Login | April 23, 2019

Bicycle capital of the Midwest

Pete’s World

Published: September 10, 2018

Over the past 30 years I’ve been lucky enough to ride a bicycle in some pretty cool places, and consequently I’ve experienced some amazingly comprehensive and beautiful bike trail networks. And I’m not just talking about networks in high-end, well touristed vacation destinations like Switzerland, Quebec, Norway and the Netherlands.

I’m also talking about far less glamorous and far less publicized networks. Networks that exist right here in the good old USA. And what I find amazing is the fact that some of these places literally lie right here in our backyard, in places like Pennsylvania, Indiana, Michigan…and…Ohio of course.

That’s right, when talk turns to comprehensive and beautiful bike trail networks, well, in my kooky world Ohio can definitely hold its own with the heavy hitters. And I’m dead serious when I say Ohio easily qualifies as a wonderful venue for bike trail touring.

Now before you start shaking your head and writing me off as just another one of those Pollyannish Buckeye shills, give me a chance. Hold your judgment for just a moment so I can present my case.

Now for starters, the League of American Wheelmen in 2017 ranked Ohio 18th nationwide in its listing of bike-friendly states. Their rankings are based upon publicly-available data and a survey completed by state Departments of Transportation and/or state bicycle advocacy organizations.

Placing 18th out of 50 is pretty darned good for a state that doesn’t exude the glitz and glamor of all those Sunbelt states, not to mention a state that’s sometimes considered not so “hip” when it comes to cycling. Now truth be told, we are ranked behind mega progressive bicycle states like Colorado, California, and Washington, yet at the same time we’re ranked well ahead of such notable warm weather destinations as Hawaii, North and South Carolina, Arizona, Tennessee and New Mexico.

What’s more, if you take into consideration our country’s vast collection of rail trails - some 2,089 trails containing 23,490 miles - Ohio isn’t doing too bad in that department either, offering 981 trail miles between 95 trails.

Another cool thing about these rail-trails stats is the fact that our state harbors one of only 32 US rail-trails that have attained Hall of Fame status.

That’s right, in 2007 the RTC (Rails-to-Trails Conservancy ) began recognizing exemplary rail-trails around the country. They selected these Hall of Fame trails based on such criteria as scenic value, rider use, trail and trail side amenities, historical significance, excellence in management and maintenance of facility, community connections, and geographic distribution.

The 78-mile Little Miami Scenic Trail is Ohio’s Hall of Famer, and it stands right up there with the Pennsylvania’s famous 150-mile GAP trail and Missouri’s 225-mile Katy Trail.

So with all this being said, I’ve got a sweet little trip to suggest to all you cycle touring aficionados…a trip to Xenia, Ohio…where you can experience not only the Little Miami Scenic Trail, but a vast and wonderful network of rail-trails.

And yes, I did indeed say Xenia. Xenia bills itself as the "Bicycle Capital of the Midwest,” Such a title seems appropriate when you consider that five old rail lines - now paved bikeways - all merge together in Xenia at a hub called Xenia Station.

From this old restored railroad station riders have access to over 270 miles of paved bike paths. Heck, you can ride northeast to London on the Ohio-to-Erie Trail, west to Dayton on the Creekside Trail, east past Jamestown on the Jamestown Connector Trail, and both north to Springfield and south to Cincinnati on Little Miami Scenic Trail.

Now Xenia is located in southwest Ohio, about a 3.5-hour drive from the Akron-Cleveland area via I-71 south to SR 35 west.

Spend a half hour or so scoping out the rail-trail map (http://www.miamivalleytrails.org/sites/default/files/maps-for-print/GreeneCo_Trails-2011.pdf) and you’ll easily be able to concoct a half dozen or so out-and-back rides, or some longer multi-day point-to-point trips.

There are some awesome little communities out there, places like Cedarville, Waynesville, Yellow Springs and Beavercreek, and they all make for great rides. Honestly, your riding possibilities are limitless on this very special rail-trail network.

So do you want experience a world class cycling network? If so then you need to go no further than Xenia Ohio, the Bicycle Capital of the Midwest.