Mountain bikers find plenty of twists and turns in Ohio

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COLUMBUS – It’s not a stretch to say that much of the Buckeye State’s geography is vertically challenged. That is to say: flat as your hat or nearly so in many parts of Ohio.

Nonetheless, going “off-road” on a mountain bike is an increasingly popular activity for families and individuals looking for alternative ways to explore the Ohio outdoors.

Still a challenge. “While the experience here may not be mountain peaks, the hills are still challenging,” said Ryan O’Dell, a veteran mountain bike rider and trail builder near Loudonville.

“Riding through Ohio’s forests you’re in the middle of beautiful, jungle-like canopies much different than the wide open western states.”

An exhilarating and challenging sport – despite relatively flat terrain – mountain biking in Ohio can be enjoyed on trails of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty that accommodate both the beginner and the advanced rider alike.

Better bikes. Sporting fat tires with knobby treads, mountain bikes have come a long way since the days of coaster brakes and three speeds.

The wide, flat handlebars, powerful brakes and multiple gears (usually 18 to 24) are mounted on a sturdy frame making these two-wheelers built to handle the rigors of off-road riding.

“I’ve had deer run right in front of me. I’ve seen turkey, fox and a variety of other wildlife, too,” said O’Dell. “Mountain biking puts you right in the mix.”

For individuals wanting to try the sport for the first time, O’Dell recommends the two-mile South Bike Trail at Alum Creek State Park in Delaware County with its open areas and low hills.

He also suggests scenic Lake Hope State Park in Vinton County, which offers trails for riders of all skill levels. Cyclists at Lake Hope can explore 14 miles of trails that meander through the state park and adjacent Zaleski State Forest.

Families with young mountain bikers in tow will find the first loop at East Fork State Park in Clermont County ideal. About two miles in length, this trail has a mixture of flat, smooth stretches and twisting turns through wooded area.

In fact, Ohio’s state parks alone offer more than 170 miles of mountain bike adventures at trails in 22 parks.

Columbiana County. Advanced riders in search of challenging trails will find plenty of muscle-burning hills to tackle at Beaver Creek State Park in Columbiana County.

Twelve miles of trails traverse the area’s rough and rocky terrain that features steep hills and wooded ravines.

Already known as a place for great camping, fishing and hunting, American Electric Power’s ReCreation Land in southeast Ohio now offers mountain bike enthusiasts some great down-hill runs and creek crossings over five miles of dirt trail.

The trails, which can be used free of charge, opened in 2002 and were designed with the intermediate to advanced rider in mind.

More information. Local bike shops are excellent resources for trail information and expert advice on purchasing a mountain bike that’s just right for you. Regional trail information can also be tracked down online at the Ohio Mountain Bike Association’s Web site, joinomba.org.

Safety tips. Wherever you go to enjoy the exciting sport of mountain bike riding here are a few tips to help ensure you have a fun and safe adventure:

* Always wear a helmet: Of all the pieces of mountain biking equipment you buy (next to the bike), your helmet is the most important

* Stick to the trail: Leaving it causes damage to the surrounding area and risks injury to yourself

* Bring an adequate supply of water. Remember, you’re exercising and its important to keep your body hydrated

* Keep an eye out for holes, dips, rocks or other trail obstructions

* Be courteous to other trail users

* When possible, ride with a friend.

Now’s the season. Spring is the perfect time of year to undertake a new sport. Why not try mountain biking for the fun, the exercise and the opportunity to explore Ohio’s scenic outdoors.


Related story:

Biking events at state parks

June 20-21 – The Mohican MTB 100 has been added to the successful Mohican Trail 100-foot race. The race will include a loop through the scenic Mohican State Forest and Mohican State Park.

Aug. 10 – OMBC series race, Kids MTB clinic and Race at Lake Hope State Park.

Aug. 30-31 – OMBC will participate for the second year at the Dillon Family Festival at Dillon State Park. Races to include an OMBC series Race, Kids MTB race, and a family adventure race.

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Definition: Off-road riding means tackling terrain other than the paved path winding cautiously through your neighborhood park.

Often referred to as “single-tracking,” these dirt and rock trails twist and turn through beautiful woodlands, down steep hills and occasionally through mud. The benefit is exercise, excitement and an opportunity to see some of Ohio’s diverse wildlife.

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