“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
Einstein said it, and the youngest rider grappling to pedal in a straight line without spilling learns quickly that momentum is the ticket. Cycling is a lifelong sport — and it’s accessible, from training wheels to adult tricycles, the latest e-bikes with extra zip, cruisers with comfy seats and road bikes designed for racing.
Wheeling around Lorain County, “You appreciate life at a slower pace,” says Ed Stewart, director of the Elyria Bicycle Education Center and a founder of the Silver Wheels Cycling Club. “Though you might be pedaling hard or trying to go fast, you are still only going 10 to 15 miles per hour, and you’ll see things you’d never notice by car.”
Ride along Lake Erie and pack a beach picnic, pedal through the Lorain County Metro Parks on its North Coast Inland Trail, which includes the scenic Black River Trail. Plan a cycle-in-the-city day and explore Ely Square and nearby waterfalls. The county’s varied but relatively flat terrain and trail connectivity offer a range of rides.
“You notice changes in nature,” says Cheryl Burkhardt, president of the Silver Wheels Cycling Club. “You notice the wildflowers coming up — and once just past Kipton, we saw six eagles soaring over a field. And there’s the socialization aspect of cycling.”
Pick a starting point — and prepare to explore.
“There is lots to see, do and appreciate,” says Jim Ziemnik, director, Lorain County Metro Parks. In fact, the county includes two US Bicycle Route System thoroughfares: US 230 that leads from Toledo by the lakefront and continues into Cuyahoga County along Lake Road; and US 30 that cuts diagonally through the county and follows the North Coast Inland Trail. The initiative to establish these routes in Lorain County began in 2015 and awaits declaration by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), which will provide signage.
Now that your wheels are turning, ready to ride Lorain County?
From Beach to Black River & Brews
Begin at Mile 0.0 at Oasis Marina in Port Lorain, home of Erie Steak & Seafood Co. with its panoramic lake views and breezy patio. Bike lanes along Route 6 make for safe cruising — and after a mile, you’ll reach Century Park on Erie Avenue.
Picnic tables, a playground and steps that lead down the bluff to the beach with fishing access provide an afternoon of family fun — or a quick stopping point for a snack with views. (Restrooms are available.) “It’s an awesome place to stop and get a photo op,” Ziemnik points out.
The trail continues past town and into the county, and you’ll ride on a two-mile stretch called Steel Mill Trail within the Black River Reservation, picking up at the north end of the Bridgeway Trail by the Day’s Dam Picnic Area. Then, you’ll cycle through the old slag fields.
“A number of people have been on the trail and because the steel mill is such a significant part of Lorain County’s heritage and history, they kind of get weepy remembering where their grandfather, dad or brother once worked,” Ziemnik relates. Indeed, for many it’s a ride down memory lane.
From there, the trail carries on to Colorado and Kansas avenues, where there are microbreweries popping up like Bascule Brewery and Public House (1397 Colorado Ave.) and Billy Rays Brew and BBQ (1620 Kansas Ave.).
>> For the Kids >> While on the Steel Mill Trail, a spur takes you toward the French Creek Nature Center at 4530 Colorado Ave. It features programs, exhibits, bird and wildlife observation areas and a crushed-gravel trail to explore.
Start at Cascade Park in Elyria (387 Furnace St.), which includes more than 2.5 miles of trails overlooking the Black River and connecting two playgrounds. The rushing waterfalls are an ideal photo backdrop with the family (or a selfie). Biking along, you’ll see primitive ledges with wooden bridges and climbing rocks.
The Black River Trail splits off in downtown Elyria and becomes US 30. Take time to explore Ely Square — a historic district chock full of local shops and places to dine or grab an ice cream cone.
Save room in your backpack for fresh produce from the Elyria Farmers Market, which sets up in the square on Saturdays, June through September. You’ll also find artisan crafts and live entertainment.
If you need a pick-me-up, Erie Island Coffee (148 Middle Ave.) serves up a bold house Morning Launch Blend.
For a longer lunch or dinner stop, Foundry Kitchen and Bar (525 Broad St.) is a scratch kitchen and gastropub specializing in locally sourced ingredients and creative presentations. The menu includes gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian dishes, and for adults on the cycle tour, a fully stocked bar includes craft brews and hand-crafted cocktails.
Wolfey’s Bistro & Pub (1069 E. Broad St.) is a casual grille and bar where you can grab a quick sandwich or wrap for lunch, nosh on appetizers like deep-fried pickles, refuel with a burger and enjoy a beverage. There’s a generous kid’s menu if you’re biking with young ones.
If a quick cone is in order, stop in at Elmer’s Ice Cream & More (212 East Ave.), which serves up Toft’s hand-dipped ice cream and Elmer’s Spicy Chili daily (until sold out). Or pick up a hotdog bundle with chips and a drink to pack as you continue through town via Washington Avenue to Elywood Park, a popular birding destination. Starting from Cascade Park, winding through downtown Elyria and over to Elywood is about 2 miles of biking.
All Around Avon Lake
The whole family — even those who just graduated from training wheels — can enjoy a ride through Avon Lake’s Kopf Family Reservation trail. Start at the Avon Lake Public Library parking lot or pull in at Belle Road Park and use the playground.
The trail is just over 3 miles long, but there are shorter segments. They wind through the woodlands along a stream for a real neighborhood getaway.
For families with older children who can manage a streetside bike lane or an “adults only” version of the tour, Lake Road paves the way for several dining and imbibing spots, including Jake’s on the Lake (32485 Lake Road), Close Quarters Pub (31953 Lake Road) and The Caslon (33451 Lake Road).
“In Avon Lake, we also have a lot of nice developments to ride through where you don’t have to worry about traffic,” points out Marty Hasenstaub, owner of Marty’s Cycle Center on Avon Belden Road.
Marty’s is Lorain County’s longest-running bike shop,
and he caters to families and all kinds of riders. The full-service shop offers no-appointment repairs, helmets and other accessories.
During the past couple of years, more people are starting to ride or rediscovering the hobby, he says. “With people looking for different activities during the pandemic, we were certainly very busy.”
En Route to Oberlin
For a longer ride, start in downtown Elyria and take the North Coast Inland Trail to Oberlin — a quintessential and quirky college town where you can spend the day or simply stop to relax on Tappan Square, a National Historic Landmark on 13 acres in the center of town.
“This is a super calm route mostly through wooded and some farm areas, and you’ll cross a few streets, but the intersections have good sight lines and are not dangerous,” Stewart says of the 8-mile trek.
While in town, Burkhardt likes to stop in at Lorenzo’s Pizzeria (52 1/2 S. Main St.) for a wood-fired pie or homemade pasta. Slip into The Feve (30 S. Main St.) for a burger, and take a break from the bike saddle and walk your wheels around the corner to the Ben Franklin five-and-dime (13 W. College St.), a treasure trove where you’ll find everything from hardware items to yarn, books and old-time toys.
“Oberlin is a nice hub for riding, partly because of the college — and it’s a bike-centric town,” Stewart points out.