As winter gives way to spring here in Northeast Ohio, the time has come to dust the cobwebs off your ride and gear up for what promises to be a tremendous year of bicycling in a region renowned for its two-wheel opportunities!
While the long winter has forced all but the most dedicated bicyclists to hibernate for several months, spring beckons bicycles to our region much like it does baseball and buzzards. And no need to worry that your bicycling skills have diminished from months of inactivity – remembering how to ride is as simple as, well, riding a bike.
The following are eight reasons to be thrilled the 2014 bicycling season has arrived in Northeast Ohio:
1. The Towpath Trail – The crown jewel of Northeast Ohio bicycling amenities, The Towpath Trail encompasses 84 miles of mostly crushed, limestone path traveling through the heart of the Ohio & Erie Canalway. From its southernmost trailhead south of Canton in Tuscarawas County, The Towpath Trail runs through downtown Akron before entering the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and following the Cuyahoga River northward. Although The Towpath Trail currently ends within Cleveland’s Steelyard Commons district, plans are underway to extend the path to Lake Erie. One of the longest bikeways in Ohio, this paradise for history and nature enthusiasts attracts more than 2.5 million visitors each year.
2. Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad – A ride along The Towpath Trail is not complete without experiencing one of its best complementary features, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. Operated by the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, this excursion train carries travelers through the park from downtown Akron to Rockside Road in Independence. Best of all, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad offers a Bike Aboard!service, whereby bicyclists can ride the train one way for only $3. Never before has it been so easy to enjoy a biking adventure without worrying about the return trip!
3. Cleveland Critical Mass – Interested in partaking in a large-scale, urban bike ride? Then Cleveland Critical Mass is your perfect trek. Taking place on the final Friday evening of each month in conjunction with more than 300 similar rides internationally, Cleveland Critical Mass meets at Cleveland’s Public Square and departs promptly at 7 p.m. on a group journey. The informal rides typically travel 15-25 miles, with bicyclists proclaiming the slogan of “Happy Friday” along the way, and end at a pre-determined town or landmark. While Cleveland Critical Mass rides take place year-round, the warm-weather months have been known to draw upwards of 1,000 riders.
4. Mountain Biking in Summit County – In an exciting development that stands to change the landscape of Northeast Ohio bicycling, Metro Parks, Serving Summit County aims to construct more than seven miles of mountain biking trails within Akron’s Hampton Hills Metro Park. This project would represent the first designated area for mountain biking in Summit County. Although a completion date is not yet known (some reports speculate the trails could open sometime in 2014), mountain biking enthusiasts should keep an eye on this project.
5. Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park – As mountain bikers await the opening of trails within Summit County, they can enjoy Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park in the meantime. Located on the near-westside of Cleveland, Ray’s MTB is one of the premier indoor mountain bike parks in the country, featuring room after room of urban playground for mountain/BMX bikers of all ability levels. This converted warehouse has become a local treasure. Although the bicycling season at Ray’s MTB typically runs from October to April (the warmer months are used to renovate the courses), the mountain bike park does reopen for select summer weekends.
6. Electric Bike Kits – Each bicycling season presents improved technology, and 2014 is no different. One emerging trend within the industry is the electric bike kit, which makes it possible to transform virtually any bicycle into a powerful, efficient ride capable of climbing hills with ease at 15-20 mph. Electric bike kits are designed to work with you as you pedal, giving electric assistance where and when you need it. Visit your local bicycle shop for more details.
7. Pedal to the Point – There are many organized bicycle rides taking place in Northeast Ohio that support good causes, but one of the best is the annual Pedal to the Point ride, which takes place August 2-3. Orchestrated by Bike MS to raise money for multiple sclerosis research, Pedal to the Point starts at Brunswick High School and finishes at Cedar Point in Sandusky.
8. Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway – The Cleveland Lakefront Bikeway extends 17 miles connecting westside suburb Lakewood to eastside suburb Euclid along the coastline of Lake Erie. Consisting of both street and off-road paths, this journey affords impressive views of downtown Cleveland, Edgewater State Park, greater Cleveland’s lakefront communities and, of course, our Great Lake.
Matt Bixenstine is an Akron native who resides in Lakewood and works in downtown Cleveland. His family owns Blimp City Bike & Hike, an Akron-based bicycle shop. When he’s not at Blimp City or exploring Northeast Ohio by bicycle, Matt can be found hiking the Cuyahoga Valley National Park with his basset hound Buford.