Most people in Dayton who know anything about the city have heard that the Wright brothers, before they became airplane makers, were exceptionally successful bicycle manufacturers. They conceived, designed and built those airplanes inside a series of small cycle shops around the city, two of which can still be visited. It's a good way to see how far cycling has come from the fancy hobby of the late-19th and early-20th centuries to the sport that it is today.
June 2012 Issue
Dayton's extensive system of trails offers cyclists everything from leisurely scenic rides to challenging mountain-biking trails
And anyone who enjoys biking will find long, perfect pathways crisscrossing the entire Dayton area. The region boasts a sophisticated park system in which cycling is a key — though far from the only — outdoor feature. And whether you prefer whizzing down paved country paths or bouncing along rough, adventurous mountain-bike trails, Dayton has something for you.
Orville and Wilbur would be proud.
Montgomery County alone has more than 70 miles of developed bikeways ready for riding. According to Five Rivers MetroParks, the county's park system, the greater Dayton region has about 270 miles of bikeways. Finished trails run along the region's rivers, and downtown Dayton sports a newly developed bike hub designed to appeal to commuters.
Xenia, a Greene County city southeast of Dayton, has declared itself a cycling center. Indeed, cycling seems the rage of late in this corner of the state, so much so that the League of American Bicyclists gave Dayton the rare "bronze" designation in 2010, officially declaring it a bicycle-friendly community.
What will riders see as they pedal through the area? Downtown's streets are clearly marked with bike lanes that remind motorists to share the road with cyclists. The new Bike Hub at River-Scape MetroPark includes racks, lockers and showers designed to let folks bike to work; riders can sign up as members to take advantage of a full slate of amenities.
Downtown is the hub of a vast network of trails and pathways that roll across southwest Ohio, connecting cities and villages, running along a network of wide, scenic rivers and crossing picturesque rural places that tie the area together, creating a cyclist's paradise.
Numerous local agencies and local park districts have worked together for years to get the bikeway system up to speed. The website for the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission sums up the results:
"Ohio's Miami Valley region provides over 250 miles of paved, multi-use recreational trails. Stretching across county lines, these trails connect schools, parks, historic landmarks and area attractions. Path users travel through meadows, scenic countryside, forested areas and city centers."
The agency offers a detailed, full-color map of the trail system that can be downloaded at mvrpc.org/bikeways.
You'll find plenty of trips to choose from, including Dayton to Yellow Springs (27.9 miles), where you can hang out for a while in its the charming, quirky downtown; Yellow Springs to Xenia (10.3 miles), where you can relax at Xenia Station, the largest paved trail hub in Ohio; or Dayton to Cedarville (25.3 miles), a ride that combines country and suburban sights.
If mountain biking is more your style, the Five Rivers MetroParks system has a spot for that, too. The MetroParks Mountain Bike Area (MoMBA), is a rugged, varied-terrain trail system with six main sections spread over 8.3 miles. It's located in the Huffman MetroPark near Fairborn, northeast of Dayton. Trails include "Mr. Zig Zag," "Twisted" and "Voodoo." Along the way, encounter wildlife, steep drops, fallen trees and rocks.
Other than that, have fun.
Locals know that while cycling is an increasingly big deal in the area's parks, it's far from the only thing to do in them. Five Rivers MetroParks, the region's main system, offers a wide variety of activities, and metroparks.org is brimming with ideas. Some favorites:
Backpacking at Twin Valley MetroPark: This 1,000-acre park near Germantown, between Dayton and Middletown, offers woods, prairie and river views, and is set up with 20 miles of trails and campsites that make for an easy-access backpacking weekend without having to drive miles and miles to get started. Twin Valley is also home to a large Indian mound and earthwork system built 2,000 years ago by the Hopewell people.
Music at RiverScape downtown: Lots of people head down to RiverScape, along the Great Miami River in downtown Dayton, for the rich slate of festivals and musical acts that grace the sleek, modern stage area. Others go for the impeccable flowers and landscaping along the Inventors River Walk, for the workouts and fitness activities — like kayaking and rollerblading — or to just sit for a quiet spell. RiverScape is also close to the MetroParks' 2nd Street Market, a popular hangout on Saturday mornings.
Farm fun at Carriage Hill: The 900-acre Carriage Hill MetroPark near Huber Heights is home to an 1880s farm that offers children's activities and historical lessons. Sheep shearing, anyone? Carriage Hill also offers fishing, hiking, camping, horseback riding and cross-country skiing in the winter.
Enjoy the view: Cox Arboretum MetroPark in Miami Township, south of Dayton, has always been a prime walking spot with its elegant gardens and gentle trails, but soon it will be the home of a giant, cleverly designed "tree tower," an observation area with stunning views.
Kayaking at Eastwood: Paddlers and other boaters like to get out on the calm, broad expanse of the 185-acre Eastwood Lake, also a popular fishing spot. The 437-acre Eastwood MetroPark is located off St. Rte. 4 east of Dayton.
Speaking of kayaking, the MetroParks make it easy to paddle in the river system that cuts through the area. Check metroparks.org
for places to put in on the Mad, Stillwater and Great Miami rivers.
Don't forget that Montgomery County also boasts Sycamore State Park in Trotwood, a 2,380-acre park that's a popular hiking, camping and fishing spot. It's also open for hunting, and has six different hiking trails. Visit dnr.state.oh.us/parks/parks/sycamore
to learn more.
Greene County has John Bryan State Park, which sits alongside Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve and near Glen Helen, owned by Antioch College in Yellow Springs. Combined, they provide some seriously scenic hiking. Visit ohiodnr.com/location/clifton
to get started.
Check out these top events in the Dayton area.
The Broadway musical, a favorite of all ages, plays at the Victoria Theatre through June 24.
8th Annual Freedom's Call Military Tattoo
Military veterans are honored with an air show accompanied by music, narration and fireworks at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on June 29. 937/255-3286, wpafb.af.mil/tattoo
A family-favorite celebration of diversity, with musical performances, dance, ethnic foods and international arts, June 29–July 1, in downtown Dayton. 937/223-3655, cityfolk.org
Vectren Air Show
Dayton, The Birthplace of Aviation, hosts one of the top air shows in the country, this year featuring the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, at the Dayton International Airport. 937/898-5901, daytonairshow.com
29th Annual GermanFest Picnic
German heritage is honored with food, bands, crafts and a biergarten at Carillon Park, Aug. 10–12. 937/223-9013, daytongermanclub.org
Montgomery County Fair
Food, midway games and 4-H exhibits, among other fair favorites, can be found at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds. 937/224-1619, montcofair.com