we get to eat and drink? Youíll get bottled water, snacks and beverages at the rest stop, and at Buckingham Fountain. Please be considerate and take only one of each item at the rest stop. We will only have enough for all riders if participants comply.
Some of our past sampling sponsors included: Better Whey of Life yogurt, Blue Diamond Almonds, Dasani water, Edy's frozen yogurt, Fisher Nuts, Fruit 2o Essentials, Fuze, Kozy Shack All-Natural Puddings, Lifeway Kefir, M&M's Ice Cream, R.W. Knudsen Sparkling Fruit Juices, Wrigley's Gum, Cacal, Clif Bar, Fruit Zday, Jelly Belly, Michigan Apples, EAS Myoplex, Silk, and ZYM Electrolyte Tabs.
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How can I find out about local hotels?
There are several hotels in the area and we have assembled them in the Local Accommodations section of this site.
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Can children under 18 ride?
Yes, if accompanied by a responsible adult. We have had riders as young as five years old participate in The L.A.T.E. Ride.
What is the age range of riders?
In 2010, riders ranged in age from five to eighty-two (not including babies and toddlers pulled in trailers!). Breakdowns are as follows:
Where do people come from to do the ride?
In 2010, 51% of riders came from Chicago suburbs, 33% from the City of Chicago, and the rest from Northwest Indiana, other parts of Illinois, and other states.
Whatís the male/female ratio?
In 2010, males comprised 53% of total ridership and 47% of riders were female.
Is this a family ride?
Many families ride together, but please be aware that you are on public streets with cars and trucks and adults must supervise children. Also make plans for where to meet if you do get separated.
Weíve seen childrenís bikes, tandem bikes and bikes pulling wagons; grandparents, old friends and novices. Some parents pedaled sleeping toddlers in trailers, while others made it a night out without the children. One father told us he enjoyed riding with his daughter who was home from college.
What does L.A.T.E. stand for?
Long After Twilight Ends.
How long has Friends of the Parks been hosting this ride?
We started in 1989 with 350 riders. The number of cyclists per year is below.
In 1996, we set a limit of 10,000 participants. This helps us plan for food and beverages and other needs.
Where does the money go?
Proceeds from The L.A.T.E. Ride support Friends of the Parks, a citywide parks advocacy group.
How can I find out more about Friends of the Parks?
Log on to Friends of the Parks' website.
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