It’s been a few days since I returned home from our tour across Ohio. It’s a bit hard to believe it’s over already. The five days in the saddle went by very quickly, and now it’s in the memory books.
One nice part about this trip was that neither Joe or I had any familiarity with most of the route, it gave us some new things to see.
The past few bike tours I’ve done have been on dedicated bike trails. I like bike trails because they tend to be safer since they’re away from traffic. They also offer shade from the sun, and often meander through neat little towns. The Ohio to Erie route does have lots of miles on dedicated trail, but it has a variety of riding conditions. If you’re looking for a typical rail-trail ride, the Ohio to Erie won’t exactly fit that model.
Many people I talked to wondered why we chose Ohio. The prevailing opinion was “it doesn’t have much to see.” I have to disagree. We found it to be a very pretty state for a long ride. Sure, there was a lot of farm land. But seeing the Amish farming their land, the various crops, and the blue skies was very peaceful. We went through downtown Cleveland, Akron, Columbus, and Cincinnati. We got a taste of a little of everything you could want. We didn’t linger long in any one place because we were bound to a schedule, but if you could afford the time to meander a bit, there were lots of options on spending your time.
The Ohio to Erie route is also marked as Ohio Bike Route 1. It isn’t a single trail or road, it is a collection of trails, city streets, and country roads that can carry you across the state. You have to be pretty careful about following maps and watching for turns. Most were pretty easy to spot, but we did miss a couple of them along the way. In most places, they’re pretty far apart, so if you miss a turn, it could be a while before you notice. Fortunately, we didn’t get too far off track.
From a difficulty perspective, I would rate this route as intermediate for both navigating, and for the physical challenge. The route requires city smarts for navigating on city roads in Cleveland, Columbus, Akron, and Cincinnati. None of the city riding was super challenging, but if you’re not comfortable riding amongst pedestrians and cars, I would recommend trying to time your city routes during less busy traffic times.
There was about 50 miles of country road riding on the route. Most of it was very tame and beautiful. Some rolling hills and the traffic seemed very light. However, the 14 miles between Killbuck and Gann were a little more than “rolling” hills. After looking at the data on maps when I got home, the grade didn’t quite look as bad as I had expected. The average grade of the worst part was about 8.5% for .5 miles. On a bike loaded with an extra 20-25 lbs. of gear, plus a gallon of water, on a hot and sunny day, those miles provided some challenge. Perhaps on a cooler day with fewer miles on my legs, it wouldn’t have seemed so bad.
The road conditions varied from city streets with potholes and grates, to crushed limestone of the Ohio & Erie canal, paved bike trails, and quiet country roads. I would recommend a bike with 36mm or larger tires, mostly because of the crushed stone sections, especially if you have any rain. Unlike most other rail-trails, there are really long sections of paved path. For example, our last two days of riding were entirely on paved path or road. That makes it easier to cover longer distances.
We were pleasantly surprised at how many of the small towns we went through had sufficient services for food and water. When we laid out our travel plan, we didn’t know enough about these little towns. On one hand, that made for some fun discovery periods. On the other hand, it would have been nice to plan a little more time to spend in a few places.
We chose to do this tour in 5 riding days. In part because of the time we had to spend, and partially because we didn’t see too many ways to split into 6 days with lodging. The result was that we had 4 days over 70 miles, and one day around 60 miles. Our legs seemed to survive the miles pretty well due to the good weather and good riding surfaces. But we only had a little time for smelling the roses along the way, too. It’s a tough tradeoff to make. What I can say is that the 5 day plan worked pretty well for lodging.
Overall, this was a very fun tour. If you’re up for a little more challenge than the average rail-trail, this might be a good route to try. Great scenery, nice towns, wonderful people, and enough stops along the way to be self-supported.
You can find more information about the Ohio to Erie route at: http://www.ohiotoerietrail.org/
I’m not sure what the next bike tour might be for me. I might look at some familiar territory, or look for another new route to try. We’ll have to see. If anyone has any suggestions for a 350-450 mile self-supported bike route, let me know! I’m hopeful that a great adventure will arise for some time in 2017.