What’s on your to-do list this summer? Hanging out at your favorite outdoor café? Taking a dip at Edgewater Park? Enjoying a cold beer and Tribe game at Progressive Field?
Well, here’s another idea: touring Cleveland by bicycle.
This year, it’s easier than ever to see the city via two wheels. Here's why: Two new bike-tour operators have set up shop; the Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s Bike Rack is up and running on East 4th Street; and numerous free (and fun) public rides -- Critical Mass, the '80s Ride, the Tweed Ride, Two Wheels and Heels, to name but a few -- are popping up at a breakaway pace (to use a cycling term).
So, to tempt you into your bike shorts, Fresh Water
offers this round-up of how and where to get on a bicycle in Cleveland this summer. Oh, and the bonus: you’ll work off that beer.
If you’re looking for a leisurely, guided excursion of the city’s most popular sites, look no further than Cleveland’s two new bicycle tour operators.
Bob’s Bike Tours
Near-West Sider Bob Polk launched Bob’s Bike Tours last summer, after more than 20 years of bicycling in and around Cleveland. “It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do,” says Polk, who offers tours of University Circle and other historic city neighborhoods. “You see so much more on a bicycle.”
The Best Location in the Nation Tour, $27 for a 2.5-hour, 7.5-mile, slow-paced spin around Downtown and Ohio City (bike included). Note: a 90-minute version of this tour, dubbed the Moses Cleaveland Mini Tour, will run you $17.96 in honor of the year Moses arrived here.
Start at Peterson’s Nuts, located across from Progressive Field, where Polk will suit you up with a bike, helmet and water bottle. After a slow pass by the ball field, you’ll head to East 4th, then up Euclid Avenue to PlayhouseSquare and Cleveland State, then back downtown and to the lake (the Rock Hall and Browns Stadium), then to Public Square, across the Detroit Superior Bridge, around Ohio City (with a stop at the West Side Market on Saturdays), then across the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge back to Peterson’s.
Tours are offered Wednesday and Thursday evenings and Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call Polk at 440-681-8262 to reserve a spot.
Great Lakes Tour Co.
Co-owners Anne Smith and Joe Christensen launched Great Lakes Tour Co. in late 2010 and began offering tours last summer. Great Lakes is the official tour operator of the Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s Bike Rack and offers highlight tours of downtown and Ohio City, plus a variety of specialty tours, like the Bike & Brew Ohio City Tour. “We specialize in leisurely rides,” stresses Smith. “We get people who haven’t ridden in like 20 years to get back on bikes.”
Bike & Brew Ohio City Tour, $35 (bike included). Take $10 off the price if you bring your own wheels. After kicking off from Great Lakes Brewing you'll take a 2-mile spin past the neighborhood’s most interesting spots, including the J. Palen House (charming Victorian house-turned-bed-and-breakfast that was once home to one of the city’s premier brewmasters) and Franklin Castle, which is reputed to be one of the most haunted houses in Ohio. Return to Great Lakes Brewing for a private tour.
Reservations and details on all Great Lakes tours -- including the weekly Downtown Tour at the Bike Rack -- are available at the website. Sign up for the company’s newsletter and you’ll receive a $10-off coupon.
Perhaps you were downtown on the last Saturday in April when 100-or-so men, women and children decked out in their finest tweed cycled through town. If so, you got a glimpse of the annual Fantastic Cleveland Tweed Ride, an event based loosely on London’s popular Tweed Run.
That’s just one example of the growing number of public -- mostly free, often costumed -- rides taking place these days in and around Cleveland. Not only are these rides a great way to tour the city; they’re just a heck of a lot of fun, says Lindsey Bower, co-founder of Crank-Set Rides, the nonprofit organization behind the monthly Two Wheels and Heels ride and this June’s '80s Ride (not to mention next October’s Zombie Ride).
“Wherever I travel, I always take my bike," explains Bower. "I’ve ridden in New York City, L.A., Philly, Colorado… Each place is different. Cleveland is unique too. Here, you get an awesome combination of people coming out for rides and you can see parts of the city you’ve never seen before,”
Intrigued? Here are three organizations offering public rides this summer.
Ohio City Bicycle Co-op
The Ohio City Bicycle Co-op, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, is all about helping Clevelanders learn to ride, repair, and respect bicycles. And if the nonprofit also manages to teach you a bit more about our fair city, well, that’s fine, too, says executive director Jim Sheehan.
The Co-op offers monthly themed social rides, including a community garden tour this June. “We may also do a crime scene ride later in the summer,” Sheehan adds. This might include Kingsbury Run, the site of the lurid Torso Murders in the 1930s, or the Great Lakes Brewery, whose Taproom still boasts bullet holes said to come from Eliot Ness’s own gun. “A natural history of the Flats is another idea,” he adds.
Free, easy, 2-hour sightseeing Social Rides on the first Saturday of each month. Loaner bikes are available or bring your own. Meet at the Co-op, located at 1823 Columbus Road, at 10 a.m.
Cleveland Critical Mass
Head down to Public Square on the last Friday evening of the month and you’ll find a couple hundred or so Cleveland-area cyclists heading out for a Critical Mass ride.
These rides started in San Francisco a decade ago, originally as a way for activist bicyclists to “take back the road,” explains Shawn Mariani, who maintains the Cleveland Critical Mass website. They’ve now expanded to 300 cities worldwide. “Here, it’s a different vibe,” adds Mariani. “We’re just enjoying ourselves. It’s such a great sight to see 400 people riding bikes in Cleveland. People on the side of the road stop and cheer.”
Rides end at a Cleveland-area bar or restaurant -- a sort of bicycle-powered cash mob -- like last month's “Respect the Bike” party at the Greenhouse Tavern.
Free public ride on the last Friday of the month. All skill levels welcome. Departs from southwest quadrant of Public Square at 7 p.m. Rides are about 10 miles long, at a leisurely pace.
Been looking for an excuse to dig out that shoulder-padded '80s-era power suit from the deepest, darkest recesses of your closet? Then Crank-Set Rides is for you.
The nonprofit organization is gearing up for The '80s Ride next month, and they also debuted a free ladies' bike night called, wait for it, Two Wheels and Heels
, as a way to “help women get comfortable with urban riding,” says Bower.
Crank-Set was founded in 2009 by Bower and her fiancé, Dan Krivenki, as a way to introduce folks to their hometown’s bicycling scene. The organization uses much of the money raised from its themed rides (a mere $8) to place one-of-a-kind bike racks around the city, including those at the Happy Dog, Joy Machines, and Room Service. They’re fabricated by local bicycle-frame makers Rustbelt Welding.
Two Wheels and Heels rides are free and take place the last Wednesday evening of the month; bike rentals are available for $10. Locations vary. The '80s Ride will take place on June 23 and will include a party at The Hipp in the Agora Theater in Midtown. Cost $8. Check the website for more information.
Perhaps you’d prefer to chart your own course when it comes to saddling up for a ride around Cleveland? Well, the good news is that there are two downtown locations where one can rent some wheels.
These include the aforementioned Ohio City Bicycle Co-op ($6 per hour/ $20 per day/$50 per week) and newcomer The Bike Rack
, which is a collaboration between the City of Cleveland and Downtown Cleveland Alliance
At The Bike Rack, rentals will run you $5 an hour, $15 for four hours, or $25 a day, says manager John Sirignano. There’s also an on-site repair shop for minor issues. If you’re commuting downtown on your own bicycle, you can park it at The Bike Rack for $5 a day (or get a monthly pass for $25). “That includes access to the locker room and showers,” adds Sirignano. Summer hours at The Bike Rack are 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
And remember everybody: Share the road!
Photos Bob Perkoski
- Images 1 - 5: Ohio City Bicycle Co Monthly Ride
- Images 6 - 10: Cleveland Critical Mass
- Images 11 - 16: Cleveland Tweed Ride
- Image 17: The Bike Rack