Three guys on a bike Northern Ohio trails offer an exciting excursion

Published Jan 30, 2013 at 12:01 am (Updated Jan 24, 2013 at 11:16 am)

Friends Bill Kutzer and Doug Ettinger of Mt. Lebanon and Dan Mottsman of Upper St. Clair have traveled together on three bicycling trips, including a trail from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., and another from Buffalo to Albany, N.Y. Their most recent trip was last summer when they took to trails in northern Ohio: the Ohio and Erie Canal towpath and the Emerald Necklace.

The Emerald Necklace consists of a network of parks around the Cleveland Metroparks and Cuyahoga Valley National Park that tend to follow the rivers and creeks there – on a map it looks like an Emerald Necklace. The Ohio and Erie Canal towpath is one of Ohio’s largest bikeways at more than 80 miles.

Recently the friends talked about their trip during a presentation at the Mt. Lebanon Public Library. Their goal was to get others excited about bicycling. Both Kutzer and Ettinger had previously been on parts of the northern Ohio trails, but had not completed the entire trip until the Fourth of July holiday last year.

The trio broke up their trip into seven days, riding an average of about 45 miles each day, staying at hotels or bed and breakfasts along the way. They returned the same way by bicycle. To start their trip, the friends first drove to the Cleveland area and parked their car, then biked south to Massillon, Ohio.

Kutzer said if doing a trip to the northern Ohio trails, it’s “best to have at least a weekend” or more. Ettinger said they chose the route they did because “we don’t want to ride on highways.”

“We like to check out the sites,” Ettinger added, saying they enjoy looking at the history, geography and wildlife in the area. He said they also enjoyed talking to others they met along the trails.

Day two of their trip consisted of biking south along the trail and then returning back to Massillon. The third day, the group returned to Boston and stayed at the Stanford House hostel overnight and biked east on the Emerald Necklace the next day. That night, they returned to the Stanford House and on day five, biked north to downtown Cleveland and then returned back to the Stanford House. On day six, they biked west on the Emerald Necklace and stayed at a bed and breakfast. On day seven, they biked north on the Emerald Necklace and returned.

Ettinger said that because they drove to the Cleveland area, they didn’t worry about transportation. Both Kutzer and Ettinger agreed that it’s a different trip to and from even though it’s the same path.

For anyone considering a bike trip like the trio’s, they offered some advice, including the fact that one must train for such a trip. “The key is 10 miles,” Kutzer said, adding that for someone who is just starting to take long bicycle trips, once they reach the point where they can do 10 miles, it becomes much easier to do an even longer trip. They also agreed that it’s a good idea to be in reasonable shape and get an OK from your doctor.

The friends said to plan ahead for the trip by researching where to go, where to stay and other information about the destination. Kutzer also offered advice for how much weight to carry. He said they carried around 32 pounds of equipment on their bikes including gear, hydration units and bottles, cameras and other essentials in each of their panniers, or the packs on the side of the bike.

Kutzer said to consider the time of the year to take a trip. They chose to go in the summer because the days are longer. Both Kutzer and Ettinger added that they didn’t mind biking in the heat because when on the trails, which were often wooded, it felt cooler. They said that the summer is also a good time to go because one doesn’t need to take as much equipment. In the springtime, there is more rain, so the trails can be softer, and in the fall, it is cooler so more clothing is needed and the leaves hide the ruts on the trail – although, the autumn colors are a bonus of going in the fall.

“It is a nice vacation – a nice outing,” Ettinger said.

Kutzer said he’s been bicycling for “a long time – even as a kid.” He said he and his friends would ride from Brentwood, where he grew up, to South Park and also ride to Glass Run Road.

Ettinger, who grew up in the eastern part of the state, also rode bikes as a kid. “I didn’t return to bicycling until some friends at work introduced me to a 21-speed bike,” he said.

He added he likes doing rails-to-trails trips and works with the Montour Trail locally.

The friends are planning this year’s trip, which will be along trails in West Virginia.

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