“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.” - John F Kennedy
Cycling is one of the simplest sports to master and for me provides an unequivocal feeling of freedom and a clarity of mind that many talk about when running. While you can't buy happiness, you can buy a bike (and a helmet!) and that's good enough for me! Like running, riding a bike is a great way to explore your local neighborhood and city parks- with the added benefit of getting to see a lot more in less time. Last year a group of us from work decided to all train up for Pelotonia, a fundraising cycling event in Columbus that raises millions every year for cancer research. We trained as a team the whole summer leading up to the event in August, where we all successfully rode 50 miles. It was an absolutely incredible and inspiring event to be a part of and a huge accomplishment for me as I had never ridden 50 miles ever! While the ride itself was a lot of fun I think I enjoyed the time I spent training more. Starting downtown, we'd take different routes throughout the city, connecting up to the many paved trails that surround the city, slowly building up our miles. On the weekends I would take my bike out to some of the city's surrounding park systems to explore the sights of the greater Columbus area.
While I'm not participating in Pelotonia this year I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite trails that I found while training. If you live in the Columbus area and are training for a cycling event or just looking for a new place to explore be sure to check out some of these paved paths! I also highly recommend signing up for Strava online and downloading the app on your phone to track and analyze all of your rides (and your friends!) It's also a great app for runners!
Within the city of Columbus there are quite a few very nicely paved scenic trails that easily connect you to various neighborhoods and points of interest, allowing you to avoid road traffic as much as possible. If you're looking to cycle in the city I highly recommend planning your route on Google maps using their bicycling planner to make the best use of these trails and find the safest city road routes to connect you from trail to trail.
The Olentangy Trail is one of the longest and most convenient trails in the city. It runs north to south, mostly along the Olentangy River, from Downtown to Worthington and hits several nice parks along the way as well as passing Ohio State's sprawling campus. The northern part of the trail is very pretty and well-shaded, and there are some nice food options if you need a break at the end of the trail in Worthington. The Olentangy Trail also connects to the Upper and Lower Scioto trails which go to Grandview and into Downtown towards the Scioto Audobon Metro Park (cool bird sanctuary!) respectively. There is construction on the Lower Scioto trail but there are plenty of signs to redirect you through the streets. One word of warning: on nice days and weekends this trail can get pretty crowded with runners and cyclists, especially near campus. My best advice is to go early and enjoy the ride!
Another centrally located trail that's great to train on is the Alum Creek Trail, just east of the city. With over 30 miles of paved surface you can ride from Westerville south all the way to Three Creeks Metro Park, weaving your way through several parks as well as passing through several neighborhoods including Bexley. From Three Creeks Metro Park you can connect to the Blacklick Creek Trail and add another 12 miles to your ride. There are several nice parks in this area that make good starting points to your cycling adventures. Both Blacklick Woods and Pickerington Pond Metro Parks have nice parking and restroom facilities and easily connect to these trails. While a scenic pathway, I will warn riders to be vigilant on certain parts of the path that go through more urban areas. Best to ride this one with a buddy!
If you're looking to explore more trails beyond the city and throughout the state a great tool for searching all that Ohio has to offer is the Ohio Bikeways website which provides links to trail maps and nice reviews of all the major paved trails.
A family favorite, the Thomas J. Evans and Panhandle Trail is a nicely paved, mostly flat, and well-shaded rail-to-trail path that runs from Johnstown to Hanover. The route provides plenty of pretty country scenery and is well connected to a few parks where you can rest up and take a bathroom break. After your cycling adventure stay in the area to explore the cities of Granville and Newark!
A more recent discovery was the Buck Creek Trail in Springfield, OH. While only 6 miles, this very pretty trail which starts at Buck Creek State Park and ends in Springfield takes you through some very nice areas where wildlife and wildflowers are a plenty. After a long ride, you can spend the day at Buck Creek State Park- there's a beach and plenty of nice picnic areas to hang out at. This would be a great trail to start riding on if you're new to cycling. Looking to go the distance? You can easily connect from the Buck Creek Trail to the Simon Kenton Trail which goes another 18 miles from Springfield to Urbana. For an even longer ride you can connect to the Little Miami Scenic Trail which is over 75 miles and goes from Springfield to Newtown near Cincinnati. Choose your adventure and get going!
Now get out there and ride (or run!) and be sure to always wear a helmet!! I hope you enjoy these trails as much as I do and let me know what some of your favorite riding spots are!