The following is a post written especially for OHventures by freelance tourism writer Susie Holt!
Ohio has some great routes for cycling, but if you are a keen cyclist then you will probably already be aware that there is one route in Ohio that you really have to do, whether you live here or you are just visiting. The Ohio to Erie Trail is the ultimate route to follow, leading as it does from the Ohio River all the way to Lake Erie. It provides some excellent, challenging riding, and takes you to some of the state's most beautiful locations.
The Ohio to Erie Trail has a mix of different surfaces, ranging from paved surfaces and roads to fairly rough dirt paths, but the majority of the route is paved asphalt or limestone trail. Many parts of the route are along old railroads and canals, which means that you are often riding on the level, so this is a good route if you are new to long distance cycling or if you have not been able to train on steeper hills. You might still want to skip some of the more difficult sections, such as the hilly farmland between Brinkhaven and Dalton, but if you are heading northwards rather than starting at the Erie end, the hills will generally be in your favor.
The trail can be divided into three main sections: the Southern Leg between Cincinnati and Mount Vernon, then the Heart of Ohio Leg to Clinton, and finally the Northern Leg finishing in Cleveland. You will probably need to take more than three days to complete the entire route. (CLICK HERE FOR A FULL MAP OF THE OHIO TO ERIE TRAIL) Each of the legs is divided into different segments, so if you have less time, you might want to aim to complete a certain number of segments, or to ride one leg of the journey. The Heart of Ohio Leg has some of the most recently completed paved trail sections, but the aim is for the whole route to be completely off road, so new sections are still being added to make it possible to cross the state without encountering any cars.
Preparing for the Trip
Getting ready for a major trip like the Ohio to Erie Trail requires some careful planning. One of the most important aspects of your preparation will be making sure that you are ready to cycle this distance. Taking regular bike rides is the best way to prepare, but you can also get your muscles ready with other forms of exercise if you can't get out on the road often enough. Stationary bikes at the gym or at home can be a good alternative, but even running, weight training or swimming will help you to get fit enough for your trip.
The entire Ohio to Erie Trail is 300 miles, and it is probably best to allow yourself a week to complete the route, so you will need to ride about 43 miles a day, on average. Work up to this distance during training, if necessary, and try to get in some consecutive days of riding so that you know how your body will feel when it needs to keep going.
You should also make sure that your bike is in good order. A lightweight hybrid bike will be the best option for the route, but a road or mountain bike will suffice. Make sure that you check the lights, brakes and tire pressures before you live, and carry a repair kit just in case. It is also a good idea to check that your bike is covered on your home insurance or to take out additional cover for it. A first aid kit for yourself will also be useful, as will plenty of high-energy food and water.
On Your Bike
Once you are ready to attempt the route, you will find yourself cycling through some beautiful landscapes, including some of the area's best nature reserves and parks. Some of the less attractive parts of the route will take you along large, busy roads in the more built up areas, particularly in Columbus, but you will also get to bike along the quiet part of the trail that follows the Kokosing River, the section of the Little Miami Scenic Trail that you follow near Xenia, and the part of the trail shared with the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
If you want to see more of the areas that you are passing through along the way, or if you are new to long distance rides so you want to take it slow, with plenty of breaks, there are some interesting places to visit that you can reach easily from the route, in addition to your overnight stops. Some of the best places to stop are mentioned in I Got a Bike's guide to the trip, including the national parks and small towns such as Xenia, London, Loveland and Morrow, but if you haven't visited Ohio before, you might also want to plan to do some sightseeing in the bigger cities, Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland.
You will need to plan regular stops to rest, eat and drink some water even if you don't intend to look around. Most cyclists plan rest breaks every ten to twenty miles, but it depends on your ability. Don't try to push yourself too hard, either by going too fast or by leaving too long between your stops, or you won't be able to enjoy the ride.