If ever there was a time to dig out your family’s bikes and head out on the trails, it’s now. Not only is May Cleveland Bike Month, but after a long winter, winding your way through Northeast Ohio on two wheels is a great way to get to know the area while enjoying the sites and sounds of spring.
When Raul Benitez’s job brought him and his family to Northeast Ohio nearly three years ago, his youngest daughter, Daniela, was just learning how to ride a bike. Benitez would walk patiently behind his daughter’s bike, adorned with training wheels, around their neighborhood.
Today, Daniela is a confident rider, and the family of five has expanded their bike outings to locales throughout the area. Among the many locations the family has visited, Chagrin Reservation and the Bedford Reservation have become favorites.
“This area is so beautiful to explore,” says Benitez about his first trip to the popular Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath recently.
Of the countless bike paths in our area, several frequent riders named a few family-friendly favorites. Here, Diane Stresing, author of “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cleveland: Including Akron and Canton” and Jason Kunz, marketing manager of Eddy’s Bike Shop, along with Joe Yachanin, a spokesperson for Cleveland Metroparks, share their suggestions.
Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath
Location: 48 trailheads, starting in Cleveland heading south.
Trail Style: Includes both paved, crushed limestone and hard-packed earth, depending on the section.
What You’ll Find: Of all the bikeways in Northeast Ohio, the Towpath is by far the most popular — and for good reason. The multi-purpose, flat path follows 85 miles along the scenic, historic canal, which includes the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Each year 2.5 million people venture on the Towpath, also making it one of the busiest.
Learn More: ohioanderiecanalway.com
Beaver Marsh Boardwalk (Cuyahoga Valley National Park)
Location: Ira Trailhead, 3801 Riverview Road, Peninsula
Trail Style: Limestone and boardwalk made out of treated wood.
What You’ll Find: Once a junkyard, this section of the Towpath deserves its own entry. Beavers moved into the area and created a wetland suitable for a variety of wildlife, including herons, muskrats, turtles, otters and more.
Learn More: nps.gov/cuva/naturescience/Beaver-Marsh.htm
Bike and Hike Trail, Summit Metro Parks
Location: Multiple trailheads throughout the path; download park map at website for parking.
Trail Style: Paved asphalt
What You’ll Find: This 34-mile path parallels the Towpath in sections near the Cuyahoga River but tends to be much less busy. Following an old railroad that connected Akron, Bedford and Cleveland, the trail passes through picturesque areas like Brandywine Falls.
Learn More: summitmetroparks.org
Orchard Hills Park, Geauga Park District
Location: 11340 Caves Road, Chester Township
Trail Style: Paved with some inclines, multi-use.
What You’ll Find: This former golf course has been transformed into a bike haven. The trails are smoothed with some rolling hills that are perfect for younger riders. There are several trails to choose from, the longest is about a mile and a half.
Learn More: geaugaparkdistrict.org
Hinckley Lake Reservation
Location: 1 West Drive, Hinckley
Trail Style: Paved
What You’ll Find: In the southern section of the Cleveland Metroparks, this 3-mile loop is easy enough for new riders, but you can go around a few extra times for more of a workout. Find picnic tables for a leisurely meal or paddleboats, pontoon boats, stand-up paddle boards, motorized rowboats and canoes to rent at the boathouse.
Learn More: clevelandmetroparks.com
Greenway Corridor, Lake Metroparks
Location: Painesville (Rt. 84 and Liberty St.); Concord Township (Old Stone School at 7125 Ravenna Road)
Trail Style: Paved
What You’ll Find: Connecting Painesville, Painesville Township and Concord Township with 4.8 miles of winding paths, this trail goes over a bridge. You’ll also want to save some time to see the Chair Factory Falls waterfall — you’ll have to park your bike and take the walking trail to reach it.
Learn More: lakemetroparks.com
Sunny Lake Park, Aurora
Location: 885 East Mennonite Road (South End); 625 Page Road (North End), Aurora
Trail Style: Paved
What You’ll Find: Making its way around a 68-acre fishing lake, this 1.75-mile trail is smooth and ready for beginning cyclists. Bring your fishing pole for after your ride. There’s also boating, volleyball, baseball, horseshoe pits and two playgrounds available.
Learn More: oh-aurora.civicplus.com
For a lesson in bike trail etiquette, read on here.
Find the Proper Bike Helmet Fit for Your Child
Helmets come in various sizes and taking the time to ensure a proper fit is important for your child’s safety. Because children grow fast, they may need a new helmet every year. Below are bike helmet fitting tips that Sigmund Norr, M.D., vice chair of community pediatrics at Cleveland Clinic Children’s recommends:
1. All kids should wear a bike helmet no matter the age or skill level. It’s also important to encourage children to wear a helmet every time they ride.
2. When buying a helmet, look for one that fits their head now and not one they will “grow into”.
3. When wearing the helmet, cover the forehead and adjust straps until snug. Both the side and chin straps need to be snug.
4. Check for any helmet shifting back and forth. If the helmet shifts more than an inch, shorten the straps and retighten the chin strap.
5. Helmets should be replaced after every accident involving the head.
6. Parents should model good behavior and wear helmets too. It shows kids that even adults need to wear helmets for protection and safety.