Photo of two cyclists with their bicycles

Heat Wave

We honestly didn’t intend to cycle through record temperatures. We’d originally planned the Ohio To Erie Trail ride four years ago, but something intervened. When it finally came time to choose the date, I was hoping to squeeze the ride in before the temperatures really started to rise.

Nature had other plans, and once we were exposed to the brunt of the heat and sun, we modified our goal. With Rick’s knowledge of the area and trail conditions, we continued to ride, but avoided the lion’s share of on-road sections while aiming to keep our cool.

In the end, the ride was a success. We didn’t reach our original goal, but we had a lot of fun and avoided any major mechanicals and heat-related issues. We wish absent friends could have joined.

(I’ve updated each of the following posts with the GPS results, stats and jersey details.)

Day 1: Cincinnati Departure

Selfie of two cyclists in front of entrance of brick building
Xenia Station

After a late departure, we soon left city streets behind for paved trails under the shade of green trees. We maintained a steady pace throughout the day, just slowing a bit towards the end as the route gradually rose and the temperature reached 32C.

Day 2: The heat is on

Two cabooses in a line next to a paved path
South Charleston

We got an earlier start from Xenia and made good time. The path, a converted railway, remained straight and level. While it was lined with trees for the most part, they didn’t provide nearly as much shade as we’d had on Day 1.

Our goal for the day was an ambitious 118km to reach Westerville. From the start, we discussed alternatives to beat the heat — a forecast 35C. In the end we settled for a finish at Darby Creek Park — an easy pick-up point for the sag wagon — with 71km under our belts.

Day 3: Short and sweet

Selfie of two cyclists in front of a covered bridge entrance
Bridge of Dreams

With a forecast high of 36C, we decided to concentrate on the scenic sections of the planned ride, avoiding the roads. The Kokosing Gap Trail took us from Mt. Vernon along the Kokosing river on a mostly flat, somewhat meandering trail. After a stop at Gambier, the trail continues on into Amish country, and we encountered both Mennonites on bicycles (my new band name) and Amish riding in horse-drawn buggies.

In the afternoon we continued on the Mohican Valley Trail as far as the Bridge of Dreams before turning back to the car and driving to Millersburg, which had been the goal for the day.

Day 4: Pushing through

Cyclist reaching the top of a climb, with trees and a red barn in the background
Go for it!

After two relatively easy days spent avoiding the worst of the heat, we felt energized for Day 4. We started deep in Amish country and passed more than one horse-and-buggy rider. We were soon on country roads facing what was to prove to be the hardest climbing of the trip. The initial rise was only 100m at a maximum grade of 4%, but with the undulations we racked up 154m of climbing on the way to the top. This was followed by a swift descent where I clocked 61km/h, and then more undulations as we worked our way towards Massillon. In all we racked up 563m total ascent, the most climbing of the trip.

From Massillon we joined the Ohio & Erie canal path, so we were again out of traffic on a flat course. We were also into the gravel, where Kuroko had an advantage over Rick’s lighter carbon fibre beauty.

As we neared Akron, we had less shade and soon grew tired. Our pace was steady while moving, but we stopped for more breaks and filled up our water bottles at every chance. We finally reached the hotel in Akron at 2:32 p.m., with the needle at 34C.

Day 5: Driving home in the rain

A black bicycle transport bag
Ready for flight

Day 5 was to have been our triumphal entry to Cleveland with a finish on the shore of Lake Erie. We woke tired from the previous day’s push through the heat, only to face a forecast of rain and possible thundershowers. Rick was willing to drive sag as I got in an early ride of 20-40km before the rain was forecast to start, but I didn’t see the point.

After a quick breakfast, we loaded the bikes onto the car. The rain had already begun as we set off homeward, and was soon coming down in sheets. It’s a pity our schedule hadn’t allowed us to wait out the rain and finish our day in the sunny afternoon as the rain finally broke the record-breaking heat wave we’d been riding through all along.

Mechanicals? What mechanicals?

On Day 1, Rick had the chain come off the smaller chainring — easily fixed. I had a bit of disc rubbing going on, but never for long. I also discovered one of the shift levers had been forced askew when the Delta baggage handlers apparently dropped the bike bag. It took less than a minute to sort out with Rick’s multitool. On Day 3 or 4, Rick suddenly encountered disc rubbing and stopped to inspect his bike. There was nothing to be seen and so we continued on, and the rubbing sorted itself out in short order.

I’d packed three spare innertubes for the trip, but neither of us had a single flat. We were lucky in that — as Rick pointed out, it would be miserable to change out an innertube in 36C heat.

On a stranger note, I couldn’t find my cockpit bag when I set up Kuroko before the ride. I’d intended to bring it, but after searching through the bike bag and my suitcase repeatedly to no avail, I thought I must have left it at home. I’m home now, though, and haven’t found it yet. I’m beginning to wonder if it was confiscated when the security people went through my bags.


Will we try the course again in cooler temperatures to claim the Ohio To Erie Trail title? I’m content with the ride we’ve done, while Rick said he may go back over some of the bits that we skipped on Days 2-3. Rather than revisit this ride, my next sojourn in the United States will probably be the 536km Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath, from Pittsburgh to the Potomac at Washington, D.C. This is gravel for the lion’s share of the distance, and Rick has vowed to fit the fattest tires he can to his bike.